At the national level, the affairs of the Bahá’í community are administered by the National Spiritual Assembly, a nine-member elected council responsible for guiding, co-ordinating, and stimulating the activities of Local Spiritual Assemblies and individual members of the Bahá’í community within a given country.
Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, likens the functioning of a National Spiritual Assembly to the beating of a healthy heart, “pumping spiritual love, energy and encouragement”1 to all members of the Bahá’í community. He writes that the members of Spiritual Assemblies should “disregard utterly their own likes and dislikes, their personal interests and inclinations, and concentrate their minds upon those measures that will conduce to the welfare and happiness of the Bahá’í Community and promote the common weal.”2 They are to approach their task with “extreme humility” and should be noted for “their openmindedness, their high sense of justice and duty, their candor, their modesty, their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity”.3
The responsibilities of a National Spiritual Assembly include channelling the community’s financial resources, fostering the growth and vibrancy of the national Bahá’í community, supervising the affairs of the community including its social and economic development activities and its properties, overseeing relations with government, resolving questions from individuals and Local Spiritual Assemblies, and strengthening the participation of the Bahá’í community in the life of society at the national level. In all areas of their work, National Spiritual Assemblies benefit from the wisdom and experience of the Counsellors, who advise and assist them.
The members of all National Spiritual Assemblies are directly responsible for electing the Universal House of Justice every five years. The National Spiritual Assembly itself is annually elected, following the basic Bahá’í electoral procedures: no nominations are permitted, campaigning is forbidden, secret ballots are used, electors are asked to give consideration to moral character and practical ability, and those women and men who receive the most votes are elected. While the Local Spiritual Assembly is elected by all adult members of the local Bahá’í community, the National Spiritual Assembly is elected by delegates, who were elected in district or “unit” conventions. Each year, the delegates assemble at National Convention, consult and share insights about the progress of the Bahá’í community, and vote for the members of the National Spiritual Assembly.
In some countries, the National Spiritual Assembly assigns certain of its functions to Regional Bahá’í Councils, which serve a designated geographical area within the land in question. The responsibilities of a Regional Council may include carrying out policies of the National Spiritual Assembly, supervising progress of particular plans and projects, and taking steps to stimulate and coordinate the growth of the Bahá’í community within the region.