From teacher to Church leader: Called to Young Men presidency during a pandemic

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Brother Brad Wilcox and his wife, Debi Wilcox, assume new responsibilities with his new calling. (Debi Wilcox)

Brother Brad Wilcox went from being a religion professor to a member of the Young Men general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a single phone call.

Phones were ringing around campus in March as the news spread of canceled events and online classes. For Brother Wilcox, events he planned to speak at were postponed and he was uncertain of what would come. It seemed as though life had completely changed.

On one occasion when he answered his phone, the caller was the secretary for Elder Quentin L. Cook, who invited Brother Wilcox and his wife, Debi, to meet with Elder Cook later in the week.

When Brother Wilcox told his wife the news, she immediately thought he was going to serve in the Young Men general presidency.

“I said, ‘No, a call like that would come from the First Presidency.’ And she said, ‘I think the First Presidency is a little busy right now,'” Brother Wilcox said.

When they arrived at their scheduled meeting with Elder Cook, it was just as his wife has suspected. Brother Wilcox accepted the call to be the second counselor in the Young Men general presidency.

The annoucement

The Young Men general presidency was called during the April 2020 General Conference. (Church Newsroom)

After the meeting with Elder Cook, Brother Wilcox patiently waited for General Conference, when he could inform his friends and family of his new position. If he was called to the position pre-pandemic, he would have attended the session in person at the Conference Center. However, he was not permitted to attend the conference because he was not assigned to prepare a talk. He spent conference at home with his family.

“It was a very unforgettable conference,” Brother Wilcox said.

During the particular session when his name was being announced, he had his daughter, Whitney Laycock, and her family over to have breakfast and watch General Conference together.

“We got there just as it was starting, so we hurried and put my daughter down for a nap and then grabbed some breakfast my mom had made,” Laycock said. “All of us were over by the counter catching up when they started reading off the names, and my dad stopped talking mid-sentence and hurried over to the couch. I thought, ‘Wow, he’s really interested in these names.'”

After Laycock finished filling her plate with breakfast, she sat down next to her dad. “When they released the previous Young Men general presidency, I had the thought, ‘They’re going to call my dad,’ but then I dismissed it,” she said. “I thought, no way my dad would be sitting on the couch next to me eating scones if he were about to be called to the Young Men general presidency.”

When the time came for the Young Men general presidency announcement, the new president, Steven Lund, intrigued Laycock. She was excited because she had interviewed him for a class at BYU.

“My dad kind of smiled, shushed me and turned back to the TV. When they announced his name as the second counselor, I didn’t really believe it. It seemed surreal. I looked at my dad and said, ‘Wait, was that your name?’ He smiled and we hugged,” she said.

Brother Brad Wilcox hugs his daughter Whitney Wilcox Laycock after his name was read during General Conference. (Debi Wilcox)

Laycock had to turn her phone off because of the numerous messages she was receiving from friends and family who had just heard her dad’s name during General Conference. After the session, Brother Wilcox called the rest of his children to share the news.

“We all felt excited and like this presidency was specifically called for this time. They have done and will continue to do a lot of good,” Laycock said.

The schedule

Brother Wilcox’s schedule has remained full despite postponed or canceled events. “It’s been a busy six months. It’s been a time of a lot of learning, a lot of training,” Brother Wilcox said.

Usually, the calling would have involved traveling and gathering with members worldwide. He explained there have been moments of frustration, but everything works out in the end.

“I’ve been really grateful for Zoom because it has allowed us to still try to reach out and encourage the youth and help the youth,” Brother Wilcox said.

He has spoken to missionaries in South America and Europe and encouraged them through the difficulties of being a missionary in quarantine.

“It’s been an amazing thing to see how technology has become such a wonderful tool for us to be able to unite even when we can’t gather,” he said.

Brother Wilcox has enjoyed many video conferences with members around the world. When Laycock is present during these video calls, she has to try extra hard to keep her children quiet. She described her dad as a “people person” and noted going remote has been difficult.

“My dad has been speaking to youth groups my entire life, and so he never gets too fazed being in large groups. He has taken this calling very seriously and been even more prayerful and considerate about what God would like him to do and say to have an influence. My dad has always been there to love me, answer my questions and strengthen my faith, and I’m grateful that now he’s able to do those same things for so many,” Laycock said.

The teacher

Brother Brad Wilcox remains a teacher at BYU while serving in the Young Men general presidency. (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

Brother Wilcox teaches religion in the Department of Ancient Scripture. When he first began teaching at BYU, he taught in the Department of Teacher Education. With no plans of slowing down, Brother Wilcox is teaching on-demand classes for Fall Semester. Students in his class still enjoy participating, although they can’t be in a physical class with Brother Wilcox.

“I absolutely love his class,” freshman Morgan Hart said. “I have learned so many things that have answered questions I’ve pondered for years. He is great at explaining everything in great detail so that you truly understand the concept or doctrine and why it is the way it is. I was nervous to take a class that was prerecorded, but he has done a fantastic job. I truly am able to feel the Spirit.”

Brother Wilcox said he misses teaching a class full of students but is still grateful he can teach in this new way. “As I look at the computer, I try to picture in my mind the faces of individuals listening, rather than just thinking about talking to a screen. I try to talk to individuals and in this way, I hope the spirit of my classes, the spirit of what I’m teaching about the Savior and the scriptures can still come through,” Brother Wilcox said.

“My dad has been prepared his whole life for this calling, and it’s a great fit for him to be able to use his talents and love of the youth to make a worldwide difference,” Laycock said. “He’ll do a great job.”

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