(This is an excerpt from A Family of Faith by Kent F. Richards.
“Believing blood” was the phrase President James E. Faust used when my wife, Marsha, and I sat in his office in the LDS Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City to be called as a mission president and companion. The Richards family, he said, was one of the stalwart families of the Restoration. He was quick to say that the same pioneering, believing legacy is being passed from generation to generation all over the world as individuals and families choose covenants and faithfulness. In my own family, there are six generations behind us of “believing,” seven generations to which our children may look, and eight generations to bless our grandchildren.
All my life I have heard stories of faith and service of early Richards men and women in this dispensation. I knew that three of the men in my direct lineage had served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and that one of them was a member of the First Presidency. In my boyhood days, we knew and loved “Uncle LeGrand,” an Apostle, and we looked forward to seeing him and hearing from him at family reunions. In reality, however, coming to know these men was still a future adventure.
In the early 1980s, as a newly trained surgeon, young bishop, and father of six little boys, I had a quiet urging in my heart to study and find out more about these ancestors. I went to the LDS Church archives, navigated the approval process, and received the privilege of sitting in the archives of the library reading room to receive sequential cartons, each containing several handwritten volumes of Great-Grandfather George F. Richards’s journals. In those days before laptop computers and digital records, I began taking notes by hand or speaking into a bulky tape recorder as I read aloud the entries. At home in the evenings, I transcribed the work of the day. I progressed through several years of his journals— until about 1907, shortly after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve. It was a fascinating view of the challenges his family faced in Utah’s rural, pioneering beginnings; of his thoughts, feelings, and experiences; and of the workings of the leadership of the Church. As life became busier for me, I put aside the project.
After my service as a mission president concluded in 2001, I felt a great desire to return to my early work. I found my notes and returned to the archives, supposing that I could resume my work from where I had left off. I was disappointed to discover that the journals of George F. Richards had since been placed in a secure vault with no access to outside parties. Gratefully, as a descendant with the goal of providing information for family members, I was given authorization to once again read the journals, with the proviso that I would not publish anything without the approval of the Church History Department and the First Presidency.
Over the next few years, I read all of the George F. Richards’s journals and transcribed portions of them. In many ways, this work anchored my soul to sound gospel principles, to the goodness of his heart, and to his sweet, pure, humble willingness to serve. For me, what had begun as a project became a commitment to serve, to grow, and to lead my own family, emulating his faith and faithfulness. I submitted the 450 pages of notes through channels to the presiding Brethren for their approval to allow publication of them for the descendants of George F. Richards. Then I had more to do.
I began to do the same work from digital images of available journals of Franklin D. Richards, who was George’s father, and of Willard Richards, who was Franklin’s uncle. Franklin and Willard each served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and each was a father to George… A question I have often been asked—“Are you related to Willard Richards?”—has always required explanation. He is my great-great-grandfather by priesthood sealing. My bloodline comes through Franklin and Nanny, but I am sealed to Willard. I am grateful to have two connected, righteous lines.
This volume is an abbreviated collection of experiences, many of them overlapping, from the journals of Willard, Franklin, and George. The selection of these excerpts is intended to give the reader an overview of a period of history lasting one hundred and thirteen years through the eyes of three generations of related, humble men, each writing his living, day-by-day witness of the Restoration. Excerpt by excerpt, year after passing year, their message becomes greater and more powerful.
When excerpts from the journals overlap in time, they are identified with the initials of their respective writers to allow the reader to keep track of who is speaking. This story does not belong to the Richards family alone but to families everywhere who are striving to live after the manner of happiness, “believing,” and passing the legacy of faith from generation to generation.
A Family of Faith, Kent F. Richards, pp. vii - x.