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How I Found the Urantia Book—JEFF KEYS (circa 1966) 

MY CHILDHOOD IDEAS about God were characterized by a sense of wonder—wonder about life, wonder about the stars in the skies. And I wondered about that old guy who lived with Bob and Rita across the street, two doors up, when my parents and a couple of the neighbors would say, “God lives there.” It didn’t take long for me to figure out they were kidding, but you couldn’t help wondering what they were kidding about and where God really did live.

When I was about eight or nine, I received a Bible in church for reciting a few of the Psalms. Over the next couple of years I read most of it, and after Sunday school I would try to corner the pastor and ask him questions. It seemed to me that there was something real about God in the stories of the Bible, yet something was lacking: God seemed closer in my sense of wonder than in the Bible.

Every summer I spent a few weeks with a friend and his parents in a house near the beach. On Sunday mornings, the four of us would sit on the floor and read passages aloud from the Bible and discuss what they meant. That experience made God seem more real to me.

Throughout childhood, I had an avid interest in science and science fiction. At 12 or 13, I read about the theory that life could have originated in a “chemical soup.” This seemed plausible enough and I had to consider that life might have arisen quite on its own. I then became an agnostic.

Each year, my family spent a few weekends at a desert cabin in Yucca Valley, California; it was a beautiful place, especially in spring. Just a few miles away in Landers was a small airport known as Giant Rock, owned by George van Tassel. Van Tassel claimed to have had considerable contact with extraterrestrials who taught him amazing things, such as the principles of time travel and cell rejuvenation. The chance to go over and eat lunch in his diner and check him out was irresistible to a young boy in the ’50s.

Giant Rock covered 5,800 square feet of ground and was seven stories high. Beneath it were cave-like rooms, only one of which was open to the public—an extensive library. It contained primarily books about UFOs; these seemed so at odds with my view of the scientific world that they held no interest. On one occasion, just as my parents were calling for me to leave, I took down a large blue book that seemed different from the others. What I glimpsed in only a few minutes really excited me. It seemed to speak clearly and with authority about the nature of God.

I never went back in that library but I never forgot the experience of feeling assured that it was possible to know something about our Father. Several years after seeing that book, although I didn’t remember its name, I began reading many accounts of religious experience by such authors as Jakob Boehme, George Fox, William Blake, and William James. I also read religious classics such as Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and the Upanishads.

Then, when I was 19, a friend came back from Hawaii excited about a book called the Urantia Book. We looked for it in a few local bookstores but didn’t find it, so he ordered it from the publisher, the Urantia Foundation.

When it arrived, we eagerly began to read it. I knew I had found something I had been looking for all my life. We showed it to friends in Laguna Beach who owned a bookstore and they ordered it. When it came in, I hitchhiked forty miles to buy the first copy in the store. It was several years before I realized that this was, in fact, the same book I had seen so briefly in that library long ago.

Two years later, I wrote to the Foundation, asking if there were other readers in Southern California. The reply came from a wonderful woman named Julia Fenderson in Culver City, the town where I had lived until I was 16. The letter went to my parent’s address, and my mother’s reaction was, “Why is Julia Fenderson writing to you?” It turned out that I had known her fairly well when I was in elementary school. She had been in charge of administering IQ and achievement tests for the Culver City school district. Meeting her again, and sharing this book with many other readers, has changed so much in my life since that time. It continues to speak clearly to me about the fundamental questions of human life.

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