History of Study Groups

Many new students of The Urantia Book today have not had the experience of being a part of the Urantia movement while in its early years of development—when study groups were the main focus of the former Urantia Brotherhood, the original fraternal organization. Throughout the many years of reorganization while our young movement has undergone many growth problems common to organizations such as ours, the focus has tended to shift from creating study groups to growing the membership and trying to make The Urantia Book more visible to the public in the belief that this would—all by itself—change the world.

In searching the history of our movement to find more about study groups, and while reflecting on why we were told by the revelators to create thousands of them, I came across some very interesting articles and letters that were published by the Brotherhood and Urantia Foundation—articles written by readers who believed that study groups were very important.

I do not wish to dwell on the history of The Urantia Book or its associated movement as such, but I would like us to remember the origins and wisdom of the direction for the movement that was established by the early leaders. The Urantia Book elegantly states:

If mind cannot fathom conclusions, if it cannot penetrate to true origins, then will such mind unfailingly postulate conclusions and invent origins that it may have a means of logical thought within the frame of these mind-created postulates. [Paper 115:1.1, page 1260.2]

Study groups have not been growing very well. I believe this is partly because the focus concerning their importance has shifted. There is nothing wrong with other kinds of dissemination activities, but those should not replace the importance of study groups and living the teachings. If the new generation of readers, as well as seasoned ones, were to pay closer attention to the Publication Mandate that was given to the early leaders to help them establish a direction for moving forward with the revelation, they might better understand the important role that study groups play in the execution of our mission.

Following is an extract from an article published by the Urantia Foundation titled “Study Groups Around the World” during the 1970’s when Thomas A. Kendall was President.

“Note that we are told that “Thousands of study groups must be brought into existence.” How many do we now have? By checking carefully, we can only account for approximately 250-300 study groups in the whole world. So here is our great challenge: To build little study groups wherever we are and however we can. “Where three or four are gathered together, there am I” said the Master. We can never force study groups but we can nurture and help when there is a budding desire. There are ten states without any study groups. There’s our challenge!” 

Today, many decades later, according to the last census of study groups around the world, there are no more than 500 groups in existence, and not all of them meet regularly or are growing much, if at all.

Following is another example of the importance of study groups written by Julia K. Fenderson, who hailed from that same era of early leaders. In a detailed article titled “Why a Study Group,” Julia explains the real importance of study groups and why, according to The Urantia Book, we should meet and study as a group. Here is an extract from her article:

Why A Study Group

by Julia Fenderson

Let us pause for a moment and try to gain an “unseen visitor’s” view of our little study group and also to consider objectively some of the important reasons why we assemble to study together. Our “unseen friend” would know some of the problems and some of the values that come to us because we work and study together in a group.

We realize that any one or more of a number of “unseen friends” might be here with us. Student visitors could be here, or it is quite possible that a midwayer or a member of the many groups of seraphim, cherubim and sanobim resident on our planet could drop in. For example, a social architect labors to enhance all sincere social contacts. Isn’t it good to know that we are in a friendly universe with the angels of heaven working to help us? If, perchance, one was here, what would he see? Ref. Pages 1241, 1255, 430, 432, 438

He would see an extremely varied and heterogeneous group of plodding and sincere mortals—mortals way down at the bottom rung of the long ladder which evolutionary earthly animal origin beings must take, step by step, even to reach the beginning of the inward path to Havona. It is safe to say that no two of us have the same background or occupation. Our interests and hobbies vary so much that it is doubtful if we would ever have met, except for the blue book. But we have the strongest of common bonds which unite us—we are all fellow searchers for TRUTH. Our common deep interest in the big blue book testifies to that.

Learning and Working Together

Sometimes, it is a great temptation to reason that perhaps we could accomplish more by reading and studying alone at home and I believe that sooner or later everyone faces this question. Often in earlier days I thought that if I added up all the time traveling to and from meetings and the social times there, perhaps it would be better if I studied and read the Book at home, especially when one is so limited in precious time to study and read. But the Book tells us otherwise. All through its pages we are admonished to serve and to work with others. Listen to Rodan of Alexandria.

Isolation tends to exhaust the energy charge of the soul. Association with one’s fellows is essential to the renewal of the zest for life and is indispensable to the maintenance of the courage to fight those battles consequent upon the ascent to the higher levels of human living. Friendship enhances the joys and glorifies the triumphs of life… By intelligent symbols man is able to quicken and enlarge the appreciative capacities of his friends. One of the crowning glories of human friendship is this power and possibility of the mutual stimulation of the imagination. Great spiritual power is inherent in the consciousness of wholehearted devotion to a common cause, mutual loyalty to a cosmic Deity.  [p.1776.2]

Our Group Goal— Searching for God

What is our true purpose in meeting together? What are we really doing? Though we have many contributory goals, that main purpose is a statement or composite of our individual goals. We are searching for final values and for God. As Bill Sadler so often pointed out in the seminars and Marian Rowley stated in her paper, the study of the book is second. The truths it contains are important—they are the “everlasting truths.” Jesus told us that our main purpose is to reveal God to man as his Father. Listen to this:

The Master sought to impress upon all teachers of the gospel of the kingdom that their only business was to reveal God to the individual man as his Father—to lead this individual man to become son-conscious; then to present this same man to God as his faith son. [p.1593:6]

In this search for final values we can help each other. Rodan of Alexandria tells us so beautifully that in the union of souls we can mobilize wisdom by uniting our views. 

Every human being sooner or later acquires a certain concept of this world and a certain vision of the next. Now it is possible, through personality association, to unite these views of temporal existence and eternal prospects. Thus does the mind of one augment its spiritual values by gaining much of the insight of the other. In this way men enrich the soul by pooling their respective spiritual possessions. Likewise, in the same way, man is enabled to avoid that ever-present tendency to fall victim to distortion of vision, prejudice of viewpoint, and narrowness of judgment. Fear, envy and conceit can be prevented only by intimate contact with other minds. And since wisdom is super-knowledge, it follows that, in the union of wisdom, the social group, small or large, mutually shares all knowledge. [p.1776.1] 

The search for God is the unstinted bestowal of love attended by amazing discoveries of new and greater love to be bestowed. [p.1289.2] 

We see that we cannot search for God and live and work alone. Again, and again Jesus admonishes us that we can only learn and serve by working with our fellow men. Other authors in the Book give us the same type of admonishments. Here is one given by a Mighty Messenger temporarily residing on Urantia: 

All true love is from God and man receives the divine affection as he himself bestows this love upon his fellows. Love is dynamic. It can never be captured; it is alive, free, thrilling and always moving. Man can never take the love of the Father and imprison it within his heart. The Father’s love can become real to mortal men only by passing through that man’s personality as he in turn bestows this love upon his fellows. [p.1289.3]

My goal here is not to reproduce this article in its entirety, but to glean from it the wisdom expressed by readers who were closer than us to the beginning of this movement. Sometimes, in our search for meanings and values about the purpose of our mission the history of our past can give us an enhanced and enlightened vision of the focus we should be placing on study groups.

These historical articles are stored on our website under Study Groups Material that can be found at https://urantia-association.org/hosting-study-groups/historical-study-group-material

May you start a study group or be part of one so that our mission can progress well into the future—a future that we cannot see but that we are all hoping for.

Gaetan G. Charland
Chair, Study Groups Committee
Urantia Association International