Memorial Day is fast approaching, the youngsters are counting down the final days of school and folks are adding sunblock and flip-flops to their shopping lists.
While the weather in many areas of the United States seems more typical of early March than late May, summer is, in fact, just weeks away. Countless Latter-day Saint families — including those living in Utah and others outside the Beehive State — are likely planning a warm weather excursion to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. There's plenty to see on Temple Square and in neighboring venues such as the Church History Museum, the Conference Center and in the historic Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
But there are also several other Mormon history sites in the greater Salt Lake area that visitors (and locals) can enjoy and sharpen their understanding of the Church's rich history and mission. Here are a few such sites that are just a few minutes' drive from Temple Square:
This Is the Place Monument
Built in 1947 near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, This Is the Place Monument is perhaps the definitive structure commemorating the Mormon Pioneers and the many others who played a pivotal role in the history and settlement of the Salt Lake Valley, including trappers and native Americans. Pioneer prophet Brigham Young stands tall atop the granite structure. The towering monument is located on the south end of the This Is the Place Heritage Park and just a short walk east of the recently dedicated Mormon Battalion Monument Plaza.
There is no charge to visit This Is the Place Monument or the Mormon Battalion Monument Plaza, but there is an admission fee to tour the heritage village. Visit www.thisistheplace.org for more information.
Salt Lake City Cemetery
Folks are welcome to wander the peaceful grounds of this historic cemetery where some of the most prominent figures from Latter-day Saint history and leadership are buried. The grave sites of nine Church presidents — John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, Hebert 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 late members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
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 a.m. to dusk. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Closed weekends and on city-observed holidays.
Mormon Battalion Monument
Many LDS visitors to Salt Lake City may overlook visiting this commemorative monument located on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol. 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.
Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum
Learn more about the Mormon Pioneer experience and the early days of the Salt Lake Valley with a visit to this popular museum located at 300 North Main Street, just a short walk from the capitol. The museum is filled with pioneer-era artifacts and celebrates the achievements of the men, women and children who founded Utah. Visit www.dupinternational.org for visiting hours and additional information.
Salt Lake City visitors can enjoy a picnic in the shade in a park named for it's pioneer history. Located at 300 South and 300 West near the popular Gateway shopping center, Pioneer Park was developed on the site where the pioneers first camped after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. It was also the site of the first pioneer fort. A marker located near the southeast corner of the park tells the story of the site's rich pioneer past.
A tour of Welfare Square doubles 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." Emerging from America's Great Depression, Welfare Square hosts a hive of activity designed 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.
Looking for a fun, history-minded excursion that will raise your heart rate and burn a few calories? Consider a hike to Ensign Peak on the northern edge of the Salt Lake Valley. It's 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 trail head at Churchill Drive located just east of the Utah State Capitol Building.
The LDS Humanitarian Center
The Church has become synonymous with it's ongoing commitment to help those in the aftermath of a natural disaster or in troubled times. Many of the relief provisions that help those in need are sorted and shipped out from the essential facility located at 1665 South Bennett Road (2030 West).
Visitors can enjoy a free 45-minute tour of the LDS Humanitarian Center and learn more about how the Church's worldwide humanitarian organization functions. Weekday tours are available all year, except holidays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. A free shuttle to the Humanitarian Center from Temple Square is also available on weekdays between 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.