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 byBrigham Young
PredecessorWilliam Law
SuccessorJedediah M. Grant
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 14, 1840 (1840-04-14) – December 27, 1847 (1847-12-27)
Called byJoseph Smith
End reasonCalled as Second Counselor in the First Presidency
LDS Church Apostle
April 14, 1840 (1840-04-14) – March 11, 1854 (1854-03-11)
Called byJoseph Smith
ReasonReplenishing 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
DiedMarch 11, 1854(1854-03-11) (aged 49)
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Resting placeSalt 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)
ParentsJoseph and Rhoda Howe Richards
Signature of Willard Richards

Willard Richards (June 24, 1804 – March 11, 1854) [3] was a physician and midwife/nurse trainer and 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,(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] Richards, as a student at the Thompson Infirmary, was immersed in emergency and trauma surgery. During that time, Thompson was the hospital for hundreds of casualties of the Boston Abolition Riots of 1835.[5] He then settled in Holliston, Massachusetts, where he practiced medicine.[6] Richards stayed true to the Thompsonian System of Botanical treatments,[7][8] a precursor to revolutionary pharmaceuticals such as Eli Lilly's Quinine.[9][10]

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 Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Richards was baptized there on December 31, 1836, by Brigham Young and ordained an elder in February 1837.[citation needed]

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,[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]

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. Richards organized the medical services in Nauvoo, 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.

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. Over a year prior to the attack, Joseph Smith had told 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]

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 through the Deseret Territory settlements, 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]

Richards worked with Eliza Snow to identify replacement doctors among the trained young women, largely accomplished by organized delegation even to 15 year old girls[19] and a focus on sanitation.[20] Snow found a young woman Ellis Reynolds Shipp, who went to medical school then got a pediatrics specialty 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.

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 Gazette 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 Christ 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. ^ "Our History - Pediatrics - Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan". medicine.umich.edu.
  22. ^ "Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling", pg 461, Bushman, Deseret Bk 1998
  23. ^ "Estimates of Infant Mortality on the Western Frontier: The Use of Genealogical Data" Katherin A. Lynch. Prof. Carniegie Mellon 06 Feb 2013 <https://doi.org/10.1080/01615440.1985.10594160
  24. ^ New Estimates of Child Mortality Rates in the Late Nineteenth 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