The Biggest Week in the History of Salt Lake City 1

A FLICKERING SWARM OF bees circled the hive many stories above ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s head. They were fashioned from light bulbs whose filaments blinked as if to suggest busyness. The illuminated hive formed the heart of the blazing Star of Utah — symbols of a state that had boldly reduced its motto to a single word: “Industry.” It was the centerpiece of a massive pipe organ, draped in American flags, which bellowed forth the Grand March from Verdi’s opera, Aida.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá gazed out at 12,000 spectators as Lucile Francke, dressed as the Queen of Irrigation and Empress of the Valley, climbed the stage of the Mormon Tabernacle and mounted her throne on the uppermost tier of the platform. At 10 a.m. on September 30, 1912, she gave the order for the proceedings of the twentieth annual convention of the National Irrigation Congress to begin.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá had arrived in the city the day before. The streets were decked with patriotic regalia, and overflowed with visitors. The annual state fair was also occurring that week, side by side with the convention of the Irrigation Congress. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had planned a short stopover in Salt Lake City on his way to California, but decided to extend his stay. Shortly after his arrival he received an invitation to sit on the stage as an honorary guest the following morning.

California 2

Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 1, and remained there, with side trips to Oakland, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles, until Friday, October 25. Outwardly, many of the scenes familiar in other cities repeated themselves, as crowds hovered about Him like moths attracted to a light. Inwardly, each individual experienced a satisfying of personal needs that, in one sense, could never be shared, and that, in another, needed to be shared. For in dealing with each individual Abdu’l-Bahá demonstrated a facet of what each person must become in his dealings with others. He raised every act to a universal level by showing that people must become spiritual beings, reacting spontaneously to their environment, as He did, because thoroughly imbued with Bahá’u’lláh’s divine Teachings.

It was the ultimate example of a joyful reunion among the lovers of God.

Tonight the train carrying the beloved Master reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Dr [Frederick] D’Evelyn, a devoted Bahá’í, came running as soon as he saw the Master and prostrated himself at His feet. On the way to the city Dr D’Evelyn described for about 15 minutes the yearning of the friends and how they longed to see the Center of the Covenant. When we reached the house especially prepared for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the waiting friends came out to welcome Him. Mr and Mrs Ralston, Mrs Goodall, Mrs Cooper and the other friends were ecstatically happy to have the honor and bounty of being in His presence and to have supper with Him. 3

From early morning the enthusiasm, eagerness, excitement, joy and singing of the believers surrounded ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, just as in the stories of the iguana and the sun and the moth and the candle. It was the ultimate example of a joyful reunion among the lovers of God. These ecstatic friends offered thanks for the bounty of attaining His presence and being near to Him.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá continuously gave thanks for the confirmations of the Abhá Kingdom and for the power and influence of the Cause of God and encouraged the believers to proclaim the Cause of God. At noon He went for a walk and then took a little rest.

I will describe ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s residence, as He saw it, because it is unique among all the homes in America which have been graced by Him. It is situated on an elevated plot of land on a wide street surrounded by a spacious garden. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would approach the house, climb a few steps and stand on the porch where He would see fragrant flowers and plants set in pots around the veranda and porch. When the Master entered the house, He would see on His right three large rooms, decorated with fine furniture and many varieties of flowers. Each room opens on the other by means of wide doors covered with velvet curtains, which, when drawn, create one large hall.

Every morning and afternoon the hall is filled with so many friends and seekers that there is standing room only. Many who seek private interviews meet Him on the second floor. On this second floor, accessible by a carpeted staircase, there is a large room occupied by some of His servants and to the left a small tea room. Across the hall is another room occupied by the Master. Attached to this room is a tea room and a bathroom. Situated in a corner of the house, the room commands a view of a large part of the city. At night the lights of the city appear like twinkling stars. Here many Americans, Japanese and Hindus come into ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence one after another. Each one has a question or statement to make. Many of the friends bring their children, supplicating His blessings and requesting Persian names for them. One of the Japanese friends at Mrs Goodall’s home in Oakland asked the Master for Persian names for his two sons and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave them the names Hasan and Husayn.

The third floor, where we have our rooms, is identical to the second floor. We each have our own room and are able to be close to the Master. The kitchen and dining room are on the first floor where some of the friends have the honor of dining with the Master at His table.

At each dawn, after offering prayers of gratitude, the Master calls His servants and serves us tea with His own hands. Using stories and narratives, He explains issues relating to the blessings of God and expresses gratitude for His divine confirmations. Later the friends arrive to experience the bounty of being with Him and to give praise. Whenever a group assembles, the Master comes downstairs to speak to them about great and lofty matters.

Before both lunch and dinner the Master takes a walk or goes for a ride. Mrs Goodall, Mrs Cooper and Mr and Mrs Ralston send two automobiles every day for His use. Whenever He goes out, the friends watch Him from the doors and windows of their houses. Even among the seekers there is much excitement.

’ Abdu’l-Bahá is reverently received at the churches by the clergymen. Each respectfully accompanies Him to the pulpit and introduces Him to their congregations with glowing praise. They speak of Him as the Prophet of the East, the messenger of peace and tranquillity and attest to His great station and the importance of the teachings. Following His addresses at the meetings, crowds of people continually surround Him, begging for blessings and confirmations. When He returns to His home afterwards He offers praise and gratitude for the confirmations of the Abhá Beauty. 4

25 September 1912, Talk at Second Divine Science Church, 3929 West Thirty-eighth Avenue, Denver, Colorado 5

The purpose of all the divine religions is the establishment of the bonds of love and fellowship among men, and the heavenly phenomena of the revealed Word of God are intended to be a source of knowledge and illumination to humanity. So long as man persists in his adherence to ancestral forms and imitation of obsolete ceremonials, denying higher revelations of the divine light in the world, strife and contention will destroy the purpose of religion and make love and fellowship impossible. Each of the holy Manifestations announced the glad tidings of His successor, and each One confirmed the message of His predecessor. Therefore, inasmuch as They were agreed and united in purpose and teaching, it is incumbent upon Their followers to be likewise unified in love and spiritual fellowship. In no other way will discord and alienation disappear and the oneness of the world of humanity be established.

  1. Sockett, Robert. “The Biggest Week in the History of Salt Lake City.” 239 Days in America, 1 Oct. 2012, [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 165. [return]
  3. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. [return]
  4. ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. [return]
  5. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 339-340. [return]