President Dallin H. Oaks, an LDS Church apostle for more than three decades and a former Utah Supreme Court justice and president of Brigham Young University, was announced Tuesday as the first counselor to President Russell M. Nelson.
President Oaks has served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1984, sustained on April 7 of that year and ordained a month later on May 3, allowing him to transition from the Utah Supreme Court.
President Nelson and President Oaks were called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on the same day, marking the first time in 40 years that two new apostles were named at the same time. It also was the first time in more than two decades that anyone had been called directly into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles without having first served in the ranks of the church’s general authorities — as such was the case for both men.
Dallin Harris Oaks was born in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 12, 1932, the oldest of three children of Dr. Lloyd E. Oaks and Stella Harris Oaks. He is named after Utah artist Cyrus E. Dallin, who sculpted the Angel Moroni statue that sits atop the Salt Lake Temple and he is a second great-grand-nephew of Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the faith’s Book of Mormon.
He was eight years old when his father died of tuberculosis. “When he died, she and others struggled to reconcile his death with their faith and the numerous priesthood-declared promises of healing," President Oaks wrote in his autobiography, “Life’s Lessons Learned,” of his mother, a widow for 39 years until her passing in 1980.
His first job was sweeping out a radio repair shop, which fostered his interest and future in radio. He obtained his radio license at age 16, later working in announcing and engineering.
He served in the National Guard Army Artillery during the Korean War.
President Oaks married his wife, June Dixon Oaks, on June 24, 1952, in the Salt Lake Temple; they first met when he was announcing a high school basketball game as a college freshmen. They are the parents of six children. She died July 21, 1998, of cancer.
President Oaks married Kristen McMain Oaks on Aug. 25, 2000, in the Salt Lake Temple.
He has a personal motto of “work first, play later,” which he admits his family has joked about changing to “work first, play never.”
President Oaks is a 1954 graduate of BYU and a 1957 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren from 1957 to 1958. After his clerkship, he entered private law practice in Chicago and joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1961.
At times during his 10-year tenure as professor at the University of Chicago Law School, he also was an assistant state’s attorney for Cook County, Illinois; associate dean and acting dean at the law school; and visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School. He was executive director of the American Bar Foundation from 1970 to 1971.
He was president of BYU from 1971 to 1980, and a Utah Supreme Court justice from 1980 until resigning in 1984 to accept his call as an LDS apostle. Of his Supreme Court service, he said, “I can’t think of anything in public life I’d rather do than be an appellate judge.”
In LDS Church service, he has served as a stake mission president and stake presidency counselor in Chicago and a regional representative.
In addition his call to the apostleship, he has served as president of the church’s Philippines Area from 2002 to 2004, and he dedicated the Provo City Center Temple on March 20, 2016.
In May 2013, he was awarded the Canterbury Medal for “courage in the defense of religious liberty” by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.