10 significant LDS Church history sites you might not know about

Published: Tuesday, May 13 2014 7:04 p.m. MDT

Kenneth Mays

Kenneth Mays, who works as an instructor in the Church Educational System and serves as trustee for the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, remembers taking his first photographs as a hobby in 1985. Since then, it's turned into "an out-of-control passion."

Tens of thousands of pictures later, Mays has amassed a collection of LDS Church history photos from around the world.

Mays, who teaches church history courses at LDS institutes, said he has never taught the exact same lesson twice.

"I started taking pictures and then I said, 'Well, I can use them in the lessons,' " Mays said. "It's a hobby that turned into something that I can use to teach church history. ... I can always take something new and infuse it into the lessons."

As he travels, Mays receives much of his information from locals and ward historians who know the areas and are eager to share their knowledge.

Mays has shared his photos and stories with the Deseret News through the weekly feature "Picturing History" in the Mormon Times section.

Many of the photos Mays takes are of lesser-known church history sites. A list of 10 of those sites was published in 2011.

Here are 10 more sites that may not be well-known to church members but are nonetheless significant to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with photos and information provided by Mays.

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Prairie Grove, AR

Another good one is the gravesite and memorial to Parley P. Pratt, located near Rudy, Arkansas. It is just a stone's throw off interstate 540 between Ft. Smith and Fayetteville, Arkansas. There is a nice memorial to him and the grounds are peaceful and well-maintained.

Neillsville, WI

Here I come again, Kenny Mays. You are still missing a significant church historic (not site) area - The Wisconsin Pineries.Come here so you can take pictures and learn all about the Mormon Logger Missionaries who harvested the timber not only to build the Nauvoo temple and Nauvoo house, but most likely most of the homes in Nauvoo. Not only that, the first baptismal font IN A TEMPLE in this dispensation was built of Wisconsin Pine!! There is also the possibility that the first covered wagons were constructed of the lumber that was left over from building the temple.


Brother Mays' weekly feature is one of my favorite parts of the Mormon Times.

Bakersfield, CA

Don't forget that Eliza R. was married to the Prophet Joseph (1842-44) and then to Brigham Young until 1877.

Hope Mays tells all of our history in his courses and has pictures of Mountain Meadows in his archives and curriculum. That sad site almost wasted away by willful negligence until the John D. Lee and Fancher-Baker families made restitution and then fought for the sites' historic marker status. Thankfully, Pres. Hinckley came on board finally and offered Church support and monies to preserve that 1857 site from total ruin, about 40 miles west of Saint George, near Enterprise, Utah.


For those interested in finding more sites, I came across a web site that is privately run, for which the creator is seeking verifiable stories and photos to contribute to his existing archive of LDS historical sites. Of course, if you're planning a family vacation or you just want to learn of these sites, it's a great web page to check out. The owner of the site clearly states that it is solely his creation and that it is not an official page of the LDS Church. He simply wanted to post the over 500 photos he had stored of various spots he had discovered over the years. I don't think I can give the full link here, but simply search for ldshistorysites.com, and it should come up in any search engine. Have fun. The pictures are wonderful.

Chattanooga, TN

I would add the Joseph Standing memorial in Varnell, GA. I had never even heard of this one until I moved to the area. It is owned and maintained by the church.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

Don't forget about Zelph's gravesite and the alter that Adam built in Adam-Ondi-Omin.

Salt Lake City, UT

I remember how for years growing up we'd stop at the last exit on I-81 in PA before entering NY and it wasn't until much later on when I finally realized when we were making a stop to get gas that there's a signpost near the Susquehanna river marking that nearby is where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery baptized each other. Always fun to stumble upon random historical things like that.

S. Nyman
Rexburg, ID

This historic site doesn't contribute to LDS Church history, but one fascinating site that many people may not know about is the Mormon Row Historic District near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. One of the most famous pictures of the Jackson area is the old barn in front of the Tetons and that barn was built by Mormons and there are about 6 remaining homesteads on the site. Like I said, it doesn't contribute to the church's history, but the site is very scenic and worth checking out.

american fork, UT

Earnest T. Bass
I think you are describing an area that is unknown to many. Did you find the foundation of what is a store or possibly a house hidden back in the brush? One could imagine there was no brush when foundation was built and the pulpit was discovered. We need to know more about that little spot.

Cottonwood Heights, UT

I lived in Omaha for a few years and was always surprised to stumble across Mormon mill, Mormon bridge, and several communities through out Iowa that were started by Mormons who fell off the wagon on the way west. As you get into this you realize the footprint of the Church is all across America.

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