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LDS general authority Elder Keith Wilcox dies at 90

Published: Sunday, Dec. 18 2011 10:35 p.m. MST

Elder Keith Wilson Wilcox, 90, a prominent Utah architect who served for five years as a general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died peacefully Dec. 16.

He was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the October 1984 general conference. He was sustained as a member of the Second Quorum in April 1989 and released that October.

During his general authority service, he was a counselor in three area presidencies — North America Southeast, Asia and North America Northeast.

Elder Wilcox was born May 15, 1921, in Hyrum, Utah, to Irving Crabbe Wilcox and Nancy Mary Wilson Wilcox. He spent his early youth in Holladay but moved with his parents to Ogden when he was in 9th grade. He married Viva May Gammell of Ogden in the Logan Temple on July 17, 1945. They have six daughters, 20 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

An architect in private practice, starting in 1954, Elder Wilcox is perhaps best-known as the architect for the Washington Temple. He also designed the first 16 buildings in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, the Ogden Federal Building, the McKay-Dee Hospital Center and Bonneville High School in Washington Terrace and Sky View High in Smithfield. His work gained national recognition.

For the Washington Temple, he recalled in a Church News interview, he was asked to design a temple that would not only tell the story of the church but also tell it in one word.

After much thought and prayer, Elder Wilcox came up with a design he described in that word: enlightenment.

Elder Wilcox was president of the Ogden Temple for four years before his call as a general authority.

Elder Wilcox's fascination for art began at age 2 when, with pencil in hand, he drew a house on his mother's new wallpaper.

His mother was so impressed with the accurate dimensions, she left it on — and invited guests to see her son's creative work.

Elder Wilcox was a second-year engineering student at Weber State College when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. He was rejected from the armed services because of hay fever and soon transferred to the University of Utah as an upper division engineering student.

Once again he went to the recruiting office, and there, he said, he was treated as a VIP. "They needed engineering officers so badly in the Navy, they couldn't do enough for me."

He was told the hay fever was no longer a problem. He was commissioned in the Navy as an ensign and served in the Navy for two years.

After World War II, he worked as an engineer at Westinghouse Electric in Pittsburgh for several years until deciding on architecture as a career. He enrolled at the University of Oregon's architectural school as a freshman and completed his undergraduate and graduate training in seven quarters.

He was a member of the Utah House of Representatives for two years — he was a Republican — and district, party and member and chairman of the Weber Planning Commission 10 years.

In the LDS Church, he served as bishop of the Ogden 50th Ward, then for 15 years was president of the Weber Heights Stake. He also served twice as a regional representative, and from 1974 to 1977, he was president of the Indiana Indianapolis Mission. He became a Sunday School teacher when he was 15 and also served in the Aaronic Priesthood organizations.

While he was bishop, he encouraged 22 boys in a priests quorum to read the Book of Mormon. He also participated in the reading project and would report back to them. Appreciation was shown later in the cards he received, many from young men who went on to serve missions.

From 1992 to 1994, he was director of the Los Angeles Temple Visitors Center.

During the fall of 1995, a collection of his art and architecture was displayed at the St. George Art Museum in St. George.

He received an honorary doctorate from Weber State University in May 2003.

Funeral services will be Thursday, Dec. 22 at 2 p.m., in the Kingston Ward Meetinghouse at 35th and Polk, Ogden, Utah.

— Tom Hatch and Lynn Arave.

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