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Monday, August 12, 2019

President Dallin H. Oaks Observes His 87th Birthday

Hello again, everyone! I am back in the early-morning hours of August 12 to pay tribute to the final apostle who has his birthday this month. President Dallin H. Oaks. He is observing his 87th birthday today. So let's dive right into this tribute post. Dallin Harris Oaks was born  to Dr. Lloyd E. and Stella Harris Oaks in Provo, Utah, on this day in 1932. Included in his mother's ancestry is Martin Harris, who, as we know, was one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. President Oaks' first name was given in honor of the last name of an artist with whom his mother had worked (as the model) for a statue in Springville Utah.


His father, an opthalmologist, died when young Dallin was age 7 from complications of tuberculosis. Being the oldest child of his family, the death of his father gave him some unique opportunities to help his mother and to be an example to his younger siblings, which was one thing of which he has frequently spoken. After his father died, his mother was able to earn a graduate degree at Columbia University and support her family by working to provide adult education opportunities for those who needed it. She also went to be the first woman elected to Provo's City Council, and she also served for a time as assistant mayor.

In the meantime, Elder Oaks attended Brigham Young High School, where he played football and became a certified radio engineer. Once he started attending BYU, he took many opportunities to be the radio announcer at high school games. At one of those games, he was introduced to June Dixon, whom he would later date and subsequently marry. He was unable to serve as a full-time missionary because he was a member of the National Guard, and there was a possibility he could have been called up to serve during the Korean War. Dallin and June were married in 1952, and he graduated from BYU two years later with a degree in accounting. He went on to study law at the University of Chicago, graduating with his degree 3 years later.

He spent the early part of his professional career clerking for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the US Supreme Court. After that, he practiced law at Kirkland and Ellis. He left that job in 1961 to become a professor at Chicago Law, While in that capacity, he served as interim dean. During that time, the University of Chicago was desperate to get Dr. Russell M. Nelson, a renowned heart surgeon, on their staff, and Professor Oaks was asked to represent the university in trying to convince Dr. Nelson to accept the offer. Although those efforts proved unsuccessful, that encounter led to a lifelong friendships for the Nelsons and the Oaks. He also served on the foundational board of a a Mormon thought periodical. He was also chairman of the university's disciplinary committee,

He took a leave of absence from the University while serving as legal counsel to the Bill of Rights Committee of the Illinois Constitutional Convention. He left the law school for good in 1971 when he was appointed the new president of BYU (for which many candidates, including Brother Nelson, were considered), a position he held for nine years. He then went on to serve for five years as chairman of the board of directors for PBS, and eight years as chairman of the board of directors of the Polynesian Cultural Center. In 1980, he was appointed a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, an office he held for the next four years. He was rumored to have been considered by two US Presidents (Gerald Ford and later Ronald Regan) for a nomination to the US Supreme Court.

He had made plans with his wife, June, to serve a mission after he had served on the Utah Supreme Court for a decade. However, a surprise change in direction for him came in 1984. He was at a law conference fulfilling several judicial obligations when President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor to the ailing Church President, Spencer W. Kimball, tracked him down via phone call. The purpose of the call was to notify him that he'd been selected to become an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At the time, there were two vacancies in the Quorum due to the deaths of Elders LeGrand Richards on January 11, 1983, and Mark E. Petersen exactly one year to the day later. (Due to the ill health of President Spencer W. Kimball, neither vacancy had been filled for over a year prior to April 1984.)

Elder Oaks became the junior apostle to Elder Russell M. Nelson, though the two were sustained in the same General Conference. Although both were called at the same time, Elder Oaks was unable to be present at the General Conference at which the two were sustained. President Hinckley, in leading that sustaining, offered the following explanation: "With reference to Dallin Oaks, I should like to say that while we nominate and sustain him today, he will not be ordained to the apostleship, nor will he be set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve, nor will he begin his apostolic service, until after he completes his present judicial commitments, which may require several weeks. He is absent from the city, and necessarily absent from the conference. We excuse him."

Elder Oaks was ordained an apostle just short of four weeks after being sustained (having been sustained on April 7 and being subsequently ordained to the apostleship on May 3). He had his first opportunity to respond to his apostolic call six months later, speaking on the importance of witnesses, within the context of his new assignment to be a special witness of Jesus Christ. He has now been an apostle for over 34 years, during which time he has filled a wide variety of assignments in his time as an apostle, and has had many opportunities to meet with and speak to Church members in various parts of the world. In addition to losing his father early on in his life, Elder Oaks also experienced the death of his wife June, who passed away in 1998. Just over two years later, Elder Oaks married Kristen M. McMain, who has been by his side ever since.

In 2002, he and Elder Holland were asked to be the first apostles in around 100 years to live on-location in two of the Church's geographical areas, with then-Elder Oaks being based in the Philippines, and Elder Holland being assigned to preside in Chile.With the death of President Monson, Elder Oaks became the second most-senior apostle, and his apostolic seat-mate, President Nelson, felt impressed to call him to serve as First Counselor in the First Presidency, and he was set apart in both that capacity and as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on January 14, 2018. President Oaks has given 77 addresses in General Conference. 1 of those was given while he was serving as President of BYU-Provo.  I am grateful to have been able to take the opportunity to share more about President Dallin H. Oaks on this, his 87th birthday.

I testify that his apostolic call, along with the calls of all other apostles, has indeed been divinely directed and inspired, as has how and when they have each moved up in the ranks thereof. That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.