Clyde Bedell, a man who I consider to be "great in the invisible kingdom," handed me a copy of The Urantia Book in California back in 1968. He was 72 years old at the time and had been acquainted with the Urantia Papers since 1924. I knew Clyde as a pragmatic, tough, brilliant advertising expert, author and businessman, so he shocked me when he said he believed the text had been produced and materialized by celestial beings. This put me off. However, he added a mitigating comment which I recalled later: "But forget all of that. Judge the Urantia Papers by their content. If I told you that I knew for sure they were written by angels, it would be the worst reason of all for you to believe them. There is a part of God in you that will tell you whether they are true or not." I was impressed to some degree by the material, but I was sure I did not need it. I had already settled all of these questions in my mind, or so I believed.
A couple of years later, I watched Clyde give a talk on books for a women's club in Santa Barbara. Clyde had an astounding library, and showed slides of first editions and unusual books, some of which were worth a fortune. He even had handwritten tomes from the Middle Ages. I was a bit surprised when Clyde's final slide showed a copy of The Urantia Book. I was concerned he would empty out the place when he started talking about it. He said, "If I had to relinquish all of these books but one, this is the one I would keep." He said very little else about it but none of the audience left. Nor did anyone seem to care very much.
I thought at the time that Clyde had made a rather radical pronouncement. On that sunny Santa Barbara afternoon I had no idea what lay in store for me. I was about 35, full of energy and confidence. I had no conception that in a few years I would lose Vicki, one of my beloved daughters, and that my wife would die of cancer. I had no idea my life would come apart at the seams and that I would descend into a hopeless, indescribable darkness. It was in this despair that I truly "found" the riches of The Urantia Book.
The Urantia Papers proclaim that personality realities transcend all the other realities. In those days in Santa Barbara I could not have grasped such a philosophical construct. Yet, it is this notion that has assured me I shall see Vicki again; it has taught me to deeply appreciate my new wife Joan and my two other daughters, Kathleen and Michelle. It promises me that one day, in another plane of existence, I will embrace in peace all of those I have loved - and those I have contended with - in my life upon this difficult planet.
The book Clyde handed me many years ago is rather sad-looking today. The pages are marked up and crumbling on the edges, and the cover has come off. I don't use it anymore, because every time I open it more pages fall out of the binding. Yet, I believe its condition is evidence of a noble veneration for the gift Clyde gave me. If I had to give up every book I own save one, I would choose to keep that 1955 copy of The Urantia Book that Clyde Bedell handed me so many years ago.