President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, was honored at the Freedom Awards Gala on Thursday, July 1, for his lifelong work to promote the values of God, family, freedom and country.
The award was given at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, by America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, a local nonprofit. A video honoring President Oaks was shown at the event.
During the gala, President Oaks spoke briefly about the importance of both upholding and improving the imperfect but resilient United States Constitution, Newsroom reported.
“Our original Constitution, adopted in 1787, had what our distinguished [former] Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, herself a member of our most prominent minority, called some ‘birth defects,’” President Oaks said.
“Nevertheless, it was our best hope for freedom and self-government. It remains so. Let us be united to defend the great principles of the United States Constitution and to use our precious freedoms to further the work of our faith and to serve our fellow men.”
President Oaks credited God and the accomplishments of others. “Almighty God … has given us our inspired United States Constitution,” he said. “He acted through the wisdom and courage of our Founding Fathers.”
In an article published by the Deseret News on June 30, President Oaks described the U.S. Constitution as “the United States’ most important export.”
“The U.S. Constitution is one of the oldest written constitutions in the world. It has enhanced freedom and prosperity during the changing conditions of more than 200 years. … After two centuries, every nation in the world except three have written constitutions, and the U.S. Constitution was a model for nearly all of them.”
Read more: The U.S. Constitution is the foundation for a well-ordered government of laws, and not of men, President Oaks writes
This is not the first honor President Oaks has received for his defense of freedom. In 2013, he received the Becket Fund’s prestigious Canterbury Medal. Named for the cathedral in which Thomas A. Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, was martyred in 1170 by the knights of England’s King Henry II for his defense of religious freedom, the Canterbury Medal is given annually to champions for religious liberty.
In his 2013 address, then-Elder Oaks referred to the New Testament account recorded in Mark 12:14-17, in which Jesus used a coin to teach the principle that people have obligations to civil government as well as to divine authority.
“Similarly, a two-sided coin reminds us of our twofold duties to truth and to tolerance,” he said. “In our efforts to strengthen religious freedom, we must always remember that the truth of our cause does not free us from our duty of tolerance toward those who differ.”
President Oaks was sustained and set apart as first counselor in the First Presidency and president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Jan. 14, 2018. He has served as an Apostle since May 1984.
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 1957, President Oaks practiced and taught law in Chicago. He was president of Brigham Young University from 1971 to 1980. He later served as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court from 1980 until his resignation in 1984 to accept his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Thursday night’s other honorees were Leonard Bagalwa, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and founder of Utah Valley Refugee Foundation, and the five Puro sisters, natives of Utah who have each served in the military.