Baha'i Faith of the Quad Cities

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 26 October 2018.

Phone: 563-332-5525
[flickr_set id="72157621942312196"] History The Bahá’í community in Bettendorf was founded in the early 1970s when Murry and Edy Elmore moved there, as home-front pioneers. The couple became Bahá’ís after learning about the religion from a traveling insurance salesman visiting their home on business. Initially, the Bahá’ís of Bettendorf were part of the larger Davenport Bahá’í community; however, as the number of Bahá’ís in the Quad Cities region grew, the Bettendorf community was able to establish its own pattern of community life. Over the next two decades, the community remained quite small and presently still lacks the minimum nine adult members required to elect a Local Spiritual Assembly. Local Spiritual Assemblies are nine-member bodies elected annually from among the adult believers in every locality where at least nine Baha'is reside and serves as the governing bodies of all local Bahá’í communities. The Elmores attribute their group's slow growth to the negative media portrayal of Iran (the country where the Bahá’í Faith was born), differences in the Bahá’í lifestyle, and general lack of interest. From the time of the Iranian revolution leading up to today’s controversial war on terrorism, the American image of Iran has driven away many potential converts in socially conservative Iowa. Additionally, the two believe the low immigrant population in the suburban city of Bettendorf contributes to a more generalized lack of inter-religious enthusiasm. Cultural differences such as the Bahá’í prohibition against alcohol have further inhibited growth. Murry Elmore remarked, “We were on a couple of committees and suggested they serve non-alcoholic beverages [but] were told that people wouldn’t come [if alcohol was not served], so that’s what you have to do.” Thus, the cultural standards and expectations of Bettendorf’s overwhelmingly Caucasian American population have at times presented challenges to the values of the Bahá’í community. Finally, the Elmores identified a general lack of interest as the biggest challenge to community growth. The Bahá’í Faith has gone unnoticed by the general public and local media alike. Highlighting her frustration with this fact, Edy remarked at one point during our interview that “we believe it is wonderful to be a Bahá’í...[but] to tell others about it and find that the interest is not very great is the exact opposite [feeling].” Although the lack of media recognition may easily be attributed to the community’s small size, it is also a consequence of the group's private nature. There are some events such as the nineteen day Feast that are generally reserved for Bahá’ís and most members declined to be interviewed for privacy reasons. Still, the lack of publicity has proven to be a major obstacle to educating others about the Bahá’í tradition. Today, the Bahá’í Faith of Bettendorf remains a small but important part of the Quad Cities religious landscape--representing one of the area’s two distinct Bahá’í communities. Description Currently, the majority of the activities of Bahá’í community in Bettendorf, Iowa take place in the home of Murry and Edy Elmore. Located in a quiet subdivision in Bettendorf, the home attracts little attention by its outside appearance. Inside, Bahá’í religious paraphernalia is displayed on the walls and one room is reserved for group prayer and meetings. In addition, an office area is set up from which the retired couple conducts the day-to-day correspondence and book-keeping necessary to maintain the community. Though the Elmores' home serves as the locus of community life, other members also periodically host events, especially during the holidays surrounding the Bahá’í month of fasting. Demographics The Quad Cities are a cluster of cities straddling the Mississippi River on the Iowa/Illinois border with a combined population of around 350,000. Bettendorf, Iowa, is an upper-middle class suburb of the Quad Cities with low levels of both economic and racial diversity. Similarly, the first Bahá’ís to settle here, were middle-class, Caucasian, and grew up on farms in central Iowa. In fact, the community is entirely comprised of middle-class Caucasian Iowa natives. While this attribute is thought to significantly decrease the level of discrimination experienced by members, interview subjects also noted that it reduces community visibility and interest from outside. Activities and Schedule The Bahá’í community of Bettendorf follows the standard Bahá’í worship schedule, meeting every nineteen days with special celebrations held on nine holy days each year. Because of the small size of the community, other meetings of members in more social settings also occur occasionally. Most of these gatherings take place in private homes as members alternately host Bahá’í events. Outside observation, however, is prohibited from certain meetings as the Elmores repeatedly emphasized the importance of privacy for many members of this Bahá’í community. In addition to these group meetings, members are encouraged to pray and read frequently from their holy texts. Long-term center plans include renting a building to serve as the seat of their LSA, starting educational classes, and increasing outside visibility. Currently, the community is focusing on gaining the additional members necessary to elect its LSA. The Elmores are confident that with the attainment of this goal, many other and more visible developments will become possible.