July 17, 2010

God Answers the prayer of Lua Getsinger’s mother …

Lua Getsinger was an outstanding early American Baha’i who accepted the Faith in Chicago in 1897 – she was then 26 years old. She was among the first Western pilgrims to visit ‘Abdu’l-Baha in 1898. She was given the title ‘Herald of the Covenant’ by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and was named a Disciple of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and ‘Mother Teacher of the West’ by Shoghi Effendi.

Both Lua and her mother were born in rural upstate New York in the village of Hume. Both shared an outer life of delight in the farm with its green fields and growing things, but an inner life of unrest and dissatisfaction. There was no one to answer their questions. They hungered for knowledge of every kind, especially knowledge of God And His creation, but each cup seemed to be empty.

It all began with Lua's mother. Ellen McBride Moore imbibed these ideas with her mother's milk. She was but five when the call for the first woman's rights convention in all history was made in that same upper New York at Seneca Falls. Change was in the air.

Ellen McBride Moore was born in 1843. It was the year of the great comet. All eyes stared up at the night skies searching the heavens in fear of the great fiery tail millions of miles long. Some said it heralded the end of the world.

It was all part of a period of strange, growing millennial zeal. Bible scholars in three continents said their studies of scripture pointed to the imminent return of Christ. People in the United States, Canada, England, Europe, even in Asia, were discussing and debating the issue in great detail. Many confidently expected to see Him 'coming in the clouds of heaven' as He had promised. Some even sold their possessions, prepared ascension robes, and went up into the mountains to await Christ's coming.

In the nearby rolling hills where New York and Pennsylvania meet, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Faith, had had his vision of a great new day coming. He was to give his life for these beliefs in 1844, a year after Lua's mother was born.

Farther along these same Pennsylvania hills, William Miller and his flock had organized entire communities who were prepared for the coming of Jesus, the Christ. They finally decided this Event would take place in spring, 1844. Lua's childhood was filled with such tales of wonder and awe. Her mother, Ellen McBride Moore, grew up with a great unquenched thirst to know the truth about those days. Why had Christ failed to return as everyone expected? Or had He come, and had everyone missed Him this time, too, as they did the first time? Had Christ fooled them all, and come as He promised 'like a thief in the night' ? Without anyone recognizing Him? Was He perhaps living on the earth now? What an exciting thought!

But if so, where was He?

No one gave a satisfactory answer to these questions when Lua's mother asked them. Many became impatient with her. They told her not to 'tamper' with these mysteries. Ellen McBride Moore felt that for every good question there should be a good ansver. Her intense curiosity was often a source of acute distress to her family and her friends. Her husband and her minister especially felt the sting of her probing mind.

During the days when Mrs Moore carried Lua in her womb, her thirst for knowledge was directed towards religion. She wanted to know the truth , about God and His Messengers, about man, about the Bible, about the soul, about everything connected with religion. Her zeal had reached its peak. At every opportunity, whether at home, in public, or in church, Lua's mother would speak out. She was frank and she was fearless. She demanded answers to her questions.

It is also suspected that she was a bit of a nuisance. Especially to her minister. There were a lot of her questions to which he, himself, would have liked a better answer. But he knew better than to ask such questions during church service.

One day it reached a crisis.

There was a knock on the door.

Mr Moore admitted the minister of their local church. Both were embarrassed. Both knew why he was there.

'I have come to solicit your help,' the clergyman said.

He entered the house in a state of annoyance. He was distressed when he saw that Lua's mother was present.

'Mr Moore,' he began, 'the last thing I want to do is complain about your wife. She's a fine woman. But I'll come right to the point. She must stop asking so many questions. Especially in the Bible Class. It's disturbing. Most disturbing to the other people.'

Obviously it was disturbing to the country parson as well.

Mr Moore shrugged his shoulders. He was sympathetic. God knows, he too had felt the frustration of trying to satisfy his wife's constant hunger for knowledge about things of the spirit.

'What do you suggest?' he asked.

'There are some things that just can't be answered,' the clergyman said patiently.

'I know,' Mr Moore sighed. 'I know. It disturbs me, too. She asks me the same questions. 'What can I tell her? I'm only a farmer. When she asks, "How is it possible to explain the Bible where it says that Christ will come down in a cloud? Everyone knows that scientifically clouds are vapours that rise up from the earth. They don't come down. Is the Bible wrong?'' What can I tell her? I don't know myself.'

The clergyman was impatient. 'It's a pity that our women become involved in these new-fangled ideas.'

'Perhaps,' Mr Moore said. 'But my wife feels that God is everybody's business, not just the men's. So that kind of answer will never satisfy her.'

Lua's father would have been much happier furrowing a field behind his team than talking about God and the Bible, but now that the parson was here, perhaps this was his chance. A minister should know the answers.

'Tell me,' he asked, 'when the Bible says that all eyes shall see Christ when He comes down from heaven, my wife wants to know how? How will they all see Him? She says that with the curvature of the earth it would take Christ hundreds and hundreds of thousands of solo descents before He could get around to everybody in the world. Mind you, those are her ideas, not mine. But how can I answer that ?'

'There are some things that are very difficult to answer.'

'Especially difficult questions.'

'Many of these things must be taken on faith.'

Ellen McBride Moore could remain quiet no more . She couldn't resist putting in her own two cents' worth. After all, they were her questions.

'What about Christ walking on the water? What about all the dead coming out of their graves on the day of Resurrection? Where will we have room for them all?'

‘Those,' the minister replied, speaking strictly to Lua’s father, 'are exactly the sort of questions that your wife shouldn't ask in public.'

'Why not? If we've got good answers?'

‘They cause unrest in the congregation. Answers that satisfy one person don't satisfy another.'

'None of them satisfies my wife apparently.'

Lua's mother held her tongue, and with great difficulty sat quietly through the rest of the conversation. She sighed. If they insisted that she remain silent she would obey. But they couldn't stop her from thinking. And she thought to herself that if Christ had returned and if she knew where to find Him, at least He wouldn't make excuses. He would be able to answer her questions.

The following Sunday was almost unbearable to her. Question after question sprang unasked to her lips. If the rest of the congregation knew as little as she did about all these things, how could they be so satisfied. Yet, everyone else seemed perfectly content. They smiled and nodded as the minister spoke. She felt there must be something wrong with her, but the more the minister preached, the more questions Lua's mother had about everything he was saying. Only his fierce frown from time to time kept her silent. She wanted to shout out her doubts.

Were there really three Persons in the Trinity? Why were there so many different religions in the first place? Why was mankind repeatedly plagued with the ruin of war? Didn't God have some plan to end the differences and prejudice among races? Was it right for some to be so terribly rich and some so terribly poor, and be neighbours? Why couldn't the world have peace? Were all foreigners really dangerous? Why shouldn't everyone love the whole world and not only his own native land? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Lua's mother kept her peace, but her heart was filled with anguish and sorrow. She didn't care if they ever became wealthy, all she wanted was the answers to her questions. She was sure that knowledge was the real wealth. In her agony of spirit, Ellen McBride Moore prayed fervently to Almighty God: 'If this child I am carrying in my womb is a girl, may she be given the chance to speak out and know the truth that has been so long denied to me, her mother.'

Her prayer was answered. At least the first part of her prayer. The child was a girl. She was named Lua. Lua Moore was born on November 1st, 1871, the same day on which her father had been born and her parents married. (The Flame, by William Sears and Robert Quigley, pp. 11-17)