"Walking today in the gardens by the Hudson River in the early morning, I had the privilege of being with Abdu'l-Bahá, and I told Him how some people have tried to spread the untruth that the Bahá'ís teach "free love."
He answered: "The marriage bond is very important." He repeated it again: "Very, very important. Marriage must be strict and pure. You must all be very careful about this."
He continued: "Women and men must not embrace each other when not married, or not about to be married. They must not kiss each other. If women kiss women, that is not bad. If men kiss men, that is not bad. But men and women must not embrace. Such conduct is not taught in the Bahá'í Revelation. AND IT MUST NOT BE DONE. IT IS NOT PERMITTED. If they wish to greet each other, or comfort each other, they may take each other by the hand.
"Describe how you have seen the women of the East, as in Haifa. The Blessed Beauty directed that there should be great modesty in the women, that they should not bare the neck and bosom, and that the women in the East should wear a veil.*
"The conditions are different in the West, but the women of the West must see the spiritual significance of this Teaching. Do not distress them by saying that they should not have done this or that. They will see by themselves. Talk about this only, so to speak, one by one, with the friends, when you have the opportunity."
(Notes of a talk with Abdu'l-Bahá, New York City, June 7, 1912)
"The Bahá'í standard is very high, more particularly when compared with the thoroughly rotten morals of the present world. But this standard of ours will produce healthier, happier, nobler people, and induce stabler marriages. The Master's words to Ann Boylan, which you quoted, can certainly be taken as the true spirit of the teachings on the subject of sex. We must strive to achieve this exalted standard."
A chaste and holy life must be made the controlling principle in the behavior and conduct of all Bahá’ís, both in their social relations with the members of their own community, and in their contact with the world at large. It must adorn and reinforce the ceaseless labors and meritorious exertions of those whose enviable position is to propagate the Message, and to administer the affairs, of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. It must be upheld, in all its integrity and implications, in every phase of the life of those who fill the ranks of that Faith, whether in their homes, their travels, their clubs, their societies, their entertainments, their schools, and their universities. It must be accorded special consideration in the conduct of the social activities of every Bahá’í summer school and any other occasions on which Bahá’í community life is organized and fostered. It must be closely and continually identified with the mission of the Bahá’í youth, both as an element in the life of the Bahá’í community, and as a factor in the future progress and orientation of the youth of their own country.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29-30)
Letter from The Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual
Assembly of the United States, February 10, 1974:
We have your letter...asking about a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject of embracing. We have seen no such Tablet, but we have seen reference to a pilgrim's note and the comment of the beloved Guardian on it.
The pilgrim's note reports the Master as saying: 'Women and men must not embrace each other when not married, or not about to be married. They must not kiss each other....If they wish to greet each other, or comfort each other, they may take each other by the hand.'
In a letter to an individual written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is said: 'The Master's words to..., which you quoted, can certainly be taken as the true spirit of the teachings on the subject of sex. We must strive to achieve this exalted standard.'
(Bahá'í National Review, June, 1979, p. 5; partially cited in Lights of Guidance, pp. 440-441)
As to chastity, this is one of the most challenging concepts to get across in this very permissive age, but Bahá’ís must make the utmost effort to uphold Bahá’í standards, no matter how difficult they may seem at first. Such efforts will be made easier if the youth will understand that the laws and standards of the Faith are meant to free them from untold spiritual and moral difficulties in the same way that a proper appreciation of the laws of nature enables one to live in harmony with the forces of the planet...’
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 361)
It is not surprising that serious-minded Bahá’í youth growing up in a bewildering moral environment are asking for specific guidance on the matter of proper conduct in friendship between boys and girls, men and women. It is also not surprising that their parents and other adult advisors are themselves sometimes confused on the issues that arise as they find old standards are changing and new patterns of behavior are developing in society which are unsettling, possibly even frightening to them. The primary protection for the friends in these matters, both young and old alike, is to continue to deepen, truly deepen, in the Teachings so that their behavior more readily conforms to the high standards of the Faith.
(Universal House of Justice, to a National Spiritual Assembly, 5 February 1992)