Baha'i Administration

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Baha'i Administration

Postby jenniferatemple » Thu Jun 26, 2014 5:48 pm

I served as a member of an LSA for 15 years but it has been quite a few years since I served in that capacity. At that time, we often opened LSA meetings with a brief deepening session using
"The Principals of Baha'i Administration" as well as a few other texts. At that time, something that we seemed to drill into each other was to do with the "status" of people serving on the LSA. We understood (correctly??)that as individuals we had no particular status. It was understood that only the ASSEMBLY had status and outside LSA meetings we were all simply Baha'is carrying out duties as required and as the LSA had assigned. I want to know if this understanding I have is correct. I often see LSA members identifying themselves as such and with an intimation that that makes them more important than other members of a community. I also see the reverse, in that community members hold a special deference to Assembly members. IE: At a gathering of some of the Friends a fellow Baha'i said the LSA should... and looked at an other guest and said, "Well! Your a member, you can arrange to..." This struck me as really incorrect. I said nothing because I was not at all sure that my own experience and understanding was correct. (Sorry to be so long winded) OK, now the question: Where might I look for other specific quotes? I see only a brief passage about "Personalities to be Subordinated".
(Compilations, Principles of Baha'i Administration, p. 58)

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Re: Baha'i Administration

Postby brettz9 » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:47 am

Hi jenniferatemple,

It is definitely the case that Assembly members only have authority as individual members. However, I think a measure of respect for rank is indicated at ... uperiority as long as it is not seen as making them superior to others or allowing them to exploit their positions.

And there are plenty of warnings about this potential:

With reference to your next question concerning the qualifications of the members of the Spiritual Assembly: there is a distinction of fundamental importance which should be always remembered in this connection, and this is between the Spiritual Assembly as an institution, and the persons who compose it. These are by no means supposed to be perfect, nor can they be considered as being inherently superior to the rest of their fellow-believers. It is precisely because they are subject to the same human limitations that characterize the other members of the community that they have to be elected every year. The existence of elections is a sufficient indication that Assembly members, though forming part of an institution that is divine and perfect, are nevertheless themselves imperfect. But this does not necessarily imply that their judgement is defective. For as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has repeatedly emphasized Bahá'í Assemblies are under the guidance and protection of God. The elections, especially when annual, give the community a good opportunity to remedy any defect or imperfection from which the Assembly may suffer as a result of the actions of its members. Thus a safe method has been established whereby the quality of membership in Bahá'í Assemblies can be continually raised and improved. But, as already stated, the institution of the Spiritual Assembly should under no circumstances be identified with, or be estimated merely through, the personal qualifications of the members that compose it.

(From a letter dated 15 November 1935 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to two believers, emphasis added)

"Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority, but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation.

"Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá'í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion and prudence on the one hand and fellowship, candour and courage on the other.

"The duties of those whom the friends have freely and conscientiously elected as their representatives are no less vital and binding than the obligations of those who have chosen them. Their function is not to dictate, but to consult, and consult not only among themselves, but as much as possible with the friends whom they represent. They must regard themselves in no other light but that of chosen instruments for a more efficient and dignified presentation of the Cause of God. They should never be led to suppose that they are the central ornaments of the body of the Cause, intrinsically superior to others in capacity or merit, and sole promoters of its teachings and principles. They should approach their task with extreme humility, and endeavour by their open-mindedness, their high sense of justice and duty, their candour, their modesty, their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity, to win not only the confidence and the genuine support and respect of those whom they should serve, but also their esteem and real affection.

"They must at all times avoid the spirit of exclusiveness, the atmosphere of secrecy, free themselves from a domineering attitude, and banish all forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations. They should, within the limits of wise discretion, take the friends into their confidence, acquaint them with their plans, share with them their problems and anxieties, and seek their advice and counsel...."

(From a letter dated 23 February 1924 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of America, published in "Bahá'í Administration: Selected Messages 1922-1932", pp. 63-64, emphasis added)

"The ones in real authority are known by their humility and self-sacrifice and show no attitude of superiority over the friends. Some time ago a tablet was written stating that none are appointed to any authority to do anything but to serve the Cause as true servants of the friends--and for this no tablet is necessary; such service when true and unselfish, requires no announcement, nor following, nor written document. Let the servant be known by his deeds, by his life! To be approved of God alone should be one's aim."

(Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land answers questions of Dr. Edward C. Getsinger and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time (1905): Star of the West, Vol. VI, No. 6, p. 43)

You may find reference to other resources at

I personally believe that one reason the Counselors and Auxiliary Board members, who are chosen for their learning and fidelity by the institutions, rather than popularity of the believers, are granted a higher rank than Local Spiritual Assemblies (even while they are not authoritative) is because of this tendency of people to look up to their leaders, and the Auxiliary Board tends to focus people back to the Writings rather than authority.

But as the expression goes, people get the leaders they deserve--perhaps if we heed the following advice of the Universal House of Justice (or any of the other advice at ), we will better ensure we are giving due consideration to the reasons we are choosing Assembly members: "While there should be no mention of personalities in connection with Bahá'í elections, it is quite appropriate for believers to discuss the requirements and qualifications for membership in the institution to be elected." (from ).

Best wishes,

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