Richard L. Evans

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Richard L. Evans was born March 23, 1906, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the youngest of nine children born to John A. Evans and Florence Neslen. His father died when he was but 10 weeks old, leaving a bereaved widow with nine children to rear. From his youth Richard was made familiar with the realities of life, and learned early through intelligent service how to earn his own way through life.

Richard was baptized May 2, 1914, and received the Aaronic Priesthood as a youth. After high school he entered the LDS College and later the University of Utah but left the halls of academia and a generous scholarship for a higher calling when he filled a three-year mission to Great Britain between 1926–1929. During his mission to he acted as associate editor of the "Millennial Star" under James E. Talmage and John A. Widtsoe. He also served as secretary of the European Mission. His distinctive command of the English language, and effective speaking style were honed in countless street meetings and talks given in the rough-and-tumble of Hyde Park where anyone with a soapbox can speak on any subject of interest but must be prepared for heckling and abuse.

After returning home, Richard matriculated at the University of Utah where, in 1931, he received an AB degree. Continuing his studies, he was awarded an MA degree in 1932 by the same school. During his academic career he married Alice Ruth Thornley who would bear him four sons.

In addition to his school and family responsibilities, Richard was forced by economic necessity to pursue an avocation. His journalistic experience in editing the "Millennial Star" stood him in good stead as he secured employment with KSL Radio in Salt Lake City as a staff announcer. As such he was privileged to accompany the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the San Diego Exposition as radio announcer, and also to Winter Quarters in September 1936, for the dedication of the monument, as radio announcer. He was given the distinction of being the announcer over the radio with the clearest diction.

Indeed, he is best known to the world as the voice of The Spoken Word, a part of the weekly Tabernacle Choir broadcast. Elder Evans wrote, produced, and announced the coast-to-coast radio network program from the Salt Lake Tabernacle from June 1930 until his death in 1971.

Among those who were impressed with his weekly messages was the famous William Randolph Hearst, a prominent national figure, a one-time candidate for President of the United States, and a newspaper magnate with over 20 million newspaper subscribers. In 1946, Mr. Hearst personally contacted Richard and arranged for him to write articles for his “King Features Syndicate,” which he did until Mr. Hurst's passing in 1951.[1]

He also wrote the script for the Church film "Man's Search for Happiness, that was produced for the 1964 New York World's Fair. He also served as narrator of the iconic film. His messages were compiled into several books, such as Unto the Hills, An Open Door, Thoughts for 100 Days, May Peace Be With You, and From the Crossroads.

He was appointed managing editor of the Improvement Era in April 1935, and filled that position with a rich background of efficient Church service and wide experience in business, education, and editorial fields. He was named a member of the YMMIA general board in 1935.

He was ordained a Seventy, and sustained as a member of the First Council of Seventy on October 7, 1938.

Elder Evans was industrious, intelligent and sympathetic, a lover of truth and beauty, and, above all, he understood and practiced the principles of the restored Gospel. He acquired his education by persistent effort of his own, having worked at numerous occupations in order to attain his efficiency.

Elder Evans was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and ordained an Apostle on October 8, 1953, by President David O. McKay, succeeding Elder Albert E. Bowen, who had died.

He served with honor until his own death November 1, 1971 at Salt Lake City, Utah. In death he was mourned not only by members of the Church but by the millions of non-members who listened regularly to his radio ministry.

Alice Ruth Thornley Evans died December 16, 2008, in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the age of 98.