“Family Album—1845–1991,” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 27
Imagine a spring morning in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1845. Church leader Willard Richards, his wife Jenetta, and their son Heber John dress in their finest clothes and leave for Lucien Foster’s gallery on Parley Street to have their photograph taken.
Photography is a new invention, and the family approaches the adventure with a sense of excitement. They arrive at Foster’s gallery little understanding what they view as an almost magical process that will record their image onto a metal plate.
Foster poses the Richards family in an affectionate family grouping: Willard sits on the chair; Jenetta sits on his lap, drapes her arm around his shoulder, and leans her head against Willard’s forehead; Heber John sits shyly at his father’s side, leaning his head against Willard’s shoulder. Willard clasps Jenetta’s hand as they sit perfectly still for several minutes in front of the open shutter of Foster’s camera. The resulting family portrait would eventually become priceless to Willard and Heber John because four months later, Jenetta died suddenly.
This daguerreotype, copied into larger format, is the earliest picture in the photography exhibit “A Vision of Zion: Photographs of Latter-day Saint Life, 1845–1991,” currently displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City until 3 February 1992. Like this portrait of the Richards family, each of the more than 275 photos in the exhibit has a story behind it. These stories cover nearly one hundred and fifty years of Latter-day Saint history.
Although the following photographs provide an intimate look at specific moments in the lives of these Latter-day Saints, they also communicate a sense of community. Ordinances such as blessings and baptism link members of the Church together, no matter what the year. From the Willard Richards family in Nauvoo, Illinois, to Enoch Quaye and his young son from Ghana, Africa, the families featured here share a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.