I recall (now over 25 years ago), whilst serving my mission, meeting a young man who identified as Baha’i. I had heard of the religion, but knew nothing of its origins or beliefs. This man said something that I still remember to this day. He said, “Joseph Smith – yes, I know of him. Great man, great man. A real Prophet!”. After picking myself off the ground and reflecting on the first time I had heard a non member say that Joseph Smith was a prophet, I asked him why he believed that. He replied, “There is goodness in all religions and I have no reason to not believe Joseph Smith saw what he saw – so he is a Prophet”. Wow!!!
I was recently in the market for a car. I found one that looked right and drove to the house for a look and test drive. After finding out that the bloke who advertised the car forgot to state that every panel down the passenger side was smashed, I journeyed home. Along the way, I saw a sign. Sydney Baha’i Temple. I recalled my chat 25 years ago to this young man and decided to pull into the access road. I had no idea what to expect. A small building? A commune? A visitors centre?
As I drove in and parked my car, a middle aged lady came outside and greeted me. She was lovely and quite helpful. As I turned I saw the Temple, and was stunned. It was beautiful. Being the middle of the day, there was no one else there and it was quite a peaceful setting.
My guide offered to take me up to the temple, however, I stated that I wanted to know what the Baha’i religion believed – the nuts and bolts. I then wanted to go to the Temple and spend some time there before leaving.
She gave me the 10 minute speel. I then came to understand and could contextualise the conversation with the young man some 25 years ago. The Baha’i religion has some very interesting beliefs. Much like our own faith, writing a few hundred words on them could never do justice, however the main tenets of belief are:
Unity of God, Religion and Humanity – these beliefs state that there is one God, all religions (in their own way) worship that one God, and that we are all members of one family – different race, colour and creed, but one family
Progressive Religious Revelation – Baha’i belief states that God has revealed Himself through various religions at various times, such as, to Buddah, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, for example. Each dispensation (a familiar LDS term) provides greater and greater light than the last.
Belief in prayer, charity and doing good in the community are also tenets of the faith. Equality of men and women, shunning prejudice and inequality further define the faith.
There are some beliefs which are very interesting from a social perspective. Baha’i belief supports the notion for a one world government, a single unifying language and elimination of extremes in wealth and poverty. Some, like me, might get a little worried about how they think these might be achieved. Although when I got thinking, maybe these ideas were not that foreign. Typing One World Government into Wikipedia lists both (amongst others) the Baha’i faith AND Joseph Smith as adherents of the philosophy. Brigham young tried to get the Deseret Alphabet up and running. And elimination of wealth and poverty – well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Similar to the beginning of our religion, the founder of the Baha’i faith, Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned, however he was exiled to several different countries, eventually dying whilst still a prisoner in present day Israel.
The Baha’i faith have big plans for expansion across the world and are building Temples as their membership increases. This will culminate in 2021 when the 100 year anniversary of the death of their founder will be commemorated.
After learning all this in their visitors centre I made the short walk up to the Temple. A single temple worker greeted me in a hushed voice as I walked in. The soft tones, and rounded structure contrasted with the grandness of the dome which sheltered it all. I sat and took in the visual and spiritual beauty of this structure. Whilst only there for about 10 minutes, I felt peace.
I was told by my guide that the Temple is a gift to the whole community (and it is repeated on the sign at the front). I think this is a wonderful and inclusive act. It enabled someone like me, just out looking at to buy a car, to share a wonderful and spiritual – albeit unexpected – experience.
- What experiences have you had with members of the Baha’i faith?
- Have you ever been to a Baha’i Temple?
- Have you had spiritual experiences at another religions’ house of worship?