Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Stayner Richards was born on 20 December 1885 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Stephen Longstroth Richards and Emma Louise Stayner, the fifth of ten children. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 5 February 1898. As a youth Stayner excelled in his studies and graduated from the University of Utah in 1907 with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. There he earned the respect of his fellow classmates, being elected student body president his senior year and president of the ’07 class. As student body president he organized the construction of the large white ‘U’ that stands in the foothills above campus, a legacy that remains to this day. He also participated in many athletic activities, excelling particularly in golf, horseshoes, and fishing.
Stayner received a call to serve a mission to the British Isles on 10 February 1908. On 16 April 1908 he was set apart for this calling and began his journey to England. After arriving in Liverpool, England, his mission president, Charles W. Penrose, assigned him to labor in the Newcastle Conference. Of his first evening preaching he recorded: “Attended a street meeting with the Elders who were good enough [to] not call on me to talk.” 1 But Stayner worked and studied diligently and soon became an effective preacher. The first fruits of Stayner’s labors came on 8 November 1908 with his first convert baptism. Throughout his mission he maintained his optimism and sense of humor. On one occasion after a dinner appointment he recalled that the potential investigators they were teaching “didn’t seem to swallow religion very well so we gave them western bear stories. Made quite a hit with them.” 2 Stayner paid special attention to music while on his mission, frequently commenting on the quality of singing of various missionaries, choirs, and congregations, and never missed an opportunity to attend concerts, plays, and operas. Elder Richards suffered a bout of tuberculosis in 1909 and even had some glands removed from his neck to relieve the pain, an operation that left permanent scarring. He was released from his labors and returned home in April 1910.
Stayner married his childhood sweetheart, Jane Foote Taylor, on 28 December 1911. They had kept in close contact while he served his mission and only delayed their wedding until December to await the completion of their first home. She bore him six children, three girls and three boys. Stayner soon became a prominent Salt Lake businessman in the real estate and construction industry. He eventually founded and managed his own firm, the Stayner Richards Building and Construction Company. His “keen sense of humor and…inexhaustible store of anecdotes” 3 no doubt greatly assisted him in his life’s pursuits. Still, although “eminently successful in business, he put his duty to God first.” This desire to serve God soon led to a series of important leadership callings in the church.
In 1914 he was called to serve in the Sugar House Ward bishopric. Stayner then became the first bishop of the Highland Park Ward on 3 December 1916, when it was split from the Sugar House Ward. He held this position in the church for twelve years, during which he oversaw the building of a new chapel for the congregation. In 1928 he accepted the calling of second counselor in the presidency of the Granite Stake of the church in Salt Lake City. Nine years later, in September 1937, he was called to be president of the Highland Stake. As a leader in the church organization for so many years Stayner “was richly endowed with the power to implant in the hearts of the people cheer, good will, faithfulness, and love.” 5 But “his most distinguishing characteristic, the lesson that he taught throughout his lifetime, by precept and by example, was kindness.” 6
On 11 January 1950 Stayner was set apart as president of the British Mission. A year and a half later, however, the death of his son Robert prompted him and his wife to return to Utah for the funeral. During this interlude, on 6 October 1951, the First Presidency of the church called him to be an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. As such he returned to Great Britain until July 1952 to complete his mission and afterwards fulfilled the duties of a general authority of the church in the United States. Less than a year later, however, Stayner Richards became drastically sick with a gastric ailment and passed away on 28 May 1953. His was remembered by his close friend and associate, President David O. McKay, as “a loving husband, a devoted father, a true friend, a valiant defender of the truth. 7
1 Stayner Richards, “Diary, 1908-1910,” 9 May 1908, MSS 1568, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
2 Ibid., 12 June 1908.
3 Deseret News, “Stayner Richards, a Noble Spirit,” 29 May 1953.
4 George Q. Morris, “In Memoriam—Elder Stayner Richards,” Relief Society Magazine 40, no. 8 (August 1953), 510.
5 Ibid., 510.
6 Deseret News, “Stayner Richards, a Noble Spirit,” 29 May 1953.
7 Morris, 511.
Ancestry World Tree Project. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 17 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm.
Deseret News. “Stayner Richards, a Noble Spirit.” 29 May 1953.
Flake, Lawrence R. Mighty Men of Zion: General Authorities of the Last Dispensation. Salt Lake City: Karl D. Butler, 1974.
Fotheringham, Mae Richards. Stayner Richards…Our Father. Salt Lake City: Author, 1975.
Jenson, Andrew. Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941.
________. Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 4. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901-1936.
Morris, George Q. “In Memoriam—Elder Stayner Richards.” Relief Society Magazine 40, no. 8 (August 1953): 510-511.
Richards, Stayner. “Papers, 1903-1975,” MSS 1568, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
United States Census, 1920. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com Inc., 2003. 17 December 2003 available from http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/census/usfedcen/main.htm.