Kitab-i-Hearsay

I hear a lot of things from a lot of people who are absolutely sure they know what they’re talking about. “Shoghi Effendi said 2/3 of the world’s population would be wiped out before the lesser peace is established.” Mmm. “’Abdu’l-Bahá used to smack people.” Really. “You can have your pets with you in the next world.” Aha. “There could be women on the House of Justice someday.” Is that so? Where did you read that? “Umm… I think it’s in, like, God Passes By.” Are you sure? “No, I haven’t read it…maybe it was in pilgrim’s notes…” Pilgrim’s notes. “Or a talk or something. I remember someone saying that.” Someone.

{josquote}I don’t intend to suggest that any of us go around carelessly attributing nonsense to the Central Figures of the Faith. But it’s just too easy for us to misunderstand things.{/josquote}

The thing is, isn’t it, that, even if some reference is made to such things in some reliable text, which, let’s remember, not all are, statements like this should not be 1) quoted unless one is certain of their validity or 2) taken out of the context in which they were made. Let’s remember, shall we, that when we say that something is “in the Writings” it’s God who’s mouth we’re putting words into. Is it really sufficient to rely on vague memories, or worse, hearsay, when we’re talking about the divine order of the universe? I like to think that, beyond the obvious benefit to others in being able to repeat for them the words of God, the institute courses have us practice memorization precisely so that we don’t take the chance of reinterpreting the Sacred Text that has been so meticulously and precisely translated by those granted the authority to do so.

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