General Authorities, family members, and throngs of his friends, “the Saints,” filled the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, January 14, to honor the memory of Elder LeGrand Richards, who died earlier that week at the age of ninety-six.
President Spencer W. Kimball, in an address read by his personal secretary, D. Arthur Haycock, paid tribute to Elder Richards as “one of the greatest missionaries of our time. He reminded me of a modern-day Apostle Paul. I can think of no one who has borne his testimony to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ with deeper conviction or with greater fervor. With it all, LeGrand Richards was a perennial optimist and his words were a rare combination of wit and humor, comfort, encouragement, and wisdom. He rarely, if ever, delivered a message from a written text. He just spoke from his heart, drawing upon a lifetime of experience, study, and inspiration.”
Speaking in behalf of Elder Richards’ large family, his son, G. LaMont Richards, reflected upon his father’s deep affection for members of the Church. “Father wanted me to tell you, the Saints, how much he truly loved you. ‘I know all of the Saints except their names,’ he often said.”
“Through the eyes of this beloved man,” said Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve, “we have looked back across the history of the Church. When LeGrand Richards was born, President John Taylor presided over the Church. When he was seven years old he attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. He remembered President Wilford Woodruff very clearly. …
“From his memory we read between the lines of the whole of the history of the Church. What he did not see himself, he learned from others who saw it back to the very beginning of this dispensation. He lived out his century in close association with the servants of the Lord.”
Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke movingly of Elder Richards’ devotion to his wife, Ina, and their eternal union. “He was one of our most persuasive advocates in teaching the immortality of the soul,” said Elder Petersen. “He knew that immortality is a fact. One reason he was so certain of it was that his wife, Ina, had passed away and was over there in the spirit world, a thing he never doubted.
“He could not think for one moment that she did not live on and on in that eternal world, which was as real to him as the world in which we now live. There was no thought of anything but eternal life—life forever—everlasting life with Ina.”
President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve affirmed that “without a doubt, LeGrand Richards is one of the noble and great ones shown in vision to our father Abraham. There is no greater example of our religion in action than the life of our faithful brother. … Elder Richards will ever be remembered among his colleagues as one of the purest of souls—never any pretense or guile. His only aim was the promotion of truth. How we appreciated his frankness, unpretentiousness, total and energetic dedication, and sparkling humor.”
“I have often felt,” reflected President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “that [Elder Richards’] parents were inspired when they named him LeGrand. The Le is the French equivalent of the article the in our language. Grand is just what it means in our language. The synonyms for that word are magnificent, imposing, stately, majestic, impressive, wonderful.
“I am confident that the Lord had him marked out for great service when he was named as a child. To all of us who have known him, LeGrand has been The Grand Man. He has been the grand example of eloquence in declaring the word of the Lord. … He spoke with the enthusiasm of a man on fire with a cause. That cause was the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his consuming love for it was contagious with those who heard him. He was Le Grand example of fidelity to the Lord, to the Church, to his friends, to his family, to the great name which he carried.”
Elder Packer had noted earlier the unique spirit of this modern-day Paul in a short description of Elder Richards’ devotion to the gospel, commenting that when one studies the life of Elder LeGrand Richards, he sees the “missionary, the student, the missionary, the young businessman, the missionary, the family man, the missionary, the bishop, the missionary, the stake president, the missionary, the stake president (no, I do not repeat), the missionary, the bishop, the missionary, the Apostle, the missionary.”