About the Collection

Richard Roswell Lyman

by Jeffrey S. Hardy

See Diary

Richard Roswell Lyman was born on 23 November 1870 in Fillmore, Utah, to Francis Marion Lyman and Clara Carolyn Callister.  His family moved to Tooele in 1878 and there he was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 29 July 1879.  As a young boy Richard demonstrated a love for learning and his parents therefore sent him to Brigham Young Academy in Provo, Utah, in 1882, at the age of twelve, to begin his formal education.  During the summers he worked on various farms in Utah, hauling lumber, milking cows, gardening, and performing other chores.  In 1889 he transferred to Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah, where he began teaching as he continued his studies.  After a year he returned to Provo where he graduated from the Academy in 1891.

On 29 August 1891 Richard was ordained an elder in the Church by Joseph F. Smith.  He then traveled to Ann Arbor, Michigan to attend the University of Michigan.  For two years he was class president, and in 1895 he received his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.  The following year the University of Utah hired him as a full-time faculty member in the department of civil engineering.  He continued his personal education, however, and in 1903 obtained a Master’s of Civil Engineering degree from Cornell University and in 1905 a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the same institution.  In addition to his degrees he was a member of many scholarly fellowships, received prestigious scholarships and fellowships, and was active in the BYU Alumni Association and Emeritus Club. 

While studying at the Brigham Young Academy Richard met Amy Brown.  After an eight-year courtship they were married on 9 September 1896.  She was an intelligent and influential lady that served as a member of the state legislature, on the Relief Society General Board for 36 years, and as Relief Society General President for five years.  She bore two children, Wendell Brown, born on 18 December 1897, and Margaret, born on 15 September 1903.

After receiving his Ph.D., Richard worked on various civil engineering projects.  For example, he was a member of the Columbia River Reclamation project, an engineer for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, chief engineer of Utah Power and Light Co., and city engineer for Provo.  He surveyed and planned the University of Utah campus, and designed the water-works for most of Utah’s small towns.  He is also famous for developing the numbering system for Utah roads and addresses whereby any location can be found without a map.  In addition, Richard published widely in church magazines and professional journals and in 1915 received the J. James R. Croe’s Gold Medal for a civil engineering article.  He also served on the board of directors for various other non-engineering businesses such as Intermountain Life Insurance Company, and represented Utah in Region 12 of the Boy Scouts of America.

On 7 April 1918 Richard was set apart as a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles by Joseph F. Smith.  This appointment followed many church callings such as superintendent of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association of the Salt Lake Stake.  As an apostle he continued to work with the youth of the church and strongly supported prohibition in the United States.   

On 24 September 1936 Elder Lyman was called to preside over the European Mission.  Although dismayed that the previous president and his entire staff were being released just as he and his wife arrived and daunted with the task before them, he “with actual tears” convinced one of them to stay an additional three months to “get them started.” 1  The Lymans spent much time traveling throughout Europe, visiting the missions and branches of the church.  He was especially impressed with the saints in Prague, Czechoslovakia, recording “The size and quality of meeting and people were a most pleasant surprise.” 2  Elder Lyman had a very positive outlook on the missionary work, remarking “I cannot help but feel that a great era is coming in church work in these fine missions and among these remarkably fine people.” 3  He served as president of the European Mission until 1938 when missionaries were evacuated from Europe due to the onset of the Second World War.

Although Richard was excommunicated from the church on 12 November 1943, he returned to full fellowship upon his rebaptism, which occurred on 27 October 1954.  Richard Roswell Lyman passed away on 31 December 1963 at the age of 93.


1 Richard R. Lyman, “Journal, 1935-1937,” 24 September 1936, MSS 1425, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

2 Ibid., 31 January 1937.

3 Ibid., 19 August 1937.


Alder, J. Cecil. Utah: The Storied Domain. Vol. 2. Chicago:  American Historical Society, 1932.

Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah:  Brigham Young University Press, 1977.

Esshom, Frank. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah. Salt Lake City:  Western Epics, Inc., 1966.

Flake, Lawrence R. Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation. [Salt Lake City:  Karl D. Butler, 1974].

Lyman, Richard R. “Papers, 1890-1963.” MSS 1425, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

Our Prophets and Principles: Writings on Out Articles of Faith and Prophets who Made them Live. Salt Lake City:  Instructor, 1956.

Muir, Leo Joseph. A Century of Mormon Activities in California. Vol. 1. Salt Lake City:  Deseret News Press, 1952.

Pardoe, T. Earl. The Sons of Brigham. Provo, Utah:  Brigham Young University Alumni Association, 1969.

Rowley, Dennis, Melva Richey, and David Whittaker. Register of the Richard R. Lyman Collection: MSS 1079. Provo, Utah:  Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1979.

Simmons, Ralph B. Utah’s Distinguished Personalities: A Biographical Directory of Eminent Contemporaneous Men and Women who are the Faithful Builders and Defenders of the State. Salt Lake City:  Personality Publishing Company, 1933.