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Marker memorializes life of pioneer woman

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More than a year ago, young women of the Eighteenth North Ward, Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake, were visiting the graves of prominent Mormon pioneers at the Salt Lake City Cemetery when they came upon Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball's resting place. They were shocked to see only a broken stone marking the grave of one of the charter members of the original Relief Society in Nauvoo, Ill. They resolved, with the direction of Young Women leaders, to change that.

On Aug. 3 of this year, they did just that. Some 125 people, including members of the Relief Society general presidency — Mary Ellen W. Smoot and her counselors Virginia U. Jensen and Sheri L. Dew — and Sharon G. Larsen, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, gathered at the Salt Lake City Cemetery to dedicate a granite monument to Sister Kimball. The event, which also included Relief Society General Board members, ward and stake Young Women leaders, and parents, culminated more than a year of work by these young women, who not only raised the money for the marker, but also designed the inscription.

"It's so deserving," Sister Smoot later told the Church News. "I praise those leaders for having this insight. Those girls have learned the process of researching and becoming knowledgeable about their pioneers. That process could bless them throughout their lives. They will always remember Sarah Granger Kimball, and she will have real meaning [in their lives]."

In her remarks to the Church News, Sister Larsen said: "The love these young women have developed for Sarah Kimball is what happens when we forget ourselves and sacrifice for someone else. You could tell by the look on their faces that this experience has not only kindled their love for Sarah but also for each other and for the Lord. I can't think of a better project for young women to be involved in that would make them excited to join Relief Society when they leave Young Women. I'm sure Sarah can't wait to greet these girls and thank them in person for what they've done."

The granite marker on the pioneer woman's grave bears her birth and death dates — 1818-1898 — as well as information about her family. It also bears her contributions, including as a founder of the Ladies Society of Nauvoo, which Joseph Smith organized as the Relief Society in 1842; as one of the 18 original Relief Society members; as secretary and vice president in the Relief Society general presidency for 12 years; as the Salt Lake Fifteenth Ward Relief Society president for 41 years; as the first president of the Utah Women's Suffrage Association; and as a member of the Utah Constitutional Territorial Convention for Statehood.

Jo Ann Autenrieb, first counselor in the Eighteenth North Ward Young Women presidency, explained to the Church News that two of the young women in the ward have been using the monument work as their Laurel projects, but that all the young women took some part; some were in charge of the finances, while others researched, kept journals and designed the monument.

"One of our goals was to focus on the transition from Young Women to Relief Society," Sister Autenrieb said, in explaining how the young people grew in their love for the women's organization. The young women, she added, "really matured. They learned a few can make a difference."

The grave and monument marker, which was dedicated by Eighteenth North Ward Bishop Andrew Clark, is located on lot No. 13 between 330 North and 310 North, just off Central Street in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

E-mail: julied@desnews.com