Four Letters from the National Spiritual Assembly on Teaching and the Regeneration of the Inner Life of the Bahá’í Community and the Life of Nation
On December 25, 2018, the eightieth anniversary of Shoghi Effendi’s completion of a letter to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada published as The Advent of Divine Justice, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States honored the American Baha’i community with a letter marking the anniversary. The letter is called “On the 80th Anniversary of The Advent of Divine Justice.” (Link to audio recording on SoundCloud.)
In its cover letter, the National Assembly wrote that
The letter can also be regarded as the fourth of four major letters from . . . [it] thus far focusing on a theme central to our letter of February 25 of last year—the paramount matter of teaching the Faith and its inseparability from the “Double Crusade” the bellowed Guardian summoned us to.
It is impossible on one or two readings of the four-page letter to summarize its contents. But one can note that the Assembly speaks about the “spirit of loving encouragement” with which Shoghi Effendi suffuses The Advent of Divine Justice. The National Assembly’s letter discusses, among other things, the American Bahá’ís call to
- “their double crusade, first to regenerate the inward life of their own community, and next to assail the long-standing evils that have entrenched themselves in the life of their nation”.
- Their “active engagement with the Creative Word” so that “we and those who join with us gain capacity to reflect the full splendor of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings” and share the “spiritual path” in “ever-widening, ever-deepening relationships.”
- The spiritual prerequisites of success: “A high sense of moral rectitude in their social and administrative activities, absolute chastity in their individual lives, and complete freedom from prejudice in their dealings with people of a different race, class, creed, or color.”
- A vast increase in individual and collective teaching activity.
- An “intensity” of efforts “to advance” the work “commensurate with the urgency of the times.”
By the end of the letter, one can also note the Assembly’s “abiding love,” “unceasing prayers,” and “utmost confidence in the capacity of this community to achieve the high destiny to which it has been called.”
As with its first three letters, the National Assembly, “hopes” that its letter “will be studied with great care individually and will become a focus for frequent small group an community reflections.”
The National Spiritual Assembly’s First Letter, February 2017. The National Spiritual Assembly’s first letter, in its now quartet of letters, was dated February 25, 2017. Known as “America and the Five Year Pan,” the letter begins:
For the past several months, this Assembly has been deeply engaged in reflecting on both the condition of the society in which we live and serve and the profound responsibility we all bear to present the unifying teachings of Bahá’u’lláh to our fellow-citizens. The process has affirmed both the critical nature of this moment and the necessity of bold action to address the historic opportunity it presents.
The theme of the letter addresses “the current state of affairs in our nation and the opportunities it presents, through various means, to advance the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh on the oneness of humanity. The Assembly also noted that the letter contains its “thoughts on the current troubling state of affairs in our country and on the most effective response as Bahá’ís.”
As with the fourth letter, the National Assembly “hopes” that its letter “will be studied with great care individually and will become a focus for frequent small group and community reflections.”
The National Spiritual Assembly’s Second Letter, December 2017. The National Spiritual Assembly’s second letter arrived about ten months after the first one—on December 8, 2017. Called “The Spirit of Teaching,” and arriving just after the bicentenary commemoration of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the letter focused on “the paramount matter of teaching the Faith.” The Assembly was blunt about following up with teaching:
Wonderful as those days were, their ultimate success will not be judged by what we did, but by what we now do. This year by no means represented the zenith of our potential as promulgators of this Cause. Rather, it fortified us for bolder and more effective teaching efforts in the years ahead. Our ardent prayer is that the spirit of teaching will so suffuse our individual and collective lives as to make of us a continually growing and invincible force for the creation of a society founded on principles of divine justice.
As with the first and fourth letters, the National Assembly wrote that it hopes its letter “will be studied with great care individually and will become a focus for frequent small group and community reflections.” Do we see a pattern here?
The National Spiritual Assembly’s Third Letter, January 2018. The National Assembly’s third letter arrived two months later—January 31, 2018. Called “Teaching and the Quest for Justice,” the Assembly wrote that the letter focused “on a theme central” to its letter of February 25, 2017: “the paramount matter of teaching the Faith and its inseparability from humanity’s continuing quest for justice.” (Link to audio recording on SoundCloud.) This third letter opened with this assessment:
In our February 25 letter to you last year, we illustrated how the framework of the Five Year Plan provides the most effective means to steadily and inevitably eradicate the ills that afflict our nation―racial prejudice not least among them. In our letter of December 8, we called on the friends everywhere to build on the momentum generated by their celebrations of the bicentenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth to achieve unprecedented levels of teaching effort. At this juncture, we wish to once again address the importance of understanding our teaching work and the quest for justice as interrelated elements of a single all-encompassing process set in motion by the Blessed Beauty, to be realized through our prosecution of the successive Plans formulated by the Universal House of Justice.
Once again the National Assembly asked for diligent study. It hoped that its letter “will be studied with great care individually and will become a focus for frequent small group and community reflections.” Yes, there is a constant in the National Spiritual Assembly’s four letters.
Once again, the Assembly ended on an encouraging note by quoting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
The Faith of the Blessed Beauty is summoning mankind to safety and love, to amity and peace; it hath raised up its tabernacle on the heights of the earth, and directeth its call to all nations. Wherefore, O ye who are God’s lovers, know ye the value of this precious Faith, obey its teachings, walk in this road that is drawn straight, and show ye this way to the people. Lift up your voices and sing out the song of the Kingdom. Spread far and wide the precepts and counsels of the loving Lord, so that this world will change into another world, and this darksome earth will be flooded with light, and the dead body of mankind will arise and live; so that every soul will ask for immortality, through the holy breaths of God.
Bahá’u’lláh has given us a vision. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has nourished and educated the American Bahá’í community. Shogh Effendi has clarified the elements of successful teaching. The National Spiritual of the Bahá’ís of the United States has provided to its “Beloved Friends and Co-workers” guidance for our troubled times. The action—teaching and our double crusade—is in our hands.