“After 35 years of life in the military and traveling around the world, I have a deep appreciation for the promises of the Book of Mormon on freedom,” says Elder Robert C. Oaks, recently called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. A retired four-star general who commanded the U.S. air forces in Europe (1990–94), he has come to cherish human liberty. “Being in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” he remembers, “I was impressed by how critical freedom is, how absolutely necessary it is for people to be able to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Born on 14 February 1936 to Charles and Ann Oaks in Los Angeles, California, Robert grew up an active Church member in Provo, Utah. He entered the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado when it was new, and in 1959 he was in the first class to graduate from that institution. From there he gained further military training and experience, also earning a master’s degree in business administration from The Ohio State University.
As part of his military service, Brother Oaks flew several combat missions in Vietnam. During one of those missions his plane was shot down, but he was soon rescued by an army helicopter pilot.
In 1994 he was employed by U.S. Airways, eventually becoming senior vice president of operations there. He retired in 1998.
Elder Oaks and his wife, the former Gloria Mae Unger, whom he married in the Salt Lake Temple in June 1959, are the parents of 6 children and the grandparents of 13. He expresses “deep appreciation for the support” his family has given him over the years.
His Church callings have included Gospel Doctrine teacher, Young Men president, counselor in two bishoprics, and counselor in a mission presidency. At the time of his calling to be a General Authority he was serving as president of the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania North Stake.
Elder Oaks’s past experiences have served not only to prepare him for his present calling but also to strengthen his testimony concerning Heavenly Father’s watch care. “In very specific ways,” he recalls, “the Lord’s protective hand has been evident in my life and in the lives of those around me.”