Most latter-day saints today do not know who George F. Richards was. Some of the older generation will remember his son LeGrand Richards, who served as the Presiding Bishop of the Church and also as an Apostle, but died in the 1980s. LeGrand’s father George was a spiritual giant that we might compare to President Boyd K. Packer today. President Richards was a member of a very prominent Mormon family that generationally seemed to possess the gift to dream inspired dreams—and George perhaps stood at the forefront.
George was the son of Franklin D. Richards, most famous today for having compiled the material that became the Pearl of Great Price, which he did as president of the European Mission. He himself had a dream in which he saw himself conversing with President Brigham Young. In the dream, President Young called him to be an Apostle, and this was fulfilled soon thereafter. This family saw three generations of Richards’s called to the Quorum, with Stephen L. also among that number, and a later Franklin D. being called as an Assistant to the Twelve. Their family proved a great strength to the Church.
President Richards began his service as a leader in the church as a stake president in Tooele, Utah, a small town west of Salt Lake City. From there he was called to the Twelve, where he served long and faithfully, eventually passing away in 1950 as the Quorum President. His Quorum associates felt he possessed an abundant measure of the Spirit of the Lord.
Not long before his call to the Twelve, Stake President George F. Richards received a powerful dream, in which he saw the Savior Jesus Christ and felt the overpowering presence of the Holy Ghost as he came to a new understanding of love for His Lord. Along with this dream, he also received one with Hitler in it, in which he was taught that an Apostle must be able to love all mankind, even the worst and most heinous of God’s children.
George’s son LeGrand believed that the dream in which his father saw the Savior, prepared him to act as a special witness of Jesus, an Apostle that knew, nothing doubting. George’s accounts of his dream are set forth in my forthcoming book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ.
In April 1974, in his concluding conference address, President Spencer W. Kimball referenced the declarations of both President Richards and President George Q. Cannon, as having seen the resurrected Savior, as a prelude to bearing his own witness, an indirect method full of precious meaning.
At the time President Kimball’s address was prepared for publication in the conference report and the church magazines, the editor assigned to prepare the material made an error in which he attributed to President Kimball one sentence that was really a quotation from President Richards, spoken in a conference talk given decades before.
When I discovered the editing error, I reported it to three different levels of bureaucracy at Church headquarters, in hopes that the error could be quickly and easily remedied in the online versions of Pres. Kimball’s message. It is of course too late to correct the old print versions, but today most people use the online material instead—and that is correctible.
The following is an explanation of the innocent and forgivable mistake that anyone, any editor, could have made. The talk is President Kimball’s “The Cause is Just and Worthy,” also found here. This is the current online text wording, copied and pasted here:
The Lord has revealed to men by dreams something more than I ever understood or felt before. I heard this more than once in quorum meetings of the Council of the Twelve when George F. Richards was president. He was the venerable father of Brother LeGrand Richards who has just spoken to us. He said, “I believe in dreams, brethren. The Lord has given me dreams which to me are just as real and as much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, which was the means of saving a nation from starvation, or the dream of Lehi who through a dream led his colony out of the old country across the mighty deep to this promised land, or any other dreams that we might read in the scriptures.
In this paragraph, President Kimball quotes President George F. Richards, but the editor confused who said what and also changed a few words. This is not surprising because President Kimball’s presentation of his message was also confusing for these few lines. It is corrected as this; the bold text indicates missing words:
[President George F. Richards:] “The Lord has revealed to men by dreams something more than I ever understood or felt before.” [President Kimball:] “I heard this more than once in
quorum Quarterly meetings of the Council of the Twelve
when George F. Richards was my
president of the Council of the Twelve. He was the venerable father of
Brother LeGrand Richards who has just spoken to us. He said,” [President
Richards:] “I believe in dreams, brethren and
sisters. The Lord has given me dreams which to me are just as real and as
much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, which was the means of
saving a nation from starvation, or the dream of Lehi who through a dream led
his colony out of the old country across the mighty deep to this promised land,
or any other dreams that we might read in the scriptures.”
See also George F. Richards original 1946 conference report here, which is what President Kimball was quoting (page 139). President Kimball quoted President Richards for the first sentence, but the editor missed the correct attribution.
The three groups of folks that I sent the corrections to at Church headquarters were all fine, competent, professional people, some in high places and a couple of them old friends. However, in this particular situation, they all brushed me off, evidently thinking this little correction unimportant. As of this writing, May of 2017, the error has not been fixed and likely never will be. And let me point out that it is not earthshaking by any means. Just one incorrectly attributed sentence and a few deleted or changed words. But since it had to do with President Richards’ dream of the Savior, and President Kimball’s quoting of it from the much earlier conference talk, I thought to mention the situation here.
President Richards in virtually unknown in the Church today, but his special witness of Jesus lives on through his testimony, which is recorded in both official Church literature and in my book, I Know He Lives: How 13 Special Witnesses came to Know Jesus Christ. Therein, Pres. Richards has a chapter all to himself where his sure testimony of Jesus is presented in context and as he gave it; he knew whereof he spoke.