Ogden Temple president Keith W. Wilcox’s first reaction after receiving a phone call from President Gordon B. Hinckley was shock. “I tried not to think about what President Hinckley could want with me the next day, the Friday before general conference.”
His anxiety, however, was short-lived. After attending a temple session with his wife Friday morning at the Ogden Temple, where he has been serving as temple president since 13 July 1980, he felt “calm and able to accept whatever the Lord’s will would be.”
Upon completing a full day at the temple, Elder Wilcox and his wife, Viva May, who serves as matron in the temple, drove to Salt Lake City to meet with President Hinckley who called him to be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Elder Wilcox is no stranger to Church service. Along with his call as the Ogden Temple president, which he and his wife refer to as “a heavenly call,” he has served as a bishop, a stake president (for fifteen years), twice as a Regional Representative, and as president of the Indiana Indianapolis Mission.
Born on 15 May 1921 in Hyrum, Utah, Elder Wilcox credits two early influences as having a great impact on the development of his testimony and his desire to serve. “Like Nephi,” he says, “I was born of ‘goodly parents.’ They have been a guide and an inspiration to me all my life.” His patriarchal blessing, too, has been a guide. With each new call, he reviews the privileges and responsibilities promised him through a patriarch many years ago. “Always I find something new to give me needed direction and encouragement.”
A turning point in his life occurred in his sophomore year at Granite High School. “After much pondering, I decided to take seminary instead of art, though I loved art dearly. The six months spent under William E. Berrett, my teacher, were most influential in building my testimony and especially in my accepting the ten commandments as basic principles for my life. Though our family moved to Ogden in the spring of 1937, the influence of that class remained with me from that time to this.”
As a young man awaiting his navy commission, he worked for Westinghouse Electric in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “In the real world for the first time, I experienced an overpowering conviction that the Church had to be my first priority in life. It was there that I learned to say ‘yes’ to the Lord and ‘no’ to the world, a practice I have continued throughout my life.”
It was after returning from Pittsburgh that Elder Wilcox decided to ask Viva May Gammell, a young woman from his home town to be his eternal companion. “My mother had always told me that Viva May brought out the best in me, and indeed she does.” They were married on 17 July 1945 in the Logan Temple and are the parents of six daughters, Rona Lee Maughan, Stephanie Pickett, Christine Ritchie, Pauline Flitton, Sharon Christiansen and Carole Terry. They now have fourteen grandchildren.
Sister Wilcox recalls the many happy hours they have spent together as a family. “We love to sing and play the piano and organ,” she says. “And now that all the girls are married, our favorite pastime is to gather around the table and just talk.”
A graduate of the University of Utah in mechanical engineering with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Oregon, Elder Wilcox practiced professional architecture from 1954 to 1974 when called as a mission president. He was instrumental in the design of both the Washington D.C. Temple and the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. He also served as a member of the Utah House of Representatives for two years and as a member and chairman of the Weber County Planning Commission for ten years.