Willard Richards

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Willard Richards
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
December 27, 1847 (1847-12-27) – March 11, 1854 (1854-03-11)
Predecessor William Law
Successor Jedediah M. Grant
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 14, 1840 (1840-04-14) – December 27, 1847 (1847-12-27)
Predecessor William Smith
Successor Lyman Wight
End reason Called as Second Counselor in the First Presidency
LDS Church Apostle
April 14, 1840 (1840-04-14) – March 11, 1854 (1854-03-11)
Reason Replenishing Quorum of the Twelve[1]
at end of term
Jedediah M. Grant ordained and added to First Presidency
Personal details
Born (1804-06-24)June 24, 1804
Hopkinton, Massachusetts, United States
Died March 11, 1854(1854-03-11) (aged 49)
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37″N 111°51′29″W / 40.777°N 111.858°W / 40.777; -111.858 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)
Spouse(s) 14
Parents Joseph and Rhoda Howe Richards
Signature of Willard Richards

Willard Richards (June 24, 1804 – March 11, 1854) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement and served as Second Counselor in the First Presidency to church president Brigham Young in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death.

Willard Richards was born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe on June 24, 1804. At the age of four, he injured his head in a fall and was left with some residual muscle tremor and paralysis. As the injury limited his physical activity, he focused his attention on education and obtained a teacher's certificate at age sixteen. He taught school in Chatham, New York, and in Lanesborough, Massachusetts. Richards pursued additional studies in physical mechanics, science, and studied the clarinet. At the age of thirty, after the death of his sister Susan, Richards decided to become a physician. He studied at the Thomson Infirmary in Boston focusing on medication and herbal preparations. He then settled in Holliston, Massachusetts, where he practiced medicine.[3]

In 1836, Richards was introduced to the newly published Book of Mormon by his cousins, Joseph and Brigham Young. Richards read the book twice within ten days and, after making the necessary preparations, left for Kirtland, Ohio, to join the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Richards was baptized there on December 31, 1836, by Brigham Young and ordained an elder in February 1837.

Church service[edit]

Shortly following his ordination, Richards was called on a brief three-month mission to the Eastern United States. Immediately upon his return, he was called on a more extended mission to Great Britain. Richards met his wife, Jennetta Richards, while on this mission. They had two surviving children, a son, Heber John, born in Manchester, England, in 1840, and a daughter, Rhoda Ann Jennetta, born in 1843 in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Richards was ordained an apostle on April 14, 1840, by Brigham Young. In 1841, he moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, to be with the body of the church and became the private secretary to Joseph Smith. In December 1842, Richards was called to be the Church Historian and Recorder, a position he held until his death. In these two capacities, Richards maintained the Mormon prophet's schedule and recorded most of his activities. As church historian, he subsequently wrote a total of 1,884 pages on the history of Joseph Smith. This work was later incorporated into The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by B. H. Roberts.

Richards was incarcerated in Carthage Jail with Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and John Taylor on June 27, 1844, when the jail was attacked by a mob and the Smiths were murdered. Taylor was shot four times and severely injured, but survived the attack. Richards was unhurt and so supervised the removal of Taylor and the Smiths' bodies. His first-hand account of the event was published in the Times and Seasons.[4]

Richards, his cousin Brigham Young and other church elders left Nauvoo in February 1846, spending the remainder of the year at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. This first group entered into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. They then went back to Winter Quarters, arriving on August 21, 1847, to gather the families for the Mormon Exodus of 1848. Richards was called as Second Counselor in the First Presidency under Brigham Young on December 27, 1847 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After moving to Utah, Richards was involved in establishing the Deseret News, serving as its first Editor-in-Chief.[5]


Richards died in Salt Lake City on March 11, 1854, and was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Willard Richards' grave marker
Back of Willard Richards' grave marker

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had not had twelve members since September 3, 1837, when Luke S. Johnson, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson were disfellowshipped and removed from the Quorum. Since that time, William E. McLellin and Thomas B. Marsh had been excommunicated and removed from the Quorum; David W. Patten had been killed; and John Taylor, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith had been added to the Quorum. Richards's addition to the Quorum brought the membership in the Quorum of the Twelve to eleven members.
  2. ^ Smith 1994, p. 16
  3. ^ Garrett, H. Dean. "Richards, Willard". Utah History Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 11, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Two Minutes in Jail". Times and Seasons. Independence Press. 5: 598–9. 1 August 1844. 
  5. ^ Jenson, Andrew (1941). Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Chist of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press. p. 187. 


External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
William Law
Second Counselor in the First Presidency
December 27, 1847 – March 11, 1854
Succeeded by
Jedediah M. Grant
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titles
Later renamed: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1844)
Preceded by
William Smith
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 14, 1840 – December 27, 1847
Succeeded by
Lyman Wight