Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Franklin D. Richards Franklin D. (Dewey) Richards

1821 - 1899

  • Born 1821, Richmond Massachussetts
  • Baptized 1838
  • Ordained Seventy 1840
  • Married Jane Snyder 1842 later practiced plural marriage
  • Ordained High Priest 1844
  • Ordained Apostle and called to the Twelve 1849-1899
  • President of Quorum of the Twelve 1898-1899
  • Died 1899 Ogden Utah

    This biographical sketch is adapted from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.
    Franklin Dewey Richards was a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles from 1849 to 1898. He was the son of Phineas Richards and Wealthy Dewey, and was born in Richmond, Berkshire county, Mass., April 2, 1821. He was the fourth of his father's nine children. Being raised on a farm, he became at an early age accustomed to heavy labor, but used all the spare time he had for getting an education and laying up treasures of knowledge. Before he was ten years old, he had read every book in the Sunday school, comprising some scores of volumes, and when thirteen years old spent a winter at Lenox Academy.

    His parents, being devout and respected Congregationalists, trained their children in the pious way, and Franklin was early in life impressed with solemn views on religion. His ideas in regard to many scriptural points was, however, very different from those entertained by most other people, with whom he associated, and this caused him to decline a special offer made to him, to be educated for the ministry in a leading New England college.

    In the summer of 1836, Elders Joseph Young and Brigham Young came from Ohio to Richmond as messengers of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. They left a copy of the Book of Mormon with the Richards family and it was carefully and intelligently perused. Franklin brought all the ardor of his studious mind to bear upon it, and after having studied it carefully, accepted it as the truth and believed. In the autumn of that year (1836) Willard and Levi Richards went to Kirtland, Ohio, as delegates and leaders of the family to the truth. They accepted the gospel and remained. In the succeeding April, Phineas, with Franklin's younger brother, George Spencer—aged fourteen years—also journeyed to Kirtland. They in turn received and acknowledged the truth. In the autumn of 1837, Phineas returned to Richmond. He found Franklin awaiting baptism; and on the 3rd day of June, 1838, Phineas had the pleasure of immersing his son within the waters of Mill creek in Richmond, his native town.

    Franklin abandoned his employment, and left Richmond for Far West, Missouri, October 22, 1838. It was a lonely, toilsome journey. On the 30th of October he crossed the Alleghanies; and almost at the same hour, his beloved brother, George Spencer Richards, was slain by an assassin mob at Haun's Mill. But the news of his brother's tragic death, and the hideous stories of the "Mormon War," were alike powerless to restrain his purpose and he journeyed on eventfully. After visiting Far West and gaining confirmation of his faith, he found employment along the Mississippi river.

    In May, 1839, he first met the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the following spring, April 9, 1840, he was ordained to the calling of a Seventy by Joseph Young, and was appointed to a mission in northern Indiana. He journeyed and preached with great success; established, by his own personal efforts, a branch of the Church in Porter county; and before he was twenty years of age delivered, at Plymouth, a series of public lectures which attracted much attention. The April conference for the year 1841 saw him at Nauvoo an adoring witness to the laying of the corner stone of the Temple; and at this eventful gathering he was called to renew his labors in the region of northern Indiana. In the summer of that year he was at La Porte, Indiana, sick nigh unto death, and yet determined to progress with his mission. He found consoling care in the kindly home of Isaac Snyder, and through several weeks he was nursed as a beloved son of the house. When the family of Father Snyder took up its march for Nauvoo, Franklin was carried back by them to the beautiful city, but soon after the succeeding October conference he was once more moving in the missionary field—this time being the companion of Phineas H. Young, in Cincinnati and its vicinity.

    He fortunately visited Father Snyder's family again in the summer of 1842, just as he was convalescing from an almost fatal attack of typhoid fever; and in December of that year he was wedded to the youngest daughter of the house—Jane Snyder. He remained with the Saints at Nauvoo until the latter part of May, 1844. Having been ordained a High Priest by Brigham Young May 17, 1844, at Nauvoo, he was called to depart upon a mission to England.

    Accompanied by Apostle Brigham Young and others, he traveled to the Atlantic States, but before setting sail for Europe, he heard the dreadful news of the Carthage tragedy, and was called back to Nauvoo. The opening months of the next year, 1845, were spent by him in traveling more than a thousand miles among the branches of the Church in Michigan and elsewhere, to gather donations for the Temple. He returned to Nauvoo with nearly five hundred dollars for this sacred purpose, and then was chosen by his Uncle Willard to be a scribe in the office of the Church Historian.

    He also labored through the spring of 1846 as carpenter and joiner in the lower main court of the Temple, until the structure was completed and dedicated—having previously received his endowments and participated in the administration of the sacred ordinances therein. When these duties were concluded and the time for the exodus had come, he sacrificed the pleasant little home, built by his own toil, and with the meager proceeds he purchased a wagon and cart and such few necessaries as he could compass for the use of his family—an invalid wife and baby girl. With the heroism of the martyrs, he saw his loved ones starting on that melancholy journey into the western wilderness. He committed them to the great Creator's care, and then he turned his face resolutely towards the East to fill his mission to England—without money or sufficient, to make his way by faith alone, across continent and ocean into a strange land.

    His younger brother Samuel was called to accompany him, and the two missionaries crossed the river to Nauvoo and slept the first night of their arduous journey in a deserted building there. The God whom they so unselfishly served, opened their way; they pursued their journey via the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to Pittsburg and across the mountains to the coast; and on September 22, 1846, they sailed from New York in company with Apostle Parley P. Pratt and others. The last words which Franklin received from the Camp of Israel, before the ship put to sea, was that his wife Jane, amidst all the privations of the exodus, was lying at the point of death—that a little son had been born to her, but the child had quietly expired upon its mother's devoted bosom.

    He landed in Liverpool October 14, 1846. A few days later he was appointed to preside over the mission in Scotland, with his brother Samuel as his assistant. Apostle Orson Hyde was at this epoch the president of the British mission and editor of the "Millennial Star," though he was soon to depart for America and was to be succeeded by Elder Orson Spencer. But at the hour when the change was expected to be made, a false report of Elder Spencer's death reached Liverpool. The rumor was believed and Apostle Hyde appointed Franklin, then only twenty-one years old, to both of the positions which he, himself, was vacating, but just as he was entering upon his high trust Elder Spencer arrived in England. Franklin was then chosen to be one of his counselors: and during the subsequent serious illness of the president, Franklin was obliged to sustain the responsibilities and perform the duties of that calling.

    He labored there until Feb. 20, 1848, when he was appointed to take charge of a large company of Saints who were emigrating to the Rocky Mountains, crossing the Atlantic in the ship "Carnatic." During the time of Franklin's stay in the British Isles, the Saints there had been relieved of the treacherous "Joint Stock Company." The dishonest projectors of the despicable scheme had fled to other regions; and hope and confidence again held sway.

    But while all in the mission was prosperous, and the young Elder could justly feel proud and happy in the great work of proselyting, melancholy news came to him from the wilderness. His brother Joseph William Richards, a member of the Mormon Battalion, had succumbed to the rigors of the march and his wearied form had been laid in a lonely grave by the banks of the Arkansas river. Franklin's little daughter Wealthy had also died, and left his wife heartbroken, childless and alone.

    The homeward journey via New Orleans and St. Louis to Winter Quarters was completed by the middle of May, 1848, and there Franklin found his wife and such of their relatives as had survived the perils and privations of the times. In June he was sent through western Iowa negotiating for cattle with which to move the company of Willard Richards across the plains to the Salt Lake basin. His effort was completely successful, and on the 5th of July the train started, with Franklin acting as captain over fifty wagons.

    The journey was a most distressful one to his wife. Much of the time it seemed as though each day would be her last. But they found kind and helpful friends who ministered to their wants; and on the 19th of October they entered the valley through Emigration canyon and camped in the fort, more grateful to God than words can express, to find a resting place for wearied frames worn with toil and sickness.

    Franklin sold his cloak and every other article of clothing which he could spare, and with the proceeds purchased building material. Before the violence of the winter was felt he was able to construct a small room of adobies with out roof and without floor. From this rude mansion on the succeeding 12th day of February, he was called to receive his ordination to the Apostleship. Heber C. Kimball was spokesman in his ordination.

    The young Apostle became immediately associated with the other leading minds of the community in the provisional government of Deseret in general legislative and ecclesiastical work, and the labors of creating a Perpetual Emigration Fund. In October, 1849, he was once more called to leave home, with its tender ties and its responsibilities of love, and renew his great missionary labor in the British Isles.

    He traveled in company with Apostles John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow and Erastus Snow and others, and had a most eventful journey. Hostile Indians, inclement weather and turbulent, icy streams, combined to delay and imperil their progress. But the hand of Providence protected them, and the opening month of the year 1850 found them at St. Louis, visiting with dear old friends and brethren. This was among the grandest missionary movements in the history of the Church. Elder Taylor was on his way to France, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow were destined for Italy and Scandinavia, and Franklin was to officiate once more in the British Mission.

    Orson Pratt had been presiding and editing at Liverpool; but when Franklin arrived there, March 29, 1850, he found that the elder Apostle had been called on a hurried trip to Council Bluffs, and the "Star" contained a notification that during his absence Apostle Franklin D. Richards would preside over the Church affairs in Great Britain. The young president immediately began the establishment of the Perpetual Emigration Fund. Later in the season Orson Pratt returned to England, and Franklin relinquished his place as chief, and became Apostle Pratt's associate for a few months; but with the opening of the next year, 1851, Orson was called to the Valley, and Apostle Richards was instated as the president.

    Within twelve months following, his energy and zeal, with that of his brethren, had spread the truth with irresistible sway throughout the isles of Britain; while Franklin, with tireless hand and brain, doubled the business at the Liverpool office; revised and enlarged the Hymn Book and printed an edition of 25,000 copies; prepared his pamphlet, the Pearl of Great Price; stereotyped the Book of Mormon and arranged for stereotyping the Doctrine and Covenants; issued a new edition of Parley P. Pratt's Voice of Warning; and devised a plan which made the "Star" a weekly instead of a semi-monthly periodical and increased the number of its issue.

    He had also paid an interesting visit to Apostle Taylor at Paris, had sent to Zion the first company of Saints whose passage came through the Emigration Fund, and with Apostle Erastus Snow had made arrangements for the organization of a company to engage in the manufacture of iron in Utah In January, 1852, pursuant to advice from the First Presidency of the Church, who contemplated a visit from him to Great Salt Lake valley, he installed in the Liverpool office his brother Samuel, who had been formerly his associate during his ardent and successful Scottish ministry, in order to fit the younger Richards to maintain the increasing work in Franklin's temporary absence.

    The baptisms in the British Mission during these two years of Franklin's stupendous labor, extending from the summer of 1850 to the close of spring in 1852, aggregated about sixteen thousand; while the perfected organization of conferences, branches, pastorates, etc., was commensurate with this marvelous increase.

    After exhaustive investigation Franklin rejected the theory of emigrating the Saints by way of Panama to the California coast; and instead adopted the project of sending one ship to each of the three ports, Boston, Philadelphia and New York. The last received the decided preference, after the experiment; and the plan of voyage between Liverpool and Castle Garden, instituted by Apostle Franklin D. Richards for the European Saints, a half of a century since, is still the universally favored route. He sailed from Liverpool for New York May 8, 1852, and arrived safely in Salt Lake City Aug. 20th.

    A few days later (Aug. 29th) he was attending the special conference held in Salt Lake City, at which was promulgated to the world the famous revelation, which Franklin had long before heard and received, upon the subject of the eternity and plurality of the marriage covenant in the Territorial legislative Assembly he renewed his labors as a lawmaker Dec. 13, 1852. In the opening of the year 1853, he participated in the dedication of the Temple grounds at Salt Lake City and also in laying its corner stones.

    In the succeeding month of July he journeyed with his wife Jane and their two children to Iron county to proceed with the establishing of the iron works, and on the trip encountered, but without any immediate disaster, several parties of hostile Indians. At Cedar City military orders were received from Governor Young and Lieut.-General Wells, in view of Indian disturbances, and Franklin continued assiduously in the work of bringing in the outposts, changing the site of Cedar City, and fitting the people for the resistance of savage aggressions. He returned to his home in Salt Lake City, just in time to soothe the closing hours of his mother's life; but was again on the march for the iron region on the 22nd of October. His mission there accomplished, he came to Salt Lake City to take part through the winter in the legislative councils, and while thus engaged he was requested by Pres. Young to prepare for another mission to Europe. Just before departing for England, he held a family gathering, at which he set the example of dedicating his home and all he possessed to the Lord.

    He reached Liverpool in safety June 4, 1854. His letter of appointment from the First Presidency, published in the "Millennial Star," authorized him "to preside over all the conferences and all the affairs of the Church in the British Islands and adjacent countries." This was the signal for the closer amalgamation of all the European missions under one head. He traveled on the Continent promoting peace and harmony as well as increase to the branches there. Emigration facilities were perfected and enlarged. In 1855 he engaged for the better accommodation of the growing business in Liverpool, the convenient premises known now as 42 Islington, which were occupied as the chief offices of the Church in Europe for many years.

    In October of this year, the German Mission was originally established in Dresden under his personal direction—a mission which yielded intelligence and numerical strength to the cause. His travels were constant and extended to nearly every part of western Europe—until he was probably better informed than any other man regarding the work in foreign lands. He gathered around him a most devoted band of American and foreign Elders; and the cause progressed amazingly. It was also within his province to direct the branches of the Church in the East Indies, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other parts—making altogether a sphere which no man could fill unless every ambition were centered in the cause.

    July 26, 1856, Pres. Richards, accompanied by Elder Cyrus H. Wheelock, sailed from Liverpool, homeward bound, on the steamer "Asia." At a meeting of the presidents of conferences, held in London previous to his departure, an affectionate and glowing tribute of esteem was unanimously dedicated to him. Oct. 4, 1856, he arrived once more in his mountain home, and in December became again a member of the Utah legislature. Jan. 5, 1857, he was again elected a regent of the University of Deseret. On Monday, April 20, 1857, he was elected and commissioned brigadier-general of the second brigade of infantry of the Nauvoo Legion.

    Soon afterwards he paid a visit of observation, with other dignitaries, to Fort Limhi (now in Idaho). When the coming of Johnston's army was announced, Brigadier-General Richards was called into council upon measures for public safety and defense; and later, was engaged with a detachment of men from his brigade in giving support to Lieut.-General Wells in Echo canyon. He, with other devoted citizens, left his valuable property under the charge of a trusty friend, who was to apply the torch and offer it all as a burning sacrifice before it should be seized or desecrated by the boastful invaders. And, after the tragic folly of the invasion was brought to its proper close, he, with others, received a somewhat unnecessary pardon from James Buchanan, President of the United States.

    July 21, 1859, he began a political tour through southern Utah, to advise and arrange for the election of delegate to Congress; and immediately upon his return to Salt Lake City he departed with Elder John Taylor, to meet two companies of emigrants—many of whom were endeared by old and affectionate associations with Apostles Taylor and Richards. During the years 1859-1866, his labors were multifarious; he was engaged in ecclesiastical, political, legislative, military and educational works—besides having a large family responsibility and such growing private interests of agriculture and mill building as his public duties would permit him to inaugurate. He was upon three occasions very ill, but each time he recuperated and renewed his labor with increased energy.

    July 29, 1866, he was once more appointed to England, and in a fortnight was on his journey. Arriving in Liverpool on the 11th of September following, he began the welcome and grateful labor of visiting the principal conferences of the European Mission; including the Scandinavian and other Continental conferences. In July, 1867, he was again instated as president of the European Mission. Once more he gathered a staff of enthusiastic Elders to his support, and in the year following, in Great Britain alone, 3,457 souls were baptized, and in the same length of time, from the same country, there were emigrated to Utah more than three thousand two hundred Saints.

    Always projecting his thoughts into the future to find means for advancing the work of God, he at this time decided that emigration by sailing vessels was inadequate for the needs of the renewed proselyting work in Europe. He, there fore, made the necessary changes—at that early day not inconsiderable—and two large companies of Saints were sent out from Liverpool by the steamships "Minnesota" and "Colorado" bound for New York.

    This was the last foreign mission of Apostle Richards, and his active work in the field had a fitting close. Eight times he had crossed the mighty deep and four eventful periods he had spent in the ministry abroad. His last effort had demonstrated that the soil of humanity in Europe would still produce rich fruits. Although his ardor as a missionary had not waned, his value as a home counselor had increased, and with the opening of the following year a new epoch was commenced in his career. He was elected probate judge of Weber county Feb. 19, 1869, and from that event Ogden and Weber county may date no small share of the worthy progress which made them respectively, in importance, the second city and county of Utah.

    In May, 1869, Franklin D. Richards established his residence in Ogden. In all the intervening years he was  the presiding ecclesiastical authority of the Weber Stake of Zion. Many of his assistant laborers possessed a measure of his own paramount quality of generous loyalty to the cause, and these men came readily to his support in the revival work of the home ministry. When he reached Ogden to attend his first term of court, the town had no newspaper; before a year had passed, he established, and for a time edited, the Ogden "Junction," over which he exercised a guardian care for several years. Schools had been all that the people felt they could support, but they were still not up to a high grade; he wrote, preached and labored personally and with his accustomed success, to advance the educational interests of the people. The young people, in many cases, lacked cultured associations and ambition for education and refinement; he organized societies which were the heralds, if not the direct progenitors, of the later Mutual Improvement Association which permeate the young and growing State of Utah, and he originated a plan by which the youth of Weber county might hear, without cost, lectures by the best scientists and most talented orators of Utah.

    With the advent of the railway came an influx of worldly persons and sentiment; he taught the Saints how to preserve, from this rude aggression, their political and moral integrity, and he strewed them by precept and example how to make home beautiful and home pleasures attractive for the youth. He was probate and county judge of Weber county continuously from March 1, 1869, until Sept. 25, 1883. During this period of more than fourteen years, hundreds of suits for divorce and cases of estates for settlement were brought before him. In no single instance was his decision in these matters reversed by a higher tribunal. He adjudicated all the land titles in the important city of Ogden and the populous towns of Huntsville, North Ogden and Plain City. No one of these adjudications has ever been set aside by any court. For the first five years following his induction into office, his court had original and appellate jurisdiction in all common law and chancery cases; before him were tried numerous civil suits, habeas corpus cases and trials of offenders charged with all crimes from misdemeanor to murder. Not one single judgment or decree rendered by him in all this lengthy general judicial service was reversed on appeal. His justice and humanity, united with keen legal sense, made his name proverbial.

    In his administration of county financial affairs he was no less successful, aided by associates of shrewdness and integrity. During his regime the finest court house in Utah was erected in Ogden, roads and bridges innumerable were built; the only toll road in the county—extending through the magnificent Ogden canyon—was purchased and made free; taxes were kept low, but were collected promptly; the county was maintained clear of debt. His position carried with it no salary. Although Apostle Richards always had a mass of business at home, he found time to travel and observe throughout the Territory. He continued, as he had previously been, when in Utah, a member of the successive legislative assemblies and constitutional conventions—in which his scholarship, legal lore, and patriotism made him conspicuous.

    In 1877 he traveled with Pres. Young to organize nearly all the Stakes of Zion; and attended the dedication of Temple sites and Temple buildings. After the death of Pres. Young, and especially since his own retirement from political life, Franklin was entirely immersed in the councils and labors of the Church.

    Towards the close of his official career Judge Richards became a party of one of the most important law suits, so far as the public is concerned, that was ever instituted in the Territory. In the summer of 1882 Congress passed what is known as the "Hoar Amendment," which authorized the governor of the Territory to fill vacancies caused by the failure to elect officers at the August election, 1882. Under claim of authority from this act Governor Murray appointed some scores of persons to fill offices throughout the Territory, and among them James N. Kimball was appointed to be probate judge of Weber county. After demanding the office from Franklin D. Richards, he commenced a mandamus suit to compel the relinquishment of the office and records to him. Franklin, denied that there was any vacancy in the office because of the failure to hold the election, and insisted that he had the right, under his commission, to hold the office "until his successor was elected and qualified." The district court decided in favor of Mr. Kimball, but an appeal was taken to the supreme court of the Territory, where the decision of the lower court was affirmed. The case was then taken to the supreme court of the United States, where it rested until the term expired for which Mr. Kimball was appointed, and until Judge Richards' successor was elected and qualified.

    This was a test case, and if it had not been contested with the determination and skill which characterized the defense, the result would have been the displacement of all the officers of the Territory by the governor's appointees, and the "Liberal Party" would have gained the political control of the Territory. This determined legal contest was a fitting close to the successful official career of Judge Richards and saved the Territory from political bondage.

    At the general conference of the Church held in April, 1889, Elder Richards was sustained as Church Historian and general Church Recorder, having previously acted as assistant historian for many years. This position he filled with much devotion and faithfulness until his demise. In 1898, when Lorenzo Snow became President of the Church, Bro. Richards succeeded to the presidency of the Twelve Apostles and occupied that position until his death. He was endeared to his associates in the Priesthood and the Saints generally because of his kind, affable manner.

    During the latter years of his life his time was chiefly occupied with historical and genealogical labors, but he visited many of the Stakes of Zion and remained zealous and industrious to the last In the fall of 1899 he became enfeebled, through strokes of paralysis, and after an illness of several weeks, accompanied by brief spells of apparent improvement, he passed quietly away at his home in Ogden, Utah, Dec. 9, 1899. Pres. Richards was noted for the kindness of his heart, the gentleness of his manners and his constant, unceasing devotion to the work of God. Among the glowing tributes of respect to his character and faith made at the time of his funeral, were the remarks by Pres. Joseph F. Smith, who said that he had seen Pres. Richards under such trying ordeals that few could endure, but under which Bro. Richards had shown the patient submission, faith and devotion of Job, when he exclaimed, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."

    Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.115
    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
    2005 Church Almanac, p.64

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