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)
Called by Brigham Young
Predecessor William Law
Successor Jedediah M. Grant
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 14, 1840 (1840-04-14) – December 27, 1847 (1847-12-27)
Called by Joseph Smith
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)
Called by Joseph Smith
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 MD (June 24, 1804 – March 11, 1854) [3] Prominant Physcian and midwife/nurse trainer to tens of thousands, was an extraordinary 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,(Boston Marathon starting point) 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 medical doctor. He studied at the Thomson Infirmary in Boston focusing on medication and herbal preparations [4]. Dr. Ricards, student at Thompson Infirmary was imersed in emergency and trauma surgery - Thompson was hospital for hundreds of casualties - Boston Abolition Riots of 1835 [5] He then settled in Holliston, Massachusetts, where he practiced medicine.[6]Dr. Richards stayed true to the famed Thompsonian System of Botanical treatments [7] [8],precursor to revolutionary pharmecuticals. [9] initially Eli Lilly's Quinine [10]

In 1836, Dr. Richards was introduced to the newly published Book of Mormon by his cousins, Joseph and Brigham Young. Dr. 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. Dr. 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, Dr. 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,[11] 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[12].

Dr. 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. Dr. Richards organized the medical services in Nuvoo, training midwive trainers, and provided sanitation advice in particular the malaria and cholera issues. [13]. Also he 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.

Dr. 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. Dr. Richards was unhurt and so supervised the removal of Taylor and the Smiths' bodies. Over a year prior to the attack, Joseph Smith had told Dr. Richards that "the time would come that the balls would fly around him like hail, and he should see his friends fall on the right and on the left, but that there should not be a hole in his garment."[14] His first-hand account of the event was published in the Times and Seasons.[15]

Dr. 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, and deal with the malaria and cholera[16]. 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 trained and established the extensive 500 midwife network spread throught the Deseret Territory settelments, working with Eliza Snow, Relief Society President, training Young Women. [17] and was involved in establishing the Deseret News, serving as its first Editor-in-Chief.[18]

Dr. Richards worked tirelessly with Eliza Snow to identify a replacement doctors among the trained young women, largely accomplished by organized delegation even to 15 year old girls [19]focus on satitation[20]. Snow found a young woman Ellis Reynolds Shipp, who went to medical school then pediatrics speciality under the world renowned pediatrics pioneer Victor Vaugh in Michigan 1881[21] Truly LDS, (quasi military[22])delegation, the combined effort of Richards, Shipp and Snow in training and deploying an army of midwives drastically reduced infant mortality and loss of women in childbirth, especially in remote colonies.[23][24]


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. ^ US Census 1810, Middlesex County, Hopktin(Boston Marathon start)Book19 page 4
  4. ^ "The Peoples Doctors: Sameul Thompson and American Botanicalists" , Health and Fitnes, Oct 2000, John Holler pg 17, https://books.google.com/books?id=V-gy9LZVCZYC&pg=PA311&lpg=PA311&dq=thompson+infirmary+history+1835&source=bl&ots=gyhQZeSfxp&sig=H8qIV-D0-tz9aYzT7xq6zhwd4XM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjys5X-n-rYAhVD9GMKHYEbChQQ6AEIPjAH
  5. ^ Hampshire Gazzette October 28, 1835, "Mr. Garrison Jailed, treated at Thompson Hos. with Mob, Interrupts 5000 Women Abolitionists Meeting", Starbridge Village Museum-documents
  6. ^ Garrett, H. Dean. "Richards, Willard". Utah History Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 11, 2016. 
  7. ^ Vermont History, Winter 1988, pg 6 vol56, No 1
  8. ^ Thompsonian Recorder, 1836 record, jonathan Phillips pub by Pike Proprieters, Columbus OH
  9. ^ "Price, "Indiana Legends" pgs 3, 57 et seq, Eli Lilly
  10. ^ ibid 56
  11. ^ Family Search - Willard Richards
  12. ^ US Census 1850
  13. ^ Evan Ivie, Deaths in Early Nauvoo 1839-44, and Winter Quarters ", BYU Studies, 1999
  14. ^ Smith, Joseph. Documentary History of the Church. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/volume-6-chapter-34: Deseret Book Company. p. 619. 
  15. ^ "Two Minutes in Jail". Times and Seasons. Independence Press. 5: 598–9. 1 August 1844. 
  16. ^ Death and disease in Nauvoo... ibid, pg 58
  17. ^ Deseret News October 29, 1857, VolVII No 21, pg 5, et. al.
  18. ^ Jenson, Andrew (1941). Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Chist of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press. p. 187. 
  19. ^ Essays on Disease and Medical Care in the Mountain West" ed. Martha Hildreath, pg. 26, essay"Mormons and Thomisonian Practice", by Thomas Houge, University of Nevada, Reno Press, 1999
  20. ^ Deseret News April 16 1859, page 4 et. seq."Sanitation Column" : "Treating Cuts"
  21. ^ https://medicine.umich.edu/dept/pediatrics/about-us/our-history
  22. ^ "Joseph SmithRough Stone Rolling, pg 461, Bushman, Deseret Bk 1998
  23. ^ "Infant Mortality ←Estimates on the Western Frontier:Use of Geneological Data" Katherin A. Lynch. Prof. Carniegie Mellon 06 Feb 2913 <https://doi.org/10.1080/01615440.1985.10594160
  24. ^ New Estimares of Child Mortality Rates in the Late Ninetheenth Century" pg 76 et seq. Samuel Preston, Princeton U Press, 1991


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