A History of the Contact Commission and Forum

The story begins on October 1, 1922, Chicago’s traditional moving day. The weather was seventy degrees and fair. After 25 years of moving from one apartment to another, a middle-aged physician couple and their teenage son finally settled into a permanent house at 533 Diversey Parkway. The new house would also serve as their office.

They had to find a secretary to work on the other project, the one that kept them up at night. They were informed that the workload would increase exponentially. “We need superior secretarial skills,” Dr. William Sadler said. Dr. Lena Sadler chimed in: “We can’t take shorthand, and we don’t type.” The couple was assured that a secretary would be found.

Not long afterward, Dr. Lena was treating a 32-year-old woman at Columbus Hospital who was the victim of an automobile accident. The tall, no-nonsense woman had recently moved to Chicago from Minnesota. Physician and patient quickly bonded. The patient confided to Dr. Lena that her mind had begun playing some unusual tricks on her. Was it perhaps related to the accident? Dr. Lena’s ears perked up. “Let me get my husband in here,” she said. “He’s a psychiatrist.”

The woman, it turned out, was a skilled secretary and manager at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago. Her job was to dispatch hundreds of bank examiners throughout the Midwest. Such a person would be a sure safeguard against fraud. Her name was Emma Louise Christensen, also known as Christy. It soon became evident that Christy was the secretary the physician couple had been looking for. Christy eventually came to live with Drs. William and Lena at 533 Diversey Parkway. The Sadlers described to Christy a psychiatric case of a patient they had been observing for almost 20 years. It seemed that invisible celestial beings spoke through this patient, a gentleman who would remain unnamed. Would Christy serve as secretary during the night sessions to record and transcribe the words of the celestials? Christy readily agreed.

Fifty-five years later, Christy recalled: “I was curious, but I didn’t appreciate what I was getting myself into.” When asked what would have happened if she could no longer write or type, she replied, “I guess they would have looked for somebody else.”

Two others in the Sadler household were in on the secret patient: Lena’s sister, Anna Kellogg, a registered nurse, and her husband, Wilfred Kellogg, the doctors’ business manager. The Sadler-Kellogg quartet and Christy were the only people who heard the celestial visitors speak. They, along with Christy, were the original Contact Commissioners. The Sadlers began introducing Christy to friends as their foster daughter, though she was never legally adopted. The Sadlers’ surviving son, William Jr., was 16 years old. The Kelloggs had a 9-year-old daughter, who was profoundly deaf.

The Early Forum Years

One Sunday afternoon at 533 Diversey Parkway, another important event occurred. A new social group came into existence. The group was called the Forum, and the meetings began on February 11, 1923. The ostensible purpose of inviting guests to their home was to keep in touch with former patients. We don’t know whether the Forum was the Sadlers’ idea or whether it was The Revelators who suggested that a group come together.

Salon-style gatherings in the 1920s were part of the culture, where a leader would present on a topic for one hour and guests asked questions during the second hour. Dr. William Sadler presented lectures on such topics as: “Primary Instincts and Emotions,” “Heredity,” “Darwinism,” and “Eugenics.” In 1923 my father, Clarence Bowman, was introduced to the Forum by an old friend and former patient of Dr. Sadler’s.

The Real Purpose of the Forum

During a Forum gathering one Sunday in December 1924, Dr. William was regaling the Forum with a tale of how he had been part of an investigative trio who went after crooks posing as psychics who conjured up spirits of the dead. His associates in the adventure were Howard Thurston, the famous sleight-of-hand magician, and a Chicago police detective. A Forum member asked whether any so-called trance mediums were likely receiving messages from real spirit beings, such as angels.

The real purpose of the Forum emerged that day. Dr. Lena was out of town, and Dr. William spilled the beans. The group was informed that they were being invited to participate in the inauguration of a new Revelation. Their task was to write down all the questions that had ever perplexed them and mankind—questions about God, the cosmos, life after death, anything.

He made it clear that he was not personally convinced the phenomena he, Lena, and the Kelloggs witnessed were genuine. Dr. William had tried every means to get to the bottom of the case. The group was informed by an invisible personality named Machiventa Melchizedek that a wonderful new revelation was coming. The answers to the questions posed by the group, Dr. William hoped, would help uncover whether a hoax was being perpetrated. Dr. Lena and the Kelloggs had been impressed with the spiritual quality of the material received up to that time. Melchizedek’s visit occurred on February 11, 1924, exactly one year after the first Forum meeting.

In January 1925 answers to the Forum’s questions began arriving in the form of chapters, which were really complete papers. The first series of 57 papers was expanded in response to further questions. The first papers had come one or two at a time, all in response to questions. If there were no questions, there were no papers. In 1935 a complete section (Part IV) arrived all at once. Jesus’ birthday was celebrated for the first time on August 21, 1935. The Forum reviewed the entire collection of papers for ambiguities and anything that needed clarification. Final corrections were made by the celestial beings, now referred to as The Revelators.

When papers on the Twelve Apostles arrived, Dr. William was astounded. The authors had penetrated the minds of 12 unique human beings and told their stories consistently. “I threw in the towel,” Dr. William declared. “I’m a psychiatrist, and I know my business. I could not create such consistent portraits of 12 different men.” Dr. William’s doubts crumbled.

Altogether, 485 people participated in the Forum between 1923 and 1956. Before 1955 the Forum did not have copies of papers to read during meetings. They could not take papers out of the building, nor could they take notes. They were pledged to secrecy. Today, we would refer to the Forum as a focus group. They listened to the papers while the celestial personalities observed their reactions. The Revelators tweaked the papers to make them comprehensible to humans. Forum members never heard or saw the celestial visitors. Despite the uniqueness of the Forum, some members left because the material was too demanding, too difficult, or of no interest.

Forum members learned that February 11th was the anniversary of the bestowal of Jesus’ Thought Adjuster. The fragment of the Universal Father loaned to this small boy growing up in Nazareth was just like the Thought Adjusters of all humans beings in the inhabited universes.
Bill Sadler’s Contribution to the Papers

After returning from a stint with the Marine Corps in 1928, William S. Sadler Jr. (Bill) became fascinated with the papers. He devoted himself to study and wrote the questions that called forth the papers on the Supreme Being. Bill became a Contact Commissioner and was a brilliant Forum teacher during the 1940s and early 1950s. He was an intellectual, occasionally emotional, and often irreverent. He left for the mansion worlds on November 22, 1963.

All of the Contact Commissioners are now deceased. These Commissioners were those who possessed the identity of the “contact personality,” the man through whom the revelation was transmitted. No one else in the Forum met the man, knew his name, his date of birth, or when he died.

Were it not for their dedication, loyalty, and steadfastness, even in the face of occasional doubt and unbelief, the revelation would not have come to fruition. None of them made any money from the papers. In fact, they sacrificed their modest personal wealth for the group that met in the Saddler home for 60 years.

Joining the Forum

On the recommendation of my Father, I joined the Forum in October 1951. I learned how mutual trust developed between the humans and the celestial personalities in the years preceding the birth of the papers. Six months after joining, I was hired as receptionist for Dr. William’s medical and psychiatric practice. I heard the story of the Forum at least six more times while I worked there. My husband, Tom, and I knew Dr. Sadler for 18 years and Christy for 31 years.

Helping Patients Help Themselves

Dr. William devoted his entire professional life to helping people who were physically or mentally ill. Nevertheless, he only introduced a few patients to the revelation, those who were most able to believe in the idea of unseen spirit beings and who already believed in some concept of God. Dr. William did not want to be the leader of a cult of psychologically dependent followers. His method was to inspire patients to think independently, take responsibility for their own mental and emotional improvement, recognize their talents, and develop courage. Power over others was not part of his nature. Dr. William had acute disdain for those who foisted fraud upon an unsuspecting public or who took advantage of gullible and weak-willed humans.

Experienced Teachers

Everyone has favorite parts of The Urantia Book. Dr. William’s was the history of the Old Testament and the Life and Teachings of Jesus compared with the Bible. His classes in the original Brotherhood School were always filled. He confessed he hadn’t studied Part II of the papers as much and had misunderstood some of the concepts. While leading a section on the physical universe, he came to a passage he didn’t understand. He asked if anyone knew what they were talking about. “Why, that’s Einstein’s equation, Doctor: E equals MC squared,” a science teacher in the audience said. “Oh, I didn’t know,” Dr. William marveled.

Everybody in First Urantia Society got a chance to lead a discussion of the papers. At the end of every meeting, Dr. Sadler would walk over to the first-time leader, shake hands, and say, “That was a fine job you did! You won’t be as nervous the next time.”

He did not micro-manage the activities of others nor did he interpret the teachings of The Urantia Book for others.

Training the Leaders of Tomorrow

After The Urantia Book was published, Forum members were tasked with introducing the revelation to their generation, and, they were informed, the world was not yet ready to receive it. Members pooled their ignorance and set out to spread The Urantia Book and its teachings.

Younger readers were the future of the Urantia community and received special attention from Dr. William and Christy. They entrusted a great deal of background information to the future leaders of Urantia organizations. Christy and Dr. Sadler were assigned by their celestial partners to write the complete history of the Urantia revelation, but they simply ran out of time and graduated to the mansion worlds without completing it. William Sadler died in 1969 at 94, and Christy in 1982 at 92. Christy outlived the other Contact Commissioners.

In many respects, I personally consider Christy to be the real human hero of the revelation. Christy was nearly forced to testify in court about the origin of The Urantia Book, the details of which she was pledged never to reveal, including the identity of the contact personality. At the age of 87, Christy was prepared to go to jail if necessary.

Christy was always specific about how the readership should grow. She said, “We were told by The Revelators to grow carefully, and build a solid foundation of believers so that we can withstand public criticism when it comes.” In 1980 she said, “Very few readers know The Urantia Book well enough to defend it publicly.” She repeated, “They told us to grow carefully!”

The Emergency Corps of Mortal Selectmen

In her presidential address to Urantia Brotherhood’s First Triennial Delegate Assembly in 1967, Christy ended her speech with an excerpt from The Revelators’ instructions:
“I have heretofore reminded you that the celestial supervisors of Urantia are mobilizing small groups of spirit-led men and women throughout the world—among all nations—and these truth battalions, these selectmen, are concerned today with scores of vital enterprises which have to do with the rehabilitation of the world following the ending of the present distressing conflicts.”

“And of all the emergency corps of mortal selectmen on Urantia, none is charged with a more solemn obligation than our group. We have been called to the great work of taking the first step of offering to mortal man a new light, a new revelation, of the love of God. The easy jog-trot religion of former days no longer suffices to meet the challenges of today. Following Jesus’ way of life calls for an act of complete commitment, a dedicated intention, a resolute purpose, a trumpet call to a life that will not compromise.”

The Sadlers’ Community Service

Most folks in the Forum didn’t realize it, but Dr. William had an impressive resume in community service:

  • He was an ordained minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He set up missions and edited Lifeboat Magazine.
  • William worked as a Pinkerton detective to finance his and Dr. Lena’s medical education.
  • Dr. William was a popular Circuit Chautauqua lecturer. He had a dozen lectures in his repertoire. He loved to preach.
  • Dr. William questioned the teachings of Seventh-Day Adventist, Ellen G. White, on issues of plagiarism and consistency. The Sadlers left the church in 1913.
  • Dr. William settled on psychiatry over surgery, he said, “because you can help people change their mental outlook on life.”
  • For 25 years Dr. William served as professor of pastoral psychology at McCormick Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Chicago.
  • Dr. Sadler wrote textbooks, magazine articles, and self-help books for the general public (42 in all).
  • His life purpose was to bring health and medical knowledge to the public. To medical colleagues, he was seen as giving away professional secrets to the unwashed.
    Dr. Lena was as service-minded as her husband:
  • Dr. Lena was a mighty advocate for healthcare for women and children living in poverty. She promoted birth control, eugenics, maternal hygiene, and the licensing of midwives.
  • She volunteered at the Jane Addams Hull House. Dr. Lena was a small woman with an endless supply of energy, and she was a dynamic public speaker.
  • She served as president of every women’s medical association in the Midwest, as well as president of the Medical Women’s National Association. She was a warm and effusive personality. In 1939 she died of cancer at the age of 64.