Elder Keith W. Wilcox, a recently appointed member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was one of four architects who worked together in developing the Washington Temple. His design was selected as the basic design for the building. He was born in Hyrum, Utah, but spent his childhood in the Salt Lake Valley.
The second of four boys in his family, Elder Wilcox was five years old when his father decided that he wanted to have something useful for his boys to do. “My father moved us out of the city,” Elder Wilcox recollected, “and into a nice home in the country located on almost one hectare near Mt. Olympus in Holladay, Utah. We had an alfalfa field, lawns to mow, and a cow, chickens, and a currant patch to tend. There were plenty of chores to keep us boys busy, and I’m grateful to my parents for providing that good environment for us.
“Some of my choicest memories are of the foothills east of our home that provided a place for us to run and hike during the summer. In the wintertime it was beautiful, and we could ride about 2.5 kilometers down a traffic-free road on our sleighs without stopping. Ski jumping was also popular then. We just packed our skis on our shoulders up to the top of the hill, made a snow jump part way down, and spent the rest of the day seeing who could jump the farthest. Safety bindings were unheard of then, and we fastened our boots to our skis with heavy rubber bands cut from inner tubes, which held the boots tightly to the toe straps.”
Although Elder Wilcox’s father had to work seven days a week, he still found time to do things with his family. “I remember well his taking us kids swimming. On the way back we’d always stop at a certain shop to get ice cream. He also took us fishing. Every summer he would drive us up to Cache Valley, where all four of our grandparents lived. We would stay for three or four weeks. My grandparents were very loving, and, as a result, we loved them very much.
“Before the big dam was built near Hyrum, there was a small valley called ‘the holler.’ That’s where my Grandfather Wilson had his pastures. Part of the grandchildren’s duties was to take the cows down to pasture every morning. Nearby was a stream where we fished and swam. The ‘holler’ was located between Hyrum and the town of Paradise. The ‘holler’ was truly a ‘paradise’ for us kids. We’d get together there with our cousins and swim, fish, hunt, and play all day long. Toward evening we would get the cows and lead them back home to be milked.”
A large irrigation canal flowed near Elder Wilcox’s home, and the children were forbidden to go near it. One day, disobeying this rule, Elder Wilcox was playing near the canal and fell in. Although he immediately grabbed some low-hanging branches, he still couldn’t get out because the banks of the canal were too steep. He was too far away for anyone to hear him yell, but his mother came to his rescue because she had heard a “voice,” the prompting of the Holy Ghost, telling her that her son Keith was in trouble and where he was.
“The thing I remember most about my mother when I was a youngster was that she was the Primary president.” Elder Wilcox also recalls that a favorite Primary teacher, Sister Jones, was a Ute Indian whose father was a tribal chief. “Every year my mother and her counselors planned a huge Primary production for the ward. As part of it one year the Trekker class did an Indian show, wearing authentic Indian clothing and feather headdresses. We had real tomahawks, and Sister Jones taught us how to do an Indian dance. I can still remember the Indian war song we sang as we danced.”
Elder Wilcox’s interest in art led him into the field of architecture. “Art must have been born in me,” he said. “My mother told me that even before I could walk or talk, I drew a picture of a house on her wallpaper. She was so proud of it that she didn’t wash it off.
“My parents provided great role models for us. They were kind and firm, and we knew what the rules were. Our parents were very understanding; they disciplined us with love.
“My message to young people is to never let a day go by without telling your father and mother that you love them. Sometimes it’s hard for children to go up to a brother or sister and say, ‘I love you,’ but that’s important too.
“Also, be obedient. Accept direction from your parents. And remember to do only those things that will bring honor to your father and mother, just as we are commanded by the Lord. Remember that no one loves you more than your parents.”