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Church News -- For the week ending June 27, 1998

By R. Scott Lloyd

Church News staff writer

Fifty-six members and friends of the Heber C. Kimball and Newel K. Whitney families, buried in mostly unmarked graves in a tiny cemetery in the heart of Salt Lake City, have now been memorialized, thanks to their descendants.

Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy spoke June 20 to a gathering of about 116 members of the Kimball and Whitney family associations, then dedicated a new marker containing the names of the 56 deceased who are buried there, including Elder Kimball and Bishop Whitney. He also rededicated the cemetery, located between Main and State streets, about a half block north of Temple Square, on property that once belonged to Elder Kimball.

The new marker has been placed near a century-old monument in a fenced area occupied by the graves. The older monument bears the name of the two progenitors and summarizes their history. It also has the names of two of Elder Kimball's wives and four of Bishop Whitney's wives.

Elder Kimball was one of the original apostles in this dispensation, ordained Feb. 14, 1835, during Joseph Smith's presidency, by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Later, he was sustained as first counselor to President Brigham Young when the First Presidency was reorganized at Kanesville, Iowa, in December 1847, after the death of Joseph Smith and after the Saints had reached the Salt Lake Valley.

Bishop Whitney was called by revelation to be the First Bishop of Kirtland, Ohio (see D&C 72:8), and was the second man in this dispensation to hold the office of Presiding Bishop of the Church.

Joseph Grafton Hovey, a friend of Elder Kimball, is one of the pioneers buried at the site. The project originated when one of his descendants suggested a marker be placed recognizing his burial. The Church's Historic Sites Committee invited the Hovey, Kimball and Whitney families to contribute to an inclusive marker that would list all 56 persons buried in the private cemetery over a 30-year period beginning in 1848. The new marker consists of a 42-by-18-inch, anodized aluminum plaque on a sandstone base.

For many years, a Kimball-Whitney Cemetery Association owned and cared for the property. Then, the Church purchased it, and the Historic Sites Committee now oversees its maintenance.

In his remarks, Elder Porter said Heber C. Kimball is one of his personal heroes. "I think that his mission to England will ever stand as one of the greatest proselyting missions, not only of our time but of any dispensation, along with the Apostle Paul and the sons of Mosiah."

He added that Bishop Whitney was also a great man, "a good friend and confidant of the Prophet Joseph Smith. When the Prophet first met Brother Whitney, he stepped into his shop and announced, 'Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man.' And I think he remained 'the man' in many ways, including in the life of the prophet."

Sharon Baty, Heber C. Kimball Family president, said that at the time of his death, Elder Kimball had 65 children, and that his descendants now number more than 20,000.

Brent Kimball, past family president, said more than half of the 56 people buried in the cemetery never reached the age of 20, and 26 of them never reached the age of 6.

Fred Rockwood, past Whitney Family president, said Elder Kimball and Bishop Whitney were not just brothers in the gospel, but were relatives: Bishop Whitney's mother, Susanna, was a Kimball. Mark Watson, who succeeds Sister Baty as Kimball Family president, said 46 members of the family association went to Preston, England, for the recent temple open house and dedication. While there, they visited the River Ribble, where the first baptisms of the Church in England were performed by Elder Kimball and his companions. The association presented paintings of Elder Kimball and the river to the new Missionary Training Center adjacent to the temple, he said.