Considering La Luz Del Mundo church in Guadalajara, Mexico is engaged in its largest religious festival of the year, my entries on the group have doubled traffic to the blog. I thought I could contribute something to the discussion of the highly controversial group by at least creating a basic info entry (as long as you all promise to still buy the book - hahaha). Anyway, it boggles my mind how this powerful and fast-growing institution has essentially been flying under the radar of Mexicanists for decades. However, as Schmidt points out in Fragments of a Golden Age, Mexican historians have hardly given religion in the modern period much of a look - let alone non-Catholic or non-traditional practice.
Founder: Eusebio Joaquin Gonzales. Eusebio joined the Iglesia Cristiana Espiritual in 1924 in Torreon (following his wife) and later became a disciple of barefoot self-proclaimed prophets Saulo and Silas. During this period Eusebio claimed a vision from god in which his name was changed to Aaron and he was charged with starting a "new dispensation" of time marking a new pact between God and man - essetially a restoration of primitive Christianity.
Major Moments in early LLDM history:
1) Eusebio's arrival in Guadalajara on the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1926 and his dedicatory prayer for that city. It sets up LLDM as directly in competition for not only spirituality but also mexicanidad.
2) 1930 Aaron introduces heirarchy into the previously loosely associated pentecostal church. Begins taking on the more formal structures of similar neo-pentecostal groups.
3) 1931 Santa Cena introduced. A formal celebration of the body and blood of Christ. Today members of LLDM gather on August 14th on the birthday of Aaron (about 250,000) in the Hermosa Provincia neighborhood of Guadalajara to take the sacrament of the holy supper: Another challenge to the ceremony of Catholicism. They also have competing ceremonies for newborn babies and watching over the dead.
4) 1933/34. LLDM begins forming their first community of LLDM members on Calle 46 in Guadalajara.
5) 1939. Growth and outside pressure move the group to build their second somewhat exclusive neighborhood.
6) 1942/43. A major schism within LLDM splits away hundreds of members of the group in central Mexico, but also leaves Aaron firmly in charge. He baptizes himself and is proclaimed an apostle of Jesus Christ.
7) 1953/54. LLDM purchases a hacienda east of Guadalajara and obtains an exception from the municipio to turn it into a development. The neighborhood is the famous Hermosa Provincia (named after the reference to Zion of Psalms 48). It becomes closely associated with the PRI through the FOPJ, or neighborhood organization associations of the ruling party.
8) 1964. Aaron dies and his son Samuel is proclaimed the new apostle. The church enters into an expansive phase of growth.
Thos are just a hand full of early highlights. The church claims 1.5 million members in Mexico (though only a fraction of that indicate such a denomination on the census). It also claims 5 million members globally. It has followers in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania in addition to the Americas.
The group has been both highly praised for literacy and poverty campaigns as well as highly controversial for centralized control, allegations of child abuse, improper use of funds, and possible tight links to the PRI.
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