With cameras in hand, Tom and Becky Welker stopped by the grave of President Gordon B. Hinckley to take a quick picture and pay their respects at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
The Welkers, from New Market, Tenn., were in Salt Lake City for their son's wedding last week and found time to do something they hadn't done in previous trips to Utah — visit the graves of prophets and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I've always wanted to," said Becky Welker, 42. "It's just because they were a big part of my life."
They also stopped by President Spencer W. Kimball's grave. He was the prophet while she was growing up and the stake president when Tom's parents had their temple recommend interviews before their wedding. The couple also visited the grave of President David O. McKay, who was the prophet while 54-year-old Tom was a teenager and young adult.
There are about 110,000 graves and 120 acres in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Eleven presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are buried there, along with apostles and other notable pioneers and civic, business, education and political leaders. The first burial in the cemetery was in 1847.
In addition to Presidents Hinckley, McKay and Kimball, Presidents John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee and Howard W. Hunter are buried there.
President Brigham Young's final resting place is in the Pioneer Memorial Park, which is just east of Temple Square. Several of his wives were buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Three presidents of the church are buried outside of Salt Lake City: the Prophet Joseph Smith, in Nauvoo, Ill.; President Lorenzo Snow in Brigham City; and President Ezra Taft Benson in his hometown of Whitney, Idaho.
"Not a day goes by that people don't come in and ask for maps," said Mark E. Smith, the Salt Lake City Cemetery's sexton and maintenance manager. A map of where LDS leaders are buried was compiled by a Temple Square missionary, he added. They also have maps of the cemetery for people who come in search of relatives.
Many people leave flowers or other items at the grave sites, Smith said, adding that canes have been left at President Hinckley's marker. Generally, items left are picked up by cemetery staff twice a year and family members will usually pick items up more frequently.
"It's just what they feel in their hearts," Smith added. "I believe cemeteries are for the living."
The graves are located throughout the cemetery. The presidents are buried near their wives, and several appear to be in family plots with other family members. They have a variety of markers and inscriptions.
Presidents Hinckley, McKay and Lee have larger markers near smaller, traditional headstones. A simple traditional headstone marks President Hunter's grave with the inscription of "A Prophet, and a kind, patient, courteous and forgiving man." Tall obelisks mark the family plots of Presidents Taylor and Grant. Presidents Joseph F. Smith and George Albert Smith have vault coverings with much more of their history inscribed on them.
Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith are separated by seven headstones in a section that appears to have many of their family members and an obelisk to Hyrum Smith, who is buried next to his brother, Joseph Smith, in Nauvoo, Ill.
At the corner of Water and Main streets in Nauvoo, there is a restored home with a view of the Mississippi river.
Next to the Smith family homestead is a granite marker showing the final resting places of Joseph Smith, wife Emma and brother Hyrum.
After Joseph and Hyrum were shot at Carthage Jail in 1844, they were initially buried secretly in the cellar of the unfinished Nauvoo house, which was under construction, said Lachlan Mackay, historic sites coordinator for the Community of Christ, which manages the site along with several other historic homes and buildings. Two boxes with sand and other weight were publicly buried.
At some later point, the bodies were moved. They were later moved again to where they now are, along with several others of the Smith family, including Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack Smith, Don Carlos Smith and Samuel Smith.
Apartments and houses have cropped up around Pioneer Memorial Park at 140 First Ave. in Salt Lake City, almost obscuring the place where Brigham Young, second president of the church, is buried. His grave is in the back southeast corner surrounded by a small fence. There are markers for nine other grave sites around the park, including Eliza R. Snow, former president of the Relief Society.
When President Snow, the fifth president of the church, died in 1901, he was buried in Brigham City.
"He is probably the most famous resident (in the Brigham City Cemetery)," said Pete Young, an assistant sexton at the cemetery. The first recorded burial at the cemetery is in 1852.
Young estimates that about 90 percent of the people who stop by the cemetery and aren't visiting a relative's grave, are visiting President Snow's at the corner of A and Center streets. The grave is marked by a historical marker, an obelisk and a smaller headstone one row to the west.6 comments on this story
President Snow helped found Brigham City under the direction of Brigham Young and was stake president for several years. He served as president of the church from 1898 to 1901, when he died at 87.
Ezra Taft Benson
When President Benson was buried in 1994, it was next to his wife, Flora, in the Whitney, Idaho, cemetery, according to the Deseret News archives.
President Benson, the 13th president of the church, was born in Whitney and grew up on a family farm there, according to lds.org.
The Deseret News archives noted that there were "a remarkable number of gravestones that all bear the Benson name" in the Whitney cemetery.