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How I Found the Urantia Book—Julia Early Fenderson (1939)

[Ellen Montgomery interview, 1980]
IN 1939, after teaching school for ten years in New Mexico, Julia Early found herself in Chicago, a single mother with two young sons and unable to find a teaching job. One Sunday morning she attended services at a Methodist Church and heard the name Dr. William S. Sadler mentioned, not only as a world-famous psychiatrist but as a counselor who had successfully guided a number of people. She said, “I was quite shy but I was also very poor and in despair, so even though it was Sunday, I went out to the church parking lot and called Dr. Sadler from a pay phone.” Dr. Sadler agreed to see Julia the following day. He helped her find a job and gave her some books to read, including The Mind At Mischief, but did not mention anything to her about the Urantia papers.

Julia read every word, and when she went back to see Dr. Sadler on the third floor of 333 Diversey Parkway she questioned him about the case he referred to in the Appendix to The Mind at Mischief. Sadler was evasive but Julia was so persistent that finally, in near exasperation, he said, “Julia, sit down and I’ll tell you the whole story.” He told her about the Urantia papers and she didn’t sleep that night.

Julia said, “I was skeptical. I’d been brought up in a scholarly home. I’d been raised in the Methodist Church and had always had utter faith, but I’d also been taught not to believe that there was only one way to think.” She remembered the old Sioux Indian saying: “Don’t judge anyone until you’ve walked ten miles in his moccasins.” This was nearly sixteen years before the Urantia Book was published.

Julia became an avid student of the papers and a member of the Forum. “The more I examined them the more I came to believe,” she said. The caliber of people who read with her also furthered her belief in the Urantia papers. She described Dr. Sadler as “one of the brainiest men I ever met.”

There was also Sir Hubert Wilkins, an English authority on Arctic exploration. Julia frequently read with him in between the Sunday meetings and she asked him why he believed. “It is their utter consistency from beginning to end,” he said. “No human being could have written these papers with so much consistency of detail . . . there would have been a crack someplace.” Marian Rowley was appointed Julia’s “friendly helper,” someone new readers could talk to about questions, and the two became close friends.

At a Sunday Forum meeting during the winter in the early 1940s Dr. Sadler asked all those who felt committed to the papers and really wanted to work with them, to come up the following Wednesday night. That night was cold and snowy. Exactly seventy members arrived and signed their names in numerical order. Julia was number seventeen. The purpose of the meeting was to sign up for special training and courses of study to better prepare members for the future of the Urantia movement. However, Julia felt that it was was necessary to be cautious about becoming too organized. “Basically,” she said, “The Urantia Book is between the reader and God; it’s an individual thing.”

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Julia circa 1960s

Margaret Stevens, Julia Early circa 1940s

Bill Sadler, Margaret Stevens, Marian Rowley, Julia Early, Martin Early at the 1944 Forum picnic [courtesy Martin Early]