Willard Richards was born 24 June 1804 in Hopkington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Joseph Richards (1762-1840) and Rhoda Howe (1762-1838) and died 11 March 1854 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah of unspecified causes. He married Jennetta Richards (1817-1845) 24 September 1838 in Preston, Lancashire, England. He married Sarah Longstroth (1826-1858) 25 January 1843 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois. He married Amelia Elizabeth Pierson (1825-1851) 22 December 1845 in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois.


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.

Early Life

Willard was the youngest child of Joseph Richards (1762-1840) and Rhoda Howe (1762-1838), born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

At the age of four, he injured his head in a fall and was left with some residual muscle tremor and paralysis.

Educator & Parmacist

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 Lanesborn, 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. From a 21st-century perspective, Richards would probably be considered a pharmacist.

Conversion to Mormonism

In 1836, Richards was introduced to the newly published Book of Mormon by his cousins, Joseph Young and Brigham Young (1801-1877). 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 and be with its members. Richards was baptized there on December 31, 1836, by Brigham Young and ordained an elder in February 1837. A number of Willard's family members also joined the church as this time.

Mission to England & Apostleship

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. While on this mission (1838-1841), Willard met his wife, his first two children were born and he was ordained an apostle.

Richards was ordained an apostle on April 14, 1840, by Brigham Young, making Willard the only LDS Apostle ordained to that calling outside of the United States.

Historian of the Church

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.

Eyewitness to Martyrdom

Soon after Willard arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841, he became private secretary to Joseph Smith and remained with the Prophet almost constantly, even in Carthage Jail on 27 June 1844.

Just before the mob rushed the jail, Joseph asked Willard if he would accompany him into a room that was supposed to be safer. Willard answered, “Brother Joseph you did not ask me to cross the river with you—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for treason, I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.” Moments later, the mob entered the jail, killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith, critically wounded John Taylor, but miraculously failed to injure Willard Richards.

1848 Pioneer Wagon Company

In 1848, Willard Richards, led one of the largest Mormon pioneer wagon companies into the Salt Lake Valley.

526 individuals were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. This company was divided into two sections, Willard Richards section and Amasa Lyman Section. The Lyman section left the outfitting post on 1 July and the Richards section left on 3 July.

Members of the company arrived from 10-19 October 1848.

Counselor to Brigham Young

Gravestone of Willard Richards - Salt Lake City Cemetery

Before making the journey to the Salt Lake Valley, Willard was chosen (27 Dec 1847) second counselor to President Brigham Young and served until his death on 11 March 1854.

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.

1st Editor of Deseret News

After moving to Utah, Richards was involved in establishing the Deseret News, serving as its first Editor-in-Chief.

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Jennetta Richards

Richards met his wife, Jennetta Richards (1817-1845), while on this mission. Jeanetta Richards taught school in England, and her father was the minister of the Congregationalist church.

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.

Both Willard and Jennetta died before their children could reach adulthood. Heber J, returned to England on a mission and preached to his mother's wealthy family there, eliciting some fascinating correspondence with this sister Rhoda Ann.

  1. Heber John Richards (1839-1839) - died as infant in England
  2. Heber John Richards (1840-1919) - born in England, served LDS Mission returning to England
  3. Rhoda Ann Jennetta Richards (1843-1882) - Utah Mormon pioneer

2nd Marriage: Sarah Longstroth

Polygamous Marriage to Sarah Longstroth (1826-1858) in Nauvoo, IL.

  1. Willard Brigham Richards (1847-1942)
  2. Joseph Smith Richards (1848-1913)
  3. Sarah Ellen Richards (1850-1915) - she would marry Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918), 6th President of the LDS Church.
  4. Pauline Richards (1853-1947)

3rd Marriage: Amelia Peirson

Polygamous Marriage to his neice, Amelia Elizabeth Pierson (1825-1851). She died in early 1851, just three days after giving birth to her first son who did not survive.

  1. Baby Boy Richards (1851-1851) -

4th Marriage: Mary Thompson

Polygamous Marriage to Mary Thompson (1827-1905) on 27 Jan 1846 in Nauvoo IL.

  1. Phoebe Amelia Richards (1851-1943)
  2. Jenetta Richards (1852-1853)

5th Marriage: Jane Hall

Polygamous Marriage to Jane Hall (1826-1849) - 31 Jan 1846 in Nauvoo IL. Not much known here, she died in 1849, no known children?

6th Marriage: Nanny Longstroth

Polygamous Marriage to Nanny Longstroth (1828-1911) - 25 June 1846 in Nauvoo IL. 3 children. She would remarry after Willard's death to his nephew, Franklin Dewey Richards (1821-1899).

  1. Alice Ann Richards (1849-1940)
  2. Mary Asenath Richards (1850-1915)
  3. Stephen Longstroth Richards (1853-1922)

7th Marriage: Susanna Bayliss

Polygamous Marriage to Susanna Bayliss (1812-1891) - 22 Dec 1847 at Winter Quarters NE.

  1. Mary Ann Richards (1851-1942) -

8th Marriage: Rhoda Foss

Polygamous Marriage to Rhoda Harriett Foss (1830-1881) - 30 Nov 1851 at Salt Lake City UT.

  1. Calvin Willard Richards (1852-1926)

Other Wives

I have not yet found records to substantiate the following reported marriages for Willard:

  • Edna Sarah Hinman (1828-1897)
  • Susanna Lee (1809-1872)
  • Ann Read (1794-1872)


Offspring of Willard Richards and Jennetta Richards (1817-1845)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Heber John Richards (1839-1839) 17 July 1839 Preston, Lancashire, England 28 December 1839 Preston, Lancashire, England
Heber John Richards (1840-1919) 11 October 1840 Manchester, Lancashire, England 12 May 1919 Provo, Utah County, Utah Mary Julia Johnson (1841-1928)
Rhoda Ann Jennetta Richards (1843-1882) 15 September 1843 Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois 3 May 1882 Farmington, Davis County, Utah Benjamin Franklin Knowlton (1838-1901)

Offspring of Willard Richards and Sarah Longstroth (1826-1858)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Willard Brigham Richards (1847-1942)
Joseph Smith Richards (1848-1913)
Sarah Ellen Richards (1850-1915) 25 August 1850 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah 22 March 1915 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Joseph Fielding Smith (1838-1918)
Pauline Richards (1853-1947)

Offspring of Willard Richards and Amelia Elizabeth Pierson (1825-1851)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Baby Boy Richards (1851-1851)

Offspring of Willard Richards and Mary Thompson (1827-1905)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Phoebe Amelia Richards (1851-1943)
Jenetta Richards (1852-1853)

Offspring of Willard Richards and Nanny Longstroth (1828-1911)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Alice Ann Richards (1849-1940) 24 March 1849 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah 17 June 1940 Box Elder County, Utah Lot Smith (1830-1892)
Mary Asenath Richards (1850-1915)
Stephen Longstroth Richards (1853-1922) 29 July 1853 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah 5 July 1922 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Emma Louise Stayner (1857-1937)

Offspring of Willard Richards and Susanna Bayliss (1812-1891)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Mary Ann Richards (1851-1942)

Offspring of Willard Richards and Rhoda Harriett Foss (1830-1881)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Calvin Willard Richards (1852-1926) 7 October 1852 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States 3 October 1926 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States Emma Irene Walker (1854-1894)


Offspring of Joseph Richards (1762-1840) and Rhoda Howe (1762-1838)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Joseph Richards (1782-1852)
Rhoda Richards (1784-1879) 8 August 1784 Framingham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 17 January 1879 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Joseph Smith (1805-1844)
Brigham Young (1801-1877)
Susanna Richards (1786-1830)
Phinehas Richards (1788-1874) 22 December 1779 East Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut 23 April 1853 Brookfield, Madison County, New York Wealthy Dewey (1786-1853)
Mary Vail Morse (1788-1874)
Martha Allen (1803-1860)
Margaret Phillips (1800-1890)
Emily Northrop (1810-1850)
Ann Emerson (1802-)
Jane McBride (1815-1850)
Levi Richards (1790-1795)
Nancy Richards (1792-1852) 22 November 1792 Hopkington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 15 July 1852 On the Platte River, Liberty Pole, Nebraska William Peirson (1793-1862)
Hepsibah Richards (1795-1838) 28 July 1795 Hopkinton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 30 September 1838 Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri
Betsey Richards (1897-1803)
Levi Richards (1799-1876) 14 April 1799 Hopkinton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 18 June 1876 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Sarah Griffith (1802-1892)
Persis Goodall (1806-1894)
William Richards (1801-1884)
Willard Richards (1804-1854) 24 June 1804 Hopkington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 11 March 1854 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Jennetta Richards (1817-1845)
Sarah Longstroth (1826-1858)
Amelia Elizabeth Pierson (1825-1851)
Mary Thompson (1827-1905)
Jane Hall (1826-1849)
Nanny Longstroth (1828-1911)
Susanna Bayliss (1812-1891)
Rhoda Harriett Foss (1830-1881)



Footnotes (including sources)