Death - souls of relatives

One of the distinguishing characteristics of this most great Dispensation is that the kin of such as have recognized and embraced the truth of this Revelation and have, in the glory of His name, the Sovereign Lord, quaffed the choice, sealed wine from the chalice of the love of the one true God, will, upon their death, if they are outwardly non-believers, be graciously invested with divine forgiveness and partake of the ocean of His Mercy. This bounty, however, will be vouchsafed only to such souls as have inflicted no harm upon Him Who is the Sovereign Truth nor upon His loved ones. Thus hath it been ordained by Him Who is the Lord of the Throne on High and the Ruler of this world and of the world to come.

Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 386

As for thy question concerning those righteous souls who passed away ere they heard the Call of this Revelation, know thou that those who ascended unto God ere they heard this Call, but who followed the precepts of Christ and walked in the Straight Path — these verily attained, after ascending to the Divine Kingdom, unto the Refulgent Light.

Extract from a Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Source

As the spirit of man after putting off this material form has an everlasting life, certainly any existing being is capable of making progress; therefore it is permitted to ask for advancement, forgiveness, mercy, beneficence, and blessings for a man after his death, because existence is capable of progression. That is why in the prayers of Bahá’u’lláh forgiveness and remission of sins are asked for those who have died.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 329

Concerning your question whether a soul can receive knowledge of the Truth in the world beyond. Such a knowledge is surely possible, and is but a sign of the loving Mercy of the Almighty. We can, through our prayers, help every soul to gradually attain this high station, even if it has failed to reach it in this world.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 204-205

The Master has told us that gifts and good deeds done in memory of those who have passed on, are most helpful to the development of their souls in the realms beyond.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 204

We cannot take the teaching that if a believer remains steadfast till the end of his life he will be the means of spiritual awakening of all his ancestors too literally, especially as it is only reported, and not in an authenticated form. However, we can be assured that the true and faithful believer will be in a much better position to intercede for his ancestors, and aid in their development than if he were not spiritually enlightened.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 228

Your contribution to the Shrine of the Báb is very deeply appreciated... Your mother and father will both be helped spiritually to a very marked degree by this contribution in their memory, for the Shrine. Parents are glorified by the deeds of their children; and your service and dedication to the Faith will be the means of their spiritual development in the realms beyond.

Shoghi Effendi quoted in The Universal House of Justice, 1991 Aug 28, The Condition of non-Bahá’í Relatives after Death

Furthermore, Shoghi Effendi appears to suggest that awareness of the Cause in the next world evolves and unfolds. For example, the following extract from a letter dated 17 March 1940 written on behalf of the Guardian to a believer whose father had recently passed away, provides the following statement:

The Guardian ... wishes me to hasten to convey to you the expression of his deepest sympathy in this grievous loss which you have come to sustain. He will specially and earnestly pray for his departed soul that in the realms of the spirit beyond it may receive such guidance as would enable it to fully recognize and accept the Faith, and thereby attain abiding peace and happiness. May the Beloved bless his spirit, and richly reward him for all the help and assistance he extended to you in making the ... Summer School such an attractive and prosperous Bahá’í Centre.

The Universal House of Justice, 1991 Aug 28, The Condition of non-Bahá’í Relatives after Death

In reference to your questions about ancestors and descendants, we have been directed to say that while there are Tablets from Bahá’u’lláh stating that faith in the Manifestation of God on the part of a believer attracts God's mercy to the souls of the departed parents the House of Justice knows of no text in Bahá’í Writings to support the statement that a believer's seven past generations and seven generations to descend from him are blessed when that person becomes a Bahá’í.

The Universal House of Justice, 1991 Aug 28, The Condition of non-Bahá’í Relatives after Death

It is possible for a soul, not only to recognize the Truth in the next world, but also to make up for "lost opportunities". Shoghi Effendi in the following letters written on his behalf to individual believers states:

No man can "obtain everlasting life" in the full sense of the term, except through acknowledging the Manifestation of God, in this age, Bahá’u’lláh. If he doesn't do it in this world he will have a chance to progress in the next one.

He will pray that the Beloved may sustain and comfort you in your great sorrow, and that also He may, in His unfailing and all-merciful love, bless the soul of your departed husband, and enable it to grow and advance spiritually, and attain unto the full recognition of His Revelation. Now that the veil has been lifted, and that his soul has been liberated from the material limitations of this contingent world, may he be guided to a truer and deeper appreciation of this Cause, and make up for his lost opportunities while he was still in this world.

The Universal House of Justice, 1991 Aug 28, The Condition of non-Bahá’í Relatives after Death

While Bahá’u’lláh clearly affirms that these souls are "invested with divine forgiveness", "partake of the ocean of His mercy" and are the recipients of "the splendours of the Sun of Divine favor", the Research Department has not, however been able to locate any statement in the Writings to suggest that one's non-Bahá’í parents, upon their death, automatically become Bahá’ís.

The Universal House of Justice, 1991 Aug 28, The Condition of non-Bahá’í Relatives after Death

With reference to Bahá’u’lláh's Tablet in which He says that all the relatives of believers will reach the Kingdom in the other world: by this is meant only a partial attainment. They can, however, progress indefinitely, as spiritual progress in the other World is limitless, and is not confined to those who have attained unto the knowledge and recognition of the Cause while still in this world.

The Universal House of Justice, 1991 Aug 28, The Condition of non-Bahá’í Relatives after Death