The urban policy recommendations President Carter ordered on March 21, 1977, were delivered promptly - one year later, to the day.

They sat on the president's desk from late Tuesday until some time Thursday, when Menachem Begin's departure allowed him to turn his mind to domestic matters.

Jimmy Carter began to read. He read - and he wrote. By the time he left the White House for the Kennedy Center to see the premiere of the American Ballet Theater's "Don Quixote" with Mikhail Baryshnikov, he was two-thirds of the way through the thick document.

He awoke again yesterday at 5 a.m. and finished his reading and writing.

Three hours later, the Carter administration's much-publicized urban policy statement, "all marked up," was back on the desk of his chief domestic policy adviser, Stuart Eizenstat.

And the shock waves went out from there though the federal bureaucracy.

Jimmy Carter did not like what he had been given. The bureaucratic mountain had I abored - everything from the Defense Department to the Peace Corps had been consulted on this one - and had brought forth a mouse. What was worse, the president of the United States smelled a rat.

"He had what he regarded as fairly serious questions about a number of the elements of the program," said one aide. "And those areas he didn't think were sufficiently justified he just nixed."

"He just scared the - out of everybody," the aide said. "People began to jump out of windows and call their mother at home. It was right interesting for awhile."

The process of putting the package back together was not as dramatic - but more lasting. The phones went wild at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the leading agency in the government's urban task force.

HUD Secretary Patricia Roberts Harris and Assistant Secretary Robert C. Embry Jr. were summoned to the White House immediately.

Then began a series of meetings aimed at answering the questions Carter had raised. The president's objections were not minor. Among the things he had marked for oblivion were billion-dollar "soft public works" (maintenance jobs) program, social services, housing rehabilitation and a tax differential to businesses that locate in depressed areas.

All told, about half of the total package had been blue-penciled by the president.

But Carter proved not to be adamant. As one aide explained, "The president asked his questions and got satisfactory answers, and the nays turned to yeas in the vast majority of cases."

But time was running out. A briefing for the weekly news magazines was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. It had to be postponed. Instead, Carter huddled with Eizenstat, Vice President Mondale, Budget Director James T. McIntyre Jr., and chief political aide Hamilton Jordan. Press secretary Jody Powell stuck his head in to see if the crisis was going to be resolved.

An urban lobbyist called a White House aide about this time and asked if the president would be able to announce his program on schedule Monday afternoon, just before leaving for South America and Africa.

"I don't know," the aide replied, "but I think we're going to make it."

They did. At 4 p.m. Harris and Eizenstat, looking only slightly distraught, began briefing newspaper reporters on details of the program.

One aide said privately after the briefing, "We ended up with more than we thought we'd get - more than $3 billion."

And Eizenstat, a little harried by the end of the day, had only one comment: "All's well that ends well."