Department of the Secretariat
30 March 1987
Mr. Rob Stauffer
Dear Bahá’í Friend,
Your letter of 16 December 1986 was referred by the Universal House of Justice to the Research Department, which has prepared responses to your first and third questions. A copy of the Department’s memorandum is enclosed. In reply to your second question, we are instructed by the House of Justice to convey the following comments.
No reply has been found to the letter written by the Spiritual Assembly of Seattle to the Guardian in the 1930s, to which you refer. It would sees, however, from the general tenor of the many letters written by the beloved Guardian on the matter of deprivation of voting rights, that, in principle at least, there are no exceptions to the guidance given in the letter quoted on pp. 51-52 of "Messages to Canada", namely:
"...before anyone is deprived of their voting rights, they should be consulted with and lovingly admonished at first, given repeated warnings if they do not mend their immoral ways, or whatever other extremely serious misdemeanor they are committing, and finally, after these repeated warnings, be deprived of their voting rights."
There are, however, many different ways In which this is applied, depending upon the nature of the offence and the situation in each case.
For example, when there is an isolated, but serious offence, such as that of a Bahá’í woman who indulges in one act of Immorality as a result of which she gives birth to a child out of wedlock, this is no grounds for the removal of administrative rights. But the Assembly, when it learns of the situation should certainly arrange for the believer to be met and consulted with, to assist her in her difficulties, to ascertain her attitude to the situation. If she has no regret for the offence and indicates that she feels free to repeat it in future, she will need to be educated In the teachings, counselled and, if she does not change her attitude, to be warned that a continuation of such actions would cause forfeiture of her administrative rights. If, however, she is contrite and is determined to lead a moral life henceforth there would be no question of sanctions. The same course would be followed with the man involved if he were a Bahá’í.
Another example would involve, not a single offence, but a continuing course of behaviour, such as flagrant and continuing violation of the law prohibiting the drinking of alcohol, or of involvement in political activities In such situations the Assembly should explain the law to the believer, urge him to obey it, encourage and assist him and warn him if necessary. If the response is favourable there would, again, be no need to deprive him of his administrative rights but, if the believer is obdurate or continues in his course of misbehaviour, he should, according to the circumstances of each case be warned and warned again, with increasing severity and, if this produces no amelioration, he would have to lose his administrative rights.
A third example involves the taking of a definite step which violates a clear law with which the believer is familiar. Offences against the Bahá’í law of marriage mostly fall in this category. For example, if a believer enters into the married state (e.g. by having a civil wedding) without having a Bahá’í wedding, he must be instructed to immediately rectify the fault. This can often be achieved by having a Bahá’í ceremony without delay; however, there may well be obstacles to the marriage, such as a parent's refusal to give consent. If this consent is not forthcoming, enabling a Bahá’í ceremony to be held, the only solution is to have a divorce, and, pending this, the offender would have to be deprived of his administrative rights. This is not the place to go into all the complications that can arise in connection with breach of Bahá’í marriage law, but this example will suffice to illustrate the point that in such cases the deprivation of rights, while not being automatic, usually follows the offence more swiftly than in other kinds of offence.
With loving Bahá’í greetings,
M E M O R A N D U M
For Department of the Secretariat
To: The Universal House of Justice
Date: 30 March 1987
From: The Research Department
QUESTIONS FROM MR. ROB STAUFFER
Mr. Rob Stauffer has raised several questions in a letter dated 16 December 1986. These questions have been referred to the Research Department for Study. We offer the following information.
We have not been able to identify any reference to Man! in the letters written by or on behalf of the beloved Guardian.
2. The Magi
The Research Department has identified two references to the Magi in Tablets written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. In one Tablet the Master expresses His hope that the recipient will be like that heavenly star which guided the Magi to Christ. He states in the other that the Magi looked with the eye of truth and were able to discover the star which was an evidence of the birth of Christ. They were thus led to the Son of Truth.
3. The Five-Pointed Star as a Symbol of the Faith
As Mr. Stauffer is no doubt aware, a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual and published in "Bahá’í News" 228 (February 1950) on page 4 states:
Strictly speaking the 5-pointed star is the symbol of our Faith, as used by the Bab and explained by Him.
A reference to the use by the Bab of the five-pointed star is made on page 69 of "God Passes By" (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1974). However, the Research Department has not been able to identify the explanation to which Shoghi Effendi referred as the works of the Bab held at the World Centre are not as yet properly Indexed.
4. Joseph Smith and the Mormons
In addition to the extracts regarding Joseph Smith and the Mormons published on pages 379 and 380 of "Lights of Guidance: A Bahá’í Reference File", comp. Helen Hornby (New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1983), we share the following quotations from letters written on the Guardian's behalf to Individual believers:
Joseph Smith is nowhere mentioned in the Teachings. Some, however, of
the Mormon doctrines are very close in spirit to our own beliefs, and
the Mormons should prove a group veil worth teaching the Faith to.
(28 September 1941)
As there is nothing specific about Joseph Smith in the Teachings,
the Guardian has no statement to make on his position or about the
accuracy of any statements in "The Book of Mormon" regarding American
history or its peoples. This is a matter for historians to pass
(31 May 1946)
Mr. Stauffer may wish to take note of the final sentence in the extract above. In his letters, Shoghi Effendi often advised friends who asked similar questions to refer to experts or authoritative books on that subject. Three extracts from such letters written on the Guardian's behalf are enclosed herewith.
Regarding the Magi, the Bahá’í World Centre Library has recommended the article in the "New Catholic Encyclopedia", vol. 9 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1967), pp. 60-5, as a good theological treatment of the subject. Other sources which provide interesting information are:
"The New Encyclopaedia Britannica", 15th ed., s.v. "agi", vol. 7, p. 671; and s.v. "Zoroastrianism and Parsiism", vol. 29, p. 1079.
"The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church", 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 858.
"The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary" (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1965), pp. 349-50.
"The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church", 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), pp. 620-1.
These sources — particularly the "New Catholic Encyclopedia" — also provide information on Mani and Manichaeism, as does an article by Daniel Keith Conner, "Mani and Manichaeism: A Study in Religious Failure", World Order,
vol. 11, no. 2 (Winter 1976-77), pp. 36-45.
For further Information on Joseph Smith and Mormonism, the Research Department suggests Mr. Stauffer consult:
William P. Collins, 'The Bahá’í Faith and Mormonism: A Preliminary Survey', World Order, vol. 15, nos. 1 * 2 (Fall 1980/Winter 1981), pp. 33-45;
William P. Collins, 'The Bahá’í Faith and Mormonism: Further Reflections', World Order, vol. 17, no. 3 (Spring 1983), pp. 25-33;
and the sources cited therein.
"As regards Confucianism; the Teachings contain no data on this subject, and the Guardian would therefore advise that you refer to authoritative books regarding the history and teachings of this Faith."
(From a letter dated 8 April 1939 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)
"Concerning your questions numbered 1, 2, 3, 6, about the Church and Christianity; as no detailed information is given in the Bahá’í teachings on these matters, the Guardian cannot answer you - this is for historians to prove and clarify."
(From a letter dated 1 April 1946 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)
"We Bahá’ís do not believe in Genesis literally. We know this world was not created in seven days, or six, or eight, but evolved gradually over a period of millions of years, as science has proved. As to where the idea of a seven-day week originated it is certainly very ancient and you should refer to scholars for an answer.
"The Guardian suggests, if you want to be referred to works of reference regarding the early Christian Church, that you ask some university, or large library, to give you the names of suitable books to read."
(From a letter dated 28 October 1949 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer)