This biographical sketch adapted from the "News
of the Church: Elder Merrill C. Oaks of the Seventy" in the Ensign, May
1998 on the occasion of his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
Elder Merrill C. Oaks was just four years old when
his father passed away. For many years afterward, his mother raised her
three children as a single parent, assisted by her own parents. “My testimony
started at home with my mother,” says Elder Oaks. “She was a great human
being and a great teacher. When she would pray, her conversation with Heavenly
Father would be so direct and personal that I almost wanted to open my
eyes to see if he was standing there listening.”
Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, on 12 January 1936, Elder
Oaks spent most of his youth in Provo. He served a mission in Ontario,
Canada, where, he says, his testimony “really blossomed” as he bore witness
of the gospel and saw it change others’ lives. He went on to receive a
bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University, and it was there he met
his future wife, Josephine Ann Christensen, from Payson, Utah. They were
married in September 1958. Elder Oaks later earned a medical degree from
the University of Rochester School of Medicine, interned at the University
of Kentucky, and specialized in ophthalmology at Washington University
in St. Louis, Missouri.
“If you let it, a medical education can challenge
your testimony,” Elder Oaks says, “but after you work through that, you’re
left with such a tremendous respect and awe for the human body and how
it functions. You see God’s hand in its design and know that it did not
happen by accident.”
Through the years Elder Oaks has had the opportunity
to travel throughout the world to instruct other doctors and medical students
in ophthalmology. Often Sister Oaks and some of their nine children have
accompanied him on these trips, which have
included destinations such as Bahrain, China, and India.
Elder Oaks has served twice as a bishop and has been
a stake high councilor, counselor in the stake presidency, and stake president.
Currently president of the Washington Seattle Mission, he will be reassigned
to fulfill his new responsibilities in
June. When asked how the gospel has affected his life, he replies,
“The gospel is my life. I know that this is God’s work with absolute certainty.”
Having fulfilled the term of his calling, Elder Oaks was honorably released from the Second Quorum in October of 2004.