Larry and Joan Mullins, Angie Thurston, Jon Zoba
Jon Zoba and I got to host Larry and Joan Mullins for a weekend in Massachusetts last month. Jon and I are young adult Urantia Book readers living in New England. The original inspiration for this event came from Jon, who started a tradition three years ago of inviting Urantia Book scholars up to his farm in the colder months to share wisdom with the younger generation. Jon was impressed by Larry and Joan’s book, A History of the Urantia Papers, and thought it would be fruitful to get their perspectives in person. Since I know and love Larry and Joan, having grown up going to study group at their house, I reached out to them and got things in motion.
The weekend of October 24-26 ended up being full to the brim. Larry and Joan led an introduction to The Urantia Book at Harvard Divinity School on Friday, then spent the day with young adult readers in Beverly, MA on Saturday, and finally presented to the Urantia Book Service Corps of New England on Sunday.
Here is Jon’s take on the first day:
It was a beautiful fall day in New England when author Larry Mullins and his luminous and keen wife Joan arrived in Boston for a weekend of enlightenment and mirth.
We had them on a robust schedule starting off at the Divinity School at Harvard University, where Angie Thurston is presently a student. We packed into a small room overflowing with delicious Greek takeout, navigating plates of food and brittle ‘decompostable’ silverware, and all the attendees found their seats. A handful of curious Harvard students made an appearance, mixed with old-guard and young adult Urantians ringing the table.
“No individual human is an authority on the Book,” Larry stated early on in his introduction to the Urantia Book, and this certainly proved to be true as Urantian after Urantian interjected comments, anecdotes, and suggestions. “I slept in Sadler’s bed,” one Urantian said. It was around this point that I started to fear that the event might be totally submerged into Urantian self-referential obscurity, but amidst the interjections, Larrys’ composure and the brightness of Joan’s personality and personal love for Jesus continued the discussion along spiritual and enlightening lines.
One new reader, a colleague of Angie’s, asked how he should structure his reading of the Book. Naturally no single answer could be given to that question, but certainly an affirmation was offered along the lines of, “Just keep reading even when parts don’t make sense.”
Another young man asked how the Jesus of The Urantia Book differs from the Jesus of the Bible, and it was then that we could really dig into the heart of what we have to share. In concord the Urantians affirmed Jesus’ divinity, but also were able to elaborate on his humanness—manliness—not only as God but as one who struggled, had faith, and acted.
The event culminated in a heartfelt reflection on the Master and his simple message of the kingdom, a subject we should hope is being discussed in the halls of Harvard. After the event formally concluded, many lingered to continue conversation, and some of us migrated to a nearby bar to continue discussion.
Larry and Joan provided the anchor and light for a cacophony of young sharp minds and long established readers, which was woven into a fruitful and inspiring discussion. Certainly this is a strange world, and this event was an expression of unity wrought from the confluence of an unusual group of individuals.
All in all, Harvard is proving to be a place that allows our group to gather and be ourselves, and praise Jesus along the way.
On Saturday, we headed up to Beverly for a rewarding combination of discussion and fellowship in beautiful settings. Jon took the lead, meeting us first at Gordon College, his alma mater, for a morning hike in the woods. This set the tone for the day, as we engaged in hearty conversation and worship and learned from Jon about the history and practices of this vibrant Christian college.
Next, around half a dozen young adults gathered at the home of Jon’s brother, Ben, and his wife Christina. Christina prepared a beautiful meal for us, and we all got to enjoy lunch together before convening to discuss history and destiny! For hours, we delved into the history of the Urantia Book, the Urantia movement, and the organizational landscape of our community. Jon did an excellent job of focusing our conversation on the most salient questions, and Larry and Joan bravely and eloquently tackled our inquiries. Despite even the most contentious and troubling parts of our history, Larry and Joan joined with the young adults in expressing idealism for the future. A spirit of creative collaboration pervaded the room as the sun began to sink.
That evening, walking, running, and cartwheeling along the Beverly shore, we allowed our minds to dwell in possibility: How might we contribute to the next chapter of our history? This was the open question for the rest of the weekend, carrying into Sunday’s event with the New England Society and, of course, every day since.
Here are Larry and Joan’s reflections on their experience:
Larry and Joan:
Our trip to New England was rewarding to us on many levels. We sensed a stirring there of new energy and hope for transforming the world by means of the Urantia revelation. Curious, open-minded, and ardent, the young men and women there are challenging us older Urantians to rethink many of our long held assumptions. We left inspired!
On our final day we experienced the warmth of the members of the Urantia Book Service Corps of New England. This is the new name for that society, signaling the desire for a fresh mission and direction that seems to parallel the service motivated intentions of the young adults. It may be that the entire Urantia movement could benefit from a similar innovative, results-oriented philosophical approach. We enjoyed a lively exchange on the origins and future of our revelation. At the conclusion, we played a historic video of an informative interview with the late Meredith Sprunger. There was a timely moment when Meredith was asked if he had a message for future generations of Urantians. He looked directly into the camera and exhorted us to use our own initiative, creativity, best judgment, and our own spiritual guidance, and not rely on some supposed authoritarian wisdom.
We took away from the weekend much more than we gave. We met a spectrum of personalities who were unified by love and hope. Among the young, the dominating theme was a passion to develop an extravagant, daring vision beyond the bounds of traditional Urantia thinking. This undaunted optimism energized us older Urantians, and should ignite hope for a revitalization of the Urantia community of believers. The world needs to see Jesus living again in the lives of service-driven Urantians who love one another.
Our own message remains simple: Create a mission based upon the highest values of Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Love, and go for it! These divine realities unite people, whereas labels and creeds divide.
Bill Sadler, Jr. quoted the Revelators as saying: “You will doubtless live and die without realizing you are participating in the birth of a new age of religion on this world.” Perhaps we also will not see evidence of this in our lifetimes. Yet, as Agondonters, we remain hopeful when we recall what Jesus told Thomas:
“You have believed, Thomas, because you have really seen and heard me. Blessed are those in the ages to come who will believe even though they have not seen with the eye of flesh nor heard with the mortal ear.”