Hi there everyone. As you are all most likely aware, my name is Merindi Swadling. I would like to share some of my recent experiences with you today. First of all, some background info:
– I am 25 years old
– My parents – Kathleen and Trevor – have been reading The URANTIA Book for about 20 years
– I have been reading for about 18 months – and no, I have not yet completed this amazingly huge book, but I am getting there.
I just want to ask a few questions of you all: – Who here has children?
– How many of these children are under 30 years of age?
– And how many of these have read or are reading The URANTIA Book?
– So where are they all today?
Interesting isn’t it? Why aren’t your children interested in becoming involved with the Urantia movement… and why are some not even interested in reading the book? I have some thoughts on this, and will come back to it a bit later.
What was it like growing up with The URANTIA Book? Because I didn’t grow up without The URANTIA Book I guess I can’t really compare… but overall I truly believe my brothers and I had one of the best up-bringings that is possible. Sure, we had our usual family dramas that influenced us as young children, but overall we grew up with…
– a strong belief in God,
– an understanding of the universe and what it all means,
– a faith in the fact that we do go on to bigger and better things after our lives here on Urantia,
– a love of Jesus,
– and on the whole we experienced a peace in our lives that not too many children and teenagers feel.
I remember when we were young we often put on our PJs and gathered around Mum on this tiny little couch we had in the living room. If you can picture Daniel, Andrew and I lying all over each other and over Mum… we were curled up waiting for a story. Mum used to tell us stories whilst drawing illustrations to the story on a sketchpad. Her stories gave us an understanding of ‘how did we get here?’, ‘why are we here?’, and ‘what is this whole thing all about?’. I remember clearly the day she drew the Life Carriers planting life in the oceans around the world, under the water she drew these microscopic life forms evolving into fish, and then to our amazement these fish began walking out onto the land. She drew whilst she talked and the three of us were enthralled. We couldn’t wait till the next night to find out what happened to these walking fish. And of course, we soon found out that the walking fish eventually became us! I sometimes remember these stories with a smile, and wish I could remember them in more detail.
What I believe this basically gave us was a good understanding of the concepts of The URANTIA Book. Before I began reading “on my own” I knew all about the Lucifer rebellion, Adam & Eve, Michael of Nebadon, the Seraphim and Cherubim, the Morontia Worlds, and other such teachings.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that I am truly thankful that readers of The URANTIA Book brought me up. I know that I would not be the person I am today if it was not for the understanding and wisdom I gained as a young child and as a teenager.
Which brings me to my present-day situation. As I mentioned earlier I have been reading the book for approximately 18 months and in this period I have experienced a sense of joy and peace that has never been in my life before.
I spent 3 months in Chicago with my parents last year, and if any of you have ever visited URANTIA Foundation, commonly known as 533, you will understand when I say that it was an amazing experience. Even if I had resisted the teachings of The URANTIA Book, I would have been touched by the time that I spent there. I met many of the American readers and had some invaluable conversations. I know that if I had not been in Chicago for this period last year, I may not be reading the book today.
I met another young reader of the book during this time in Chicago; some of you met Mike MacIsaac when he visited Australia earlier this year. Mike has been dedicated to bringing together young readers of the book from around the world. He made me realise that not only 40-50 year olds can relate to this book, and that it actually has teachings that are relevant to the 20-30’s of this world. Wow… now this was a new concept to me!
I want to diverge for a moment on this topic. All my life I have looked upon anything relating to The URANTIA Book as “something my parents did”. I think you will all agree that it is not too cool to associate yourself with your parent’s beliefs, and it was definitely not a good look to socialise with your parents friends. This may not be too nice, but I could think of nothing worse when I was 15 years of age than staying at home whilst Mum and Trevor hosted Urantia get-togethers. Now, I could think of nothing better. Perhaps you may think that I have simply grown up or matured, but I know that if I had not met other young readers of the book it would have taken much longer for me to begin reading. Thus I may never have become involved with other readers, and most likely would not be at this conference today. Yes, I do believe I would have completed the book some day, probably when I had children of my own, but it would have been later rather than earlier.
The benefits I believe I have gained from reading the book earlier rather than later are numerous – I have been able to cope with the ups and downs that come along with being 25: working full time, studying part time, socialising often, attempting to save money whilst financing my high expenditure, etc, etc. The URANTIA Book has enabled me to balance the material life that I lead, the intellectual mindset I need to be in at work and university, with a high level of spiritual activity. The spiritual aspect of my day to day life is satisfying, healthy, and brings with it much peace and joy.
So, how do we encourage young people to take an interest in the teachings of this wonderful book? I believe we should begin the task with the children of Urantia readers, your children. But how do we encourage these children and young adults to realise that it not so uncool to hang out with your parents’ friends? Should we send all of our children to Chicago to meet Mike MacIssac? I don’t think so.
Needless to say, Mike & I became good friends and continued our friendship when I returned to Australia. We spent considerable time in Chicago last year deciding on the best way to get young readers talking to each other, and what was the most appropriate format for this interaction. Of course the World Wide Web is the communication device of our generation, and it seemed logical that we utilise this to its utmost potential. Mike and his brother set up a website dedicated to all young readers of The URANTIA Book. From this came an e-mail discussion list called “UBYouth”. The discussion list currently has approximately 35 members and is extremely active, meaning that there are discussions happening on a daily basis, discussions that cover many topics. We discuss things such as:
– What did you do this weekend? How is your boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife? What was that club like… I’ve heard it’s a really cool place to hang out?
– How long have you been reading The URANTIA Book, and can you share your experience with us.
– What is the difference between the soul, the mind, and the personality?
– How do you feel about sex before marriage? Are we allowed to drink and party with our friends? Are there any “rules” in this book?
– How do you respond when a Christian friend informs you that anyone who doesn’t accept that Jesus Christ died for their sins will be ending their lives in Hell?
– And of course the old favourite, what is this dispute occurring between the Foundation and the Fellowship.
Besides all the discussion and the seriousness of some of the topics that are being brought up, overall we are just good friends. We are supportive and encouraging to each other and I am thankful for the friendships I have formed through this list.
Additional to the discussion list, the UBYouth website has photos, introduction pages, guestbook, and a link to the chat channel. It is a great site to visit, whether you are young or not, and easy to find. There is a link to it from the Foundation’s website.
A “youth” weekend was held in Chicago recently, just prior to the Vancouver conference. I was fortunate enough to attend, and again this was an amazing experience for me. There were 14 young readers of the book gathered with the sole purpose of getting to know each other better and increase our understanding of the teachings of The URANTIA Book. We had some great fun and some heavy discussions. We left Chicago with valuable friendships formed and a true appreciation of each other.
I then travelled from Chicago to Vancouver. Vancouver! What words can I possibly use to describe this conference? Big. Extremely Big. 960 people BIG! It was enjoyable, inspiring, dramatic, emotional, humorous, sociable & loads of fun. On the other hand, it was frustrating, sad, tense, annoying, and occasionally boring.
“Strange”, some of you may be thinking. How can such opposing adjectives be used to describe a 6-day event? I don’t know how, but I know that this was a confusing week for me. Events of this conference sent me through high feelings to low feelings. Why? I’m still not sure. But I believe it may have something to do with the fact that it was:
– The first American conference I have attended.
– The first Fellowship conference I have attended.
– The first conference I have been to where there were more than 80 people in attendance… and there were 960 people there.
– The first time I have been around such a variety of readers… the Teaching Mission, the UFO supporters, the pot smokers, the studious readers who have analysed the book for many years, supporters of the Fellowship, supporters of the Foundation, readers who were 85 years of age, readers who were 13 years of age, people who have been reading for 35 years and people who have been reading for 35 days.
The list could go on and on.
I would have to say that the best thing about the Vancouver conference was the joy that was gained from meeting so many young readers. There were approximately 45 youths between the age of 18-30. We had a great time together and began valuable friendships. These young people were cool, we had some laughs, some emotional discussions, some crazy conversations, we went to the pub a few times, and we basically just enjoyed the fact that we were not the only young person taking an interest in The URANTIA Book. The conference was definitely a memory I shall hold for a long time and all readers, young and ‘older’ should experience a conference like this one day.
Which brings me back to my question earlier – how do we encourage young people, your children, to take an interest in The URANTIA Book? And why don’t many 2. generationers read the book?
I think the key to this is to let them know they are not alone. Teach them that there are many people their own age that also have parents who read “this strange book”. Encourage them to learn that the book has teachings that are more than relevant to their lives, and that these teachings will assist them in their struggles to get through these confusing and difficult years. Let them find out that young people can and do have fun at Urantia gatherings.
One of the biggest fears in a young person’s mind is what things may look like to their peers. We are struggling to find our own way, attempting to define ourselves as individuals, learn all about life – quickly. To do this we often make decisions on what is happening around us, and on what our peers are doing or saying. The risk that you may be isolated by speaking out about something as ‘uncool’ as religion is so strong that many 2′” generationers keep quiet… I know I did for a long time.
The second question… why don’t children of URANTIA Book readers read the book themselves is an interesting one. I didn’t start reading until I was 24 years of age… why not? To put it very simply, I didn’t need to. I knew there was a God, I knew what was going to happen when I died, I knew the importance of loving my fellow man, I knew all about Jesus and his life here on Urantia – basically my life was not lacking any truths and I wasn’t searching for truths. We heard yesterday about how people discovered the book and what their experiences with it have been, and the similarities with them all was the underlying desire to know the truth; I already knew, and have known since before I can remember.
I know this is the way most children of URANTIA Book readers feel. I often talk to my younger brother, Andrew, about the book – and there have been many times I have witnessed him holding debates with his friends about God, the Universe and the purpose of our lives. He knows just as much as I do, and he is just as passionate. I have asked him why he hasn’t read any of the book himself, and his answer is “Why should I Merindi?” He doesn’t have any burning questions that he needs answered… he is quite content just the way he is.
I would like to move on a bit now, as I believe there is something that needs to be mentioned when we are discussing the youth of the Urantia movement, and I’m not entirely sure I am going to be able to explain it sufficiently. But I guess I will try.
“YOUTH” as a word has been defined for many thousands of years by the society in which we live. It is quite often seen in a negative connotation. Have a quick think about it… what words come to your mind when you think about “Youth”. Alcohol? Drugs? Casual sex? The dole? Sleep-ins? Hanging out in shopping malls? Skateboards? Surfboards? Baggy pants that are positioned way too far down the backside? Baseball caps on backward in the middle of the night… and other such ridiculous fashions? I think you know what I am saying. Where in this list can we see words such as responsible, intelligent, mature, ambitious, idealistic, new way of thinking, desirable, laughter, confused, and other such words? They are not the first things that come to mind, are they? Yet these words are often more truthful when we are describing the youth of today, actually when we are describing youth in any era.
If you can picture the word YOUTH, and consider 2 branches coming out of the word. On one of the branches we see negative or detrimental definitions and categorising of youth. Occurrences that come from this are a group of young individuals who have no responsibility, not many morals, and plenty of rebellion. This is the group who are constantly excused by the older generation… simply because “they are young”. “Oh, that’s OK that he failed to say thank-you, or he didn’t show up for his sister’s birthday dinner… he’s only young, he doesn’t know better.” This is not to say that the youth are totally blameless… they can often use this as an excuse for their behaviour also. “Don’t worry Mum, I’ll settle down and get a job someday… I’m only young you know”
The other branch of this is the positive side. Occurrences from this are a group of young individuals who are responsible for their actions, kind to one another, individualistic without the rebellion. They are encouraged by their parents and other members of society to discover who they are and find their place, whilst still being responsible and mature in their behaviour. They are recognised as being different from the older generation, but they are included in the activities of the older group. They are given the freedom to behave as young adults whilst there is still an expectation that they act in a sensible and intelligent manner.
So we have two sides of the definition. By defining youth and segregating them in our society – or in the Urantia movement – we run the risk of encouraging irresponsible and rebellious behaviour. The aim should be to recognise the differences between young and old whilst attempting to integrate the two groups.
Have I explained this properly?
In summary, I want to make the point that as URANTIA Book readers we need to be careful about the way in which we deal with young readers of the book. We need to ensure they are given the opportunity to meet and socialise with other young people whilst still including them in the decision making process and in the various, sometimes complex discussions we have. As parents we should be encouraging our children from a very early age to be questioning their lives and the environment they live in. They need to be treated as individuals and taught to take responsibility for their actions. These children should be nurtured in such a way that they grow up with a comprehensive understanding of the teachings and concepts in The URANTIA Book. This will lead to the satisfaction of knowing that they have nothing to fear. They will be confident in the knowledge that to treat their fellow men with goodness, kindness and love is the only way to live their lives and will provide them with ultimate happiness. Whether they read the book or not is almost irrelevant, although of course it is desired… as long as their lives are lived through love and not fear, they will be OK.
Of course, I would like to end with some quotes from The URANTIA Book. This comes from Paper 84 – Marriage and Family Life, a beautiful paper.
Love of offspring is almost universal and is of distinct survival value. The ancients always sacrificed the mother’s interests for the welfare of the child; an Eskimo mother even yet licks her baby in lieu of washing. But primitive mothers only nourished and cared for their children when very young; like the animals, they discarded them as soon as they grew up. Enduring and continuous human associations have never been founded on biologic affection alone. The animals love their children; man—civilized man—loves his children’s children. The higher the civilization, the greater the joy of parents in the children’s advancement and success; thus the new and higher realization of name pride comes into existence. [Paper 84:7.10, page 940.6]
And further in the same paper,
The olden ideas of family discipline were biologic, growing out of the realization that parents were creators of the child’s being. The advancing ideals of family life are leading to the concept that bringing a child into the world, instead of conferring certain parental rights, entails the supreme responsibility of human existence.
Civilization regards the parents as assuming all duties, the child as having all the rights. Respect of the child for his parents arises, not in knowledge of the obligation implied in parental procreation, but naturally grows as a result of the care, training, and affection which are lovingly displayed in assisting the child to win the battle of life. The true parent is engaged in a continuous service-ministry which the wise child comes to recognize and appreciate. [Paper 84:7.16, page 941.4]