Largely adapted from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.
Stephen L. Richards was born June 18, 1879 in Mendon,
Cache County, Utah to Dr. Stephen Longstroth Richards and Emma Louisa Stayner
Richards. He was a grandson of Willard Richards,
who was with Joseph the Prophet at the martyrdom in Carthage, Ill., and
who was one of the early pioneers of Utah. His mother was a daughter of
Arthur Stayner, a man of business affairs in the early history of the West,
and the man to whom the establishment of sugar works in Utah is largely
indebted. He was blessed with an ideal mother and a father of sterling
worth who had much to do with his careful training and principles of integrity,
truthfulness, honesty, sincerity, kindness, respect for parental authority,
devotion to home and the members thereof, and loyalty to God and His work.
Elder Richards was baptized when about fourteen years
old and was ordained sucessively to the several offices in the Priesthood,
except that of a Seventy. From his youth he took great interest in Church
The scholastic training of Elder Richards was characterized
by the unusually large number of schools which he attended. To begin with
he came under the splendid tutorship of Camille Cobb, a woman of rare culture.
After that he attended the Farmington public school, the Davis Stake Academy,
Salt Lake county and city public schools, the L. D. S. University, the
Salt Lake High School and the University of Utah, while his professional
training was obtained in the University of Michigan and in the University
of Chicago. From the latter institution he received his L. L. B. degree.
After completing Law School, he passed the bar and served the Utah populace
as an attorney. One year at the law school of the University at Michigan
and two years at the law school at the University of Chicago gave him the
foundation work for the success he subsequently attained in his chosen
profession. While at the University of Utah he was one of the team of inter-collegiate
debaters; he was the first Utah student to be graduated from the department
of law at the University of Chicago and was one of the first class ever
graduated in law from that institution receiving a cum laude degree.
One of the valiant sons of the Gospel, he held many
positions in the Church, all of which he filled with honor and integrity.
His first official position in the Sabbath school work was that of secretary
of the Sugar House Ward Sunday School; later he became a teacher in the
same Sunday School. He taught also in the Sunday Schools at Pleasant View
and Malad, Idaho, and in the 17th Ward of Salt Lake City. In the Stake
Sunday school work he became assistant superintendent of the Salt Lake
Stake and later a member of the Granite Stake Sunday School Board. In 1906,
at the age of 37, he was called to the Sunday School General Board. Following
the death of George Reynolds he was appointed second assistant general
superintendent of the Sunday School Union April 6, 1908. He was also chosen
as a member of the Priesthood Study Committee and of the Board of Control
of the Deseret Gymnasium.
In business he has served as officer and director
in a number of corporations. In Tooele he engaged in farming and in Oneida
county, Idaho, in ranching. For some time he also acted as principal of
the Malad City public schools and for many years was a successful practising
attorney in Salt Lake City, serving also as a member of the law faculty
at the University of Utah. Also Religion class work has claimed a portion
of his time, and at one time he served as superintendent of Religion Classes
in Malad City, Idaho.
Whether at home or abroad he kept up a steady and
consistent interest in Church work. At Ann Arbor, Michigan, his home was
the place where religious meetings were held for the students and members
of the Church. While in Chicago he did Sunday school and other Church work
In his chosen profession of the law Elder Richards
was exceptionally successful. The law firms of which he was a member were
always among the foremost. In private practice his work was in the civil
as distinguished from the criminal law procedure. He was one of the safest
counselors at the Salt Lake bar and was very conscientious in his professional
work. For two terms he served as secretary of the Utah State Bar Association.
In the midst of his ecclesiastical and secular activities,
Stephen L. Richards was chosen as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles,
being nominated by President Joseph F. Smith and unanimously sustained
by the First Presidency and Apostles in one of their general meetings.
He was ordained an Apostle by President Joseph
F. Smith on Thursday, Jan. 18, 1917. After his calling to the Apostleship,
he was very active in Church affairs, visiting the different Stakes of
Zion and attending to ecclesiastical duties generally. On April 9, 1951,
President David O. McKay called Elder
Richards to become his First Counselor. He held this position until his
death May 19, 1959 at Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 1900 (Feb. 21st) Elder Richards married Irene
Merrill (daughter of Clarence Merrill and Bathsheba Smith), who was born
June 4, 1874, in Fillmore, Utah. This marriage has been blessed with nine
children, namely, Lynn Stephen, Irene Louise, Lois Bathsheba, Alice Lula,
Helen Merle, Georgia Gill, Joseph Albert, Philip Longstroth and Richard
Merrill. The home life of Elder Richards, both before and after marriage,
was most fortunate and happy.
Elder Richards was a man of pronounced ability, clear
judgment and wide experience, his training, education and natural endowments
eminently fit him for the high office whereunto he was called. He possessed
a pleasing personality and winning ways, had a strong, abiding, unimpeachable
testimony of the divine mission of Jesus Christ, and of the restoration
of the gospel of the Master to the Prophet Joseph
Anyone who has visited Temple Square is struck by
the heroic sized statue of The Christus which stands in the North
Visitors Center. The statue, of white carrara marble is a replica of the
original by the Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen. It was purchased by
Elder Richards and presented to President McKay as a gift. In 1966, it
was placed in the Visitors Center.