I need to back up. Over the years certain “experiences” had come to me regarding the other side. Sometimes they were dreams, sometimes random understandings, sometimes unusual sights that left me humbled and, almost as often, puzzled. I won’t go into detail except to say that they gave me an idea of what the other side was like. By the time I was eighteen I had learned by hard experience that my priesthood leaders were as baffled by these experiences as I was—nay, more so, as I knew the experiences tended to lift my spirits and bring joy, but to my leaders they seemed to portend trouble and suspicion; so, like young Joseph, perhaps, I learned not to bother my spiritual leaders with spiritual things.
When I scanned the papers, I saw that they were notes taken by a Jane Barfuss at a lecture given by a Betty Eadie, two women I had never heard of. Betty had evidently spoken at a library, and Jane had taken these single-spaced notes. The lecture seemed to be about Betty’s near death experience. At that point, I only had a passing interest in near death experiences, but something on the first page caught my eye, and I sat down and started reading. She spoke of inanimate objects in the spirit world being imbued with intelligence, of a stream cascading down a hill that created audible music as it bounced and splashed, with each random drop producing its own tone as it flew through the air, which perfectly harmonized with the greater, ever-evolving music of the larger stream.
I was astonished. I knew this was true, because I had seen similar things—but I had never heard another soul speak of it. My own efforts at sharing my experiences had produced, at best, quiet misgivings, but this woman was telling an entire audience at a public library about sacred things. I read on, throwing time to the wind, and learned of Betty’s death in a hospital after surgery, whereupon she went to heaven, where, in fact, she was embraced by the Creator of Heaven and Earth, Jesus Christ. Then, after what seemed like months, she was sent back. She had been dead for about two hours in our time.
After reading about each detail in her experience, I would stop and ponder, comparing it to my own limited experiences. When I finished, some two hours later, I had one desire: to help this woman put her experience in a book and publish it to the world. A few days earlier, I’d had a dream in which my father, who was still living at the time, said to me: “Every great thing accomplished in this world is done through passion.” Well, I had a passion to do this work, but there was a problem—I didn’t know who she was or where she lived. In the entire text there was no mention of her home. So, I knew what I had to do.
I took the notes upstairs to my room, closed the door, and knelt down by my bed. In a prayer full of desire, I told Heavenly Father that I had a passion to help this woman create a book from her experience. I told him that I thought the book would do much good, that it could help heal hearts and wounded spirits—but I didn’t know where she lived or how to contact her. I didn’t even know where the notes had come from that I had read that morning. (It turned out that they had come from our 12-year-old daughter, who had brought them home from Young Women’s the night before. Her advisor knew that I published books and thought they might be something I would be interested in. But even she didn’t know where the original notes had come from.) As I was praying, a thought came to me: Make a vow that I would not seek to have my name on the book or ask for any royalties. This would be easy, I thought, since I only wanted to be a part of the effort. I didn’t want any credit or money from it. I just wanted to be a part of this wonderful gift to the world. So I made the promise in very direct, simple terms. Then, before I could say another word, I saw an image in my mind of a library several miles away from our home. Instantly I knew that if I went there, I would discover where she lived. There were other libraries closer to us, but that was the library I was supposed to go to. I thanked Heavenly Father for this knowledge, when another understanding came to me, telling me that the book we would produce would be the best-selling book in the world. Also, that it would increase faith in Jesus Christ and cause millions around the world to be filled with his love. This knowledge was absolute and could not be shaken.
I ended my prayer, picked up the notes, and went in to the office, two hours late. Immediately I made copies of the notes and distributed them to everybody in the office, including the owners of the company, then I said I would be back soon, that I had to go to the library.
When I went to the Murray Library, I had no idea how I would learn anything about Betty Eadie. Maybe I would find something in the card catalog. Maybe a worker would know something about her. I walked through the large glass doors and almost ran into a large A-frame easel with a dozen atlases on it. The display caught my attention, and I thought, “Oh no, do I have to look through all these atlases?” All were atlas of the world, except one, in the upper right corner. That one was an atlas of the state of Washington. I thought, well, I might as well start with the most specific one, then go from there. I pulled it down, took it over to a counter, and opened it up to a random page. My eyes immediately fell on the word “Burien,” and I knew that’s where she lived. It seemed I had seen that word in the notes, though I couldn’t recall. But I was sure that I had found her town. I closed the atlas, put it back on the easel, and walked out. I hadn’t been there more than a minute, maybe less than thirty seconds.
I went back to the office and called information in Burien, Washington. (This was pre-internet days—August 1992.) I asked for a Betty Eadie and was given a number. Hallelujah, she did live in Burien—I mean, how many Betty Eadies could there be in Burien, Washington? I called the number and had a short, interesting conversation.
“Hello, I’m calling for Betty Eadie.”
“This is she.”
With bated breath: “I just read some notes about a lecture you gave at a library, and I…”
“Oh, I’m sorry. You have the wrong number. I think you want the other Betty Eadie. I get calls for her all the time. Actually, if you can wait, I can get her number for you.”
While she went to get the number for the correct Betty Eadie, I said a thousand thanks that this good woman had thought to write down the correct number. If she hadn’t, I didn’t know what I would have done. She came back and gave me the number, which I carefully wrote on my pad on my desk, then I thanked her profusely and hung up.
Then I called the right number.
She answered after two or three rings.
“Hi, my name is Curtis Taylor. I’m the managing editor of publishing company called Aspen Books, and I just read the notes Jane Barfuss wrote about your lecture at the library.”
She was silent.
“I’m calling because I want to help you put your experience into a book. I’ve written a few books, and if you need any help, I can assist you. I won’t ask for any royalties or even for my name to be on the cover. I just want to help. I just want to be a part of this project. I have a passion to do this work.”
She was silent a few more moments, then she said something like, “What took you so long?”
“I’ve been waiting for your call for nineteen years.” She didn’t sound pleased.
“Well, uh, I had to make copies of the notes for the other people at the publishing company, and then I had to find out where you lived, which was quite a wonderful experience, and then I called the wrong number, because as it turns out there’s another Betty Eadie in Burien, but she gave me your number, and then, right away, I called you. I promise.”
I explained again about the passion and great desire to be of help.
Still not sounding pleased, she said, “I just signed with another publisher.”
The world stopped. Dumbfounded, I found my voice and asked her who it was.
She gave me the name, and I became more dumbfounded. It was, remarkably—no, impossibly—the same man who had rejected my novel after paying for it. Of all the publishers in the world, why him? He had already admitted to making one mistake; could I possibly get him to make another and let me publish the book? I told Betty Eadie that I knew the man and would give him a call immediately.
I later learned why Betty was less than pleased. Some time after having her experience, she was told that she was to record it in a book and that a “young man” would call to help her. He would say, “I have a passion to do this work.” She actually heard him say it, so she would know what his voice sounded like in the future.
It turns out that my voice and this other man’s sound somewhat similar.
As with all great deceptions, the counterfeit came first.
I called the deceiver. He wasn’t in but would be back later that day. I got in the car and drove to his office, forty-five miles away.
I waited an hour. It turned out that he had been up my way. Whatever. I wanted answers. Did he have the rights to Betty Eadie’s story? He said he did. Did he want to give them to me? He said he did not. Did he want to sell them? He said he did not. He asked how my other book was going. I said it was doing fine, along with the other twenty or thirty I had published since, but I wanted to talk about Sister Eadie’s project. He said he couldn’t help me. I told him that if I could ever help him—with this book—I would gladly do so. I drove back to the office, where I called Betty and gave her the bad news—the man would not part with the rights.
Then I waited for a very strange three days, wherein I pondered the imponderables of agency and revelation. I still had the passion, but I didn’t have the rights to do anything with it. I tried to distract myself with my other work, which was going fine, but seemed rather run of the mill in comparison.
Three days later a phone call came. The other publisher was on the line. He’d been thinking about it. Would I like to assist in the project after all?
“Yes.” I managed not to yell it.
Very well, he said. (He often said very well, even when things were not very well, especially on my end of things.) Betty had written a short manuscript, which he had planned to incorporate into a selection of near death experiences, but now he was considering creating a separate book out of it, and would I be interested in interviewing her and enlarging the work with more details to make it a full-sized book?
“Yes,” Again in a moderate tone.
He said if I would do that, he would offer me the worldwide rights to the book, except for the LDS rights, which was all he was interested in. I said he didn’t have to do that, that I would work on the book in my spare time and do it for nothing. He said, no, he would prepare a contract which would give me the worldwide rights if I would do everything at my own expense, including flying up to interview her. (A clever man, he was keeping the costs down again—in all conditions. No matter what.) Then he added a caveat: He wanted the book written for Latter-day Saint audiences, which was the market he was most familiar with. I said sure.
I called Betty and told her the good news—I could help her create a book, and we could market it to the world outside the LDS market. I also told my employers: if I could interview her and help write the book at our expense, we would have the greater share of the worldwide rights. They agreed to bear the cost.