Delivering the Family Proclamation

Insights from Former Relief Society President Elaine L. Jack

Barbara Morgan Gardner and Olivia Osguthorpe

Barbara Morgan Gardner and Olivia Osguthorpe, "Delivering the Family Proclamation: Insights from Former Relief Society President Elaine L. Jack," Religious Educator 24, no. 2 (2023): 160–173.

Barbara Morgan Gardner ( is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University. 

Olivia Osguthorpe ( is an undergraduate student studying sociology at Brigham Young University.

image of the general Relief Society Presidency in 1990Relief Society General Presidency, 1990–97 (Chieko N. Okazaki, Elaine L. Jack, Aileen H. Clyde). Courtesy of Elaine L. Jack.

Keywords: family, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” First Presidency, marriage, Relief Society, prophets

On September 23, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” at the general Relief Society meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Regarding this document, Sheri Dew, biographer for both President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Russell M. Nelson, writes, “Seership and the proclamation on the family are inextricably connected.”[1] Due to the impact and increasingly controversial nature of the family proclamation, as well as other narratives that have surfaced in various forms (such as books, social media posts, YouTube videos, and interviews), clarity regarding its inception and presentation is critical.

This article seeks to accurately clarify, portray, and analyze the planning, preparation for, fulfillment of, and reactions to the general Relief Society meeting held on September 23, 1995, when “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was delivered. It draws heavily upon first-time public interviews with former Relief Society General President Elaine L. Jack. Recognizing the importance of her perspective being heard, her desire to clarify any misconceptions on the topic, and her age (she is now well into her nineties), President Jack accepted the invitation to do the interviews and asked that they be made public with her approval. Her interviews give clarity on why the family proclamation was delivered when and where it was.

Preparation for the Conference

As Relief Society General President Elaine L. Jack (president from 1990 to 1997) met with her counselors Aileen H. Clyde and Chieko Okazaki to plan the September 1995 general Relief Society meeting for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they likely had no idea this meeting would become one of the most impactful and memorable of the twentieth century, as well as one of the most influential general women’s conference meetings for years to come. That year there was a desire for a change in the approach and substance of the meeting. The Relief Society General Presidency sought to place greater emphasis on the family, with particular attention to women’s needs. Their hope was for the meeting to serve as a means for the Lord to strengthen, unite, and clearly articulate his teachings on the family. Little did the presidency know how thoroughly their desires would be met.

During the few years of their tenure, President Jack and her presidency sought to learn more about the situations and needs of the women of the Church throughout the world. “There was no formal research going on,” Jack explained, “but rather, when we would go to a stake, we would ask the Relief Society president if we could talk with some of their women to get a better understanding of their situation and how they were doing in regard to the family.” She continued, “We really wanted to be of help where we could. Helping families was a theme of our presidency.”[2]

As they prepared for the September 1995 general Relief Society meeting, this focus on the family became the obvious theme, but how exactly they would implement the theme was still unknown. President Jack remembers, “We really wanted to focus on the family, but . . . we had some concern about the meetings just being talking heads, one person speaking after another.” After some counseling and deliberation, some ideas came to fruition. President Jack explains, “We thought, ‘Let’s do a video about Relief Society or about some of the concerns and how we might deal with them.’”[3] After a few attempts, the presidency still didn’t feel settled on it, so they decided to forgo the effort. The decision regarding the video was made just one week prior to the conference, leaving a gap that needed to be filled, but the presidency had no backup plan to fill it.

As the conference neared, President Jack and her counselors met with Elder Robert D. Hales, their first contact with the Quorum of the Twelve. After discussing a variety of topics, including the plans for the conference, Elder Hales suggested that “perhaps we [the Relief Society General Presidency] would like to meet with the First Presidency in order to discuss our purposes and what we would be saying in the general Relief Society meeting,” President Jack wrote. She continued, “We of course agreed wholeheartedly and wondered if it would happen at such a busy time.’”[4] Not only were the women preparing for the general Relief Society meeting, but this was also just two weeks prior to general conference and in the middle of international leadership training meetings. Additionally, President Hinckley had only been called as the prophet a few months earlier following the death of President Hunter.

The Writing of the Proclamation

While the Relief Society General Presidency was researching, training, and learning from women regarding the family, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were being guided on a similar topic. Stemming from intense conversations, research done on the changing nature of the family worldwide during the previous years, and the guidance of the Spirit, under the direction of President Hunter the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drafted a document that eventually became known as “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”[5] In their sustained capacity as prophets, seers, and revelators, this council came to revelatory consensus and gave a definitive declaration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ doctrinal beliefs concerning the family, gender, and marriage.

In Insights from a Prophet’s Life, a biography of Russell M. Nelson, Sheri Dew writes, “As an outgrowth of these discussions [on the family], a committee consisting of Elders James E. Faust, Neal A. Maxwell, and Russell M. Nelson was appointed to draft a document. Elder Faust, senior to the other two, suggested they each write a draft and then bring them together. Out of that initial merged document came a version for each member of the Twelve to review and revise.”[6] In an interview with Dew, she adds that in a later discussion with President Russell M. Nelson, he also included Elder Dallin H. Oaks among those on the committee.[7] She stated, “I can only imagine how much work went into that document. There was lots of input by the Brethren and various drafts completed. When they finally felt good about it, they presented it to the First Presidency.”[8] The family proclamation was reviewed and officially completed in March 1995.

Dew explains that “shortly after President Hunter died, President Hinckley was left with the decision of what to do with [the family proclamation] and when.” She adds, “President Hinckley had a lower right-hand drawer in his desk. Many joked that if something ended up in that fated right hand drawer, it would never be seen again. So, members of the Quorum would tease him about whichever drawer the Proclamation was in.” Providing more context to the timing of the delivery of the proclamation, Dew explains, “It seemed that President Hinckley thought it was too early in his presidency to come out with a major statement like the Proclamation and wanted to look for the appropriate time.”[9]

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve worked closely with the different organizations and auxiliaries to understand the needs of members worldwide. However, when it came to the actual writing of the family proclamation, the Quorum of the Twelve worked together first and then with the First Presidency to write, revise, and finalize the proclamation.

Meeting with the First Presidency

Just a few days after Elder Hales suggested that President Jack and her counselors meet with the First Presidency, the invitation to do so was extended and accepted. President Jack declared, “We were thrilled to be able to discuss this with them.”[10] Presidents Hinckley, Monson, Faust, Jack, Clyde, and Osazaki were able to counsel with each other regarding a variety of topics, primarily those relating to women and the family. In her journal entry from September 20, 1995, just three days before the conference, President Jack recorded, “We did attend the meeting in the East board room with the presidency. They were very warm and complimentary in greeting us.”[11]

During the meeting, President Hinckley sought the counsel of the Relief Society General Presidency regarding the women of the church. Sister Clyde recalled that President Hinckley asked them many things, including “what we had learned and what we did in our leadership training.” Throughout the meeting, Sister Clyde explained, “We were all forthright. That was an opportunity.”[12] President Jack reflected, “President Hinckley asked us how we felt the women were doing. How were they feeling about their family? What did they think about the curriculum for women? This was a wonderful opportunity for us to speak about the circumstances we had found. Each of us contributed from our own perspective. . . . Chieko [Okazaki] spoke about the many who are hurting and Aileen [Clyde] spoke about the women’s main concern being their families and the economic circumstance. . . . We felt very satisfied, and listened to, and warmly received by the First Presidency.”[13]

After discussing the needs of the women of the Church, President Hinckley then spoke of the upcoming conference and discussed what he might say to them. President Jack recalled, “He said, ‘I would like to speak the young women, to the single women, and then I would like to say a few words to the mothers of young children. I want to speak to single parents, to their mothers, and I want to talk to the grandmothers and the great-grandmothers.’” President Jack continued in her journal, “He talked about a proclamation on families that had been worked on by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. He said, ‘I don’t know if there would be time to give this.’ We hastily assured him that there was plenty of time and that we would each give up time. . . . We told him how pleased we would be to have him read such a proclamation.” She then explained, “He really wanted to reach all of the women and it was an ideal time for all the women to be together.”[14]

Sister Clyde confirmed the general sentiment shared by President Jack. Regarding this meeting with the First Presidency, she recalled that after talking for a while, President Hinckley explained, “The real reason I’ve talked with you for a long time is that I’m trying to decide. . . . We have written a proclamation on the family and it’s my responsibility to decide when to present it. And you’ve already invited me to speak at your meeting on Saturday.” He recognized that the meeting was taking place that weekend, and it was already Tuesday. According to Sister Clyde, he graciously continued, “I don’t want to overwhelm your meeting. We want to hear from you sisters and we want the sisters to hear from you. So, you’ve already asked me to speak and I’ve prepared remarks and they’ll take about eleven minutes. But this is a very important thing, [if] I were to announce this proclamation to the family. . . . I’m afraid it would overwhelm the meeting.’” Sister Clyde described what happened next: “Elaine and then Chieko, and then I spoke to that, and we said, ‘President Hinckley, this is obviously very important and our concern for the family is very important. And let’s let that concern overwhelm the meeting if that would be the case. But we can easily pare our talks so that you use the talk you’ve prepared but take the time you need if you choose to do this at our meeting to present your proclamation on the family.’” Sister Clyde then related, “We quickly acquiesced to the importance of it and especially we thanked him for his sensitivity because he clearly didn’t want to come in there and take over our meeting.”[15]

After these assurances by the Relief Society General Presidency, President Hinckley explained the First Presidency and the Twelve’s purposes in creating the document: “I know the problems [single members of the church] bear are heavy, and we want to lighten their load.” President Jack remembers, “We didn’t know what the proclamation on the family was at that time. I mean, we could tell by the title, but we felt anything on the family that they were reaffirming would be a positive thing for us. I felt very positive that we had members of the Quorum of the Twelve that were receiving revelation and I felt perfectly comfortable with that.”[16] President Jack also explains that she had sat on many boards and participated in many meetings in which the topics of women and the family were discussed extensively. In this instance she was confident her voice as the Relief Society General President had been heard.

President Hinckley also talked about receiving a letter on the previous Monday from a woman abandoned by her husband. He told the Relief Society General Presidency, “I think I might read it [in my talk]. It’s a long letter, but it tells the situation very well.”[17] President Jack later explained, “It was a long letter, but it accomplished exactly what we hoped the video we tried to prepare would do, only it was much better.” She concluded, “We saw the hand of the Lord in the writing of this letter. This letter was clearly written by a woman who was inspired of God, and the timing was incredible. To me this was a testimony that the prophet had received revelation. I did not feel right about the video, and my concerns and hopes for what we were trying to portray with the video were resolved as the prophet read this letter.”[18]

In reflecting on the meeting, President Jack wrote, “Although the questions were primarily directed at me, I tried to be aware of having Chieko and Aileen speak on the subject, rather than my representation only. As usual, they were very articulate, and very discerning about the needs of the women.”[19] Finally, Sister Clyde recalled, “Before we left the meeting President Hinckley said, ‘Thank you. You’ve helped to clarify my thinking. . . . I will make the presentation of the proclamation at your meeting.” [20] Directly following this monumental meeting with the First Presidency, Cherry Silver records in her manuscript “The History of the Relief Society,” “The women, of course, were very pleased.”[21]

Reflecting years later on how she felt during this meeting, President Jack recalled, “It was a warm and comfortable meeting. We felt very heard as a presidency. As we left the room that day, we spoke so positively about our experience. We were thrilled to have had that experience. Each member of the presidency was delighted with the outcome.”[22]

Reflection and Further Guidance

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, who served as the chair of the Priesthood Executive Council and who was invited to attend the meeting as well, spoke with the Relief Society General Presidency following the meeting. Sister Clyde recalled, “When it was over we walked out. Elder Oaks had been with us. There’d been no one present except the First Presidency and the Presidency of [the] Relief Society and Elder Oaks. And when we went out he drew us over to a little vestibule and sat us down. And he said, ‘Do you understand that you have just been in an historic moment?’ And we said, ‘Well, yes. What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘I have never seen a prophet make a decision in a meeting like that, about something we have spent a year with. And we didn’t know how to advise him as to when.’” Sister Clyde then shared how Elder Oaks explained to the women that President Hinckley was wrestling to know exactly when to share the proclamation, whether in the priesthood session or during the Saturday or Sunday session of general conference. She concluded, “He was really wrestling with when to do it.”[23] In her history of this presidency, Cherry Silver records that Elder Oaks vocally observed, “I think he made the decision to read that proclamation dependent on your response. I think he made it right there while you were visiting.”[24]

Elder Oaks then counseled the women regarding the meeting itself. With the new understanding that President Hinckley was planning to read the family proclamation at the general Relief Society meeting, this meeting had taken on even greater importance. How it was delivered and the sentiment in the conference center was critical to its reception. President Jack explained that Elder Oaks “wisely counseled us at that time when the proclamation on the family was being given by the president of the Church that the media would look very hard for something to counteract and discredit such a thing. . . . He said, ‘There should be nothing in our talks to trivialize this proclamation.’”[25] Of course, the decision as to how to proceed was left to the General Relief Society Presidency.

As they concluded the meeting, President Jack recalled that “Elder Oaks reiterated over again that he thought President Hinckley made the decision to use that [talk] right while [we] were in the room.”[26] Regarding the entire meeting, and apparently speaking for the combined feelings of the presidency, she wrote in her journal, “We were overjoyed.”[27] Reflecting on this experience later, President Jack explained, “I don’t know exactly why he chose to read the proclamation in the women’s meeting, but it did seem that we were all inspired to speak on the family, and this was the right place and time. Each of us, with some feedback from each other, came up with the topics of our talks independently. It seemed that his talk and the proclamation on the family went hand in hand with what we were already doing.”[28]

President Jack’s Reflections on the Meeting

Now the meeting had a clear, synergistic focus on the family, with coordination between the Relief Society General Presidency and the First Presidency. President Jack spoke first. She described the important role of families, stating that they “bring us our greatest joys and sometimes our most wrenching heartaches.” Referencing letters and conversations she had with members throughout the world, she continued, “Families provide a learning environment, a schoolroom from which we never graduate but can always learn. In our families we learn to appreciate the spiritual peace that comes from applying the principles of charity, of patience, sharing, integrity, kindness, generosity, self-control, and service. These are more than family values, sisters; these are the Lord’s way of life.”[29] She testified that “divine direction continues today as priesthood leaders counsel with us, give us guidance, encouragement, and inspiration.”[30] She expressed appreciation for the reverence Gordon B. Hinckley had for the work of the Relief Society sisters. She concluded by testifying of the love Christ has for women, reminding women all over the world that “Jesus, in tribute, offered those grand words, ‘Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!’”[31]

Sister Chieko Okazaki then spoke. Detailing some of the unique circumstances of the women of the Church, she declared, “Even in hearts and homes in apparently ideal circumstances, there are hidden heartaches and taxing challenges.”[32] Sister Clyde followed, also speaking on the family. At the conclusion of her talk she declared, “I am humbled to be here with all of you in this general Relief Society meeting to hear the counsel of President Gordon B. Hinckley, our prophet for our time.”[33]

image of President Elaine L. JackPresident Elaine L. Jack. Courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

With this lead-in, President Hinckley then took the stand. He acknowledged the gratitude he felt for being invited to speak at the conference and the trust he had in the women who led the great Relief Society organization. He recognized the various and sometimes difficult life situations of women, stating, “I look into the eyes of mothers, who carry in their hearts anxieties concerning their homes and their children. I look into the eyes of single parents whose burdens are so very heavy, and who, in their loneliness, plead and pray for strength and companionship. I look into the eyes of grandmothers and great-grandmothers whose years are many, who have weathered the storms that have beat upon them and who have drunk deeply from the waters of life, some of them brackish, some of them sweet.” Acknowledging those with same-gender attraction, he kindly declared, “We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters.”[34]

He then read the letter he referred to in the meeting with the Relief Society General Presidency just days before the meeting: “‘Twenty years ago last June, I was expecting a new baby and had five other little children, nine years and under. My husband chose to leave our family and walk another path. I wish I could say I was a noble pioneer, but rather I was a naive, frightened, insecure young mother who did not know what to do and who daily made foolish mistakes. Nevertheless, I sought counsel from my leaders and obeyed, even when I knew their advice would make my life more complicated.’” He then spoke on the faith of this mother in context of her heartaches and trials and read her conclusion: “‘I know there are many single parents in the world today. How I wish I could help them see that they must never waste time reliving their own tender injuries. I have found if you cast your burden at the Savior’s feet, He will carry it for you and replace anguish with love.’”[35]

At the conclusion of the letter, President Hinckley introduced “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” by solemnly declaring, “With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.”[36] He then read the family proclamation.

Reflecting in her journal the next day, President Jack wrote the following:

I had felt very good about the meeting on Saturday, it went well. Messages were powerful, and we have had a tremendous response from the women. We have heard frequently that this was the best meeting ever. The tabernacle was nearly filled. There were more women in attendance than we have had for the last couple of years. The music was glorious, the numbers that were chosen were executed so beautifully. It seemed to enhance and emphasize the messages in a beautiful way. . . . What was most touching and moving for me is to see the look on the faces of the women in the choir. Oh that is so dear. So intent on the conductor, eager to give their best.[37]

President Jack then wrote specifically regarding the counsel given by Elder Oaks to the Relief Society General Presidency following the discussion with the prophet. She concluded, “Elder Oaks was right. We have been well served by the advice of our brethren and while I always value the comments and direction it has been powerfully shown to me from time to time how wise it is.”[38]

Later in her journal, President Jack again reflected on the general Relief Society meeting: “As I contemplate the whole conference and the events that led up to it, I feel strongly the Lord’s hand in what we are doing. He blesses beyond that which we know and recognize.” She added, “The coup was President Hinckley and the fact that he read The Proclamation on the Family which had been worked on in the Quorum of the Twelve for the last two or three years. . . . The fact that we have an energetic prophet is significant. The Proclamation on families would not have been read with such force by a president with lesser strength and voice.” Regarding the proclamation itself and President Hinckley’s decision to read it during the general Relief Society meeting, she wrote, “This is a historic statement. This sort of proclamation is issued very infrequently. It was a reiteration of the standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family. I felt that it was of great significance that it would be read during this meeting to the women. . . . It was a blessing to have all three members of the First Presidency in attendance.”[39]


President Jack summarized her sentiments and thoughts over the weeks before, and the day of, the conference:

I see the Lord’s hand in so much that we are doing. It has been directly intervening over the past two weeks where I have been in a great deal of turmoil. It would not have been right to have shown any video on Saturday night. As good and polished a product as we might have had it would have been a distraction . . . yet I still felt hesitant about having a meeting with just talking heads. I found out that that kind of meeting was the best received of all. I also realized the promptings of the spirit in having that woman write a history of her family and her life to President Hinckley at just the time he could have used that letter. He covered a myriad of circumstances the women are finding themselves in currently and ended it in an optimistic note of how she had triumphed and been blessed even though her husband had left her [and] she had had many difficulties facing her. I don’t think all these circumstances came about by chance. We are blessed.[40]

The general Relief Society meeting on September 23, 1995, was more impactful and historic than any one person or presidency could have planned it to be. It did indeed fortify, solidify, and declare the Lord’s doctrine on the family, as the Relief Society General Presidency had hoped. The personal journals, writings, and interviews of former Relief Society General President Elaine L. Jack are invaluable in strengthening the reality that God had his hand not only in the seership and writing of the family proclamation but also in its delivery. At the time “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was delivered, President Jack was thrilled to have it delivered in the general Relief Society meeting. She recognized it as a doctrine meant to be written and delivered only by those called of God as apostles, seers, and revelators; she felt heard and respected regarding her position and opinions as the highest-ranking female auxiliary leader in the Church; and she, along with her counselors, encouraged the prophet to read the document in that particular meeting. Regarding the proclamation itself, President Jack wrote in her journal, “When the proclamation was read on Saturday evening, it was worthy of all that had been said of it. It will be a fine foundational document for us in Relief Society and for the Church as a whole.”[41]


[1] Sheri Dew, Insights from a Prophet’s Life: Russell M. Nelson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2019), 213.

[2] Elaine Jack, interview by Barbara Morgan Gardner, April 2022, Salt Lake City. Series of interviews in April–May 2022.

[3] Jack, interview, April 2022.

[4] Jack, journal, September 18, 1995.

[5] Ed Brandt, interview by Barbara Morgan Gardner, April 6, 2022, in his home.

[6] Dew, Insights, 209.

[7] Dallin H. Oaks, as quoted in Dew, Insights, 209.

[8] Sheri Dew, interview with Barbara Morgan Gardner, March 30, 2022.

[9] Sheri Dew, interview.

[10] Jack, interview, April 2022.

[11] Jack, journal, September 20, 1995; and Jack, interview, April 2022.

[12] Aileen H. Clyde, interview with Kathleen Flake, October 7, 2005, Mormon Women’s Voices oral history project, 2005–2013, University of Utah.

[13] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[14] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[15] Clyde, interview.

[16] Jack, interview, April 2022.

[17] Quoted in Jack, journal, September 1995.

[18] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[19] Quoted in Jack, journal, September 1995.

[20] Clyde, interview.

[21] Cherry Silver, “The History of the Relief Society” (unpublished manuscript, 1997), 10, in author’s possession.

[22] Elaine Jack, interview by Barbara Morgan Gardner, May 2023.

[23] Clyde, interview.

[24] Cherry Silver, History of the Relief Society, 10.

[25] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[26] Jack, interview, April 2022; see also note 23.

[27] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[28] Jack, interview, May 2023.

[29] Jack, “Relief Society: A Balm in Gilead,” Ensign, November 1995, 92.

[30] Jack, “A Balm in Gilead,” 90.

[31] Jack, 93.

[32] Chieko N. Okazaki, “A Living Network,” Ensign, November 1995, 94.

[33] Aileen H. Clyde, “What Is Relief Society For?,” Ensign, November 1995, 96; emphasis in original.

[34] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, November 1995, 98–99.

[35] Hinckley, “Stand Strong,” 100.

[36] Hinckley, “Stand Strong,” 100.

[37] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[38] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[39] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[40] Jack, journal, September 1995.

[41] Jack, journal, September 1995.