10 lesser-known LDS Church sites

Kenneth Mays

To commemorate the entry of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, Utahns across the state participated in parades, religious gatherings and other activities yesterday.

A lot of rich history is infused into Salt Lake CIty and other well-loved and traveled Latter-day Saint sites. But beyond Utah; Nauvoo, Ill.; Palmyra, N.Y.; Carthage Jail in Illinois and many of the other iconic sites, there are hundreds of lesser-known locations across the U.S. and England.

Kenneth Mays, an institute teacher at the Salt Lake University Institute and an LDS history enthusiast, has made touring the LDS historical landmarks, trails and sites a hobby by spending much of his leisure and vacation time discovering and rediscovering history.

Throughout the years, Mays has taken thousands of photographs during his travels and has had them published in the Ensign, Church News, on LDS.org, and in Pioneer magazine and several other publications, including Mormon Times. Focusing on the less-traveled church sites, Mays highlighted 10 locations that are off the beaten path but essential to the stories of Latter-day Saints.

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Stockton, UT

The Honeymoon trail draws its name from the fact that it was considered inappropriate for unmarried couples to travel with each other such a distance. So couples were married by the local religious leaders before they started the trip to the St. George temple. Thus, any intimacy on the trail was moral and honorable within marriage, rather than being immoral and preventing the temple sealing. It is said some couple waited to consummate their marriages until after they were sealed in the temple. But for most, the time on the trail was, quite literally, their honeymoon.

So far as I know, a similar policy exists in the LDS Church today in those areas where overnight travel is required to reach a temple. Couples are often encouraged to get married for time only before beginning their travels to the temple so that they may travel together without question of morality.

Aberdeen, SD

Thank you Deseret News and Mormon Times for this enlightening and uplifting piece. It made my day!

Bountiful, UT

Disappointed to see that the Meadow Mountains Massacre wasn't listed here. If there is an important sight in Mormon history it is that! The history of that incident is one that all Mormons should learn and apply to their own lives.

Salt Lake City, UT

freddysheddy | 10:10 a.m. May 11, 2011
Bountiful, UT

The article is about 'lesser-known' sites. I wouldn't call the Mountain Meadows site 'lesser-known'. So, don't be disappointed.

BTW--what is it "all Mormons should learn and apply to their own lives" from that location?

Salt Lake City, UT

LVIS, I'll take a crack at answering your question: It's quite simple, really. Just as we can follow the good example of others, we can also avoid the mistakes of others if we learn from their bad example.

Logan, UT

Middle Spring is actually located in Southwest Kansas. Pretty close to the Oklahoma/Colorado border. That is where Elkhart and Morton County are located. Not in Northeast Kansas as was indicted in the article. Just an FYI

Park City, UT

Hmmm. I wonder if the reference to Mountain Meadows is drinking too much Hollywood Kool-aid and believing one-sided accounts. Makes me wonder since all other settlers and wagon trains passed through without incident if the settlers from Missouri caused what occured. I wonder if the Mountain Massacre was brought on by Missouri rebel-rousers threatening to take all the Mormons food and rape and pillage the women. Shame we can't go back in time and see what really happened...

Lindon, UT

Elkhart, KS is in S/W Kansas, not N/E.

Moore, OK

I served in the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission and served in Kane PA for several months. It is a beautiful building. I believe it's the one of the only LDS church houses that has a cross on it(if I remember it correctly). General Kane was also one of the few non members to recieve a patriarchal blessing, which is at the chapel. President Young even told him that was of greater help to the Church as a non-member and promised him that he will be blessed with the Saints. It is a neat place and the members were wonderful there.

Lindon, UT

I think it would be cool to attend LDS meetings in the Thomas L Kane chapel, in Kane, PA. It is on my "to do" list.

Tremonton, UT

Wonderful slide show. Very enlightening. It left me desiring to visit many of these sights. Thanks.

While Mountain Meadows does not belong on a list of "lesser-known" LDS church history sights, it is true that we all need to learn from the very unfortunate events that happened in Southern Utah back in 1857. I would encourage all to read Massacre at Mountain Meadows. While newly discovered evidence corrects a few items in this book, it is still believed to be the most accurate and comprehensive collection of the events leading up to and transpiring at the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Eagle Mountain, UT

Since this has not happened again at the hands of the LDS church, and since the leadership of the church did not order or condone the actions, I think the lesson has been learned. There was also punishment administered and although I wish it had been more severe and more inclusive, you have to look at the whole picture in the context of the time it happened.

I find it interesting that LDS detractors always point at this incident as a major flaw or mistake of the LDS church but when the numerous events in Illinois, Missouri, Ohio etc. where many LDS church members were murdered and robbed of their property and land are brought up they remain silent or worse, try to blame the LDS church. These incidents are as well or better documented than the Mountain Meadow massacre.

Barack Obama
Phoenix, AZ

I definitely want to see the wagon tracks in the rocks. Regarding the John Young cabin in Flagstaff, what was the revelation received? If it was so important why not tell? I'm curious.

CA. reader
Rocklin, CA

Surely I am not the only sports fan who sees the irony in Brigham Young being born in a place named Whitingham, even if it is spelled differently.

Springville, UT

Seeing and standing in the wagon wheel ruts is a remarkable experience.

Imagining the 1000's upon 1000's of wagons and teams following one another through this rough terrain defies... imagination!

The ruts are at some points about 5' deep.

Register Cliffs is another remarkable site to see. Only a few minutes away from the ruts it had to be a wonderful place to gain a temporary respite from the hard journey. The cliffs are carved with 100's of names, dates, messages from the countless flow of travelers.

Though I'm not from 'pioneer' stock, visiting these sites made me appreciate the 'American Spirit' of the great Western migration and of course the Pioneer Heritage of the saints!

Cottonwood Heights, UT

The sign and collage of broken grave markers at this site are there as a result of meticulous research done by Dr. LaMar Berrett of the BYU Church History faculty. In the process of writing our family history of John Watts Berrett, he found this spot. Mr Johnson, the owner was most cooperative and allowed the placement of the display in his fron yard. Our Great-great grandmother, Ann Marie Chatters Hookway and her daughter Mary Ann Hookway perished there of cholera. The other daughter, my great grandmother Eliza Hookway, survived and traveled on in the wagon train sent by Brigham Young. She arrived in the valley to meet her fiance, John Watts Berrett. They were married within months and homesteaded in Ft Union, Salt Lake Valley. Note the Berrett spelling, not Barrett. All Berretts trace their origin to the beautiful village of Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire, UK. Most Berretts ever located are LDS Church members. This includes William E. Berrett, former Vice-President of BYU and author of "Readings in Church HIstory" LaMar Berrett authored "Discovering the World of the Bible" and did definitive research on the campsites along the Mormon Trail.

Gerwin Rudloff
London, Essex/UK

# 10 - Baptismal site in Chatburn, England

Fantastic Church History site-and there is so much more to see while you're there! The owner of the Latter-Day bookstore in Preston (Brother Peter Fagg) runs Church History tours which he adjusts according to your interests. We were also able to see the Flag Market (where the first seven LDS missionaries to England preached), their missionary lodgings (here Elder Russell was tormented by evil spirits on the morning before the first convert baptism; Elders Kimball and Hyde gave him a blessing, eventually driving the evil spirits away), and number 15 Wadham Road (the missionary lodgings of President Gordon B. Hinckley). It is amazing how much there is to see and experience within a radius of a few miles-we felt very blessed to walk where these great pioneers have walked!

Gerwin Rudloff
London, Essex/UK

# 10 - Baptismal site in Chatburn, England

Fantastic Church History site-and there is so much more to see while you're there! The owner of the Latter-Day bookstore in Preston (Brother Peter Fagg) runs Church History tours which he adjusts according to your interests. We were also able to see the Flag Market (where the first seven LDS missionaries to England preached), their missionary lodgings (here Elder Russell was tormented by evil spirits on the morning before the first convert baptism; Elders Kimball and Hyde gave him a blessing, eventually driving the evil spirits away), and number 15 Wadham Road (the missionary lodgings of President Gordon B. Hinckley). It is amazing how much there is to see and experience within a radius of a few miles-we felt very blessed to walk where these great pioneers have walked!

small town, Nebraska

A place not mentioned is thatcof newel knight. He died of pneumonia while camped at ponca camp, nearcpresent day Niobrara, Nebr. It was about 150 miles from winter quarters. There is a very nice monument put up by jessie knight. There were otherscthat also died there. The ponca tribe and the saints got along very well. After so many deaths they were called back to winter quarters. There is a stream called mormon canal that runs very close to the memorial site. I didn't learn it from a member; I learner about it from my parents who lived in the same county when I came back to visit them when I was living in Utah. Its such a peaceful place.

Say No to BO
Mapleton, UT

Is there anything left to see of the forest/mill in Wisconsin, along the Mississippi north of Nauvoo?

The Solution
Las Cruces, NM

Another fairly "un-known" site, at least if you are not a local, is the Mormon Battalion camp site in Deming, NM. Once every year, boy scout troops (most are not LDS), camp out up there. During that camp they watch a brief history of the Battalion and read a little bit of the journals that actually describe the area. You know you are in the right place, because you can see the petro-glyphs that they saw in a rock area that they describe. When I was there it rained, and it was miserable. The desert sand turned to mud and everything got so muddy, especially my brand new tent. In their journal's they talked of the rain, and how it blessed them because cavities in the rock caught the water, which they were then able to drink. I can only imagine how miserable the rain was for them in their circumstances, yet they saw it as a blessing keeping them alive. Amazing people!

Danbury, CT

These are great to see but only one is outside the US. What about sites in South America, Mexico, Europe, Africa and Asia where lands were dedicated for missionary work or where important founding events took place? Missionaries begin and end their missions in Scotland on a hill where the land was dedicated to the work by Parley P. Pratt. I'm sure if we asked missionaries and members around the world, there would be hundreds of such places.

Bountiful, UT

One site that means a lot to me is Parley P. Pratt's grave site near Alma, Arkansas. The Church owns and maintains the tiny cemetery, and a hymn that Parley penned is engraved one his headstone. A study of Elder Pratt's life and death are very inspirational.

chattanooga, tn

Wally, Lamar Berrett was my favorite BYU professor! He enhanced my life as he helped me appreciate church history. He and I had many talks about areas here in the southeast that were significant. After 30 years, I still hold him dear in my heart. I wish I could have told him how much he meant to me and how he had a very important roll in the development of my testimony.

AZ Blue & Red
Gilbert, AZ

Many many years ago I was at lake Powell and hiked to hole in the rock where many saints passed through with their wagons. Hard to imagine them getting up through there but it was the only spot for many miles that they could get across the Colorado river. Lee's Ferry is another crossing down river and was run by Lee's family who were LDS. I think it was part of the Honeymoon trail.

Also I served a mission in Missouri and there are many spots off the beaten path that are fun to go see. Many on a dirt road. Haun's Mill is one of them. Not too many have been there. Hard to find. Also served at the Florence Neb. (Winter Quarters) where the Pioneer Cemetery is. Back then it was not too popular. aw a car now and then but now there is a visitor center and a Temple. Serving in the old Missouri Independence Mission that used to cover many of these areas was very educational. If you want to learn a bunch read about Independence and the 66+ acres of Temple site. Fascinating.

HottyToddy Saints
Bloomington, IL

Too often we overlook the impact of the Mississippi Saints and here are two much needed lesser known sites: Mormon Springs, MS where the Saints dammed a creek for baptisms and gathered before the trek west, or the Mormon Cemetery in Booneville, MS.

blue springs, MO

i have been to see the wagon ruts in the hard rocks. i felt so humbled and appreciative of my pioneer ancestors and all whom suffered to arrive in the salt lake valley. when i touched the ruts i cried but could understand their desires to move forward in faith

Exton, PA

Perhaps other lesser known sites could also be investigate. The Battle of Crooked River, near Elmira Missouri; the site of Zions Camp on the Fishing River in Clay County, Missouri. And of course in every nations where the Gospel has been preached are the "first" places of baptisms, local significant ebent places, etc.

Sandy, UT


The is no irony. Whittingham coaches at the University that Brigham Young founded, not the one named after him.


The have been plenty of LDS chapels built over the years with stained glass windows. Some are still in existence. If memory serves me correctly, even the Assembly Hall on Temple Square has stained glass windows. I wish that the Deseret News would stop using that quote. It is misleading and inaccurate.

Provo, UT

I've been active LDS my entire life, and none of these places have any meaning for me.

Salt Lake City, UT

Put the list on one page. Your practice of running stories onto multiple small pages is very annoying.

San Jose, CA

I minored in History at BYU in 1994. I love history. I even tried to fall in love with my favorite History teachers daughter. I researched all that I could find that were not married. I was most impressed with this list THANK YOU I really enjoyed it and was most informed!


I would like to know the specific location of this alleged tabernacle property in Geneva, Illinois. Nobody here in the Geneva Illinois ward of the church is aware of where this property is. Where did Kenneth Mays take this picture? Thanks to anyone who can answer.

Junction City, KS

Morton County is not in Northeast Kansas. It is in the Southwest corner of our State. Fort Leavenworth is in the Northeast part of the State.

Nan BW
ELder, CO

No need for me to clarify the location of Morton County, KS since several others have done that. I will say that it was a great outing for my husband and me along with our son and his family who live in SW KS. It is such a peaceful out of the way spring pond. Rolla, in Morton County, is where Glenn Cunningham, a famous 4 minute mile runner, burned his legs so badly that doctors thought he would never walk. Walking was painful for him so he ran. He was not LDS; he was a generous man who spent his later years running a ranch for young men who needed a place to live, work and heal from troubled childhoods. There are so many neat things to be learned from visiting places such as these described in the article. I love it.

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments