Haifa Cemetery Stories

[These stories were copied off a photocopied page with no author attributed. The sources listed at the bottom of this page are from the original document. The stories don't perfectly match up but are interesting enough to include.]

In the 1800's when a young man by the name of John Clark was called on a mission to Turkey, his father, Ezra T. Clark, seemed reluctant to let his son go to that far away part of the world. This was unusual for Ezra T. Clark had been present at a conference in Nauvoo at which Brigham Younghad taken on the mantle of the prophet Joseph Smith and had left a written testimony to his posterity: "I want to bear record that he (BrighamYoung) spoke as Joseph used to speak, and to all appearances, the same voice,the same gesture, the same stature. I bear this record to all the world andto my children and to my children's children and also bear record thatthis work is God's work, and that it will roll on as it has done from that day to this."

No doubt contributing to Ezra's reluctance about John's missionary call was the fact that some years earlier, in 1868, another son, Ezra James, had died as a missionary. He had served 3 years in Wand. He was in poor health on the voyage home; he landed in New York 12 July 1868 and exerted himself beyond his strength in helping the immigrants to disembark. The heat was intense as he commenced his journey westward, and he died of sunstroke on the train. John A. Clark told his father that if he were permitted to go, he would gladly relinquish all claims to any inheritance of the Ezra T. Clark family lands or wealth. Of course, his father would not hold him to his promise, but was impressed with his son's sincerity and determination to go—so relented.

John and his companion, Adolf Haag, had served for some time in Israel when a smallpox epidemic hit the country. Both missionaries were stricken and died. The bodies were buried quickly and the government would not allow them to be removed from the country for fear of contamination. Both missionaries were buried in the cemetery at Haifa. Ezra T. Clark sent money there for burial and for headstones for each (each is a half pillar), which represent a life half-lived.

Their sacrifice was to play an important part in the development of the Church's presence in that land much later. When the church approached Israeli officials about building a BYU Center in Jerusalem they first met strong opposition. They wanted no new religions introduced into Israel and if the Church could prove the presence of the Church in that land prior to 1948, when the United Nations approved the state of Israel, they would negotiate. The graves of the two missionaries in Haifa provided the necessary evidence and opened the door for the church to proceed with the building of the BYU Center in Jerusalem.

Another Version

Located at the foot of Mount Carmel, Haifa is the third largest city in Israel and one of its main ports. The inhabitants of Haifa are mostly Jewish although Muslims, Christians, and Druze also live there. There were small settlements in the area of Haifa during the Middle Ages, but the city began to achieve prominence in the late 18th century and propsered during the 19th century when steamboats began using the port. Industrious German immigrants arrived and settled Carmel, building roads and introducing the stagecoach. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, envisioned Haifa as "the city of the future" and indeed it fast became a trade center when it was connected to the railroad from Damascus in 1905. |

The world headquarters of the Baha'i faith are located in Haifa. This religious movement began in Persia in the 19th century, but its leaders were exiled to Palestine. Members of the Baha'i faith believe in the brotherhood of all people, a universal world language, and the unity of religions. They believe that the prophets of all religions are sent by God to deliver the same message—one of unity and peace.

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began serving in Palestine in 1886, Jacob Spori being the first. The mission office was in Haifa off and on until 1935 when it was moved to Beirut, Lebanon. Three dedications of the Holy Land for the return of the Jews took place at Mount Carmel in Haifa—the first by Elder Francis Lyman in March 1902, the second by Elder James E. Talmage in October 1927, and the third by ElderJohn A. Widtsoe in May 1933.

In 1895 Elder John Alexander Clark died of smallpox in Haifa while serving a mission for the church. The Ottoman empire ruled the area at that time and Turkish law declared that those who died of infectious diseases had tobe buried the same day. Therefore his family suffered grief not only from his death but also from not being able to recover the body. Elder Clark's father later paid to have headstones placed on the graves of his son and another missionary, Elder Adolph Haag, who died while on his mission there three years before Elder Clark. Members of the church often visit these graveswhile travelling in the Holy Land.

In 1948 the new state of Israel, concerned over possible religious conflict, decreed that no new churches would be recognized in the country. Only those which had previously had a presence would be given legal status. In 1977 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sought and received recognition. One persuasive point in its request was the evidence chiseled in stone over the graves of Elders Clark and Haag that the church had been represented in that area long before 1948.

Sources Consulted: Haifa Home Page, 1995; Columbia Enyclopedia, 1993; Discovering the World of the Bible, 1973