December 19, 2017

Ella Goodall Cooper – a “herald Covenant”; “dearly loved handmaid 'Abdu'l-Baha, greatly trusted by Him”; a “jewel of the spirit”; a “shining candle”; “unique and matchless”; a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada for two years; was among the first Baha’is of California

''O thou jewel of the spirit!" Thus did 'Abdu'l-Baha address this angelic being, one of the rare gems in the diadem of the Kingdom.

Aunt Ella, as she was fondly known to her many devoted friends around the world, was one of that rapidly diminishing treasure of precious souls who have entered the presence of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and who are possessed of that unique quality of spirit known only among those who were touched by the magic wand of that Divine Alchemist. Hers was an enchanting spirit of exquisite grace, whose gentleness, warmth and generosity were showered continuously on all peoples. She radiated all the days of her life the virtues of the true maid-servant of Baha.

She was one of that handful of early Baha’is in the United States who implanted the banner of Baha’u’llah in that land, and who nurtured it and protected it with the iron strength of their consecrated spirit.

In a Tablet to one of the friends 'Abdu'l- Baha wrote of the services of Mrs. Cooper and her mother, Mrs. Goodall:

"Thou hadst written concerning the services of Mrs. Goodall and Mrs. Cooper. These two dear maid-servants of God are truly two shining candles, and in character are unique and matchless. They sacrifice their lives in the pathway of God under conditions of hardship and trouble and are filled with spirituality and good cheer. It is certain that the divine confirmations will encircle them."

Shoghi Effendi's cablegram at the time of her passing has defined her life-long service to her beloved Faith:

"Deeply grieved sudden passing herald Covenant Ella Cooper, dearly loved handmaid 'Abdu'l-Baha, greatly trusted by Him. Her devoted services during concluding years Heroic Age and also Formative Age Faith unforgettable. Assure relatives, friends, deepest sympathy loss. Praying progress soul in Abha Kingdom."

September 20, 2017

The Letters of the Living - The Báb’s First Disciples

Mullá Husayn Bushrú’í (c. 1814–49): the first to declare his belief in the Báb (in Shiraz on 23 May 1844). He was given the title Bábu’l-Báb (Gate of the Gate) by the Báb. He was killed on 2 February 1849 at Fort Tabarsi.

Mullá ‘Alí Bastamí (d. 1846): the second to recognize the Báb. According to Nabil, twelve of his companions, each independently, also recognized the Báb soon after him and became among the Letters of the Living. The Báb gave Mullá ‘Alí the title "the Second Who Believed" and identified him in His Persian Bayan, in allegorical language, as the return of the Imam Ali – indicative of his high station. Mulla ‘Ali was directed by the Bab to go to the twin cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq and announce the Advent of the Promised One. Tahirih (the Pure One), then known as Fátimih Umm-Salamih Baraghání, was in Karbala at that time and therefore heard about the claims of the Báb from Mulla ‘Ali. Mulla ‘Ali was subsequently arrested and tried in Baghdad in January 1845 and later sentenced to work for life in the imperial naval docks, where he died in an Istanbul prison. He is known to be the first Bábí martyr.

Mullá Husayn’s younger brother, Mírzá Muhammad Hasan Bushrú’í (d. 1849). He accompanied Mullá Husayn on his travels and became badly wounded in Fort Tabarsi at the same time that his brother was killed. According to some accounts, he then served as leader of the Bábí forces and was subsequently killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mulla Husay’s nephew, Mírzá Muhammad Báqir Bushrú’í (d. 1849). He is reported to have led the forces at Shaykh Tabarsí after his uncle Mullá Mírzá Muhammad Hasan was wounded. He was subsequently killed at Shaykh Tabarsí.

Mullá Khudá-Bakhsh Qúchání (later named Mullá ‘Alí Rází): returned to Karbala from Shiraz and is reported to not have actively participated in the Bábí community.

Mullá Hasan Bajistání: While active at first in propagating the Bábí Cause, he later retired to Karbala and considered himself unworthy of the station conferred on him by the Báb as one of the Letters of the Living. He later visited Baha’u’llah in Baghdad, sometime between 1853 and 1863.

June 13, 2017

Mountfort Mills (d. 1949) – “that highly-talented, much loved servant of Baha'u'llah”; “that distinguished and international champion of the Faith of Baha'u'llah”; “our dearly-beloved Mountfort Mills”; first chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada when formed in 1922; prepared the final draft of the Declaration of Trust and By-Laws adopted by the National Spiritual Assembly in 1927; was brutally assaulted in Baghdad while representing the Guardian to League of Nations regarding ownership of the House of Baha’u’llah

The passing of Mountfort Mills on April 24, 1949, deprived the American Baha'i community of the influence and experience of a very distinguished believer. He had been a follower of Baha'u'llah since 1906. 

Before the end of 1909, Mountfort Mills had made two pilgrimages to 'Akka. His third pilgrimage to visit the Master was made early in 1921. In 1922, with Mr. Roy C. Wilhelm, he was invited by Shoghi Effendi to go to Haifa for conference with the Guardian on matters related to the new conditions created for the Faith by the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Baha.

Mountfort Mills and 
Fujita San in Haifa
During the Master's visits in New York during 1912, Mr. Mills served on the Baha'i reception committee which arranged public addresses for 'Abdu'lBaha in that city. First chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada when formed in 1922 in accordance with the provisions of the Will and Testament left by the Master, Mountfort Mills was elected a member of that body for seven terms between 1922 and 1937. As trustee of Baha'i Temple Unity he had served annually from its inception in 1909.

The final draft of the Declaration of Trust and By-Laws adopted by the National Assembly in 1927 was prepared by Mills.

It would be impossible in brief space to report his activities for the New York Baha'i community throughout the years of his residence there, for the national Baha'i community, or in Europe. He was a winning public speaker and his personality gained many influential friends for the Faith in some of its most difficult days in the West. His devotion to the Master was impressive.

A few outstanding events will serve to indicate the unusual scope of his Baha'i activities.

February 15, 2017

Jessie Revell (1891-1966) – “brilliant and pure”; very dear to ‘Abdu’l-Baha; managed sending and collecting all of Shoghi Effendi’s mail past 1951; appointed by the Guardian as the treasurer of the International Baha’i Council; a loyal companion of Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum

Jessie Revell in 1964
Jessie Revell was once addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in these words:

“O thou who art firm in the Covenant! ... Notwithstanding the lack of time, I write thee this letter that thou mayest know how dear thou art to me. As thou art brilliant and pure and hast no wish but to serve the Cause of God and promulgate the divine teachings, I pray and entreat at the threshold of God and beg for thee limitless assistance and bounty. ... Thou must engage in those regions, day and night, in service. ... As to the children with whom thou art speaking, thy pure breath will undoubtedly exert its influence upon them. ...” (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, vol. X, p. 317)

Jessie Revell’s brilliant record of service to the Cause of Baha’u’llah, extending from early in the century, came to an end with her passing in Haifa on April 14, 1966. Her story is best told in the words of her devoted sister, Ethel Revell.

“My mother, my sister and I first heard of the Faith in Philadelphia -- it was approximately 1906 -- through Mrs. Annie McKinney, and attended the firesides of Mrs. Isabella D. Brittingham. On the evening when Jessie first heard Mrs. Brittingham speak on the Faith, Jessie followed her to the door as the speaker departed and said, ‘I cannot remember all you said tonight, but I want what you have!’ When she accepted the Faith she wrote to ‘Abdu’l-Baha and mentioned that our father had passed away when we were very young. The Master replied -- I believe in these exact words -- ‘The real fatherhood is the spiritual fatherhood. Therefore rest thou assured that thou art the beloved daughter.’

“In the early days of her Baha’i life, as there was but little literature available to the friends, Jessie, who was then employed in an office, would spend her evenings typing copies of Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and sharing them with the Baha’is, who in turn would recopy them and pass them along to other believers.