May the Universal House of Justice change its statement about what's in the Writings?

Dec 2009
165
United States
#1
If the Universal House of Justice states that the Writings say something, can that statement be changed?

I can see from the perspective that the Supreme Body's understanding of what is in the Writings might change over time, particularly if some tablets are newly authenticated. The Universal House of Justice is not omniscient, and it can only act on the limited knowledge it has access to at any given time. So it may be forced to, in light of new information, change what it says the Bahá'í Writings state, in order to reconcile statements that only outwardly contradict each other.

I can also see from the perspective that to make a statement about what is in the Writings, beyond merely quoting, or what the Writings mean, is interpretation. The Universal House of Justice cannot authoritatively interpret. Thus, the Supreme Body is only restating an authoritative interpretation already made by the Master/Guardian, even if it does not explicitly cite it. And, unlike legislation, such a cited interpretation (by the Guardian, and, most likely, the Master) "is a statement of truth which cannot be varied."
The Universal House of Justice's Power of Elucidation
 
Apr 2015
211
Las Vegas, Nevada
#2
Yes, the UHJ can repeal it's own laws, just not laws made by the prophets, Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghí Effendí.
 
Jun 2014
1,081
Wisconsin
#3
Depends what you mean. It cannot change what the writings specifically state, but can change what they have taken various writings to mean.
 
Dec 2009
165
United States
#4
Hi, Lemuel. I'm not referring to a law per se. What I'm asking about is a statement by the Universal House about what the Writings state, i.e., "The Bahá'í Writings state..."

The reason I ask is because I've met some Bahá'ís who believe that the following is susceptible to change by the House of Justice:

The Bahá’í Writings state that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that sexual relations are restricted to a couple who are married to each other.

- Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 27 October 2010
However, I'm also interested in general about statements like the above. I don't want this thread to be a discussion on the content of the quote, i.e., marriage or sexual relations.
 
Dec 2009
165
United States
#5
Depends what you mean. It cannot change what the writings specifically state, but can change what they have taken various writings to mean.
Hi, Walrus. Can the House of Justice authoritatively state what it takes the Writings to mean? Isn't doing so an act of interpretation, which the House of Justice may not do?
 
Last edited:
Sep 2010
4,519
Normanton Far North Queensland
#6
Hi, Walrus. Can the House of Justice authoritatively state what it takes the Writings to mean? Isn't doing so an act of interpretation, which the House of Justice may not do?
Clex19 - The way I see it, In the end the Universal House of Justice will use all the available resources and give the answer as it is Lawful for them to do.

They will not cross the boundary they can not cross.

Thus in the age we live, it is for is to submit to what is then relevant, we need not be concerned what may be in the future.

It is all about Unity.

God bless and regards Tony
 
Sep 2010
4,519
Normanton Far North Queensland
#7
Hi, Lemuel. I'm not referring to a law per se. What I'm asking about is a statement by the Universal House about what the Writings state, i.e., "The Bahá'í Writings state..."

The reason I ask is because I've met some Bahá'ís who believe that the following is susceptible to change by the House of Justice:



However, I'm also interested in general about statements like the above. I don't want this thread to be a discussion on the content of the quote, i.e., marriage or sexual relations.
The way I see this one is that we can also read the writings and note that this is a law that will last this dispensation. It is in the book of Laws, there is no Interpretation just further clarification.

Thus we will have the writings available to us that formed any decision by the Universal House of Justice and the wisdom will be seen.

God bless and regards Tony
 
Dec 2009
165
United States
#8
Clex19 - The way I see it, In the end the Universal House of Justice will use all the available resources and give the answer as it is Lawful for them to do.

They will not cross the boundary they can not cross.

Thus in the age we live, it is for is to submit to what is then relevant, we need not be concerned what may be in the future.

It is all about Unity.

God bless and regards Tony
Hi, Tony. Thanks for your thoughts.

So would you say that because "the Universal House of Justice will use all the available resources and give the answer as it is Lawful for them to do," statements about what's in the Writings are an implicit reference to an authoritative interpretation? Either way, such statements sound like *some* act of interpretation. Do you see them any differently?
 
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#9
Yes, the Universal House of Justice can, at one time, say that one thing is in the Bahai Writings, and later it may say no, that is not in the Writings. It relies on the facts available to it, and the level of its members' understandings, and on divine guidance. The UHJ may give right guidance, even when it is wrong about the Bahai teachings. This is because the purpose of its statements is to tell us what to do, not what the scriptures mean.

For example, on 29 July 1974 the Universal House of Justice wrote a letter about the preoccupation of some American Baha’is with the date of the Lesser Peace, and said:

It is true that ‘Abdu’l-Baha made statements linking the establishment of the unity of nations to the twentieth century. For example: “The fifth candle is the unity of nations — a unity which, in this century, will be securely established, … (Messages 1963-68, 281)

In a similar letter to an individual believer dated April 15, 1976, the Universal House of Justice writes:

Abdu’l-Baha anticipated that the Lesser Peace could be established before the end of the twentieth century.”

The UHJ thought Abdu’l-Baha anticipated that the unity of nations, in the first quote, or the Lesser Peace, in the second quote, was linked to, or could be, established before the end of the twentieth century. But they were wrong: the text does not say “twentieth century,” it says “this century.” If one took either letter as a statement of what is in the text, it would lead one astray. However, those Bahais of the 1970s and later who took the UHJ’s message as a statement of what is to be done, and not an interpretation of scripture, would be on the right track. The letter of 29 July 1974 goes on to say, “It is apparent that the disintegration of the old order is accelerating, but the friends should not permit this inevitable process to deter them from giving their undivided attention to the tasks lying immediately before them.” Although the UHJ’s understanding of what the scripture said was incorrect, its guidance on what needed to be done can be seen in retrospect to have been correct, for the end of the 20th century was not accompanied by any great change in the world.

After the event, the Research Department (not the UHJ, but approved for release by them) wrote (2001):

“there is nothing in the authoritative Bahai Writings to indicate that the Lesser Peace would be established before the end of the twentieth century.”

However the Research Department achieved this, by distinguishing
between Lesser Peace and Unity of Nations – apparently not realising that
there is no authentic Bahai text that refers to either a Lesser Peace, or the
Unity of Nations, or “peace among the nations” occuring in the TWENTIETH
century – the relevant authentic texts all refer to “this century.” That statements of the Research Department represent the opinions of individuals, they may be informative but are not authoritative.

In addition to your question, which is about cases where the UHJ explitily states that something is "in the Writings," an enactment of the UHJ may be contrary to the spirit of the Bahai Teachings, as Shoghi Effendi writes:

He [the Guardian] cannot override the decision of the majority of his fellow-members, but is bound to insist upon a reconsideration by them of any enactment he conscientiously believes to conflict with the meaning and to depart from the spirit of Baha’u’llah’s revealed utterances. (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah 150)
Therefore it is also not possible to rely on the understandings of the teachings that are implicit in the UHJ's enactments. Those understandings (each member may have a different one!) are not free from error as regards the meaning and spirit of the teachings, although -- as the quote above shows -- the decisions are still valid and must be obeyed.
 
Apr 2015
211
Las Vegas, Nevada
#10
Marriage is not defined as a man and a woman in the Kitab i Aqdas. As a gay Bahá'í, I plan on getting married. Now, Shoghí Effendí didn't ban gay marriage either, he stated gays are not a natural phenomenon, blah blah. But the fact is, Shoghí is fallible when it comes to ANYHING besides the TEXTS. He states himself he is fallible on science & economics. Homosexuality is not banned in the Faith by prophets, abdul Baha or the guardian. UHJ made these laws and think Effendí is infallible on everything.
 

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