Jennetta Richards was a young woman from England who met the first Latter-day Saint missionaries sent to Great Britain in the summer of 1837. This was just months after Queen Victoria ascended to the throne.
Jennetta was living in the village of Walkerfold, Lancashire, where her father, John Richards, served as the minister of a small Protestant congregation. After hearing just two sermons preached by Elder Heber C. Kimball, Jennetta requested baptism. She was baptized in the River Ribble on August 4, 1837, and confirmed at the water’s edge shortly thereafter.
Though not the first one baptized in the United Kingdom, it is believed she was the first person in England to be confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Initially, Jennetta’s father opened his chapel to the Mormon missionaries but soon changed his policy because so many in the region were converting to this new religion. The Richards home and chapel are still extant.
On the day Heber C. Kimball baptized Jennetta, he sent a message to Willard Richards, a bachelor, saying, “I baptized your wife today.” Kimball's prediction eventually became reality. Willard and Jennetta married Sept. 24, 1838.
Willard Richards had been called to the Quorum of the Twelve in July of that same year (see Doctrine and Covenants 118:6), but had not yet learned of that calling. Willard Richards, Jennetta and a son, Heber John, left for Nauvoo, Illinois, in April 1841. Jennetta stayed in Massachusetts while Willard established a home in Nauvoo. She arrived in late 1842.
Willard was a witness to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. Jennetta became ill in the following summer. She passed away July 9, 1845. After being moved twice, her grave is located near the sidewalk on the west side of Durphy Street between White and Hotchkiss streets in Nauvoo.
Kenneth R. Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and has also been an instructor in the LDS Church’s Department of Seminaries and Institutes for more than 35 years.