Adapted from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.
George Franklin Richards, Apostle, Acting Patriarch
to the Church, and President of the Twelve, was born Feb. 23, 1861,
in Farmington. Davis county, Utah, son of Franklin
D. Richards and Nanny Longstroth. He was baptized Oct. 12. 1873, by
Oliver L. Robinson and confirmed the same day by Abraham Rose. He graduated
from the University of Deseret in English language and literature in June,
1881; took up a course in mathematics the following year in the same institution,
and after carrying the same for six months, he gave up school for a position
with the Utah Central (now the O. S. L. railway) as clerk in the lumber,
carpenter and car building department, which occupation he held until October,
1882. As an inducement to stay longer he was offered promotion and increased
wages, but duty called him elsewhere.
While but a boy of fifteen years he was called to
labor as a Ward teacher and at that age received his endowments in the
Endowment House, Salt Lake City, June 5, 1876, and was ordained an Elder
at the same time by Franklin D. Richards. He was frequently called upon
to act as arbitrator and reconciliator in the settlement of difficulties
existing between his neighbors. March 9, 1882, he married Miss Alice A.
Robinson, daughter of Oliver L. Robinson and Lucy Miller, of Farmington,
in the Endowment House, Salt Lake City. [The couple's union was blessed
by the birth of eleven children.] After her death, Elder Richards married
Betsy Hollings.While residing at Farmington he acted
as clerk of the Elders' quorum, Ward teacher, Stake home missionary, president
of Y. M. M. I. A., etc., and he was ordained a Seventy Feb. 3, 1884, by
Seymour B. Young.
In 1885 he purchased a farm in Plymouth (now Fielding),
Box Elder county, where he resided until Jan. 31, 1888, when he moved to
Tooele, Tooele county, and where he filled many important positions. He
acted as secretary and later as chairman of the school district board of
trustees, chairman of the board of trustees for the Tooele Irrigation Company;
director and treasurer (for 11 Years) of the Tooele City Water Company,
and was Tooele county's representative in the State legislature of 1899-1900.
Ecclesiastically he held the position of Sunday school
teacher, Ward teacher, home missionary, etc. He was ordained a High Priest
Jan. 29, 1890, by Francis M. Lyman
and set apart as second counselor to Pres. Hugh S. Gowans in the presidency
of the Tooele Stake; was ordained a Patriarch under the hands of Elder
Francis M. Lyman, July 23, 1893. He administered patriarchal blessings
to nearly three hundred people as Stake Patriarch, performed many ordinations,
blessings of children and administrations to the sick.
By invitation from President Joseph
F. Smith, Elder Geo. F. Richards, with wife and youngest child, accompanied
the President and his party (about thirty people all told) on a pilgrimage
to Sharon, Vermont, the birthplace of Joseph
Smith, the Prophet, and was present on the 100th anniversary of the
Prophet's birth (Dec. 23, 1905), when the beautiful granite monument, erected
to the memory and honor of the Prophet, was unveiled and dedicated. Returning
from this memorable trip the party visited Boston, Palmyra, Manchester,
Cleveland, Kirtland, Chicago and Omaha. They also visited several points
of historical interest to the Latter-day Saints, such as the home of the
Prophet Joseph's parents in Manchester, the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah,
the Kirtland Temple, etc. The party left Salt Lake City Dec. 18, 1905,
and returned Jan. 1, 1906.
While residing in Tooele, Utah, Brother Richards
engaged with his sons in the implement and lumber business, as well as
farming. Being called to be a member of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles,
Brother Richards was sustained in that position at the general conference
of the Church held in Salt Lake City, April 8, 1906, and the next day (April
9th) he was ordained an Apostle by Pres. Joseph F. Smith, to fill the vacancy
in the quorum of the Twelve occasioned by the death of Elder Marriner
W. Merrill. Soon after his ordination to the apostleship, Bro, Richards
was chosen as a member of the General Board of the Y. M. M. I. A. and a
member of the General Board of the Religion Classes. For several years
he also acted as an advisory member of the General Board of Primary Associations.
The duties of his calling necessitated his traveling extensively in the
Stakes of Zion, from Canada on the north to Old Mexico on the south, and
also in the missionary fields in the United States.
Thus, in company with Pres. Joseph E. Robinson, he
attended the conferences of the California Mission in the fall of 1906,
in the spring of 1907, in the fall of 1909 and in the spring of 1915. During
the latter part of 1906 and the fore part of 1907 he accompanied Pres.
Nephi Pratt through the Northwestern States Mission, attending all of the
conferences, and again in June, 1910, he attended the conferences held
in the States of Oregon and Washington. In the spring of 1912, in company
with President Samuel O. Bennion, he visited all
the conferences of the Central States Mission.
Having received a call from the First Presidency
to preside over the European Mission, he was blessed and set apart for
that position Aug. 5, 1916, by President Joseph F. Smith, and the following
day, accompanied by his son George, the latter's wife and two smaller children,
he left home for England. At that time England, including Canada, had been
at war with Germany for two years and sea travel was consequently very
dangerous, especially for British and Canadian steamships, but the Church,
being under contract to patronize the Canadian Steamship Company's lines,
Bro. Richards and those who were with him, sailed from Montreal for Liverpool
on the C. S. Co.'s steamer "Corsican," and though the ship was sought after
by the German submarines, no harm came to it on the voyage, as it reached
Liverpool in safety Aug. 25, 1916.
Upon the departure of Pres. Hyrum
M. Smith for his home in Utah Sept. 1, 1916, Bro. Richards succeeded
him as president of the European Mission. In February, 1919, his son George
and family returned home. In March, 1919, President Richards, accompanied
by his wife, visited the Netherlands, where they attended meetings in eight
of the principal cities of that country. A persistent, but unsuccessful
effort was made to obtain permission to visit Switzerland, the Swiss officials
refusing to permit it.
In June, 1919, Elder Geo.
Albert Smith, who had been appointed to succeed Elder Richards as president
of the European Mission, arrived in Liverpool with his family and took
charge of the mission July 1st. President Richards, having been released
to return home, left Liverpool a few days later, crossed the Atlantic in
the ship "Melita" and arrived in Salt Lake City July 25, 1919, having been
absent nearly three years.
In 1937, Elder Richards, who previously had been
called as a Stake Patriarch and had been ordained a Patriarch was called
to serve as Acting Patriarch to the Church. He served in this position
until October 3, 1942 when he was released, never having given up his position
with the Twelve.
On May 25, 1945, he became the President of the Quorum
of the Twelve Apostles when President Heber
J. Grant died and George Albert Smith (previously President of the
Twelve) became the new President of the Church. He remained in this position
until his own death on August 8, 1950, at Salt Lake City, Utah, at the
age of 89. Elder Richards' widow, Betsy Hollings Richards, followed him in
death in 1980.