Elder H. Bryan Richards spent much of his spare time, during the two summers before serving as a mission president, with members of a posse.
He taught them about teamwork, showed them how to be good winners and trained them to hit a softball. And as coach of his ward's youth softball team, self-proclaimed as the Posse, he loved every minute of it.As a youngster, Elder Richards – who was sustained a new member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy April 4 – was an avid participant in Church sports.
Today, at the age of 64, Elder Richards still can't get enough sports. Just ask the teens in his ward. Or talk to the young men on other teams the new General Authority has coached. Or ask his wife or any of his eight children.
"Growing up, sports was my whole life," he explained. "Even today, sports is still a very important part of my life."
H. Bryan Richards, the second of Horace B. and Carol Bryan Richards' three children, grew up in the Stratford Ward on Salt Lake City's east bench.
His most memorable childhood moments were spent hunting and fishing with his father – and, of course, playing sports.
In fact, Elder Richards recalls an interview with his bishop before leaving Salt Lake City to serve as a missionary in the Great Lakes Mission.
"I had my ball glove and my cleats on," he recalled. "My bishop asked me if I could give up sports for two years, and I said, `Well, probably.' "
Elder Richards' bishop knew the young man had a dream to play in an All-Church Tournament. (All-Church basketball tournaments started in 1922 and softball tournaments in 1934 – and provided a way for the Church's best ward athletic teams to compete against each other. However, in 1972, because of ever-widening growth of the Church, it was announced that all sports tournaments would be held on a regional basis – as they are today.) Elder Richards' bishop promised the future missionary that if he would serve faithfully, there would be sports opportunities for him when he came home.
And there were. The Stratford Ward participated in the All-Church Basketball Tournament only once: the same year a young Elder Richards completed his mission.
Playing in the tournament not only fullfilled a dream for Elder Richards, but it also helped him find the confidence to ask out a young woman, LynnAnne Taylor. On their first five dates, LynnAnne watched her future husband play basketball.
The couple was married Aug. 23, 1957, in the Salt Lake Temple. If nothing else those first dates were an indication of "what she was getting into," said Elder Richards.
On one occasion several years into their marriage, Elder and Sister Richards sat down to eat dinner when the phone rang. "It was one of the young men in our ward," Elder Richards recalled, "and his dad was coaching the softball team. LynnAnne could tell from the conversation that I was being asked to come pinch hit for his dad that night. When I had finished on the phone, LynnAnne had already cleared my plate from the dinner table, because she knew I would go."
Elder Richards said he learned that kind of commitment from his own Young Men advisers – who were a great influence on him – and from his father.
As a youngster he would often sit on the stand during sacrament meeting with his father, who served as bishop.
Speaking of his father's influence, Elder Richards remembers coming home from Church as an 11-year-old and asking his father how he knew Joseph Smith was really a prophet of God. "He sat down with me on the couch and told me the Joseph Smith story and left his testimony with me," he recalled. "Since then, I don't think I have ever doubted that."
However, his father's teachings did not stop there. "Much of what I do, much of what I understand about the gospel, I learned from my father on the mountain top: deer hunting or fishing," he recalled. "I think after I got old enough, the reason I went hunting was for my father to teach me the gospel."
Elder Richards said the hardest day of his life came in 1977 when his father was killed in a car accident. He has thought of his father often since then – especially while serving as a stake and mission president. "It would have been special to once in awhile sit down and say,
How did you do this?' orWhat would you do?' "
Today he still works hard to carry on the things his father taught him – such as continuing his father's desire to do family history.
On July 24, 1976, Elder Richard's father called him at work, inviting him to the family history library the next day. Elder Richards declined. However, when he got home that night, his wife insisted he go. He called his father back and committed to spending 21/2 hours – and no more – with him at the library.
However, after getting started, the pair spent more than eight hours researching family history and Elder Richards' life "has never been the same since."
Family history work has taken the Richards across the country. They have had great successes, seeing "miracle after miracle."
Elder Richards also loves to share his vast family history knowledge with others. While serving as stake president in the early 1990s, Elder Richards invited every member of his stake to find an ancestor and do his or her temple work. As a result of that project more than 3,000 names were submitted for temple work.
When Elder Richards is not involved in family history, or sports, he said he is busy following the lives of his children. Through the years, the Richards have spent countless hours attending music recitals, dance performances and athletic events. They also love to hike, camp, fish and hunt together.
"And then there were the puppet shows," Elder Richards said. When the Richards children were young, they were "very quiet and shy – like their father," explained Sister Richards.
So Sister Richards made puppets, and with funding from the Utah Arts Council, started her own company. Sister Richards, a BYU drama graduate, and her eight children traveled all over Utah performing puppet shows at schools, museums and even at the governor's mansion.
Elder Richards called his family, and spending time with them, his greatest blessing.
He recalled losing his job, when he had five or six small children. "I remember the Friday I received the layoff notice," he said. "I was devastated. I thought, `Here I am with a wife and small children and a home to pay for.' "
However, Elder Richards now sees the experience as a great blessing. "Within just a couple of months I was employed again with E-Systems, where I spent the rest of my career," he recalled. "Anyway you look at it – experience-wise, money-wise, family-wise, family history-wise – the company got me to where I needed to go."
After taking early retirement from E-systems, Elder Richards served as president of the England Manchester Mission.
Returning from England, he had the opportunity to coach his youngest son's and two of his grandsons' basketball teams. Much of the remainder of his time was spent attending his children's and grandchildren's activities. During a Church News interview, he was quick to announce the birth of his newest granddaughter, number 23, and the mission call of his oldest grandson to Argentina.
He hopes that as he serves the Lord in his new calling, a task he finds overwhelming and humbling, his grandchildren will take note. "As long as we answer this call and do what we are told to do our children and grandchildren will follow suit and will not hesitate to go to Argentina or do anything else the Lord asks," said Sister Richards.
Even if it means giving up sports.
Elder H. Bryan Richards
Family: Born March 18, 1934, to Horace B. and Carol Bryan Richards in Salt Lake City. Married LynnAnne Taylor Aug. 23, 1957, in the Salt Lake Temple. Eight children: CarolLynn Gregson, Shari Turnbow, Taylor, Robyn Stulce, Heidi Poulter, Rebecca Tholen, JennyLynn Rockwood, and John; 23 grandchildren.
Education: Received bachelor's degree in business administration from BYU, 1958.
Employment: Retired benefits administrator for E-Systems Manufacturing.
Church service: Former president of the England Manchester Mission, 1994-97; regional representative; stake president and counselor; high councilor; bishop's counselor; and Young Men president; missionary in the Great Lakes Mission, 1954-56.