Butte-Silver Bow Baha’i Assembly

This profile was last updated in 2003

Activities and Schedule

19 Day Feast
A community meeting every Baha’i Month, or every 19 days. The meeting includes:
-Readings from the Holy Writings
-Discussion of the treasury
-Recommendations regarding plans and agenda (every Baha’i’s recommendation is considered, including children)
-Refreshments
The 19 Day Feast is restricted to Baha’is only. This is due to the content of the meeting. Rather than a study or teaching-orientated meeting, the 19 Day Feast is involved with the affairs of registered Baha’is.

Fireside Meetings
These meetings use the Ruhi pattern of study. It is a progressive, systematic study of the faith for all those interested in the Baha’i Faith. Lately they have become “Inquire Meetings” that are set up at the convenience of those interested, rather than a regularly scheduled event.
Prayer Meetings
Open to Non Baha’is
The Baha’i Assembly is occasionally invited to speak about the Faith. In the past they have visited the Catholic and Methodist Churches.
Starting in the 1970s the Butte-Silver Bow Baha’is traveled to every reservation in the state of Montana. They would invite Native Americans and others people on the reservation to come, learn, and share. Usually 20-25 people would attend.

History

There is a long history of the Baha’i Faith in Montana. The Faith first reached American soil during the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. Six years later in 1899 Peter Maus, an isolated Baha’i in Missoula, became the 1st recorded Baha’i in Montana. Other pioneers of the faith came in the early 1900s. It was not untill 1930 that the Baha’i Faith became more organized and tracked the history of members through written and recorded forms. Peter Maus filled out a “Historical Record” form upon accepting the Baha’i Faith in Missoula. On the historical document, there is a general entry entitled “General information you would like to have preserved in this historical record” in which he wrote:

“My experiences in the Baha’i Faith, has made it convincingly plain to me that this Revelation is the heavenly truth. It is what it claims to be, and that it will accomplish its ordained destiny. My faith and works, I build on this foundation, with certainty and bright hopes, that the Abha Light will conquer the darkness, and illumine the world. Here is to be found the light of guidance, the way of the inner and outward salvation. My talents are in the Abha sight to see this truth, and endeavor to be an example and guide in this beautiful pathway.”

Mrs. and Mr. Alseworth Jones had become Baha’i in Chicago, IL and moved to Anaconda, MT in 1902. In 1910 John Wilcott, the “Cowboy Baha’i” settled near the Lewistown area in central Montana with his 70-year-old mother with the intent to spread the Message to the surrounding cowboys, shepherds, and ranchers. The following is a brief excerpt from a letter he had written for the Baha’i News Vol. 1 No. 14, Chicago (Nov. 23, 1910) of his experiences in Montana:

“This country is wild with rattlesnakes and wolves. I have killed many snakes, but as the country is now being settled the snakes are disappearing… It is getting cold; the mountains are covered with snow and we had four inches of it. We are still in a tent, but I am building a log house. Frost killed nearly all we had, but God giveth and God taketh away–Praise His Name! When I go for mail, I carry a gun because of wild steers. Everyone carries a gun because of cattle and snakes… Many of the cowboys shoot game and bring it to us. Of course we have to fed many of them at times, but that is the only way we can reach them. At first some of them did not want to hear anything of God–said there was no God–but after some of the great hidden mysteries were explained to them, they became interested, and you would be surprised to see us sitting on a log outside, or in the tent, until 10 o’clock at night.”

In 1911 Abdu’l Baha toured the United States. Later he sent a traveling teacher. According to Betty Bennett’s history, he caused disunity and warped the teachings. The traveling teacher was declared a “covenant-breaker” by Abdu’l Baha. On New Years of 1921 Janabi Fazil, who was sent by Abdu’l to clear up some of the confusion spread by the previous traveling teacher, arrived in the U.S. Janabi Fazil taught in Butte, Anaconda, and Redlodge, Montana. It is said that he drew a crowd of over 800 the same night as the mayor’s inauguration.

Martha Ruth was a journalist from Pennsylvania and was called the “Apostle” of Abdu’l. In the tradition of promoting racial equality espoused by the Baha’i Faith, she was married by Abdu’l Baha to Lewis Greggory, a black lawyer. Some time in the early 1920s while speaking in Helena, she was heard by Matthew and Evalen Cadlwell. The couple, who had traveled to Helena solely to hear her speak, returned home to become the first Baha’is in Butte. It would not be until 1944 that an assembly formed Butte.

Abdu’l Baha had a divine plan to disperse the faith around the world, but in 1921, before he could complete this work, he died. Shoghi Effendi became his successor. He desired to finish the work started by Abdu’l and wanted to bind the believers together. In 1937 Shoghi gave the Baha’i World his first teaching plan which outlined specific steps as to how the believers could be “bound.” For example, each capitol city was to have a Spiritual Assembly. This is how and why an assembly was started in Helena.

When Betty Bennett was young she lived in Helena. She did not have a very “religious” upbringing, but at the age of 15 she was seeking out the church looking for answers. Her mother had said, “I’m looking for something too but I don’t think you’ll find it in the church.” Betty heard the minister of her church say that Christ would come back, and it would be in their lifetime. Later she was talking with a member of the Baha’i Faith and asked about Baha’u’llah. She was told that He was the 2nd coming of Christ. She then became Baha’i. Betty’s mother became one of the original members of the Helena Assembly which formed in 1938.

In 1944 an assembly formed in Butte. In 1949 Betty’s mother moved from Helena to Greatfalls to help form an assembly. After being actively involved with the Baha’i assembly in Helena since its formation, and in other Baha’i communities around the state, Betty Bennett moved to Butte in 1953. She has been an active member of the Butte-Silver Bow Baha’i Assembly and has recently written a book on the history of the Baha’i Faith in Montana, which will soon be available.