The young women in the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake’s 18th North Ward have a unique way of doing work for the dead. Many of them have done the conventional things lots of teenagers do: finding names, doing baptisms at the nearby Salt Lake Temple, and keeping records of their own lives to pass on to future generations. But this activity has been a little different.
The Salt Lake City Cemetery is within walking distance of the girls’ homes, and they have spent many hours there, working to revive the memory of a woman who seems to have been nearly forgotten. The headstone at the grave was never very large, and after more than a hundred years of cold winter storms and summer heat waves, it was crumbling, the name completely worn off.
The girls took some time to learn about the woman buried there. Her name was Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball. She was a Relief Society president for 41 years in a ward near the girls’ homes and worked tirelessly as a wife, mother, and educator.
The girls decided that a woman who had contributed so much to the lives of women who were the early settlers of Utah deserved a little more recognition than the tired old headstone afforded her.
So they got to work. First, they listed the work that needed to be done and divided it into individual assignments. Crissy Renda was the group’s researcher. Rebecca Priggemeyer documented the group’s progress on film. The other girls helped in various aspects of selecting a new monument to mark the grave, and they each participated in keeping a journal about their feelings and insights during the project.
“I used to think of Relief Society as something for people old or boring,” says Elizabeth Clark. “But learning about Sarah, I realized that she was energetic and really dedicated to making women’s lives better. The way I feel about Relief Society has really changed.”
It isn’t every day the Relief Society general presidency, the general board, and a representative of the Young Women presidency show up to a Young Women activity. But this was no ordinary activity.
When the time came to place the headstone, the Young Women wanted to do something special. They had spent countless hours researching Sarah’s life, and they wanted to pay tribute to Sarah for what they had learned from her.
“I am so grateful for everything that Sarah has done for the women of the Church,” Crissy says. “By researching her life, I have come to feel a closeness to her.”
Many of Sarah’s accomplishments are listed on the back of the monument the Young Women erected. At age 15, Sarah was invited to be educated with the School of the Prophets. She founded the Ladies Society of Nauvoo. She helped build the first Relief Society hall and Relief Society granary. She served as the first president of the Utah Women’s Suffrage Association, where she was a strong voice in the campaign to give women the right to vote. She also served in the general Relief Society presidency for 12 years.
As these young women did this unique work for the dead, they discovered that their work was a fulfillment of prophecy. Sarah was promised by Joseph Smith that because of her devotion she would be remembered from generation to generation. * As the young women uncovered stories about Sarah, they learned of her dedication to the Church. They believe the stories of her dedication will shape their lives and keep the memory of Sarah alive.