After retirement and wife's death, Wilcox still teaching great lessons

Published: Tuesday, May 31 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

Of Deseret Book's many authors, S. Michael Wilcox is among the most popular. In addition to his list of best-selling books, he has taught LDS Institute and been a favorite presenter at BYU Education Week and Time Out for Women for years.

Knowing this, and having once taken his Book of Mormon class at the University of Utah, it was easy to be impressed as I traveled to his home in Draper, Utah, in May to interview him about his latest book, "Walking on Water and Other Classic Messages."

Wilcox welcomed me into his cul-de-sac home and told me we could converse as long as I liked. We sat on soft seats in his "China room," decorated with beautiful art from his travels to Asia. Before beginning, he displayed three cover designs for his next book and asked my opinion. When I shared my two cents, it was interesting to hear his perspective.

Ample time was spent in the book in order to formulate questions for the retired CES employee. It wasn't necessary to read every word of the text because I had already listened to each of the talks on CD. I placed my digital device on the coffee table and hit record. For the next 45 minutes I scribbled notes and felt like was back in his classroom.

Most of our time was spent discussing "Walking on Water." In the 1990s, Wilcox wrote a book about the temple called House of Glory. He was asked to share some of the books contents in a four-part series at BYU Education Week. Deseret Book recorded the series onto CDs and sold it. At first, Wilcox was reluctant to be recorded, but he consented anyway.

"I guess that (first time) loosened me up to where I felt comfortable doing some talks for them," Wilcox said.

In the years that followed, Wilcox recorded titles like, "Walking on Water"; "The Jesus We Need to Know"; "Of Lions, Dragons, and Turkish Delight"; "The Fourth Watch"; "Seeing as God Sees"; "When All Eternity Shook"; "Your Faith Becometh Unshaken"; and "Taking the Temple with You." Most were talks originally shared by the author at Time Out for Women, a Deseret Book-sponsored event where authors, musicians or artists tour the U.S. and present on a variety of topics related to women.

Over the years many have been inspired by the messages and gospel principles taught by Wilcox and have asked for copies of his talks or notes, but that information was mostly in the teachers head, not on paper.

"I got a lot of requests but didn't really have an outline," he said. "If I did give you the notes, it wouldn't make sense anyway. So we sat down with Deseret Book and decided to put them in book form."

Deseret Book made it easy on Wilcox. Someone at the publishing company transcribed the talks. The text was then carefully edited and polished by the author. The end result became "Walking on Water."

Deseret Book also gathered together six of these talks in The Michael Wilcox Collection.

Wilcox said he had the most fun compiling the talk, "Of Lions, Dragons, and Turkish Delight," because of his admiration and respect for C.S. Lewis, while talk that required the most sensitivity and attention to detail was "When All Eternity Shook," because it addressed the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The most popular talk has been "The Fourth Watch."

"Sometimes you write something that just connects for whatever reason," Wilcox said. Of all the talks I have given or taped, if people are going to comment on a talk I gave, eight of 10 are going to say 'Fourth Watch.'"

Each epic talk was born with Wilcox searching for relevance in scripture stories.

"Relevancy is the key and most important factor," Wilcox said. "It may be a good story, but unless I make it mean something in my life or the life of somebody I love, it's just a story."

Each gospel principle was then attached to a catchy scriptural phrase.

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