Shortly after Willard Richards arrived in Nauvoo from England in August 1841, he became Joseph Smith’s closest confidant, assuming a role once enjoyed by John C. Bennett. Bennett’s departure from Mormonism was not quiet, and as he toured the country exposing and sensationalizing Mormon secrets, including polygamy, Richards followed doing damage control. Yet Richards was a polygamy insider introduced to the practice by Joseph Smith. He had performed one of Smith’s plural marriages and may have begun practicing it himself while his first wife, Jennetta, endured a lonely year in Massachusetts where he’d left her while he settled in Nauvoo. This paper examines Richards’s role as a polygamy insider, confidant, and public relations man during the tumultuous period of 1841-1842.
Devery S. Anderson, D. Michael Quinn