Elder Oaks calls the restriction a revelation and a commandment. Elder Oaks had faith in the commanded/revealed restriction but not in any of the explanations then put forward. The revelation is the will of the Lord - where safety lies.“‘If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, “Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,” you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. … I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.’
“When asked if [he] was even referring to reasons given by General Authorities, [he] replied:
“‘I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon … by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. … My experience with this was to say, I don’t know whether this is commanded in the Pearl of Great Price. I’m not positive about that commandment in relation to this. I put my faith on the president of the Church whom I sustain as the prophet. When he tells me that this is what the church does, then I’ll go with that…. Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that’s where safety lies’ [“Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban,”
Provo, Utah, June 5, 1988, 21 (AP)]” (Dallin H. Oaks,
Life’s Lessons Learned
I had many times that my heart ached for that, and it ached for my Church, which I knew to be true and yet blessings of that Church were not available to a significant segment of our Heavenly Father’s children. And I didn’t understand why; I couldn’t identify with any of the explanations that were given. Yet I sustained the action; I was confident that in the time of the Lord I would know more about it, so I went along on faith.[Elder Oaks "The Mormons" 2007
Elder Oaks could not identify with the explanations given at that point. He sustained the "action" (meaning priesthood ban). He went on faith that he would know more about it in the "time of the Lord" (which I believe infers that the restriction was part of the Lord's timing)
President Oaks could not feel confirmation of the truth of the restriction explanations then put forward. President Oaks infers that the priesthood restriction was a commandment and divine direction. President Oaks infers that the restriction was in place due to "the wisdom and timing of the Lord."I observed the pain and frustration experienced by those who suffered these restrictions and those who criticized them and sought for reasons. I studied the reasons then being given and could not feel confirmation of the truth of any of them. As part of my prayerful study, I learned that, in general, the Lord rarely gives reasons for the commandments and directions He gives to His servants. I determined to be loyal to our prophetic leaders and to pray — as promised from the beginning of these restrictions — that the day would come when all would enjoy the blessings of priesthood and temple...[snip]...
Institutionally, the Church reacted swiftly to the revelation on the priesthood.
Ordinations and temple recommends came immediately. The reasons that had been given to try to explain the prior restrictions on members of African ancestry — even those previously voiced by revered Church leaders — were promptly and publicly disavowed. ... [snip]... Others have wanted to look back, concentrating attention on re-examining the past, including seeking reasons for the now-outdated restrictions.
However, most in the Church, including its senior leadership, ...[snip]... have trusted the wisdom and timing of the Lord and accepted the directions of His prophet. [President Oaks "Be One" 2018]
It appears that the thinking of President Oaks has not really evolved much on this subject. It regards to content, there is very little change. One development that I noticed was the President Oaks has taken to calling the Priesthood ban as "restrictions". In the previous interviews President Oaks used an assortment of words to describe the restriction - revelation, command, "the one", this, this subject, that, it, & the action (His interviewers used the term "Priesthood Ban", Elder Oaks never used that term that I can tell). In his 2018 address President Oaks used "the restriction", "his restriction", or "restrictions" 7 times.
I am somewhat disappointed because I had hoped that the Essay on Race and the Priesthood might have added something to President Oaks' thought process on this subject. I had thought that it was apparent that there was no evidence for a revelation that began the priesthood restriction (and that it could have been implemented by BY acting as a man and not as an oracle of God). I had thought that by unequivocally condemning "all racism, past and present, in any form" in the essay, the church might be taking a "read between the lines" approach to floating the idea that the restriction might have been wrong.
If that was the intent of the essay, President Oaks appears not to have received the memo.