EPHRAIM — For Elder Russell M. Nelson, walking in the Ephraim Pioneer Cemetery and honoring his Scandinavian predecessors during Memorial Day weekend is a solemn occasion.
His ancestors were early converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who immigrated to America and made the trek to Utah. They became some of the first settlers in Ephraim.
"I had eight great grandparents join the church in the populous nations of northern Europe, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and England, and all eight of them ended up in Ephraim, Utah," said Nelson, who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church.
Nelson paid tribute to his forbears Friday at the annual Scandinavian Days celebration in Ephraim, an event for the city to honor its heritage.
It was an opportunity for Elder Nelson to return to his roots. As he and his wife toured the pioneer cemetery, he discovered new connections to his family tree. The local camp of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers researched all of Elder Nelson's ancestors, who are buried in Ephraim.
"You have such great appreciation for these people when you study them," said Beverly Thomas of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers.
Some of the hand-carved headstones that mark their graves have faded with time, but the monuments are still a testament to the craftsmanship — and faith — of the early pioneers.
"You saw (Elder Nelson) today touching the stones because there were carvings on there, and how religion was very important to his family and what they carved on their stones," Thomas said.
And as people honor their loved ones at cemeteries this weekend, Elder Nelson believes it can be a time to learn more, about those who've gone before.
"Memorial day reminds us, yes, of our ancestors," Nelson said. "Everyone has parents and grandparents and great grandparents and ... there is a rich treasure of information on each one."