Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Stephen L. Richards Stephen L. Richards

1879 - 1959

  • Born 1879 Mendon, Utah
  • Baptized as a youth
  • Married Irene Merrill 1900; nine children
  • Sunday School General Board Member 1906
  • Ordained an Apostle and sustained to the Twelve 1917
  • First Counselor to David O. McKay, 1951-59
  • Died 1959 Salt Lake City, Utah

    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 activities.

    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 with students.

    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 Smith.

    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.

    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p.773
    Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation, p.209
    2005 Church Almanac, p.58

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