Dear Omar and all,
As I definitely find your concerns to be valid and real, I would like to try to address them. Part of my challenge is that the Writings of Baha'u'llah and the additional guidance that we have are vast, and as a finite and fallible human being, I can only try to offer you an explanation that I hope will be accurate enough and clear enough. I therefore hope you will bear with me.
1. Profundity of religious teachings
. In line with what I've just said above, I've previously commented to Tony directly that, as a preliminary matter, I find many religious concepts to be profound and not always easy to explain in simple terms. Based on my belief that God is Infinite and in fact Unknowable, I don't find this to be surprising. I hope you won’t mind a quotation in this regard.
Too high is the All-Merciful for the hearts of those who have recognized Him to apprehend His true nature, or for the minds of men to hope to fathom His essence. He verily is exalted above the understanding of anyone besides Himself, and sanctified beyond the comprehension of all else save Him. From all eternity He hath been independent of the entire creation.
(from the Writings of Baha'u'llah)
Although God is considered to be Exalted above comprehension, still, God seems to have given us people a duty to try to understand as best we can. Some of us definitely try.
2. Preservation of the teachings
. First, I am inclined to believe that Baha'u'llah's Writings will not be altered or destroyed unless God, in His inscrutable Wisdom, allows it to happen. Admittedly, God has at times allowed people to do some of the most awful and idiotic things to themselves, each other, and the environment, but at the same time I think all of the Holy Books point to a time when God shall establish His Kingdom on Earth. I do think God will aid us in preserving the integrity of His Revelation.
Carefully preserved in the Holy Land, Baha'is have original manuscripts and carefully copied and even illuminated versions of our Sacred Texts. Over time, numerous copies of Baha'u'llah's most important works have been published, so that many of us have them in our homes. I think it would be quite difficult for anyone to select a particular passage and then make it completely disappear. Again, we already have the words in our printed publications and you've seen them on the Internet. Secondly, I have seen no evidence of any particular special interest group "taking over". The most important emphasis in the Baha'i Writings is that, although the people of the globe are diverse in many ways, diversity is ultimately a good thing and that we must respect and get along with each other. I think this discourages special interests.
I would have to rely on your comments about what the situation is in your region of California, as I myself am in the Northeastern USA (Massachusetts) and have not so much as visited your region. I notice that our friend Jakob said he has written us from a town northeast of Iceland. Here where I live, I am not generally aware of people's sexual issues nor whether anyone may be grappling with homosexuality. Sure, one or two people have confided in me regarding certain issues or problems, but I suppose as to the others that either nobody is defining themselves as homosexual or that they're being discreet.
. I certainly had not ever meant to imply that Baha'is would not counsel each other, nor otherwise do what they can to help each other. I also did not mean to say that we should go around "reporting" each other's behavior to the "authorities"! To the contrary. As with any friend, if I have an opportunity to help another Baha'i, or anyone else for that matter, I certainly will, and I will do it as discreetly as I know how. Because Baha'i communities tend to be small (or, at least where I am, we are and have been very small), as a practical matter the range of resources (and personalities) is sometimes very limited.
I have found a quotation stating not only that we should help others, but also calling on us to do so with honor, respect and kindness:
There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity. We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them and not Satan. They are not manifestations of the wrath of God but evidences of His divine favor. God, the Creator, has endowed them with physical, mental and spiritual qualities that they may seek to know and do His will; therefore, they are not objects of His wrath and condemnation. In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God; therefore, how shall we be justified in debasing and belittling them, uttering anathema and preventing them from drawing near unto His mercy? This is ignorance and injustice, displeasing to God; for in His sight all are His servants.
(from a talk by 'Abdu'l-Baha, July 14, 1912 at the All Souls Unitarian Church, Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York)
4. Gaining the Good-Pleasure of God
. I speak as an individual and certainly cannot claim to know the thoughts of Baha'is that I have not met, but personally I am only too well aware of the warnings that the Writings of Baha'u'llah give, that we should each try to guard ourselves from going astray.
As an example, I have yet another quotation.
...Ye should perform such deeds as would please God, your Lord, earning thereby the good-pleasure of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Turn not your religion into a means of material gain, spending your life on vanities, and inheriting thereby on the Day of Resurrection that which would displease Him Whom God shall make manifest, while ye deem that what ye do is right. If, however, ye observe piety in your Faith, God will surely nourish you from the treasuries of His heavenly grace.
Be ye sincere in your allegiance to Him Whom God shall make manifest, for the sake of God, your Lord, that perchance ye may, through devotion to His Faith, be redeemed on the Day of Resurrection. Beware lest ye suffer one another to be wrapt in veils by reason of the disputes which may, during your night, arise among you as a result of the problems ye encounter or in consideration of such matters as your loftiness or lowliness, your nearness or remoteness.
Thus have We firmly exhorted you—a befitting exhortation indeed—that haply ye may cleave tenaciously unto it and attain thereby salvation on the Day of Resurrection. The time is approaching when ye will be at peace with yourselves in your homes, and lo, Him Whom God shall make manifest will have appeared, and God wisheth you to return unto Him, even as God called you into being through the Primal Point. However, all of you will seek guidance while pursuing the promptings of your own desires. Some of you are filled with pride by reason of your religion, others because of your learning. Ye will, one and all, cling unto some part of the [Book] as a means of self-glorification.
(Selections from the Writings of the Bab, pp. 129-130)
In summary, what I would want to say is that there is a lot of guidance, there are clear directions on how to be and there are warnings not to go astray. For me, this means I need to watch my own behavior. What it has meant to me with regard to other people is this: (a) we all have problems and I should not focus on my neighbor's deficiencies rather than my own; (b) if I see an opportunity to help someone, I do what I can to help in a respectful manner; and (c) if the person I would like to help will not accept my help, out of respect I back off.
Finally, let me suggest that people's having sexual issues, while obviously a problem in today's world that even sometimes leads to certain physical illnesses, does not seem as grave as certain other problems in the world that continue to cause killing and death. Let me end with another citation to a talk given by 'Abdu'l-Baha in Paris, France, see http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/PT/pt-46.html
All prejudices, whether of religion, race, politics or nation, must be renounced, for these prejudices have caused the world’s sickness. It is a grave malady which, unless arrested, is capable of causing the destruction of the whole human race. Every ruinous war, with its terrible bloodshed and misery, has been caused by one or other of these prejudices. ...
I hope the above comments will be helpful.
RebeccaOh dear, and not meaning to miss your question:
Why Baha'u'llah chose the strong word “satanic”: I can't claim to know the answer to that one.
Whether His word is still important, yes, personally I believe it is. Therefore I do think that we have to take sexual issues seriously (note, the passage you quoted refers to "adultery, sodomy and lechery"). For me, again, this means I need to watch my own behavior. And if I can help another person, I would be pleased to do so.
Note: All quotations are copyrighted by the Baha'i International Community.