Frederick J. Pack (1875-1938) was a highly educated, scientifically minded Latter-day Saint, with a doctorate in geology from Columbia University and an undergraduate education in mining engineering. He was a missionary, a professor of geology at the University of Utah, and the husband of Sadie Grant Pack, first counselor in the general Primary presidency.
Pack wrote several articles for church magazines concerning the origins of the earth. Writing in 1910-11, at precisely the time when questions of the origins of life and the physical universe were matters of much controversy, Pack adopted a waffling position, one that saved him from having to take a public stand in support of either the Biblical creationism of Joseph Fielding Smith or the hard science of James E. Talmage. Instead, his articles are merely descriptive: “The Biblical account says … Some scientists subscribe to the nebular theory of planetary creation, which is … Other scientists champion the meteoric theory, which is … ” So far as I can make sense of his writings, he never declares what he himself believes. The closest he comes to taking any stand is to say that the earth was not created in six 24-hour days – not because the geological record says otherwise, but because God lives outside of time and time as we know it is therefore irrelevant to the question.
Pack wrote on other topics, including the Spaulding theory, and Book of Mormon geography, and on the Word of Wisdom. Because I have not made a careful study of his bibliography, it may be a disservice to him to say that he deliberately obscured his credentials, but I note that many, if not all, of his articles on the Word of Wisdom are signed by “Dr.” Frederick J. Pack – a legitimate title given his Ph.D. in geology, but until I researched his background I assumed he was a medical doctor. His geological articles, by contrast, are usually signed “Frederick J. Pack, A.M., Ph.D., Deseret Professor of Geology, University of Utah.”
Pack’s Word of Wisdom articles most often concern avoidance of tobacco. His legacy for most of us, however, comes from an article on a different subject, published in the March 1918 issue of The Improvement Era:
Should Latter-day Saints Drink Coca-Cola?
By Dr. Frederick J. Pack
At noon recess of a recent general conference of the Church, while waiting by appointment for a friend at one of the city’s principal drug stores, the writer became very much astonished to witness a large number of brethren and sisters step up to the soda water counter, drink a [g]lass of coca-cola, and then walk away as if it were a regular practice.
Subsequent investigation has convinced the writer that great numbers of Latter-day Saints, who devotedly abstain from the use of tea and coffee, are persistent drinkers of coca-cola. It is quite generally known that this popular beverage is being extensively used by young people; the surprise, however, comes in the information that older and more experienced people are using it. Recent inquiry seems to indicate that the “Mormon” people in general are quite unfamiliar with the chemical composition of this drink and that its physiological effect is very much the same as that of tea or coffee.
Pack goes on to identify caffeine as a significant component of Coke as well as tea and coffee, and describes its effect on the body, declaring that it is worse mixed with sweet syrup than in the form of tea and coffee: “If you extract the caffeine and mix it with syrup, and flavor it, you can drink six or eight glasses of it [contrasted with what he says is the limit of two or three cups of tea or coffee], and there is no warning from your stomach, and you become a nervous wreck.” Caffeine is worse, he says, in Coke than in tea or coffee because there is something unnatural about adding it to a liquid where it does not naturally occur. Conspiring men in the form of Coca-Cola executives deceive consumers, he asserts, citing a company document that states “What we want you to understand, however, is the very important fact that there is caffeine in Coca-cola and that it is of actual benefit to you. It is there with a purpose – not by accident and never to be apologized for, explained, or even criticized.”
Pack describes the inroads this drug was making in Mormon society: “Especially during summer months it is not an unusual matter for business men and office girls to drink as high as five or more glasses of this beverage daily. The Coca-Cola Company claims that as much as seven to fourteen glasses of their beverage taken daily will not be injurious to health,” a claim which Pack disputes.
“Thus,” he concludes, “at the hands of the people who are attempting to defend it, caffeine is shown to be a true stimulant (literally a whip) goading the system on to abnormal activity, which is paid for by general impairment of health.
“Should the Latter-day Saints or, for that matter, anyone else, drink coca-cola?”
And there we have the same arguments against the drinking of colas that, with little if any modernization, are raised in every 21st century discussion of the question. At least now we know who to thank for the never-ending debate!
Please note that the point for discussion is the HISTORY of this and related questions (chocolate, perhaps, or other debatable Word of Wisdom matters) – please do not lead us into a run-of-the-mill argument over whether or not Coke or other common foods are against the Word of Wisdom. Thanks.