President Oaks has become widely known for speaking frankly about challenging issues.
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency has a motto: “Work first, play later.” His family, though, says they are tempted to change it to: “Work first, play never.” President Oaks is good natured about it. He says what it means is that he rarely does something only to have fun, but rather that “I just have fun at [whatever] I do.”
Continually at Work
President Oaks was born in Provo, Utah, on August 12, 1932. Before he was eight years old, his father, Dr. Lloyd E. Oaks, died of tuberculosis. This left young widow Stella H. Oaks with three children—Dallin, the oldest; Merrill, now a released General Authority and retired ophthalmologist; and Evelyn, now Mrs. Lyman Moody of Provo. Dallin grew up working to help his widowed mother.
Dallin Oaks (top left), his mother and two siblings after the passing of his father. Elder Oaks recalled that he was blessed with “an extraordinary mother.”
“I was blessed with an extraordinary mother,” President Oaks recalls. “She surely was one of the many noble women who have lived in the latter days.” Before her death in 1980, Stella Oaks was known as a force for good in Provo, in both Church and civic service.
“She gave me a great deal of responsibility and freedom. She encouraged me to have a job,” President Oaks explains. From the time he first worked for pay, “at eleven or twelve,” he has been continuously employed.
Eager to Learn
His first job was sweeping out a radio repair shop. He had to learn to test the tubes he found on the floor, to find out if some were still good, and that led to an interest in radio. He threw himself into study with characteristic intensity. Before he was 16, he had obtained a first-class radiotelephone operator's license, which allowed him to operate a commercial radio station’s transmitter, and he found a job in radio. Station managers liked to hire a “combination man”—a transmitter engineer who could double as an announcer—“but my voice hadn’t changed,” he recalls, laughing. Before long, however, that change took care of itself, and he was working regularly as an announcer and an engineer.
It was while he was announcing high school basketball games as a college freshman that he met his first wife, June Dixon. They were married on June 24, 1952, and had six children.
Dallin Oaks and his wife, June Dixon, share a piece of wedding cake on their wedding day. Sister June Oaks passed away in 1998.
President Oaks and his family pose for a family picture.
Education and Experience
Dallin H. Oaks earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Then it was on to the University of Chicago Law School.
Dallin Oaks’s industry and scholarship won him the opportunity, after graduation, to serve as law clerk for the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. A year later, when he completed the clerkship, he returned to Chicago to enter private practice.
In 1961, the opportunity came to join the University of Chicago law faculty. He accepted the position for the challenge it offered.
In 1963, he was called as second counselor in the presidency of the Chicago South Stake. He served with President Lysle R. Cahoon and John Sonnenberg, first counselor. All three later served as regional representatives.
During those years President Oaks had to spread his time among many assignments. One of them was chairman of the University of Chicago Disciplinary Committee that was given responsibility to resolve charges against students involved in a 17-day sit-in at the school’s administration building during February 1969. His fairness and diplomacy in handling the disciplinary action won admiration from students, faculty members, and the community.
During his ten years as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, he also served as assistant state’s attorney for Cook County, Illinois, during the summer of 1964; as associate dean and acting dean of the law school; and as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School during the summer of 1968. He won praise for service as legal counsel to the Bill of Rights Committee of the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970. From 1970 to 1971, he also served as executive director of the American Bar Foundation.
When Brother Sonnenberg was called as president of the Chicago South Stake in 1970, he chose Dallin Oaks as his first counselor. A year later Dallin Oaks was asked to be the president of BYU. He served there for nine years, and was then appointed to the Utah Supreme Court. He preferred this post to any other office in government. “I can’t think of anything in public life I’d rather do than be an appellate judge,” he said.
President Oaks planned to serve in that position for 20 years, retire, and serve a mission. But, in three and a half years, those plans changed when he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April of 1984. He resigned from the Utah Supreme Court and dedicated himself to his duties as an Apostle. President Russell M. Nelson called Elder Oaks to serve as First Counselor in the First Presidency on January 14, 2018.
“It is up front a calling to spend the rest of your life, full-time, in His service and to spend your life testifying of His plan and His authority and His Atonement and His Resurrection and to participate, as assigned, in the leadership of the Church,” President Oaks explains.
President Oaks and his wife, Kristen McMain Oaks, were married in 2000.
Faith and Trust Brought Comfort
In July 1998 June Oaks died of cancer. Faith and trust in the Savior helped President Oaks through that experience.
“I did not know why I received a ‘no’ answer to my prayers for the recovery of my wife of many years, but the Lord gave me a witness that this was His will, and He gave me the strength to accept it,” he said.
On August 25, 2000, President Oaks married Kristen Meredith McMain in the Salt Lake Temple. From 2002 to 2004 he served as Area President in the Philippines.
President Oaks has become known for his willingness to speak frankly about challenging issues, such as speaking in defense of the traditional family, telling single college students to stop hanging out and start dating, addressing threats to religious liberty, and decrying the evils of pornography.
His greatest desire, he says simply, is to know what the Lord wants him to do—and to do it.
The First Presidency (below) on January 16, 2018.