…answers to questions submitted by individual believers and institutions – posted in chronological order

26 February 1973: Huququ’llah – “obedience to this Law is a matter of conscience”

…The devoted believer who is privileged to pay "the Right of God", far from seeking excuses for evading this spiritual obligation, will do his utmost to meet it. On the other hand, inasmuch as obedience to this Law is a matter of conscience, and payment of Huqúqu'lláh is a voluntary act, it would not be seemly to go beyond informing the Persian friends of their spiritual obligation, and leaving to them to decide what they wish to do about it.

The same principle applies to those friends who spend lavishly on their families, who purchase or build residences and furnish them far in excess of their needs, and rationalize these expenditures in their desire to avoid payment of Huqúqu'lláh. Likewise those friends who marry non-Persians and reside in Europe or other countries should not be pressed, but informed and left to decide for themselves.
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 26 February 1973; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, Huququ’llah)

15 February 1973: “…although divorce is permitted in Bahá'í Law, it is nevertheless condemned…”

It is, of course, important for the friends to realize that although divorce is permitted in Bahá'í Law, it is nevertheless condemned, and great efforts should be made to avoid it. It is always the hope that, during the year of patience, affection between the couple will recur and that divorce will not be necessary. Therefore, although normal social relationship between each of the partners and members of both sexes is permissible, it is quite contrary to the spirit of the teachings for either party to be courting a new partner during the year of waiting. This should be made clear to the couple and they should be exhorted to conduct themselves as Bahá'ís. However, this is not an area in which the Assembly should resort to sanctions if either or both of the pair disregard this principle. Naturally, if one of the parties conducts himself or herself in a way that is blatantly or flagrantly immoral the matter should be handled as any other similar case would be, but from your cables we understand that this is not the situation in the case at present before you. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter to a National Spiritual Assembly, February 15, 1973; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

6 February 1973: Bahá'í psychologists will “make great strides in the development” of the science of psychology

You are already a qualified practitioner in your field, and no doubt you give advice on the basis of what you have learned from study and experience – a whole fabric of concepts about the human mind, its growth, development and proper functioning, which you have learned and evolved without reference to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Now, as a Bahá'í, you know that what Bahá'u'lláh teaches about the purpose of human life, the nature of the human being and the proper conduct of human lives, is divinely revealed and therefore true. However, it will inevitably take time for you not only to study the Bahá'í teachings so that you clearly understand them, but also to work out how they modify your professional concepts. This is, of course, not an unusual predicament for a scientist. How often in the course of research is a factor discovered which requires a revolution in thinking over a wide field of human endeavour. You must be guided in each case by your own professional knowledge and judgement as illuminated by your growing knowledge of the Bahá'í teachings; undoubtedly you will find that your own understanding of the human problems dealt with in your work will change and develop and you will see new and improved ways of helping the people who come to you. Psychology is still a very young and inexact science, and as the years go by Bahá'í psychologists, who know from the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh the true pattern of human life, will be able to make great strides in the development of this science, and will help profoundly in the alleviation of human suffering. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a message dated 6 February 1973, published in "Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973" (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1976)

6 February 1973: Marriage “is not the central purpose of life”

It should, moreover, be born in mind that although to be married is highly desirable, and Bahá'u'lláh has strongly recommended it, it is not the central purpose of life. If a person has to wait a considerable period before finding a spouse, or if ultimately, he or she must remain single, it does not mean that he or she is thereby unable to fulfill his or her life's purpose. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 6 February 1973 to an individual believer; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973’)

6 February 1973: Obeying Baha’i laws will “strengthen our own characters” and “influence those around us”

To give one very obvious example: the Bahá'í law requiring consent of parents to marriage. All too often nowadays such consent is withheld by non-Bahá'í parents for reasons of bigotry or racial prejudice; yet we have seen again and again the profound effect on those very parents of the firmness of the children in the Bahá'í law, to the extent that not only is the consent ultimately given in many cases, but the character of the parents can be affected and their relationship with their child greatly strengthened.

Thus, by upholding Bahá'í law in the face of all difficulties we not only strengthen our own characters but influence those around us. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter to an individual believer, excerpts from letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973’)

6 February 1973: Singing or chanting prayers in unison

We have your letter of 22 January, 1973 asking whether it is proper for choirs or groups to sing or chant prayers in unison.

In answering a similar from the National Spiritual Assembly of Uganda and Central Africa about congregation singing in services at the House of Worship we said:

“Singing by a congregation present at a service in the House of Worship should not be confused with congregational prayer prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh for the dead...

“Regarding singing in the Temple, we must bear in mind the reference made by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to the need for the person who enters the Temple to sit silent to the chanting of the verses of God...

“In connection with the desire of the Africans to sing, this aptitude in them should be encouraged. The Guardian elucidated this principle in letter written on his behalf by his secretary: 'Shoghi Effendi would urge that choir singing by men, women and children be encouraged in the Auditorium, and that rigidity in the Bahá'í service be scrupulously avoided.’(Bahá'í News, September, 1931)” 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, February 6, 1973; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

6 February 1973: Setting prayers to music

It is entirely proper to set prayers to music, and the friends are free to sing prayers in unison. Indeed, assuming that the music is appropriate and that the believers do not make a ritual out of it, it is highly praiseworthy for choirs to sing appropriate verses revealed by Bahá'u'lláh and the Master...

We would assume also that the friends will always keep in mind that whether read, chanted or sung, prayers should be uttered with proper sense of reverence." 
- The Universal House of Justice (From a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, February 6, 1973; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

6 February 1973: The “purpose of this life is to prepare the soul for the next”

In considering the effect of obedience to the laws on individual lives, one must remember that the purpose of this life is to prepare the soul for the next. Here one must learn to control and direct one's animal impulses, not to be a slave to them. Life in this world is a succession of tests and achievements, of falling short and of making new spiritual advances. Sometimes the course may seem very hard, but one can witness, again and again, that the soul who steadfastly obeys the Law of Bahá'u'lláh, however hard it may seem, grows spiritually, while the one who compromises with the law for the sake of his own apparent happiness is seen to have been following a chimera: he does not attain the happiness he sought, he retards his spiritual advance and often brings new problems upon himself. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter to an individual believer, excerpts from letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973; compilations: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

6 February 1973: “…marriage is by no means an obligation”

...Of course, under normal circumstances, every person should consider it his moral duty to marry. And this is what Bahá'u'lláh has encouraged the believers to do. But marriage is by no means an obligation. In the last resort it is for the individual to decide whether he wishes to lead a family life or live in a state of celibacy. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter to an individual believer, May 3, 1936; cited by the Universal House of Justice, in a letter to an individual believer, February 6, 1973: ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973’; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

6 February 1973: Sexual intercourse “permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife…”

The Bahá'í teaching on sexual intercourse is very clear. It is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife ... 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated February 6, 1973 to all National Spiritual Assemblies; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

6 February 1973: “Just as there are laws governing our physical lives… there are laws governing our spiritual lives.”

Just as there are laws governing our physical lives, requiring that we must supply our bodies with certain foods, maintain them within a certain range of temperatures, and so forth, if we wish to avoid physical disabilities, so also there are laws governing our spiritual lives. These laws are revealed to mankind in each age by Manifestation of God, and obedience to them is of vital importance if each human being, and mankind in general, is to develop properly and harmoniously. Moreover, these various aspects are interdependent. If an individual violates the spiritual laws for his own development he will cause injury not only to himself but to the society in which he lives. Similarly, the condition of society has a direct effect on the individuals who must live within it. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer; excerpts to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February, 1973: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973’; Compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

29 January 1973: Games & raffles – inappropriate medium to raise funds for the Faith

As to participation in Bingo games by a Local Spiritual Assembly with the intention of contributing to the Fund, we do not feel it is appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through games of chance or raffles. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, January 29, 1973; Compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

21 January 1973: Voting procedure

The same procedure in voting should be followed, namely, the ballot should be placed and sealed in an unmarked inner envelop and that envelop placed in an outer envelope marked with the name of the voter... 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, January 21, 1973; compilations: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

21 January 1973: Huququ’llah – paying the amount due on one’s inheritance

We are deeply touched by your loving letter of 27 December, 1972 expressing the wish to follow the law of Huqúqu'lláh with respect to your inheritance from your mother.

Although, as you correctly state, this Law is not at present applicable to the friends in the West, any believer is free to observe it if he wishes.

This Law of the Aqdas stipulates that nineteen per cent of one's capital is payable as Huqúqu'lláh when such capital has reached an amount of at least "nineteen mithqáls in gold".... In determining the amount a believer should pay, he should first deduct any debts and expenses he may have, and pay nineteen per cent of the remainder of his capital if it is equal to at least nineteen mithqáls of gold.

If you decide that you wish to observe this Law of the Aqdas at the present time, you should determine the total value of your inheritance in cash and other assets less any expenses or debts you may have, and consider the circumstances under which you may be able to pay Huqúqu'lláh on the net value of your inheritance. The time and conditions of payment are left to each individual.

21 January 1973: A warm social activity before the start of a Nineteen Day Feast

We can understand the desire of some of the friends to provide a warm welcome at the Feasts to newly declared believers and particularly youth, and we see no objection to the Assembly giving a reception before the actual Feast to achieve this purpose. As the Feast is frequently held in the evening, the Assembly might consider it desirable to arrange for the believers to have a light evening meal together before the Feast is held or it could, for example, arrange for social activities of an appropriate kind while the friends are gathering prior to the actual commencement of the Nineteen Day Feast. This should not, however, take the place of the social part of the Feast itself. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 1 January 1973, to the Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. I, The Nineteen Day Feast)

17 January 1973: Influence of the Faith on arts

While it is quite true that individual artists such as Mark Tobey and others have undoubtedly been inspired and influenced by their love for the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, it is far too early in the Bahá'í Dispensation to talk about the influence of the Faith on the arts in general. Indeed the beloved Guardian himself has pointed out that there is, as yet, no such thing as Bahá'í art although there is no doubt from statements in the writings that a wonderful efflorescence of new and beautiful arts may be anticipated in the future. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 17 January 1973 to a National Spiritual Assembly; The Compilation of Compilations, vol. III, The Importance of Arts in Promoting the Faith)

12 January 1973: “homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled”

A number of sexual problems, such as homosexuality and trans-sexuality can well have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be made to the best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Bahá'u'lláh that homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a distortion of his or her nature which should be controlled and overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires. The exercise of self-control in this, as in so very many other aspects of life, has a beneficial effect on the progress of the soul. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that although to be, married is highly desirable, and Bahá'u'lláh has strongly recommended it, it is not the central purpose of life. If a person has to wait a considerable period before finding a spouse, or if ultimately, he or she must remain single, it does not mean that he or she is thereby unable to fulfil his or her life's purpose." 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 12, 1973; cited in Messages from The Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

31 December 1972: Believer should ensure that he will be buried according to Bahá'í law

The friends should certainly be informed of the Bahá'í laws relating to burial and encouraged to do all they can to ensure after their passing they are buried according to Bahá'í law. It is not always possible to ensure this by stating it in a will and assemblies should consult upon the matter, taking legal advice if necessary, and make the best arrangements possible. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 31, 1972; compilations, ‘Lights of Guidance’)

21 December 1972: Prohibition on drinking

Under no circumstances should Bahá'ís drink. It is unambiguously forbidden in the Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh, that there is no excuse for them even touching it in the form of a toast, or in a burning plum pudding; in fact, in any way. 
- Shoghi Effendi  (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 3, 1957: Cited in a letter from the Universal House of Justice to the National Assembly of Ecuador, December 21, 1972; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)