Shortly after Willard Richards arrived in Nauvoo for the first time in August 1841, he became Joseph Smith’s closest confidant, assuming a role once enjoyed by John C. Bennett. Bennett’s departure from Nauvoo and Mormonism was not a quiet one, and as he toured the country exposing and sensationalizing Mormon secrets (most notably, polygamy) Richards followed him doing damage control. Yet Richards was a polygamy insider, who had been introduced to the practice by Joseph Smith, had performed one of Smith’s plural marriages, and may have even begun practicing it himself – all while Richard’s wide, Jenetta, endured a lonely year in Massachusetts where he’d left her while he got settled in Nauvoo. This paper will examine Richard’s rold as a polygamy insider, confidant, and public relations man during the tumultous period of 1841-42.
Devery S. Anderson