In honor of Pioneer Day yesterday, I have been reading a record of my great-great grandfather, George F. Richards. Grandpa Richards was not himself a pioneer, but his mother, Nanny Longstroth, was. She and her family were converted to the Gospel in England and gathered to Nauvoo to be with the Saints when Nanny was 11 years old, in the midst of great persecution and with great sacrifice.
(An interesting aside: Nanny was married at a very young age to Willard Richards (of Carthage fame, among other things): she was 17 when they were married on January 25 (my birthday!), 1846, in the Nauvoo Temple. Willard Richards, however, died in 1854, leaving Nanny a young 26 year old widow with three children. Willard’s nephew, Franklin D. Richards, was devoted to Willard and Willard had asked Franklin, in case of his death to marry his wives and provide for them and to raise up posterity to him- customary among Latter-day Saints of that time, methinks. It was from this union that George F., my great-great grandfather was born.)
Nanny crossed the plains with the pioneers (fortunately PRIOR to the tragic Martin and Willy Handcart companies which seem to always be the ones who get all the attention for the tragedy that occurred…) Says George F. about her:
Persecutions were heaped upon [her family in England] and when they left Englad they had to leave home most of their possessions. They came to this country for love of the Gospel and were stalwarts in the faith, great leaders and missionaries, and were able to pass through the many trials of pioneer life without complaining.
[. . . Nanny] was a woman of refinement and intelligence and was known for her sweet disposition. She loved the Lord and adhered to the Gospel teachings. . . At my mother’s knee I learned to pray and by the Bible stories she read us children, I learned to believe in the Bible and in the lessons it teaches.
What a wonderful thing to be said of a mother in Zion! What a blessing it would be if all Latter-day Saints could say similar things. I hope my children say similar things about my wife and me.
Patriarch John Smith told Nanny in her patriarchal blessing when she was 16 years old that "prophets, seers and revelators would proceed forth from her." Indeed, in addition to being married to two different apostles (Willard and Franklin D. Richards), she was mother to an apostle (George F. Richards), grandmother to two others (Stephen L. Richards and LeGrand Richards- my grandmother’s uncle), and grandmother to an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, Stayner Richards.
I don’t know much about the other (large) group of Richards posterity other than my own direct line, but in my direct line have been many, many faithful Latter-day Saints who have dedicated their lives to serving the Lord Nanny left England for, and who have remained active all their days.
Nanny’s righteous influence on her posterity also has manifested itself in the very sealing power that binds me to her in the eternities. Indeed, her son George F. Richards sealed my grandparents for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. And it was his son, Joel Richards (LeGrand’s brother and my great-grandfather) who sealed my parents (and many, many others)for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. Joel Richards’ son, Elliott, served recently as President of the Jordan River temple, performing many times over that same sacred sealing ordinance, also for some family members who were direct posterity to Nanny Longstroth.
As I contemplated the sacrifices of pioneers yesterday, I was very grateful for the sacrifices my great-great-great grandmother made to gather with the Saints, and for her righteous example to her son, George F. Richards. She truly left a legacy of faith which has lasted and will continue to endure for generations and generations, even through all generations of time and throughout all eternity.