Since young Dave spent much of his childhood with friends at the country club pool and the adjacent golf course, he joined the Shawnee Swim Team for children ages six to 17, as he entered grade school.
He first did this merely because his friends were on the team, not because of his swimming ability. He enjoyed the sport, despite seldom experiencing success early on. Eventually, though, after six years of competitive swimming, Dave officially won his first race in fifth grade. It would not last.
In addition to his fondness for swimming, however, he also dreamed of playing football as his father had.
At age 10, Dave played wide receiver in Lima’s midget football league. At the end of the season, the coach told Ran Pack that he wanted Dave, because of his size, to play halfback on the sixth grade team the following year. The fifth-grader was excited; this was the same position his father had played in college! He would be “carrying the ball” from the backfield, a desirable position.
The exciting news led to a pivotal conversation between himself and his father.
“Son,” Ran said, “you can’t play midget football and continue on the swim team. You must choose between the two. I don’t care if you choose swimming over football. Decide what you really want! Don’t pick football just because I played it. You think about what you enjoy and decide what you really want to do.”
While Ran allowed his son to play various sports with neighborhood friends, he wanted Dave to dedicate himself to excelling in just one. He also felt that playing on multiple teams would divert time from the boy’s studies and other activities.
Deciding between his two favorite sports was tough, and even brought the young boy to tears. Since he had just won his first swimming race and had been on the team for five years, he decided to dedicate himself solely to swimming. Little could he know that the seemingly small decision would have such a long-term effect on his life.
During the summer breaks of sixth, seventh and eighth grade, Dave continued to compete on the Shawnee Country Club swim team outdoors. In the winter months, he swam on the Lima YMCA team indoors. Still, he struggled to find success. By the time he was in the eighth grade, he was only the fifth-fastest swimmer just on his own team, and of course was not winning races anywhere else either.
Discouraged, he went to his father and wondered for the first time in nine years of competitive swimming if he should quit. His father encouraged his son to continue, reminding him to not worry: “The meat will soon catch up with the bones. I promise.”
The teenager determined to dedicate himself to becoming the best swimmer he could.
Just one year later, near the end of ninth grade, Dave’s height shot to 6’3” and his weight began to fill out. It was a turning point. He now started to take his swimming career much more seriously. This same year, the now less gangly swimmer suddenly vaulted to becoming the second-fastest 15-year-old in the state, swimming in the YMCA Championships’ 50-yard freestyle, with a time of 24.3 seconds.
In this speed event, competitors would dive into a 25-yard pool, swim to the other end, sometimes without a single breath, execute a flip-turn and race in an all-out sprint to the finish. This was Dave’s strongest event.
However, because of his size, he executed his turn poorly, missing the wall in the difficult shadows of the Ohio State University natatorium in Columbus. This mistake haunted him, leaving him to wonder, If I had nailed my turn, would I have won the state (YMCA) championship?
Swimming at the Next Level
In a short amount of time, Dave’s speed increased and his times dropped. He realized that he was becoming fast—really fast!
By his sophomore year, the teenager qualified for the state championship, and swam 22.8 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. This was a high school competition, meaning the sophomore was competing against juniors and seniors.
Despite not winning, his times were still fast enough to receive “All-American” honors at the end of his sophomore year in 1965. He was only 16.
In just two years, he had gone from the fifth-fastest on his team to one of the fastest high school swimmers in the United States. He had now “arrived!” In his young mind, and certainly in the small city of Lima, this changed his life.
These swimming achievements slowly drew national attention—and with it, a seed of ambition was planted in his mind. From that moment forward, he devoted himself with single-mindedness to his swimming career. He wanted to become the fastest swimmer in the state and rise in All-American status, goals that helped him to push himself even more.
The ambitious teenager developed for himself a rigorous training routine as a junior.
Dave woke up every day at 5:15 a.m., and drove himself to the practice facility at the YMCA in downtown Lima while it was still dark. There he met the janitor at 6:00 a.m., when the building was empty and dark. No one was permitted to use the pool before hours, but the YMCA management and the school faculty made an exception for the aspiring swimmer.
Morning workouts began with tying a rubber strap (from an old inner tube) in a figure eight around his ankles. Restrained from kicking, he then swam 66 laps, the equivalent of 1,650 yards—or over 16 football fields! He did this day after day with his legs immobilized, pulling himself through the water as he relied only on upper body strength.
Next, teenaged Dave propelled himself through the water with a kick-board for an additional 40 laps (1,000 yards), using his legs only.
Imagine: Before some of his friends and classmates were out of bed, he had already swam more than the distance of 26 football fields and logged almost two hours in the pool! Only after this daily workout did he head to class.
This rigorous training schedule was practiced most mornings. In part, his routine raised his profile locally, as word quickly spread of how “dedicated” Dave Pack was to his swimming career.
After school, he practiced for another two hours with the rest of the high school swim team. A typical practice included a 200- to 400-yard warm-up, followed by routines such as fifty 50-yard “repeats” (races) with only a five-second break in between each, or thirty 75-yard repeats with 10-second breaks. There would be other elements of the practice, which would end with a several-hundred-yard “cool down,” or “swim down,” as it was called.
All of the hours spent practicing in the pool occurred without any protection for his eyes, since these were in the days before most swimmers wore goggles. Consequently, he spent years with blurred vision from the typical light-induced “halos,” which were a result of heavily chlorinated water and salt that accumulated in the pool from the swim team sweating in the water.
After practice, Dave would return home for the evening. Once his parents excused him from dinner and he had completed his schoolwork, he followed with yet another grueling regimen on an “Exer-Genie,” which could be used to simulate swimming. Usually attached to a doorway, it mimicked the swimming motion of the upper body, maximizing muscle strength, endurance and flexibility. The innovative machine was invented in 1964 as a training tool for astronauts. Three NASA Apollo missions had used it to maintain muscle tone in weightless conditions. The scientific principle behind the device was to tire the muscles by permitting no time for relaxation. Setting the machine for maximum resistance, this was the most strenuous workout of the day. His brother often joined him in this.
Misery loves company.
Mr. Pack estimated that he swam approximately 1,500 miles during each of the last two years of high school. He also estimated that, from ages five through 19, he swam at least 7,000 miles in his career—the equivalent of swimming from New York City to the French coast, back to New York, and halfway back to France again.
“Looking back, I knew that, in the sense that athletes use the term, I had become addicted to pain. Many athletes who compete at the highest levels recognize that the only way to become the best is to push through mental barriers and physical limitations that other athletes are unwilling or unable to push through.
“I would later realize this was an unbalanced approach. Because I did not understand God’s Way, I was driven to accomplishment in physical pursuits. The only path to achievement and success I could see at that age was through a career in swimming. I had no idea this thinking was about to change almost overnight.”
By the close of his junior year, Dave lowered his times even further, clocking in at 22.3 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. Just as his father had promised, the meat had—finally!—caught up with the bones. The ambitious teen could hardly wait for another chance to compete for a state championship.
However, circumstances did not work out in his favor: just days before the state meet, Dave developed a serious case of the flu, eliminating his chance to compete at anywhere near his best.
Disappointed but undeterred, he pushed forward with renewed resolve. The harder he pushed himself, the better his times became. Dave was determined to win the state championship in his senior year.
Training on the Shores of Lake Erie
In early June 1966, the aspiring athlete was invited to join the Coca-Cola sponsored Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Lake Erie Silver Dolphins Swim Team. There he trained for the first time in a 55-yard pool (almost Olympic-sized), in Lakewood, Ohio, just west of downtown Cleveland.
Dave realized that, in order to rise to the next level, during the summer he needed to train with a larger organized team instead of with his country club team. Swimming with the Dolphins pushed him a step closer to greater achievement.
The young swimmer rented a room in the Lakewood home of an elderly woman. Nearby, he worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the exclusive Cleveland Yachting Club.
“This part of my summer ‘excursion’ was a very interesting and maturing experience. People sunning themselves around the pool were literally the ‘who’s who’ of Cleveland. One morning, another instructor gave me the ‘Campbell children’ to teach, explaining that these were of the Campbell Soup family.”
Dave trained and competed with the Dolphins every day, beginning at 6:00 in the morning, in a pool in Heritage Park. From the 57-degree temperature pool, outdoors, he could see Lake Erie 100 yards away, from which chilly breezes blew early in the morning, in days that were at first in the still late spring. It was cold! At this pool he tied the then national age-group record for 15- to 17-year-old boys in the longer 55-yard freestyle category, with a time of 25.9 seconds.
Tumultuous Late 60s—Questioning Everything
In general, growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 60s was idyllic. The end of World War II ushered in an almost immediate sense of prosperity. Life was in a sense wholesome and simple; most children could reach adulthood retaining a greater degree of innocence, compared to our modern age.
However, the 50s also saw the dawn of the atomic age and the Cold War. Humanity faced new concerns. Schoolchildren routinely went through civil defense drills to prepare for the growing Soviet threat. Tensions between the Democratic West and Communist East simmered to a boil—eventually leading to an ideological showdown with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The world’s problems—the war in Vietnam, race riots, poverty, the violent overthrow of governments, political assassinations, the growing tide of illegal drug use—seemed to be spinning out of control.
Perhaps like few other periods in American history, the late 1960s represented a time of questioning and distrust among youth. The shortcomings and limitations of democracy in the United States were laid bare. Students, realizing government’s inability to solve humanity’s problems, took to the streets by the thousands to protest the war in Southeast Asia and to support the blossoming civil rights movement.
While he did not participate in sit-ins and violent protests, these tumultuous and uncertain times led Dave, as with his peers, to begin only mildly questioning the reason sociopolitical-driven violence erupted throughout America. He wondered how any of mankind’s forms of government could work. Few of the world’s problems directly affected his relatively sheltered life in Lima. Still, as the teenager approached adulthood, the provocative question of how humanity would ultimately solve its problems was not much on his mind. But young Dave Pack was becoming more aware of the world around him.
Meanwhile, as the pressing issues of the day weighed a little more heavily in his thoughts, the swimming champion had already received All-American honors for the second year in a row.
Discovering The World Tomorrow Program
About two weeks after arriving in Lakewood, Dave was sitting in a lifeguard’s chair when he heard a booming voice on the radio that would forever change his life.
Up to this point, the teen did not have any real interest in religion, despite his Presbyterian upbringing. But what he heard from this radio program—The World Tomorrow—was different. Its presenter spoke of the Return of Jesus Christ and the government He would establish—the soon-coming kingdom of God, which would solve all of humanity’s troubles, problems and ills! And Dave learned that he could be a part of this solution.
Although (both) Mr. Armstrong(s) spoke about Jesus, it was a much different Jesus from what the teenager’s obligatory Sunday school and services had taught him.
Over the following weeks, Dave listened diligently to The World Tomorrow on Cleveland’s WIXY 1260 super-radio. He heard Mr. Armstrong proclaim that the returning Jesus Christ would establish a unified, world-ruling supergovernment, and that man’s incredible potential was that he could be born into the kingdom of God!
Dave had certainly heard nothing in his high school civics classes about “one world government!” Yet he did learn that certain secular leaders, including Winston Churchill, Douglas MacArthur and Abraham Lincoln, acknowledged there needed to be a kind of “strong arm from somewhere” that could come and save mankind.
As he listened intently night after night, the Lima teenager came to understand that only a world government could truly put an end to all violence and strife. Mr. Armstrong’s message seemed to speak of the solution leaders so desperately sought after, but never found. They were some of the most capable men democracy had ever seen, but, Why had they not spoken of this coming government of God?
Unlike the boring, empty messages Dave had heard for years in Sunday services, Mr. Armstrong answered basic questions: “Why were you born?”—“What is the true gospel Jesus Christ preached?”—“Does God exist?” Even more intriguing, the elderly spokesman (and his son at the time) explained, with unbelievable clarity, that God was a Family, not a three-in-one “mystery”—that Bible prophecies could be understood—and that they specifically revealed the future of the United States, Britain and other Western nations!
Dave was amazed by the extraordinary knowledge he was learning!
Attempting to Follow Newfound Truth
With each broadcast—which Mr. Armstrong delivered with an unusual commanding authority—spiritual knowledge and understanding were growing, and on a wide variety of topics. For the rest of the summer, Dave absorbed information from The World Tomorrow program while on his lifeguard stand during the day or in his rented room at night.
Each broadcast shattered perceptions about the basic foundations of mainstream Christianity and convinced him that the only way to true happiness was through obeying God’s Law. He learned that Christianity was not just something people practice at Christmas and Easter, or once a week on Sunday. He was hearing the true meaning of life in simple terms. Herbert W. Armstrong taught that every day all people make a choice to either live the way of “give” (outgoing, selfless concern for others) or the way of “get” (selfishness, lust, greed, competition).
To a young mind struggling to grasp purpose in the world, the “give” way of life made perfect sense—in fact, so much sense that by the end of the summer Dave made his first attempt to obey God.
One of the first laws he decided to keep involved the guidelines of clean and unclean meats, as taught in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. However, it would soon become clear he did not yet fully understand exactly how to apply these new truths to his life.
Upon learning the shocking fact that pigs were unfit for human consumption, he informed the elderly woman with whom he was staying that he would never again be able to eat pork. But, he reasoned, he would enjoy one last meal of pork chops.
His landlady, Gladys (who happened to live on Gladys Drive), was a wonderful cook, so the teenager requested she make him pork chops. She prepared and spiced them so perfectly that he ate nine! Dave later recalled, regretfully, that they tasted “unbelievably good,” although the enjoyment was dampened by his conviction that he would never taste them again. That night he ate so much that Gladys called his father to request a larger food allowance for the remainder of the summer. (Yet, just a year or so later, the very smell of ham or porkchops made him sick.)
Returning Home with a New Outlook
The summer on Lake Erie, training with the Silver Dolphins and the Yachting Club job, ended in early August. Though sad to leave, he looked forward to his senior year in Lima and to the future.
He wanted to return home living the new way of life Mr. Armstrong taught him through The World Tomorrow. After having listened to dozens of broadcasts, he was hooked! Dave could not get the powerful messages out of his mind—nor did he want to.
Mr. Armstrong’s words had completely altered the young man’s thinking and dramatically changed his outlook on everything. He could hardly wait to hear more, and planned to request the free literature offered during each broadcast when he returned to Lima.
Yet when the young man arrived home, he was frustrated to learn he could not find the program. For weeks he scanned the radio dial, until finally he heard Mr. Armstrong’s voice again, initially on CKLW (but later out of Cincinnati), a radio station near Detroit, and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He rushed to tell his father.
“Dad, this is the program I’ve been telling you about!” he said.
“Oh, I know that voice,” his father replied. “I listen to him from time to time.”
His father was already familiar with The World Tomorrow program from his time on the road as a traveling salesman. Ran Pack included it among the rotation of religious programming he had been listening to regularly.
In late August 1966, Dave was pleasantly surprised to receive a package from the Church. It contained seven booklets and articles. He still remembers Why So Many Denominations?—Why Were You Born?—Does God Exist?—The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy—and 1975 in Prophecy! were in the mailing. He also received his first issue of the Church’s flagship magazine, The Plain Truth.
Ecstatic, Dave (and now with his brother) continued to listen to Mr. Armstrong and was deeply intrigued as he explained in plain language the simple—yet universally misunderstood—truths of God.
“I had completely forgotten that while I was still in Lakewood I had written to the Radio Church of God [renamed Worldwide Church of God in 1968] with questions, and requesting literature. I forgot that I had written (the first of many letters) for guidance as I continued to learn the truth. The first letter had been something very brief, similar to, ‘My grandmother is a Christian Scientist and she thinks I should attend the Christian Science Church. What do you think?’ I do recall that my second letter was to ask about UFOs.”
The brothers were pleasantly surprised to have radio logs (listings of when and on what stations the program was broadcast) arrive from Pasadena. To their delight, they discovered The World Tomorrow program also aired in the evenings and was broadcast across the U.S. seven days a week on WLW Cincinnati at 11:05 p.m.
One night after listening to Mr. Armstrong’s son explain the truth about the theory of evolution, Dave and Bill Pack lay in their beds and discussed in the dark what they had heard.
Dave said, “Bill, we didn’t evolve.”
“I think we did,” his brother replied.
“No, Bill,” he said firmly. “God created Adam and Eve.”
After a short pause, Bill said, “Okay…I believe in creation now.”
Bill Pack fondly remembered, 40 years later, that this was the last time he would be such an “easy sell” for his older brother. From about September 1966 forward, both brothers listened and studied together at times.
While most 17-year-olds focused on college plans, high school friends, social events and parties, young David Pack’s thoughts centered on studying the Bible, and at every possible moment. He had learned a valuable, lifelong lesson: Having always heard preachers and ministers of traditional Christianity teach, “All you have to do is give your heart to the Lord,” he learned from Mr. Armstrong that God calls individuals to the truth, as Jesus explained in John 6:44.
“The broadcasts truly stunned me. What I heard was unbelievable. The answers were logical. They made sense. I had never heard anyone talk with that kind of authority. Mr. Armstrong answered life’s greatest and most important questions so clearly. And he was also answering questions I did not even know that I had. He made complex topics simple to understand. I was absolutely on fire and could not get enough of these new truths.”
Requesting Literature—Meticulously Proving
As he continued to hear truths he had never been taught, Dave became much more interested in following God’s Word. He had a burning desire to learn and understand how to apply the Bible’s teachings.
The Church back then had a policy of sending only up to seven items per literature request. However, Dave in his eagerness wanted to read as much literature as he could as quickly as possible. He decided to devise a way to “beat the system.”
During each broadcast, Mr. Armstrong promoted certain booklets and articles; so did each issue of The Plain Truth, as well as did the other literature received. Dave recorded every title and compiled a large list of available publications. He then sent his requests, seven pieces of literature at a time, on the same or next day. He hoped that a different staff member at Pasadena Headquarters would open his requests.
His plan worked! Over the course of several months, he quickly accumulated virtually every booklet and article the Church published, including the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. (Computers today prohibit anyone from copying this method.)
Determined not to take anything at face value, Dave took the tremendous drive he had developed in competitive swimming and applied it to reading the Church’s literature and completing the correspondence course. When the literature referenced a Bible verse or passage, he looked it up for himself, wanting to thoroughly “prove all things” (I Thessalonians 5:21) from his own Bible, just as Mr. Armstrong repeatedly urged.
The new Bible student used colored pens and magic markers to jot meticulous notes inside the booklets and articles. (He still has much of this literature.) When he had additional questions, or if the literature prompted Bible study ideas, he made notes for future personal study. Additionally, as was required of all enrollees, he wrote all of the scriptures in the Bible Correspondence Course by hand. By actively engaging the literature and doing the included assignments, the basic truths of God were ingrained into the mind.
All that was absorbed through The World Tomorrow program and the Church’s written works made God’s purpose for mankind’s existence abundantly clear in his young mind for the first time. As he learned these monumental, incredible truths, the Bible student realized he could not merely believe another man’s word—he had to prove the truth for himself. Again, too much was at stake. He knew there was no middle ground—no “halting between two opinions” (I Kings 18:21). These truths led the young man to make some of life’s most important decisions.
Juggling schoolwork, swimming practice and maintaining his strenuous workout regimen, while also learning and studying God’s truth, proved to be a challenge. After completing the final workout of the day, Dave would spend hours in his bedroom poring over Church literature before finally going to sleep late at night.
The extensive self-examination process triggered by this new knowledge seemed like a long, arduous trial for the high school senior. Yet it forced him to face decisions that would determine the course of his life: What college or university will I attend? What career or profession will I enter? What kind of person will I become?—everything flowed from proving God’s existence and whether the Holy Bible was His divine Word.
In retrospect, Mr. Pack considered these initial intense months of study one of his greatest blessings—they contributed to, and served to fortify, the depth of his conviction, which would be so crucial in the difficult years ahead.
“I had to prove the truth in a way that most other people were not required to prove it, because I had so much at stake. I had to know completely—absolutely.”
In one trial, observing the Sabbath came in direct conflict with a potentially life-long swimming career, and consequently a prominent future position, in addition to the prominent profile of his parents.
Proving the truth beyond any doubt and committing to God’s Way would force Dave to give up everything for which he had worked so hard for so many years.
Parents Try to Understand
For the most part, Dave’s parents were supportive and willing to accept that he had new beliefs—although they did not expect them to last. As time passed, Ran and Jane found that their son’s dedication was not merely a phase.
One muggy afternoon shortly after returning home from Lakewood, Dave had an interesting exchange with his father. While he was mowing the lawn, he heard his father call from the side door, “Dave, lunch is ready! I have boiled hot dogs ready!”
Armed with his new understanding of the Old Testament’s dietary laws, Dave asked his father what was in the hot dogs, explaining he could no longer eat pork.
After going inside to check the ingredients, Ran Pack emerged from the house with package in hand. “No problem,” he said, going on to explain that the hot dogs were “all meat.”
“Dad,” his son replied, “it has to say all beef on the package.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I understand. Just eat these and in the future we will be sure to get all beef.”
Dave respectfully refused to eat the hot dogs, which angered his father. What the teenager saw as commitment to God’s laws came across as ingratitude to his father.
“To my father especially, it was as if I was making an issue where there was no need to make one. He was trying to be understanding and helpful, and I appeared unnecessarily rigid.”
One of the things that most frustrated his father about his son’s new beliefs was that Ran usually learned of them through confrontation. After he had already boiled the hot dogs for lunch, Ran learned that under no circumstances would his son eat pork. When some time had passed, his father accepted this belief. Then the teenager informed him he could not cut the grass on the Sabbath. After Ran accepted this next belief, Dave unnecessarily went on to tell him he would not be voting—or keeping Christmas—or fighting in the military—along with other newfound convictions—on top of statements such as “And I’m done forever with the Presbyterian Church!”
Obviously, Ran Pack was initially unhappy about his sons’ adherence to this new understanding of God’s Law. Imagine coming home from work to find that the meal your wife exerted time and effort to prepare—deep fried shrimp!—suddenly did not meet your children’s new standards. Or that, because they now understood the Sabbath to be on Saturday, they refused to perform yard work on that day. These were trying times for the family; but to their credit, they handled them with a measure of patience and understanding.
There was never anything close to outright war in the home, but there were certainly moments of contention. Ran and Jane felt as though they were put on edge, waiting to hear what “wild” new belief their son would spring on them next, sometimes Bible and Church literature in hand. The fact his brother stood firm with Dave made it easier; it sometimes softened his parents’ response. Yet, for a time, they at least somewhat reduced their younger son’s commitment to a natural desire to follow an older brother. They would later learn this was wrong.
Starting with the day a son told his father he could no longer eat pork, the Pack household became divided over clean and unclean meats. In a family where the mother loved shrimp and ham, imagine her children suddenly telling her they will no longer eat dinner if it contains these items!
Jane tried to be sensitive to her sons’ new religious beliefs. However, as an accomplished gourmet cook, these newly learned dietary restrictions were, at best, confusing.
“What is this about ‘fins and scales’?” she asked them. “I thought it was only shellfish you couldn’t eat?”—“No catfish? They have fins, don’t they?”—“But you can eat grasshoppers because John the Baptist did? What?”
Another instance of these new convictions colliding with long-established family traditions happened after Dave proved the pagan origins of Christmas. Although he did not yet know about God’s fall Holy Days, he made the decision not to observe Christmas. He used the opportunity to show his parents Jeremiah 10:3-4, and explain to them the error of putting up a Christmas tree.
By this time, Ran and Jane were becoming more accepting of the adjustments their sons had been making to their lives. Since their daughter had already left home, and the boys refused to celebrate the holiday, the parents were more than happy to save a little money that year by skipping Christmas.
Even Dave’s Uncle Frank joked that his annual monetary “Christmas gift” was no longer for Christmas. Rather, it was a gift “that just happened to arrive around the turn of the year.” The first time he sent this “new” gift he called it a “Winter Solstice gift.” He had read about the holiday’s origins from an early edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Frank Crowl had fun with the gift he sent each December, always in some way referencing Christmas’ link to the Saturnalia and its pagan roots—all while reminding the family that what he was sending was not to be taken as a Christmas gift.
“Thumping” the Bible
As he grew in spiritual knowledge, the teen became more and more zealous about his understanding. The Bible was real to him—it came alive when he read it.
As with many people excited about learning God’s truth for the first time, Dave did not yet fully understand that only God opens the minds of people and calls them. True knowledge that seemed so simple and logical to the one called was a mixed-up jigsaw puzzle to others. With his exposure to his mother’s constant logical argument and debate, he approached family and friends ready to explain this new understanding.
On more than one occasion, Dave tried to explain the Bible to his mother, especially portions about prophecy, and attempted to get her to read certain passages.
He also showed her Church literature, which in the early years included graphic illustrations by WCG illustrator Basil Wolverton. Some were vivid drawings of people struggling and suffering during the coming Great Tribulation, prior to Christ’s Return. Other images portrayed people dying from plagues and war, in mortal anguish from famine and pestilence sweeping the earth.
“Mom, this is going to happen!” Dave warned. “These times are coming soon!”
Imagine his mother’s reaction, returning home from the golf course, shopping or from a relaxing afternoon with the Bridge Club ladies, only to find her son desperately begging her to heed dire warnings from a man in California prophesying the end of the world! To Jane Pack, the powerful illustrations and compelling literature were merely effective artwork and stories.
On another occasion, Dave showed his mother the Church-produced article “How Would Jesus Vote for President?” As a staunch conservative Republican, she silently rolled her eyes, as if to say, “Here we go again!”
Exasperated, his mother said, “I suppose you think Jesus would vote Democrat.”
“No mom!” he replied, to her surprise. “Jesus wouldn’t vote at all!” She found this more interesting.
Dave also had a conversation with his mother about John Calvin’s view of predestination and how silly the premise was—from a logical standpoint. But in this case, mother and son agreed.
“I have a hard time believing,” Jane Pack said, “that if I make the decision to consciously run up and down the stairs to the point of inducing a heart attack that this was known and pre-ordained by God in advance. If that is the case, then we are all automatons.” To her delight, they both agreed with this perspective.
Dave even tried to convince a few schoolmates of his newfound knowledge, but they were less than receptive. “My new understanding fell really flat with my friends,” he recounted.
Several times during his senior year, he brought before the classroom an opposing view, an objection or he raised questions regarding his new understanding. One day in biology class, he commented on the faulty logic of evolution. As Dave explained his point of view, it became clear to him that the teacher was in lockstep with the popular belief that creationism was an antiquated way of thinking. This predominant view of the 1960s was the genesis of the U.S. education system’s march toward the secular liberal thinking of today.
“My class was going one way and I was definitely going another. This much I quickly learned.”
He soon recognized he was making no headway with his peers, so he decided to say nothing more. It became evident it was not profitable to evangelize or proselytize. He learned he was not supposed to singlehandedly convert his friends and family. He recalled, jokingly, that he badly mishandled matters with family and friends as he first learned the truths of God.
Decision to Leave Presbyterian Church
Dave from an early age did have a vague belief that God existed—but God had not been real to him. Until he first heard Mr. Armstrong on the radio, the young man had never attempted to build a personal relationship with God or find His true Church, nor did he pray or study Scripture for guidance and doctrinal instruction.
Before he listened to The World Tomorrow radio program in the summer of 1966, the two or three times David Pack read the Bible, he never got very far. He could not make sense of its seemingly cryptic passages. For this reason, he was not actively seeking God when he first heard Mr. Armstrong’s broadcasts.
The closest he ever came to exploring religion (besides attending Easter, Christmas and weekly Sunday services) was when he visited a Christian Science service in Lima with his paternal grandmother. Even then, he only attended to please her. A devout member of the Christian Scientists, she was initially thrilled to have her grandson attend with her, but disappointed when he did not stand up, sing and participate in the service.
Upon turning a certain age, Dave was confirmed into the local Presbyterian Church. He explained years later:
“This involved briefly appearing in front of a panel of deacons to answer questions before gaining membership. I no longer remember the exact details of this cursory examination, but I do recall making some kind of general affirmation about the denomination. I was not concerned in the least with whether I was in the right church, or if I was fulfilling the Bible definition of a Christian.”
This defined Dave’s spiritual state of mind prior to hearing Mr. Armstrong’s voice on the radio a year and a half later, when he received his first introduction to Christ’s statement, “I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). The young man immediately realized the true Church of God had to exist, and that in light of Christ’s promise it could not be destroyed. But where was it located?
When he came to full enough understanding of what it meant that God was calling him, Dave told his parents he planned to inform his pastor, Dr. W. Wood Duff, that he was relinquishing his membership in the Presbyterian Church. They initially reacted badly, still not fully grasping the depth of their son’s new convictions. Ran and Jane Pack convened an emergency meeting with Dr. Duff, hoping he could talk their son out of leaving. The pastor, instead of accepting the young man’s resignation, although polite, dug in his heels, saying the teenager was confused and that the church would keep him on the membership list for another full year, no matter his request to be removed from the church’s rolls. If at that point he were still of the same mind, his name would be deleted.
This did not matter. He knew from that moment he was no longer a Presbyterian. He could not ignore the new knowledge and understanding that was becoming clear to him as he pored over the literature and continued daily hearing The World Tomorrow.