Friday, August 5, 2011

# 27: The Urantia Book Fellowship’s 2011 International conference in Salt Lake City was an uplifting spiritual experience; the outpouring of energy at the end of the Saturday morning session was, well, just wait till I get to that part!  The theme of the conference was “The Revelation in Action, Act Globally / Grow Cosmically.”  The people were friendly and interesting, which I have found to be generally the case at Urantia Book meetings.  I received more warm hugs at that one conference than I get in many a year. The major negative was the last leg of the flight back, from Detroit to Erie PA, which left me saying unkind things about Delta (sorry Tom).

“The great God makes direct contact with mortal man and gives a part of his infinite and eternal and incomprehensible self to live and dwell within him. God has embarked upon the eternal adventure with man. If you yield to the leadings of the spiritual forces in you and around you, you cannot fail to attain the high destiny established by a loving God as the universe goal of his ascendant creatures from the evolutionary worlds of space.”  (Emphasis added)  The Urantia Book (64.3) (5:1.12)

I arrived at the conference early Tuesday afternoon and registered for my room.  Immediately I met Linda from the Bellevue, Washington study group and four of us went exploring downtown, with Linda’s navigational skills we only got lost once (if I had been navigating it would have been worse than that).  The parking garage is underneath a ten-story building that has an observation deck where I took the above photograph.  The Tabernacle is just behind the temple to the left.

We went to the visitor’s center and from there two guides took us through the Tabernacle and grounds.  One building had a series of artworks; the one above shows Jesus at the Temple when he was not quite thirteen.  Everything was beautiful and well ordered.  On Thursday evening we went to the Tabernacle Choir rehearsal in a nearby auditorium.

I attended conference meetings Wednesday through Saturday, there were also meetings on Sunday but I could not make flight arrangements that would allow me to attend those.  Every morning except Friday there was a Plenary Session, which lasted from 8:30 to 11:00.  Each of these started with music and a moment of prayer followed by various presentations.  With the exception of Friday, which was a light day, each afternoon there were about eight different presentations in the first afternoon session and another seven or so in the second afternoon session, plus sessions in the evenings; only a few were repeats.  Frequently it was difficult to choose which to attend.  There were perhaps 20 – 30 attendees at each session I went to.  I understand there were about four hundred at the conference.

Some of the presentations I attended were “Exploring the Context of Michael’s Bestowal” by David Kantor; “The Study Group as Sacred Space: Integrating Mind and Spirit in Social Service” by James Woodward; and “The Hunt for Eden and Atlantis” by Robert Sarmast.  There was an encouraging presentation by Buck and Arlene Weimer, “The Revelation Around the World,” where they told about their travels to many countries giving out books and meeting readers; it is interesting that the revelation seems to be doing better in Catholic countries such as Latin America and Poland.  There was a touching presentation by Earlene Green, “Progress in Black and White.”  She movingly told about growing up in a black family where she was darker skinned than the others and the discrimination she experienced within her family as she grew up.  There was also a presentation by Calvin Len McKee suggesting that The Urantia Book may be the greater revelation promised in the Book of Mormon.

Were there any negatives?  Certainly, some presentations could have been a bit more focused instead of rambling on and some attendees were not happy with the food, but the positives vastly outweighed any negatives.

One promising observation was the large number of energetic young people at the conference; I understand there were about sixty in the youth program.
Friday morning as I was eating breakfast I looked out the windows at the mountains just behind the campus (the conference was held at the University of Utah) and I could hear the mountains calling me, so I took a hike to go exploring.  I found a perch to sit on and view the valley below, trying to imagine what it looked like when the Mormons came over the pass, saw the flat land surrounded by mountains and said “Here we build.”  And build they did!
Saturday morning’s Plenary Session was something special.  The final presentation was about the Creed Project, which is a high school program that teaches facts, how to use those facts in real situations and also teaches values.  At the end of the program each student must develop a personal creed to live by.  Heartening testimonials by former students were read, giving a glimpse of what education could do for our young people.  In the upper balcony above the stage is a full sized pipe organ; after the Creed Project presentation an organist sat at the organ console and started playing a medley of pieces including the organ run in “Phantom of the Opera,” which was politely recognized by the audience.  The organist had previously played a classical piece on the grand piano.  Next he played “Amazing Grace” and a trumpeter at the rear of the auditorium answered; the two instruments talked back and forth until we all got goose bumps.  Next they played “How Great Thou Art,” again with the interplay between trumpet and organ.  This music was so powerful that at the end of it we were all on our feet with our arms in the air, shouting so much that the last few organ notes could not be heard.  There were very few dry eyes in the house; certainly mine weren’t dry and some of us were wiping away tears for several minutes.  Wow!

Science lives by the mathematics of the mind; music expresses the tempo of the emotions. Religion is the spiritual rhythm of the soul in time-space harmony with the higher and eternal melody measurements of Infinity. Religious experience is something in human life which is truly supermathematical.”  The Urantia Book (2080.5) (195:7.20)

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