Friday, July 15, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #19: Franklin D. Richards, Autobiography of Franklin D. Richards (Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles)

Editor's note: This is # 19 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            This work, copyrighted and published in 1974, is evidently a personal endeavor of Elder Richards, since no publisher’s name is indicated. From the content it is safe to assume that it was printed in Salt Lake City, Utah. Its extreme rarity presupposes that it was written for family and close friends only, as does its inclusion of strictly personal and family items such as patriarchal blessings, setting-apart blessings, etc.

            The book (406 pages) covers his early life and business career in some detail, but most of it is meant to give a recounting of the years Elder Richards served as a General Authority, with a chapter for each year of service. This writing pattern assures the reader of an unusual view of the intense laborious life followed by such men living “in the harness.” It contains a few “nuggets” that make it a worthwhile find for those very few that do. For instance, he tells of an administration received as a child: “The power of the priesthood was dramatically demonstrated to me when as a boy of nine I was stricken with rheumatic fever and was in bed for several months and necessarily out of school. The doctors told my parents that I probably would not live to be eighteen years of age. I was administered to by the elders of the Church, and through faith and the power of the priesthood my health was restored” (7).

            Another comes from an experience received as a General Authority. A close friend and his family had died in a plane crash: “Elder Howard Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve and I spoke at the funeral. It was a humbling experience to look down from the pulpit over the four caskets and contemplate what had happened…. As I was talking, I clearly understood why John was taken. The spirit manifested to me that he was needed to carry on missionary work in the spirit world. I knew this to be true and bore testimony to this effect. The spirit of the Lord was abundantly present and His comforting influence was felt” (198).

            Because the author reviews his work as an Assistant to the Twelve in so much detail each year, the book conveys a sense of perspective but also of repetition; however, the comments regarding his occasional interactions with senior Church leaders help make the book a decent, but not great, autobiography.

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