Dallin H. Oaks

Dallin H. Oaks
Dallin H. Oaks
Photo of Dallin H. Oaks lecture at Harvard Law School.
Dallin H. Oaks, February 26, 2010, speaking at Harvard Law School on the foundations of Mormonism.
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 7, 1984 (1984-04-07) – incumbent
Called by Spencer W. Kimball
LDS Church Apostle
May 3, 1984 (1984-05-03) – incumbent
Called by Spencer W. Kimball
Reason Deaths of LeGrand Richards and Mark E. Petersen[1]
8th President of Brigham Young University
In office
1971 – 1980
Preceded by Ernest L. Wilkinson
Succeeded by Jeffrey R. Holland
Military career
Service/branch United States National Guard
Unit Utah National Guard
Personal details
Born Dallin Harris Oaks
August 12, 1932 (1932-08-12) (age 79)
Provo, Utah
Alma mater Brigham Young University (B.S.)
University of Chicago Law School (J.D.)
Occupation Lawyer, Judge
Spouse June Dixon (1952-1998; deceased)
Kristen Meredith McMain (2000-present)
Children 6
Oaks (far right) with LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson (left) and U.S. President Barack Obama (center) in the Oval Office on 20 July 2009, presenting a personal volume of President Obama's family history as a gift from the LDS Church.

Dallin Harris Oaks (born August 12, 1932) is an American attorney, jurist, author, professor, public speaker, and religious leader. Since 1984, he has been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He is a former professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School, a former president of Brigham Young University, and a former justice of the Utah Supreme Court. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Oaks was considered by Republican U.S. presidential administrations a top prospect for appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Currently, he is the fifth most senior apostle among the ranks of the LDS Church.


Biographical background

Oaks was born in Provo, Utah to Stella Harris and Lloyd E. Oaks. His father, who was an ophthalmologist, died when Dallin was seven years old. Both of Oaks's parents were graduates of BYU. After Oaks's father died his mother pursued a graduate degree at Columbia University and later served as head of adult education for the Provo School District. Stella Harris Oaks also served two terms in the 1950s as a member of the Provo City Council.[2]

Oaks graduated from Brigham Young High School in 1950. While in high school he became a certified radio engineer. He met June Dixon after a high school basketball game he had served as the radio announcer at. This was when he was a student at BYU and she was a senior in high school. Due to his membership in the Utah National Guard and the threat of being called up to serve in the Korean War, Oaks was unable to serve as a missionary for the LDS Church.[3] In 1952 Oaks married June Dixon. He graduated from BYU with a degree in accounting in 1954.[4]

Oaks then went on to the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the University of Chicago Law Review.[5][6] After graduating with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) in 1957, Oaks clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1958. After his clerkship he practiced at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Oaks left Kirkland & Ellis to become a professor at the University of Chicago Law School in 1961.[7] During part of his time on the faculty of the Law School, Oaks served as interim dean. He taught primarily in the fields of trust and estate law, as well as gift taxation law. He worked with George Bogert on a new edition of a casebook on trusts. In 1968 he became a founding member of the editorial board of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. One of the articles he wrote for this publication expressed his view that deliberate defiance of the law is never a worthwhile course of action in a democracy. He resigned from Dialogue's editorial board in early 1970. In 1969 Oaks served served as chairman of the University of Chicago disciplinary committee. In conducting hearing against those who had been involved in a sit-in at the administration building Oaks was physically attacked twice.[8] During the first half of 1970 Oaks took a leave of absence from the University of Chicago while serving as legal counsel to the Bill of Rights Committee of the Illinois Constitutional Convention, which caused him to work closely with the committee chair, Elmer Gertz.[9] Oaks left the University of Chicago Law School upon being appointed President at Brigham Young University in 1971.

Oaks would also serve five years as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)[4] (1979–1984)[10] and eight years as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Polynesian Cultural Center.[4]

President of Brigham Young University

Oaks served as president of Brigham Young University from 1971–1980.[4] As president of Brigham Young University, Oaks oversaw the start of the J. Reuben Clark Law School and the Graduate Business School. Although university enrollment continued to grow and new buildings were added, neither was done at the pace of the previous administration under Ernest L. Wilkinson.

Upon leaving Brigham Young University, Oaks was appointed as a justice in the Utah Supreme Court. He would serve in this capacity from 1980 to 1984, when he resigned to accept a call by the LDS Church to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.[4]

Considered as Supreme Court nominee

In 1976, Oaks was listed by U.S. attorney general Edward H. Levi among potential Gerald Ford Supreme Court candidates.[11] In 1981, he was closely considered by the Ronald Reagan administration as a Supreme Court nominee.[12][13]

LDS Church apostle

On April 7, 1984, during the Saturday morning session of the annual worldwide General Conference of the LDS Church, Oaks was sustained an apostle and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Oaks is accepted by the church as a prophet, seer, and revelator.

Although sustained on April 7, he was not ordained to office until May 3, 1984. After his name was submitted to the body of the church for a sustain vote, president Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency made the following statement in regard to the delay:

"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."[14]

Of the shift from judge to apostolic witness Oaks commented:

“Many years ago, Thomas Jefferson coined the metaphor, ‘the wall between church and state.’ I have heard the summons from the other side of the wall. I’m busy making the transition from one side of the wall to the other.”[15]

At age 51 he was the youngest apostle in the quorum at the time and the youngest man to be called to the quorum since Boyd K. Packer, who was called in 1970 at age 45. By date of ordination, he is the fourth senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, preceded by Russell M. Nelson, L. Tom Perry, and quorum president Boyd K. Packer.

Between 2002 and 2004, Oaks presided over the church area in the Philippines. This assignment was unusual because responsibility for presiding over areas of the LDS Church is generally delegated to members of the Quorums of the Seventy.

On February 26, 2010, Oaks addressed students at the annual Mormonism 101 Series convened at Harvard Law School.[16][17]


Oaks was married to June Dixon Oaks on June 24, 1952. She died on July 21, 1998. They have six children. Among these is Dallin D. Oaks, a linguistics professor at Brigham Young University,[18] and Jenny Oaks Baker, a musician and artist. On August 25, 2000, Dallin H. Oaks married Kristen Meredith McMain in the Salt Lake Temple.[19] Kristen was in her early 50s and had served a mission for the LDS Church many years earlier in the Japan Sendai Mission. Kristen has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Utah and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Brigham Young University.[20]

Scholarly research and notable opinions

As a law professor, Oaks focused his scholarly research on the writ of habeas corpus and the exclusionary rule. In California v. Minjares,[21] Justice William Rehnquist, in a dissenting opinion, wrote "[t]he most comprehensive study on the exclusionary rule is probably that done by Dallin Oaks for the American Bar Foundation in 1970.[22] According to this article, it is an open question whether the exclusionary rule deters the police from violating Fourth Amendment protections of individuals.

Oaks also undertook a legal analysis of the Nauvoo City Council's actions against the Nauvoo Expositor. He opined that while the destruction of the Expositor's printing press was legally questionable, under the law of the time the newspaper certainly could have been declared libelous and therefore a public nuisance by the Nauvoo City Council. As a result, Oaks concludes that while under contemporaneous law it would have been legally permissible for city officials to destroy, or "abate," the actual printed newspapers, the destruction of the printing press itself was probably outside of the council's legal authority, and its owners could have sued for damages.[23]

As a Utah Supreme Court Justice from 1980 to 1984, Oaks authored opinions on a variety of topics. In In Re J. P.,[24] a proceeding was instituted on a petition of the Division of Family Services to terminate parental rights of natural mother. Oaks wrote that a parent has a fundamental right protected by the Constitution to sustain his relationship with his child but that a parent can nevertheless be deprived of parental rights upon a showing of unfitness, abandonment, and substantial neglect.

In KUTV, Inc. v. Conder,[25] media representatives sought review by appeal and by a writ of prohibition of an order barring the media from using the words "Sugarhouse rapist" or disseminating any information on past convictions of defendant during the pendency of a criminal trial. Oaks, in the opinion delivered by the court, held that the order barring the media from using the words "Sugarhouse rapist" or disseminating any information on past convictions of defendant during the pendency of the criminal trial was invalid on the ground that it was not accompanied by the procedural formalities required for the issuance of such an order.

In Wells v. Children's Aid Soc. of Utah,[26] an unwed minor father brought action through a guardian ad litem seeking custody of a newborn child that had been released to state adoption agency and subsequently to adoptive parents, after the father had failed to make timely filing of his acknowledgment of paternity as required by statute. Oaks, writing the opinion for the court, held that statute specifying procedure for terminating parental rights of unwed fathers was constitutional under due process clause of United States Constitution.


Students at the University of Chicago Law School created the Dallin H. Oaks Society to "to increase awareness within the Law School community of the presence, beliefs, and concerns of law students who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," among other things.[27]



See also


  1. ^ Oaks and Russell M. Nelson were ordained to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles caused by the deaths of Richards and Petersen.
  2. ^ Ernest L. Wilkinson, ed., Brigham Young University: The First 100 Years (Provo: BYU Press, 1976) Vol. 4, p. 10-13
  3. ^ Wilkinson. BYU. p. 13-14
  4. ^ a b c d e "Dallin H. Oaks: Judge, University President, Apostle". Brigham Young High School Class of 1950. Brigham Young High School Alumni. http://www.byhigh.org/Alumni_K_to_O/Oaks-DallinH/DallinHOaks.html. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  5. ^ "Dallin H. Oaks". Grandpa Bill's GA Pages. http://www.gapages.com/oaksdh1.htm. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Harvard Law School to Present Elder Dallin H. Oaks". Mormon Lawyers. 5 January 2010. http://www.mormonlawyers.com/2010/01/harvard-law-school-latter-day-saint.html. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Wilkinson. BYU. Vol. 4, p. 20
  8. ^ Wilkinson. BYU. Vol. 4, p. 20-22.
  9. ^ Wilkinson. BYU. Vol. 4, p. 22-23
  10. ^ "Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles". Ensign: pp. 89–90. May 1984. http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=116e05481ae6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  11. ^ Yalof, David Alistair. Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Justices (2001), p. 127.
  12. ^ "LDS apostle was studied for '81 court", Salt Lake Tribune, August 18, 2005
  13. ^ The position was ultimately filled by Sandra Day O'Connor, fulfilling a campaign promise made by Reagan to appoint a woman to the court.
  14. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. "Sustaining of Church Officers", Ensign, May 1984, p. 4.
  15. ^ "News of the Church", Ensign, May 1984, pp. 89–90.
  16. ^ "Apostle Addresses Harvard Audience on Mormon Faith". LDS Church. 26 February 2010. http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/apostle-addresses-harvard-audience-on-mormon-faith. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  17. ^ "Don't marginalize religion, Elder Oaks says to Harvard law students". Deseret News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700012474/Dont-marginalize-religion-Elder-Oaks-says-to-Harvard-law-students.html. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  18. ^ Dallin Dixon Oaks, "Linguistics and English Language Directory", Department of Linguistics and English Language (BYU), http://linguistics.byu.edu/directory/ddo/ 
  19. ^ Oaks, Dallin H. (October 2003), "Timing", Ensign, http://lds.org/ensign/2003/10/timing?lang=eng 
  20. ^ Kristen M. Oaks, "2011 Time Out for Women Tour", deseretbook.com (Deseret Book), http://deseretbook.com/time-out/presenter/18567 
  21. ^ 443 U.S. 916 (1979).
  22. ^ Dallin H. Oaks, "Studying the Exclusionary Rule in Search and Seizure", 37 University of Chicago Law Review 665 (1970).
  23. ^ Oaks, Dallin H. "The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor." Utah Law Review 9 (Winter 1965):862-903.
  24. ^ 648 P.2d 1364 (Utah 1982)
  25. ^ 668 P.2d 513 (Utah 1983).
  26. ^ 681 P.2d 199 (Utah 1984)
  27. ^ "Dallin H. Oaks Society". University of Chicago Law School. http://www.law.uchicago.edu/studentorgs/dhos. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 


External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Ernest L. Wilkinson
President of BYU
Succeeded by
Jeffrey R. Holland
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Russell M. Nelson
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
May 3, 1984–
Succeeded by
M. Russell Ballard

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