A happy, positive outlook will be one of the greatest assets the new general president of the Relief Society brings with her as she faces her new responsibilities.
At least, that's what those close to Elaine L. Jack, sustained during general conference on March 31, list as one of her outstanding attributes."She has an ability to uplift," said her husband, Joseph E., a Salt Lake City surgeon. "People feel good when they are around her."
He should know. He's spent almost 42 years with the woman who now heads one of the world's oldest and largest women's organizations. According to Pres. Jack, at last report there were 2.7 million Relief Society women throughout the world.
"The Relief Society program is a wonderful part of the Church," Pres. Jack pointed out. "It's been around for 148 years. It's solid and it's good for women. I hope what we'll be able to accomplish is a fresh look at who and what women are.
"I want women to see themselves in happy, positive ways," she continued. "Yes, they are different and that's wonderful. Those differences should bring joy to their lives and the lives of their families and friends. That joy and happiness will come when we help women understand that there is greatness in diversity, that all righteous lifestyles are valid, that we are not here to compete with each other, but to love and bless each other."
And Pres. Jack should know. She has spent many of her 62 years meeting with and living alongside dedicated and committed LDS women in a variety of situations.
Growing up in humble circumstances in Cardston, Alberta, few would have suspected the direction that young Elaine's life would take. A daughter of Sterling O. and Lovina Anderson Low, Elaine was encouraged early in her life and told that "whatever I wanted to do, I could do if I worked hard enough."
"My mother told me that often," she remembered, as she fondly recalled childhood experiences. "And I believed her.
"I had a marvelous childhood. My father taught me the dignity of hard work and my mother added refinement to my life."
That extra "refinement" would serve Elaine well as she moved from Cardston to Salt Lake City, and then, after being saved from "spinsterhood," moving on to New York City.
The Jacks laugh as they recall the "spinsterhood" story. Young Elaine left Cardston to attend the University of Utah and there, through a mutual friend, met fourth-year medical student Joe Jack. It took the 22-year-old student almost the whole school year to ask the young freshman out and, after only a few dates, she returned to Cardston for the summer break. But, before heading to New York for an internship, he went to Cardston for a visit. The result of the week-long visit: the pair got engaged.
"I knew it was right when he came up to visit me," Pres. Jack explained. "It just felt right. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind."
The spinster part of the story occurred a year later after daily letters between the two strengthened their relationship and they prepared to marry in the Alberta Temple.
"She was unmarried and had no job, so the registrar who filled out the marriage certificate listed her occupation as spinster," Brother Jack explained.
At age 20, Elaine Low was more of a wide-eyed young woman than a spinster. But the challenge of moving to one of the largest cities in the nation didn't daunt her.
"Living in New York was certainly a new experience," acknowledged Pres. Jack.
It was there that the young newlyweds discovered what part the gospel really played in their lives. "We both grew up in solid, dedicated Mormon families," Brother Jack reflected. "We always lived the gospel and its teachings. It was a good way of life. But my real testimony didn't come until after I'd left Utah."
The young couple spent three hours every Sunday catching buses, ferries, and subways to attend their Manhattan ward. ("We were so tired by the time we got home that we would take a nap even before eating dinner," Pres. Jack recalled.) And, because her doctor husband spent every other weekend working, Pres. Jack made the long trip alone many times.
"I can remember distinctly the day I realized how committed I was to the gospel," said Pres. Jack. "I was sitting in a fast and testimony meeting and a man got up and said that seven years ago he'd borne his testimony and said things that he didn't really know were true.
I have never borne my testimony since,' the man said.But today I can stand up here and say, with a surety, that these things are true.'
"I sat there and had the same feeling," Pres. Jack said. "I realized that I wouldn't be there if I didn't have a firm belief that this was the right way of life and that I was doing the right thing. I consciously thought then that the gospel meant more to me than I'd realized."
That commitment has grown through several decades of Church service. While still in her 20s, Pres. Jack was called as a counselor in the New York stake Relief Society presidency. She continued to serve in various Church positions as the family moved to Boston, where a son, David, was born, and back to New York City, where another son, Bill, was born. In 1956, after a two-year stint in Alaska, they ended up in Salt Lake City, where the birth of two more sons, Eric and Gordon, made the family complete.
During this time, Brother Jack was also serving in a variety of callings, including stints as bishop and counselor. Both were heavily involved in a several medical auxiliary positions as well.
In 1972, Pres. Jack began more than a decade of service on the Relief Society general board. And in 1987, she was called as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency _ serving under fellow Canadian Ardeth G. Kapp.
"It has been a great joy for me to have the privilege of working with Elaine," commented Pres. Kapp. "While she can dream of the ideal and set her sights on the stars, she has the ability to be realistic and practical as she keeps her feet on the ground. "
Those feelings are mutual. Serving with Pres. Kapp was " a marvelous experience," Pres. Jack remarked. "I learned much that I'm sure will help me in this new calling. I look forward to working with her and the general Primary presidency in the future."
Those who are now beginning to work in the Relief Society with Pres. Jack are saying the same thing about her. Her enthusiasm, happiness and positive outlook are sure to be contagious as the new Relief Society presidency looks toward the future.
Pres. Elaine Jack
-Family: born March 22, 1928, a daughter of Sterling O. and Lovina Anderson Low; married Joseph E. Jack, Sept. 16, 1948; four sons - David, Bill, Eric, and Gordon; seven grandchildren.
-Education: attended University of Utah two years, took correspondence courses.
-Community service/profession: lectured for American Cancer Society and served in several medical and auxiliary positions.
-Previous Church service: Relief Society general board member, stake Relief Society president's counselor, ward Relief Society president, Young Women president, and organist.