Baha'i Faith

The Local Spiritual Assembly

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Overview
A Compilation Prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice
Establishment and Station

…The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá, and should it exceed this number it does not matter. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth.…

(Bahá’u’lláh, cited in a letter dated 5 March 1922 written by Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, published in Bahá’í Administration: Selected Messages 1922–1932 [rev. ed.] (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980, 1998 printing), p. 21)

Addressing the nations, the Ancient Beauty ordaineth that in every city in the world a house be established in the name of justice wherein shall gather pure and steadfast souls to the number of the Most Great Name. At this meeting they should feel as if they were entering the Presence of God, inasmuch as this binding command hath flowed from the Pen of Him Who is the Ancient of Days. The glances of God are directed towards this Assembly.

(From a Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh—translated from the Persian and Arabic)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá is constantly engaged in ideal communication with any Spiritual Assembly which is instituted through the divine bounty, and the members of which, in the utmost devotion, turn to the divine Kingdom and are firm in the Covenant. To them he is whole-heartedly attached and with them he is linked by everlasting ties.…

(Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, [rev. ed.] (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982, 2009 printing), no. 46.1)

These Spiritual Assemblies are aided by the Spirit of God. Their defender is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Over them He spreadeth His Wings. What bounty is there greater than this? These Spiritual Assemblies are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of life streameth in every direction. They, indeed, are the potent sources of the progress of man, at all times and under all conditions.

(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cited in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, [rev. ed.] (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1987, 2012 printing), p. 526. Also published in Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, no. 38.5)

…it is of the utmost importance that in accordance with the explicit text of the “Kitáb-i-Aqdas”, the Most Holy Book, in every locality, be it city or hamlet, where the number of adult (21 years and above) declared believers exceeds nine, a local “Spiritual Assembly” be forthwith established. To it all local matters pertaining to the Cause must be directly and immediately referred for full consultation and decision. The importance, nay the absolute necessity of these local Assemblies is manifest when we realize that in the days to come they will evolve into the local Houses of Justice.…

(From a letter dated 12 March 1923 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of America, Australasia, France, Germany, British Isles, Italy, Japan and Switzerland, published in Bahá’í Administration: Selected Messages 1922–1932, p. 37)

Let us recall His explicit and often repeated assurances that every Assembly elected in that rarefied atmosphere of selflessness and detachment is in truth appointed of God, that its verdict is truly inspired, that one and all should submit to its decision unreservedly and with cheerfulness.

(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, p. 65)

Designated as “Spiritual Assemblies”—an appellation that must in the course of time be replaced by their permanent and more descriptive title of “Houses of Justice,” bestowed upon them by the Author of the Bahá’í Revelation; instituted, without any exception, in every city, town and village where nine or more adult believers are resident; annually and directly elected, on the first day of the greatest Bahá’í Festival by all adult believers, men and women alike; invested with an authority rendering them unanswerable for their acts and decisions to those who elect them; solemnly pledged to follow, under all conditions, the dictates of the “Most Great Justice” that can alone usher in the reign of the “Most Great Peace” which Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed and must ultimately establish; charged with the responsibility of promoting at all times the best interests of the communities within their jurisdiction, of familiarizing them with their plans and activities and of inviting them to offer any recommendations they might wish to make; cognizant of their no less vital task of demonstrating, through association with all liberal and humanitarian movements, the universality and comprehensiveness of their Faith; dissociated entirely from all sectarian organizations, whether religious or secular; assisted by committees annually appointed by, and directly responsible to, them, to each of which a particular branch of Bahá’í activity is assigned for study and action; supported by local funds to which all believers voluntarily contribute; these Assemblies, the representatives and custodians of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, numbering at the present time, several hundred, and whose membership is drawn from the diversified races, creeds and classes constituting the world-wide Bahá’í community, have, in the course of the last two decades, abundantly demonstrated, by virtue of their achievements, their right to be regarded as the chief sinews of Bahá’í society, as well as the ultimate foundation of its administrative structure.

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 524–525)

That the Spiritual Assemblies of today will be placed in time by the Houses of Justice, and are to all intents and purposes identical and not separate bodies, is abundantly confirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself. He has in fact in a Tablet addressed to the members of the first Chicago Spiritual Assembly, the first elected Bahá’í body instituted in the United States, referred to them as the members of the “House of Justice” for that city, and has thus with His own pen established beyond any doubt the identity of the present Bahá’í Spiritual Assemblies with the Houses of Justice referred to by Bahá’u’lláh. For reasons which are not difficult to discover, it has been found advisable to bestow upon the elected representatives of Bahá’í communities throughout the world the temporary appellation of Spiritual Assemblies, a term which, as the position and aims of the Bahá’í Faith are better understood and more fully recognized, will gradually be superseded by the permanent and more appropriate designation of House of Justice.…

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh: Selected Letters, [2nd rev. ed.] (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982, 2012 printing) p. 6)