This excerpt is adapted from In the Hands of the Lord: The Life of Dallin H. Oaks available now for preorder at DeseretBook.com.
One thing that took place that prepared President Dallin H. Oaks for remarriage was when all four of their daughters came to him “individually and told me they were ready for me to remarry,” he wrote. June had prepared them to do that. “During her yearlong battle with cancer,” he recalled, “she came to realize that she would die before me.” In that time, “she frequently told our four daughters that she knew I would need to remarry and that when that time came, they should help me find a companion who would fit well into our family and welcome her.”1
Nearly two years after June’s death, he felt “strong pressure from my daughters, confirmed by my own feeling, that it was time to look for a companion.”2 With that encouragement, he decided to become proactive, to exercise faith by doing.
“I went forward to find a wife,” he wrote with determination in his journal on July 6, 2000, nearly two years after June’s death. He picked up the phone and called three General Authorities to request that they “watch for eligible and qualified women I could consider.” One of those General Authorities, then-Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, “immediately suggested Kristen M. McMain.”
Kristen McMain was a fifty-two-year-old educational consultant for a large publisher of K-12 books. She lived in Salt Lake City but traveled all over the world in her professional assignments. She had two degrees from the University of Utah (bachelor’s in English and master’s in special education) and a doctoral degree from BYU (in curriculum and instruction). She had served a mission in Japan and had never married. As then-Elder Oaks would learn later, she was a gifted professional teacher and faithful Latter-day Saint. Even though she spent quality time with her family in Utah and enjoyed her Church calling as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, she still felt her life lacked balance.3
“Most of my life, energy, and time were going to my employment,” she realized. “Concerned and feeling unable to change my life, I asked my bishop for a blessing.” Her bishop’s unexpected counsel surprised her. “If you do not quit your job,” he pronounced in the blessing, “you will have your blessings in the eternities but not in this life.”
“When I heard his words,” she later wrote, “I felt the truth of them. I had to stop traveling and find employment at home. For a single sister, giving up financial security is no easy thing. I had no new job to go to. I had to go on faith to resign from my job.”
► You may also like: Sister Oaks shares what it was like being single in the Church for 60 years
Over the next few months, she wrote letter after letter of resignation, only to toss them in the trash. “Finally,” she said, “I wrote a letter clear enough that no one could doubt my intention to resign. I gave notice and planned to leave on July 1, 2000.” Family members, friends, and people at church questioned her judgment, but she had the faith to do what she felt was right.4
When her elderly aunts learned she was soon to be unemployed, they arranged an appointment for her to see their nephew Elder M. Russell Ballard because he had connections with Deseret Book and other publishing interests. They thought he might be able to help their niece find employment closer to home in Utah.
For Kristen, meeting with a General Authority about her personal needs seemed rather awkward. “My exposure to General Authorities had been minimal,” she wrote, “and I liked it that way. I had the utmost respect for them. I revered them, but I also understood the line of priesthood jurisdiction and felt confident that my home teachers and my bishop were sufficient to bless my life.” Yet she went forward in meeting Elder Ballard anyway. That was just before Elder Oaks called his fellow Apostle to seek guidance in finding a new wife.5
Elder Ballard “arranged for me to meet her on her walk Friday in Liberty Park,” Elder Oaks noted. He wanted to be properly dressed for the July 7 occasion, and his daughter Sharmon, who happened to be in town, and her husband, Jack, “immediately took me shopping for clothes,” he wrote in his journal.
Elder Oaks also followed up Elder Ballard’s arrangement with his own personal phone call to Kristen, a call that left her facing “a few daunting circumstances,” she later said. “He wanted to bring . . . Sharmon to meet me before she left town the next day. I did not tell him I had just had a permanent and needed to cover my head. We decided on a walk in Liberty Park,” a popular walking location in southeast Salt Lake. “When I met my future husband and his daughter, I was wearing Levi’s and a baseball cap (to hide my curls) for our walk”—not exactly what she would have chosen for a first meeting with a member of the Twelve.6 When Kristen saw Elder Oaks with Sharmon, her first words to him were, “Do you always double-date like this?”
“Looking back,” Kristen reminisced, “I would never have planned to meet an Apostle of the Lord and his daughter dressed so casually. But that baseball cap allowed me to just be myself.” Feeling surprisingly relaxed, she was able to enjoy their time together. “Our initial meeting and the conversation that ensued,” she wrote of her visit with them, “seemed like that of three longtime friends. Elder Oaks told me that he had often taken walks with his wife, June, who had died two years earlier. I asked him to tell me about her. From the beginning we felt calm and relaxed with each other. Sharmon shared much about their family and her mother. We laughed and talked, and our courtship began.”7
Elder Oaks recorded in his journal the positive reaction to her he felt on this first meeting. “Sharmon and I met and walked with Kristen McMain, who proved to be attractive, intelligent, faithful, and fun,” he wrote. “I was intrigued, and Sharmon was impressed.” The next day, Elder Oaks spent four hours hiking and having a “deep visit with Kristen M. on the foothills above This Is the Place Park,” he recorded in his journal. “I asked her many penetrating questions, and from her answers and questions to me, I continue intrigued.”
Lead image: Jason Swensen, Church News
Dallin H. Oaks may not have seemed the likeliest choice to become an Apostle. His life path had been anything but conventional. He was only seven when his mother became a widow. His young adulthood saw him joining the National Guard and marrying at nineteen. But all along that path, the Lord was preparing him for the call that would eventually come. This engaging biography by noted historian Richard E. Turley, Jr. takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the life of an extraordinary leader. It is filled with stories and photographs detailing his boyhood, his family life, his education, and military experiences, and his distinguished academic and law career. Preorder it now at DeseretBook.com.
- Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 144.
- Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned, 145.
- Kristen M. Oaks, A Single Voice: The Unexpected Life Is No Less a Life (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2008), 14–16; Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned, 143–48; Genelle Pugmire, “Provo native, Dallin H. Oaks now serves as first counselor in the First Presidency,” Daily Herald, Mar. 28, 2018.
- Kristen Oaks, A Single Voice, 16–17.
- Kristen Oaks, A Single Voice, 18.
- Kristen Oaks, A Single Voice, 18–19.
- Kristen Oaks, A Single Voice, 19.