The son of George F. Richards and the grandson of Franklin D. Richards, who both served as presidents of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, LeGrand Richards came from a family that was very devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That devotion manifested itself in his own enthusiastic zeal for the work of the Lord, born of fervent personal testimony and many years of service.
LeGrand Richards was born in Farmington, Utah, on February 6, 1886. He spent his childhood working hard on the family farm in Tooele, Utah. That work had many hazards; among other accidents that could have taken his life, Richards was once hit on the head with an axe and on another occasion was thrown from a wagon. Thankfully, young LeGrand’s life was spared for the great work he had to do. As a young boy, he attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893, just one of many spiritually foundational experiences in his youth.
After graduating from high school, LeGrand enrolled in an eighteen-month business college course in Salt Lake City. He completed the course in twelve months and at the age of nineteen answered the call to serve as a full-time missionary in the Netherlands Mission. This would be the first of four missions for LeGrand Richards, who became one of the greatest missionaries of the Church in his time.
Richards married Ina Jane Ashton in the Salt Lake Temple in 1909. He was married to his beloved “Inie” for sixty-eight years before she passed away in 1977. They were very close, having served and worked together through so many life experiences. They had eight children, and by the time they both passed away, they had a legacy of twenty-eight grandchildren, 115 great-grandchildren, and nine great-great-grandchildren.
When he was twenty-seven years old, LeGrand Richards was called to preside over the Netherlands Mission, where he had previously served as a young missionary. In 1926 he was called to fill a short-term mission in the Eastern States and in 1934, he was called to preside over the Southern States Mission. He loved his missionaries and continued to hold yearly reunion meetings with them the rest of his life. He also loved missionary work; a tract he wrote for his missionaries in the Southern States was published in 1950 as A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, which became one of the most widely read works in the Church.
In addition to his missionary work, LeGrand Richards served as the bishop of three wards, a branch president, a member of two stake high councils, and a stake president. In 1938 he was called as the presiding bishop of the Church, and he served in this capacity for fourteen years during and after World War II. Under his direction, the Church built programs to accommodate widespread growth in Church membership. Bishop Richards was also greatly interested in the Jewish people and their destiny in the Lord’s plan. While serving as a stake president in southern California, he wrote a document titled “Israel! Do You Know?” to demonstrate the links between Jewish traditions and LDS doctrine. He also headed the Orson Hyde Foundation to raise money for land in Jerusalem which would later become the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden.
In 1952 LeGrand Richards was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles like his father and grandfather before him. He was known for his optimistic, humorous, and enthusiastic love for the gospel and for those whom he served. He often spoke without a prepared text, his addresses relying completely on personal experience, scriptural knowledge, and testimony. Having given so much of his life as a great missionary in the Church, to many he represented an era in the history of the gospel in this dispensation.
Elder LeGrand Richards passed away on January 11, 1983, at the age of ninety-six. In his many addresses at Brigham Young University, Elder Richards shares treasured missionary experiences, counsels the young people of the Church to be valiant in their testimonies, and demonstrates his characteristic enthusiasm for the gospel.