Visit Salt Lake Church Historic Sites This Summer for Free
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
Folks living in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the longer and sometimes lazy days of summer. It’s the season of sunblock, flip flops, yard work, and, for many, annual getaways. Countless Latter-day Saint families will visit Utah this summer and make lifelong memories touring Temple Square, the Church History Museum, and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The campus at Church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City remains the Beehive State’s most popular tourist destination.
But there are also several other Mormon history sites just a short drive away where visitors (and day-tripping locals) can enjoy and enrich their appreciation of the Church’s rich local history and mission.
Here are a few Church-related historical sites and monuments that can be enjoyed—all without reaching for your wallet.
This Is the Place Monument
This granite structure near the mouth of Emigration Canyon was unveiled in 1947 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. The monument also pays tribute to the trappers, Native Americans, and others who played a pivotal role in the history and settlement of the stark desert valley that would become the headquarters of the Church.
Pioneer prophet Brigham Young presides atop the monument. The towering structure is located on the south end of This Is the Place Heritage Park and is just a short walk east from the more recently dedicated Mormon Battalion Monument Plaza. The plaza features dramatic, heroic-sized sculptures that honor those early Mormons who “answered the call” and participated in one of the longest infantry marches in U.S. history.
The central pillar of This Is the Place Monument includes statues of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Wilford Woodruff.
Salt Lake City Cemetery
Many may not have considered a family visit to the hilly grounds of this historic cemetery located in the Salt Lake City Avenues, but it can make for a thoughtful and educational morning or afternoon. Some of the most prominent figures from Latter-day Saint history and leadership are buried here. The grave sites of 11 Church Presidents—John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Howard W. Hunter, and Gordon B. Hinckley—can be easily located using maps available at the cemetery office.
Other grave sites at the cemetery include Hyrum Smith’s wife Mary Fielding Smith, as well as Willard Richards, George Q. Cannon, pioneer composers William Clayton and W. W. Phelps, Joseph Smith’s bodyguard Orrin Porter Rockwell, and several members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. President Thomas S. Monson’s wife, Sister Frances J. Monson, who passed away on May 17, was recently interred at the cemetery.
Many visitors wrongly assume Brigham Young was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. In fact, President Young’s grave site is located not far from the cemetery, near Salt Lake City’s State Street and 1st Avenue. The cemetery is open year-round from 8:00 a.m. to dusk. Office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Closed weekends and on city-observed holidays.
Mormon Battalion Monument
A trip to the Utah State Capitol is a popular summertime excursion for civic-minded members and their friends. After touring the capitol, take a few moments to wander the grounds and view the Mormon Battalion Monument. The 100-foot granite and bronze monument, created by Gilbert Griswold in 1927, honors the sacrifice made by the hundreds of Mormon pioneers who joined the U.S. Army during the Mexican War. It’s an impressive lesson in Utah and LDS history that folks of all backgrounds can enjoy.
Detail of a sculpture found at the Mormon Battalion Monument located on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol.
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum
Located just a short walk to the west of the capitol (300 North Main Street) is the historic Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum. Enjoy pioneer-era artifacts and celebrate the achievement of the men, women, and children who founded Utah. Go to www.dupinternational.org for visiting hours and additional information.
A tour of Welfare Square serves as both a history lesson and a reminder of the Church’s mission to “care for the poor, foster self-reliance, and provide meaningful opportunities for work and service.” Welfare Square was built during America’s Great Depression and remains committed to its charge to help people as they help themselves. Located at 780 West 800 South, the facility includes the iconic 178-foot-tall grain elevator, a storehouse, a bakery, a cannery, a milk processing operation, a thrift store, and an employment center.
Tours are available all year on weekdays, except holidays. Call 801-240-4872 to schedule a tour.
A brisk hike up Ensign Peak will help children and youth burn off a bit of summertime energy while visiting a prominent spot in Church history. Located on the northern edge of the Salt Lake Valley, the peak can be enjoyed following a fairly easy, half-mile hike to the summit where, two days after entering the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young and several other Church leaders unfurled “an ‘ensign’ of liberty to the world.”
President Young looked out across the desolate valley and declared, “Here is a proper place to raise an ensign to the nations.” Access the trailhead at Churchill Drive, located just east of the Utah State Capitol Building.