(Editor’s note: This article was first published in the 2018 November Journal. It was adapted from a plenary speech delivered at the 2018 Netherlands conference. We are re-posting it in memory of the late David Linthicum who passed away on June 1, 2022.)
The conference theme of the 10th Urantia Association International conference in The Netherlands was “Jesus as a Teacher.” When I was asked to be one of the plenary speakers I thought it would be a great opportunity, even though I had never given a conference speech.
At the 2016 conference in San Antonio, TX, I presented my very first workshop, so I decided to expand on that workshop theme for my plenary speech in Holland, the workshop was titled, “The Eyedropper, Spoon, and Shovel.”
I came up with the idea primarily based on my experience with trying to get my family and friends to read The Urantia Book.
I found The Urantia Book and finished a cover-to-cover reading in 1996. Like many of us, I was eager to share this marvelous book with those closest to me, my family and friends. I couldn’t wait to tell my best friend the good news! I had discovered a true treasure, something beyond my wildest imagination.
One day I bought him a book and handed it to him saying, “Man, you have GOT to read this!” I was fired up! I was hoping my best friend would be just as excited as I was. I wanted him to read it, so we could share our thoughts as we had when we read the Carlos Castaneda and J.R.R. Tolkien books in years past.
Let’s just say, things didn’t work out as I had hoped; my friend never read the book. My effort was a dismal failure. I found out sometime later that he showed it to his wife who thumbed through it and declared it to be the work of the devil. I was heartbroken and disappointed.
In my own defense, please bear in mind that, at that time I didn’t know anything about Urantia Foundation, the history of the book or study groups, and I hadn’t met anyone else who had read the book.
Over the years I tried various approaches, trying to coax people to read the book and none were successful. A wise man once said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. It was time to rethink my approach.
My eye-opening moment came during a stint as a booth volunteer at the 2015 Parliament of the World Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah. Not sure how best to talk to folks about the book, I sat back and observed others who were more practiced, many with 40+ years experience.
I also watched the visitors as they interacted with the experienced booth volunteers and made mental notes of their reactions. When it came time for me to take my place at the booth I tried out some of the approaches I observed others using. I didn’t meet with much success; I just wasn’t comfortable with the way things were going.
The magic moment came when a visitor asked me what I thought of the book. That is when I hit my comfort zone. The Urantia Book had a profound impact on my life and I was eager to share what I had learned and how it changed my life. We ended up talking for about an hour. After that exchange I felt energized and confident.
Now, when people ask me what the book is about I simply tell them about my experience and what I learned from reading the book. I endeavor to avoid revelational terminology and simply say:
“For me, The Urantia Book answered the most pressing questions I had about religion, God, creation, angels, the devil and most importantly, life after death.”
“I had always thought that there was more to heaven than sitting around and playing the harp for all eternity. No matter how perfect heaven is supposed to be, that would get kinda boring after say a hundred, thousand or a million years.”
“There must be much more for us to do; eternity is a long, long, long time!”
“Surely God has a plan for us to stay busy, to grow in spirit and seek new opportunities that we can’t imagine today.”
“In this book I learned that God does have such a plan for us, he is our Father and he has made provisions for continued growth and adventure in His far-flung creation.”
And I leave it at that.
If they ask for more information I suggest that if they have similar questions they might also find the answers they are looking for in The Urantia Book. If they persist with questions I do my best to address them while avoiding the introduction of terms that are unique to the book. I’ve also learned that you don’t start out by telling people that human beings don’t become angels and that dogs don’t go to heaven.
As mentioned, a couple of years ago I was asked to give a workshop at the San Antonio, TX conference. The conference theme was “Jesus the Master Teacher.”
After agonizing over what I was going to talk about, I decided to take a closer look at Jesus’ teachings. It was then that I came up with my topic, “The Eyedropper, Spoon, and Shovel.”
The concept came to me when I considered how Jesus taught the common people and his apostles. What really stood out in my mind was not so much what Jesus taught, but how he taught and, equally important, what he didn’t teach.
For instance, Jesus commented on several occasions that, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” On other occasions he said, “I have other sheep not of this fold.”
These utterances are not remarkable to us, we know what Jesus was referring to.
But can you imagine the confusion on the faces of the Apostles? What in the world could he be saying?
Imagine this—Jesus and the Apostles are on the Mount of Olives and Phillip asks Jesus what he means about the Father’s house and this business about other sheep not of this fold?
Jesus takes his rod and begins to draw in the sand, and looking in the faces of his eager but confused Apostles he says:
- My Father resides on Paradise which is surrounded by one billion perfect worlds, peopled by an untold number of perfect beings, making up the Central Universe, which is called Havona.
- In my Father’s house there are seven superuniverses. There are also the First Outer Space Level, the Second Outer Space Level, the Third Outer Space level and a Fourth and Outermost Space Level.
- And those sheep I told you about… well this world we live on resides in Orvonton, the seventh superuniverse in which resides a smaller local universe known as Nedadon; your world is situated in a local system of Nebadon called Satania which consists of over 600 inhabited worlds. My sheep consists of people with one, two and even three brains.
- And, I am the creator and administrator over this local universe and all its inhabitants.
At which point Thomas jumps to his feet and exclaims, “Satania! As in Satan?”
That much information, however true it might be, would have blown the Apostles’ minds. They would surely have thought that Jesus “was absolutely beside himself” and one must wonder whether the Apostles would have followed him any further.
Instead, Jesus tempered what he said to others, he used an “eyedropper” of truth here and there to illustrate his teachings.
He would give them revealed truth by the spoonful, when they were ready for more. And when he did divulge additional information, as he did with Nathaniel, he charged Nathaniel to “tell no man.”
He did not attempt to shovel too much truth; it would have surely overwhelmed them.
We can learn much from Jesus’ method of teaching by using the eyedropper, spoon, and shovel approach ourselves when we desire to reveal the truths contained in The Urantia Book.
There is much we can learn from Jesus that will help us to be better teachers and leaders in our daily lives. We tend to attempt too much, too soon, which can overwhelm people. I have found that sharing my personal story about how the revelation has changed my life is much more powerful than saying, “The book says this, or the book says that…” People can relate to a personal story.
Let us bear in mind the method Jesus used as he shared a new revelation of truth with the Apostles, disciples and the masses. We should focus on the things Jesus taught while also keeping in mind those things that Jesus did not teach and let that guide us as well.
Jesus’ life changed the world. His teachings led to the eventual creation of the Christian Church which went on to spread his teachings all over the world. He was able to change the perception of the God of Moses, which depicted an angry and vengeful God, to a God of Love, a loving Father who adores his earthly children. Jesus taught us about the Kingdom of Heaven and the Brotherhood of Man, that men and women are “saved” by their faith alone.
When all is said and done, the Father idea is still the highest concept of God. [Paper 196:3.35, page 2097.3]
These simple messages of love, faith, and family served to change the people’s perceptions of God and their relationship to him. God became more personable, more understanding and sympathetic to our earthly struggles.
Jesus’ message was not complicated; it was ideally suited for the times in which he lived. Jesus was able to deftly weave his higher insights into the fabric of beliefs held in those days, over 2,000 years ago. He was skillful in determining what to say and what not to say.
But what of the times in which we live today? What can we learn from Jesus’ teachings that can serve to instruct us as we reach out to family and friends with our new found understanding of the true teachings of the Master?
When we examine Jesus’ teachings it begs the question: how do we incorporate all the things we have learned from reading/studying this marvelous revelation in our efforts to share these things with the ones we love, our family and friends?
As you go forth in your travels, remember to bring the eyedropper and the spoon… leave the shovel at home. If you find someone who desires a book, give them one but let them get their own shovel and dig for the truths it contains.
And that friend I mentioned earlier, what I failed to realize was that he was already safely in the Kingdom of God. He is an active member in his church and has a strong faith in God’s saving grace and eternal salvation.
For those with an ear, let him hear….
(See this YouTube video for David’s live presentation of this article given at the 2018 International conference in the Netherlands.)