Thursday, August 23, 2007

On the Baha'i and the Mormon: There we were, two servants of God

This is long, but worth it. This Baha'i blogger writes of a teaching experience and, in so doing, exemplifies the passion and the love for all humanity with which Baha'is are called upon to approach the responsibility to teach, especially given the needs of the current Plan. -gw

Autistic Psycho
life has been so intense. from dawn prayers in the city, to morning prayers on a mountain. from teaching door to door in spanish to teaching 4 year olds holy scripture in the park. from singing the long healing prayer as an ambulance carried my near dead neighbor out of her home to forming a gospel hip hop band.

i just want to share this short story, perhaps not as powerful as the countless transformative moments alluded to above. but, now i am alone. i am not meeting with my San Francisco teaching team at the break of dawn, nor am i surrounded by all the joyous souls from the 9 day teaching project called, the Tree of Life. nonetheless, this story i must share before i sleep. i cannot pray enough for these things, so i strive through writing that my blogs become beautiful prayers.

i am not on an airplane to michigan. i had written in my datebook that my flight was tonight. i told everyone that i would leave today. i spent all day getting ready. i rolled my suitcase around the city. i was ready for a red eye flight. comfy clothes, fruit in my purse. i left ruhi early and rushed around all prepared to miss my flight as is typical for me.


at the ticket counter i was told that my flight is not until tomorrow. this made me feel very alone. suddenly my expectations went from getting on a plane and waking up in michigan and seeing my mom, to shivering through the cold dark city all alone from a lonely airport of strangers to a cold desolate, late night, end of the line, BART station, to the spooky civic center station ghetto, to the actual ghetto, to my home, where no one is expecting my return, not even my cat. it was nearly 11pm and i felt nothing but desolation and dissapointment as i wheeled my things to the elevator and got on the air train to journey back to my sad life.

"An approaching train in the Civic Center BART station," uploaded on February 11, 2007 by Jeremy Brooks on flickr

why do i suck so much at catching my flight? i asked myself again and again. i felt scared to be going home so unprepared, in flipflops, late at night, so cold. on the air train i looked around thinking maybe there's somebody i am supposed to teach. maybe i do have a purpose here yet.
next to me was a boy in shorts and a t-shirt. he looked like he was about to be much more cold and forlorn than me. so i told him that he would be cold and asked where he was from. salt lake city, utah, was the response. his voice surprisingly youthful for a person wearing a wedding band. i helped answer his questions about catching the BART train and soon found myself waiting with him at the BART station.

"are you here on business?" i asked.

"kind of, i'm going to a conference for something."

i thought to myself, hey man, i just spent the past 9 days in intense service and prayer for my faith, no need to hide your religious zeal from me!

finally i asked if he was mormon and he said yes and from there i correctly presumed that his conference was for the mormon faith by saying, "i'm a bahai, and i myself am just getting back from a study circle." he asked what it was and i gave him a card so he could see how bahai is spelled and showed him the principles.

we had the greatest discussion. and i felt so lucky to have the things that i had with me. i had wanted to go to the book store and get materials to help teach my christian best friend in michigan. but i ran out of time, so just before leaving the bahai center i grabed a flyer called, "the Rumor of Christ's Return". i also had the book "Preparing for Christ's new Name" and i even had printed out the Lawhi Aqdas, the Most Holy Tablet aka the Tablet for the Christians. but i didn't have all the pages, so he gave me his email address to get the whole thing by email.

i am just so happy because i've never spoken to a mormon since i became bahai and i've always heard that they are very nice. i got the sense immediately from chad. before i asked if he was mormon i had already discearned the purity of character thing that i have come to recognize in most all bahais. all the other signs were there, (salt lake city, married young, secret conference) but sparkling character cinched it. he was so nice! i think i might have hesitated to give him the full run down of the bab and his station and offer him pamphlets because he said to me, "i know it can be hard to share your beliefs with others. you have to have a really deep
undertanding about what you're talking about and why." it was like he was already a brother in the Cause, well tempered by the challenges and joys of teaching.

there we were, two servants of God, each with a roll away carryon full of books, pamphlets and prayers, seeking purely to do God's will. i learned great things. the mormons believe the prophet is alive and living in salt lake city. there is always one main prophet for the world who gets direct revelation from God. currently its gordon b. hinckley. my friend chad said this name with great respect, much like a bahai would say, "counselor birkham".

they also have 12 apostles who are like prophets and get revelation from God. but as individuals they have no authority, only as a whole body. it is rather similar to the bahai world. they also fast one day a month and give money they would have spent on food to a global fund for humanitarian relief. they only sing traditional hymns. new music, like mormon inspired rock bands, is okay for recreation but not considered part of the normal worship. i sang a bit of the song we made at tree of life that is perfect for christians. "O followers of the Son! Lo, the Father is come! The gates of glory are open, behold! the Promised One. Oooh, verily, He is the Tree of Life, that bringeth forth the fruits of God, the Exalted, the Powerful, the Great."

he really liked it when i quoted the bible. and it would have been cooler if i knew the bible well enough to cite and recite the actual passages. but he instantly recognized the things like 'come with a new name', 'thief in the night', investigating the truth of anyone who claim to be the return. i was well surprised to hear him say that the mormons consider their leaders to be prophets. i said that the bible definitely recognizes that there are good prophets and false prophets and that you know them by their fruits and that the mormons are doing lots of good things, so their prophets must be good prophets.

i am thankful to be a bahai. the mormons are very courageous and we can learn so much for them. their truth is true, but the aim is not as clear as the bahai purpose. i asked, what is the motivation for teaching other christians? and he said that they did have alot in common but the living prophet thing adds more guidance in life. i agree. a unified faith with a progressive leadership that actively leads is a wonderful thing to have in life. but the motivation to teach the bahai faith is not only because it is a great gift that can help guide an individual's life, it's purpose is to save the entire world from a toxic meltdown and build the most great peace. the vision of the baha'i is great. but it is not theoretical. in fact it is very clearly laid out.

in the end chad seemed eager to investigate the claims for himelf and asked if there was a bahai center in utah. since mormons already believe in organized religion, direct relationship w/ God and spreading out all over the world to unite everyone, what more is there for me to teach, besides the reality that the Return has already occurred? there is no way to convey this truth besides through joy and radiance. i was thankful for the teaching opporutnity because it produced such a great light in the night that i was impossible for me to feel anything but blessed as i walked home from the BART station.
{Re-posted with permission}
{All photos from Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0}
{Pamphlet from Special Ideas}


Tess said...

You're right - long but worth it.

Anne said...

Great post! This is my favorite part: "its purpose is to save the entire world from a toxic meltdown and build the most great peace."

Barney said...

What a great story. It shows how compassionate sharing of stories can help link human beings, even in times of difficulty and stress.

Jettboy said...

As a Mormon I want you to know that I have great respect for the Bahai faith. I admit that, like most Mormons, I know little about the faith. What I do know is that it seems members of the Bahai faith are equally as nice people generally speaking.

The thing I like most about the Bahai members is that they are nice about religion in general. Mormons don't mind learning about other religions and what they teach. However, most people who talk about religion to Mormons automatically assume a very negative and dismissive stance. That turns Mormons off and makes them look close-minded to those who think that Mormons are wrong or even evil.

What is really going on is Mormons don't like confrontation, but they do like conversation. There is a huge difference. That is perhaps why the person you met was at first so hesitant about discussing religion. More than should be the case a Mormon ends up having to defend the faith rather than discuss beliefs.

Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful respect.

flaming hot cheetos said...

thank you for posting my blog! i'm happy to see this much response. i never get this kind of response to my actual blogs. i guess they are not well publicized.

to respond to jetboy's comment. i understand the hesitation to discuss religion because many bahais are also afraid to tell people that they are bahais. religion and faith in God in general is considered by some to be automatically about intolerance and ignorance. also bahais are particularly afraid to talk about their faith because we believe the Promised One has come and some bahais are afraid to shock people with that news. likewise, the mormons believe that the prophet is alive on earth! that's a bold belief as well!

we must not be afraid to believe what we believe. we must teach the faith of God with fearless glory. otherwise the message will not be heard. Baha'u'llah states, "we must strive with heart and soul until the reality of unity is in our midst and as we work, strength will be given to us."

keep striving, all of you, my blogging friends in God!


Jettboy said...

I just realized I said something similar about meeting Bahai members and my attitude toward them at my blog in response to you. Oh well, its still how I feel.