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

July 30, 1972 - What is "a functioning Local Spiritual Assembly"?

In reply to your letter of July 14th asking guidance as to what is a functioning Local Spiritual Assembly, we offer you the following comments:

Local Spiritual Assemblies are at the present newly-born institutions, struggling for the most part to establish themselves both in the Bahá'í community and in the world. They are as yet only embryos of the majestic institutions ordained by Bahá'u'lláh in His Writings This is also true of National Spiritual Assemblies. In the following passage written by the Secretary of the Guardian on his behalf this point is elucidated:

The Bahá'í Administration is only the first shaping of what in future will come to be the social life and laws of community living. As yet the believers are only just beginning to grasp and practise it properly. So we must have patience if at times it seems a little self-conscious and rigid in its workings. It is because we are learning something very difficult but very wonderful -- how to live together as a community of Bahá'ís, according to the glorious teachings."

July 30, 1972 – LSA must “uphold the standard of justice”, and “strive to evince the equalities of leadership”

In all cases submitted for its consideration the Assembly must uphold the standard of justice in delivering its verdict, and in all its dealings with the community and the outside world, it must strive to evince the equalities of leadership. The following quotation from a letter of the Guardian summarizes in simple terms the immediate goal every Assembly should set for itself in its efforts to pursue the exalted standard of perfection inculcated in our writings:

The first quality for leadership both among individuals and Assemblies is the capacity to use the energy and competence that exists in the rank and file of its followers. Otherwise the more competent members of the groups will go at a tangent and try to find elsewhere a field of work and where they could use their energy.

Shoghi Effendi hopes that the Assemblies will do their utmost in planning such teaching activities that every single soul will be kept busy'. (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, dated August 30, 1930) 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated July 30, 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia; compilation: Lights of Guidance)

July 19, 1972: Parental marriage consent

You will note that the aspect of protecting the child from making the wrong decision is not mentioned in any . . . quotations as a reason for the law, [concerning parental consent] although it may well play a part in the parents' decision as they have the obligation to consider the welfare and happiness of their children at all times. However limited our understanding of this and other laws given us by Bahá'u'lláh, we are assured that the divine blessings await those who place their reliance in Him and obey His commandments. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated July 19, 1972 , to two believers; Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

July 12, 1972: Payment of Huququ’llah

Payment of Huququ'lláh has not yet been applied to the western world. It will undoubtedly be universal at some future time but at present the believers in the West are able to discharge their material obligations to the Cause by contribution to the Funds. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 12 July 1972; compilation on ‘Huququ’llah, The Right of God’, prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice)

July 4, 1972: Breaking a tie vote in LSA election

Regarding your question about the breaking of tie votes, a balloting to break such a tie vote for members of a Spiritual Assembly may be held after the first day of Ridvan if necessary, but obviously the day of balloting should not be delayed too long. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated July 4, 1972, to a National Spiritual Assembly; Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

June 20, 1972: Horse Racing, Betting and Raffles

Although we have not found any text which forbids the owning of race horses, horse racing as a means of winning the prize money and betting at race courses, we quote the translation of a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on horse racing:

“Betting on horse racing is a pernicious disease. It hath been seen in Europe what distress this hath caused. Thousands have become afflicted and distraught. The friends of God must engage in work which is lawful and attracteth blessings, so that God's aid and bounty may always surround them.” (Translated from the Persian)

We do not feel...that it is appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through raffles." 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated June 20, 1972 to a National Spiritual Assembly,: Extracts Concerning Gambling, Lotteries and Raffles, a compilation of the Universal House of Justice; compilations: Lights of Guidance)

June 15, 1972: “land from the government to be used as a Temple site” – “not possible”

It is not possible to accept a free grant of land from the government to be used as a Temple site. The principle of not accepting gifts from non-Bahá'ís for strictly Bahá'í purposes applies to receiving free grants of land from non-Bahá'ís, whether individuals, institutions, or governments. There is no objection, however, to accepting free plots of land from the government or civic authorities if such plots are used for Bahá'í cemeteries or such institutions that are charitable or humanitarian in nature, such as schools. 
- The Universal House of justice  (From a letter dated June 15, 1972; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

May 24, 1972: Efforts at reconciliation during the Year of Waiting

…it is highly desirable that further efforts at reconciliation should be made, [during the Year of Waiting] but if no reconciliation is attained, the divorce may be realized. The Assembly has no authority to withhold the divorce on the ground that one party has made no real effort toward reconciliation." 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated May 24, 1972, to a National Spiritual Assembly; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

May 24, 1972: Setting the date for the beginning of the Year of Waiting

If no reconciliation is possible, and actual repugnance is found to exist between the parties, then the Assembly may record a date which is the beginning of the year of waiting. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated May 24, 1972 to a National Spiritual Assembly; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

May 24, 1972: Baha’i divorce

In the strict legal sense there are no "grounds" for a Bahá'í divorce. No question of misbehavior of either party is involved and the only condition under which a Bahá'í divorce may be considered is the irreconcilable antipathy of the parties. Thus it is not sufficient that one or both of the parties has asked that the date for the beginning of the year of waiting be fixed; the Assembly must find the condition of irreconcilable antipathy to exist before the date can be fixed. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated May 24, 1972 to a National Spiritual Assembly; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

May 4, 1972: Choice of headstone on graves and inscription

Normally the building of structures or headstones on graves should be left to the family of deceased, and all expenses should be covered by them. The use of most great name or the ringstone symbol on gravestone is not appropriate.

In a letter dated September 17, 1971 to an individual believer we wrote the following: "Concerning the question you ask in your postscript, there is no specific ruling regarding the type of headstone that may be used at a grave site. However, regarding the inscription on a headstone, the beloved Guardian asked the believers not to use any form of the greatest name but a nine pointed star may be used. Or, you may wish to have an appropriate text from the sacred writings inscribed on the headstone. The position of the body in the grave should be with the feet pointing toward the Qiblih, which is Bahji in 'Akká'." 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated May 4, 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Uganda; compilations: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

April 27, 1972: Restoration of Administrative rights without prior Baha’i marriage ceremony

In cases involving only the civil ceremony, voting rights may be restored if the Assembly feels that the believers are truly repentant and wish to comply with the Bahá'í law previously broken. The civil marriage ceremony itself is not contrary to Bahá'í law, and therefore the dissolution of the civil marriage is not required if the parents gave their consent. If prior consent of the parents was not obtained, the Bahá'í ceremony may still take place if the parents give their consent to the marriage and the Assembly is satisfied that the consent has been genuinely and freely given and is not conditioned by the fact that the parties have already had a civil ceremony. In such cases the Assembly would restore voting rights immediately before the Bahá'í ceremony on condition that it be performed. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated April 27, 1972, to a National Spiritual Assembly; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

April 24, 1972 - No objection to a Bahá'í being elected as a neighborhood captain serving on a neighborhood council provided…

There is no objection to a Bahá'í being elected a Barrio Captain or serving on a Barrio Council provided:

1. He is not required to become a member of a political party.
2. Serve as a Barrio Captain or as a member of the Barrio Council Captain does not involve him in partisan politics.
3. That he does not campaign for election of office. There is no objection to allowing one's name to be placed in nomination if required by law. If nominations are not obligatory and the voter is allowed to write on the ballot paper and vote for the names of those he wishes to be elected, this procedure should be followed by the Bahá'ís.

It would be preferable, of course, if the election of members of a Barrio Council and Barrio Captains should be strictly in accordance with Bahá'í principles. We would appreciate knowing whether this can be done in... or whether it may be possible to amend the laws so that this procedure can be adopted in villages where the population is entirely or predominantly Bahá'ís. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated April 24, 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Philippines, ; compilation: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

March 20, 1972 – “permissible for the pioneer family to keep a weapon in the house”

We have your letter of March 2, 1972 asking if ... a pioneer couple living in a remote area lacking police protection may have a weapon in their possession for defending themselves as thieves have broken into their house twice and robbed them.

A hitherto untranslated Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá points out that in the case of attack by robbers and highwaymen, a Bahá'í should not surrender himself, but should try, as far as circumstances permit, to defend himself, and later on lodge a complaint with the government authorities. A statement in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian indicates that in an emergency when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to a Bahá'í is justified in defending his life. Although we have advised certain National Assemblies in countries facing increasing civil disorder the protection of their families, we feel that in the circumstances you have outlined in your letter it would be permissible for the pioneer family to keep a weapon in the house, provided the law permits. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated March 20, 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Honduras, ; compilations: ‘Lights of Guidance’)

March 20, 1972: The “use of the Greatest Name, the names of the Manifestations of God or the names of the Central Figures of our Faith in the lyrics of music”

We have found nothing in the text forbidding the use of the Greatest Name, the names of the Manifestations of God or the names of the Central Figures of our Faith in the lyrics of music. However, we feel that when they are used they should be used with reverence and respect, both in the manner in which they are incorporated in the lyrics and in the manner of representation. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated March 20, 1972; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

March 15, 1972 – Smoking in relation to the fast

In one of His Tablets, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, after stating that fasting consists of abstinence from food and drink, further indicates that smoking is a form of "drink." In Arabic the verb "drink" applies equally to smoking.

In the East, therefore, the friends abstain from smoking during the hours of fasting, and friends from the East living in the West do likewise. But, as stated in our letter to the National Assembly of New Zealand, this application of the divine law has not been extended to the friends in the West for the present, and therefore it should not be made an issue. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (Letter dated March 15, 1972, to an individual believer; Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities, NSA of USA, 1998 edition)

March 2, 1972 - Huququ'lláh is now offered through the Universal House of Justice

'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His Tablets has stated: "Disposition of the Huquq, wholly or partly, is permissible, but this should be done by permission of the authority in the Cause to whom all must turn." The provision in His Will and Testament that the Huququ'lláh "is to be offered through the guardian of the Cause of God..." is clearly in accord with this principle. In another Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá referred to the Universal House of Justice as "the authority to whom all must turn" and it is clear that in the absence of the Guardian it is the supreme and central institution of the Cause. Moreover, before 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh had revealed the following: "There is a prescribed ruling for the Huququ'lláh. After the House of Justice hath come into being the law thereof will be made manifest, in conformity with the Will of God." In accordance with these explicit texts it is clearly within the jurisdiction of the Universal House of Justice to decide about the receipt and disbursement of Huququ'lláh at the present time. 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated 2 March 1972 to the Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land; The Compilation of Compilations vol. I)

March 1, 1972 – Declaration of young people under 18

Concerning the declaration of young people under the age of 18, ... we can accept a child of the age of 15 and over as a Bahá'í even if his parents do not consent and this remains true even though according to the law of Finland they cannot be officially transferred to the Bahá'í register. You should not, therefore, exclude such believers from the Nineteen Day Feasts. However, although such believers should not be swayed from their belief by their parents' objections, they should, in view of the stress that the Teachings place upon the respect due to parents and in view of the law in Finland, obey their parents as far as taking part in Bahá'í activities is concerned. Their aim should be to gradually awaken in their parents' hearts the same love for Bahá'u'lláh that has fired their own and not to antagonize their parents needlessly or contribute in any way to disharmony in their families at this crucial point in their development. 
- The Universal House of Justice (From a letter dated 1 March 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Finland; The Compilation of Compilations vol. I)

February 9, 1972 - Local Assemblies cannot be formed in prisons

... the Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land have shared with us a portion of the February 3rd letter of... referring to teaching in the prison in ...and to the formation of Local Assemblies in cell blocks, While this teaching work is commendable those who accept Bahá'u'lláh under these conditions cannot undertake administrative responsibilities, nor can Local Assemblies be formed in prisons. However, they may observe Nineteen Day Feasts, Bahá'í Holy Days, and other Bahá'í events. When they return to their own communities they may participate in administrative affairs as well." 
- The Universal House of Justice  (From a letter dated February 9, 1972 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, : Extract from a letter written to another National Spiritual Assembly, June 11, 1964; compilations: ‘Lights of Guidance’)