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The Baha’i teachings say that we must independently investigate truth for ourselves and reach our own conclusions, and not blindly follow others just because they say something is true.
Here’s a quotation from Baha’u’llah that relates to the independent investigation of truth. In this quote, the words “My” and “Me” refer to God.
O Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. — The Hidden Words, pp. 3-4.
However, investigating truth for ourselves does not mean we can’t have a sense of humor about it. I want to share some humorous moments that occurred during my own investigation of the Baha’i Faith.
My First Encounter with the Baha’is
It was early October, 1965. I was a sophomore at the University of Kansas. The Student Union was going to have their annual Student Union Activities Carnival, which enabled campus clubs to attract new members.
I was curious, and I always enjoyed being in the Union because it had great places to eat. So I decided to attend the Carnival, held in the Union Ballroom. As I entered the Ballroom, I saw many booths all around. At the opposite end was a map of the world elevated high enough that everyone could see it. On top of the map was a very strange word: “Baha’i.” It didn’t say “Baha’i Club.” It didn’t say “Baha’i Faith.” Just “Baha’i.”
I thought to myself: “Oh, a new country in Africa.” I didn’t go near the booth because I wasn’t interested in new African countries.
Teasing D.J., a Fellow Student Who Told Me About Baha’u’llah
I met a student named D.J., who was investigating the Baha’i Faith for himself. As he became more serious about it, I began teasing him. He had a great sense of humor and took my teasing well. My favorite way of teasing him was to wave my hand as if saying goodbye and say: “Baha’i Baha’i.”
My First Request to Read About the Baha’i Faith
I was curious, so I asked D.J. many questions about his new investigation. He answered my questions about the Baha’i teachings. One day I said, “Okay D.J., I’m not going to join this crazy religion, but give me all the pamphlets you’ve got.” He gave me about ten. I read them all the same day.
I Didn’t Realize I Had Become a Religious Fanatic
After reading those pamphlets, I put some of them on my bulletin board in my dorm room. I started enthusiastically telling my fellow residents in the dorm about Baha’u’llah. I sat with different people at breakfast, lunch, and dinner and freely brought up the Baha’i Faith. I didn’t care if they wanted to hear about it or not. I just blurted it out. I was not aware that I had become a fanatic. I merely thought I was “high on Baha’i.”
My Defensive Reaction Every Time I Attended Baha’i Firesides (Introductory Meetings)
“I’m not going to join this religion—I’m just curious about it.” After I said this way too many times, the Baha’is stopped being fooled. I was too on fire about Baha’u’llah and his teachings.
D.J.’s Response to a Question I Asked Him
D.J. called me “Twenty Questions” because I asked so many, especially after he had become a Baha’i. One day I asked D.J. a question. He responded, half serious, half teasing: “Marty, shut up and start reading!” So I did.
My First Emotional Reaction to Reading the Writings of Baha’u’llah
Some people are so moved when they read the writings of Baha’u’llah that they break down crying. I laughed. I don’t mean a casual laugh. I laughed hard. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t control it. I was so moved I just felt like laughing with joy. It happened naturally. It took many years for me to stop doing this because it made people uncomfortable.
Beyond Moderation—Way Beyond
I was Jewish. I attended Jewish functions in Kansas City and freely handed out Baha’i pamphlets. I didn’t care if people wanted them or not. I just asked, “Have you heard of the Baha’i Faith? Here’s a pamphlet that tells about it!” “Have you heard of Baha’u’llah? Have a pamphlet!” The man in charge of the Baha’i library warned me, “Marty, as long as you’re Jewish, you can hand out all the pamphlets you want. But if you ever become a Baha’i, you’ll have to stop, because proselytizing is prohibited.” I said “Thank you” and continued handing out pamphlets. It took a long time before I took his words seriously and stopped this obnoxious behavior.
Poked in the Eye on the Way to the Temple
Two Baha’is took me to Chicago to see the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette. We rode on the L going north. The L crossed a bridge over a canal. I saw the Temple in the distance. “There it is!” I exclaimed, pointing my finger to it. My finger landed in the eye of one of the Baha’is who accompanied me.
I Gave a Talk at a Kansas City Fireside
I went to a Baha’i fireside in Kansas City, but at the last minute, the fireside speaker was not able to attend. Because I had been reading many Baha’i books and regularly attending firesides, I was asked to give the talk. What a joy to be speaking about Baha’u’llah to a group of people, even though I was still Jewish!
D.J.’s Response When I Told Him I Wanted to Become a Baha’i
I had stayed overnight at my friend D.J.’s apartment. On Saturday morning, January 14, 1967, at 1000 Ohio in Lawrence, Kansas, I went to D.J.’s bedroom. I asked, “D.J., are you awake?” “Yes,” he groaned. I said, “I want to declare.” (Declaring involves signing a declaration card—an administrative procedure—in which I declared my belief in Baha’u’llah.) D.J. replied, “Oh Marty, go back to bed.” I said, “D.J., I’m serious. I want to declare.” I signed my card around 9:20 am. I call that day “Declaration Day ’67″—and now I think of it as the most important day of my life.
On Probation for Reading Too Many Baha’i Books
After becoming a Baha’i, I discovered to my horror, I had been put on academic probation at my university. I had been reading so many Baha’i books, that I neglected reading books for a course I was taking: Western Civilization. Why read Plato, when I could read Baha’u’llah? I received a “D” in that course. If I didn’t get my grades up that semester, I would flunk out of college. By God’s grace and my efforts, I got off probation, and graduated with excellent grades.