About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

La Luz Del Mundo - Giving the People What they Want

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.


zeky said...

JHD this that you wrote shows your ignorance about the church of GOD,if you really wan to know the church and get real info let me know zecky75@yahoo.com or may be there is a little pain on your inside be cause of the fast growing of the church of GOD wich you will not stop ,by the way our numbers are real, and growing,
Ill be waiting for your repply JHD Dios te bendiga y te ampare

JHD said...

Well, folks, I think that pretty well speaks for itself ... .

JHD said...

I appreciate your comments... but I opted not to publish it as it seemed a bit inflammatory. Let's keep things civil, please.

JHD said...

I forgot to mention, you are more than welcome to revise and resubmit your comments.

Peter Parker said...

Very interesting indeed. I have read your book Primitive Revolution and I am currently reading your dissertation. I have so far not been disappointed. Please continue writing on the subject.

JHD said...

Peter Parker - If you read Primitive Revolution I don't think you have much of a need to pick up the dissertation. It lacks the good cohesive final chapter that Primitive has, but it does contain a brief overview of church / state relations. I'm glad that in your position as Peter Parker you liked the book... but will you still like it as Spider Man?

Peter Parker said...

Spider Man is too busy to read books. I was just curious to see how much you had improved, and wanted to read anything you might have omitted. I read Renée de la Torre's book before reading your book, but was pretty much lost in the anthropological jargon (not to mention my Spanish has deteriorated over the years). Your book was a godsend.

However, I do have some questions. In both your book and your dissertation you state that "that allegations of sexual impropriety made by a Teresa Larios were part of the charges." But who is this lady? A church member, church dissident, outsider? Is she Guadalupe Avelar's mother? What were the charges?

JHD said...

When I get back to the office after the new year I'll dig out the Lancyner and Ibarra thesis. Teresa Larios was a member of the congregation that alleged that Aaron had acted inappropriately with her. I don't recall if it was a molestation, rape, or consensual relationship charge. When I find it I'll post a response. That Lancyner and Ibarra thesis was a bear to get my hands on in the U de G library. They had put restrictions on it so that I could only get a copy of it because a friend of mine was in the administration of the university.

Peter Parker said...

Awesome! Sorry to bother you during your vacation. I has hoping to visit UdG next August to read that thesis, but now I see it's probably a lost cause. Perhaps UdG treasures it because it was the first time someone studied the church, or perhaps because it is one of the few works of the late Lanczyner.

JHD said...

My colleague suspected it was protected because it contained some inflammatory research strategies, like pretending to want to join LDM and recording people without permission. I could PDF a copy for you. Send me an email to my work email at Central Washington University and I can reply with the PDF. The quality is not fantastic, but it should be sufficient. Are you writing a book about LDM? Are you an academic or independent scholar? Give me the scoop when you send your email and I'll reply with the PDF.

I was a little disappointed in Renee de la Torre's book in that it focused almost entirely AFTER the death of Aaron. Mine is only a snippet, as well, as my goal was to think more about comparative patterns of religious groups than just LDM, the Mormon group in the book, or the Sinarquistas. On the other hand, Renee had access to documents that I did not because according to her a member of LDM removed many of the documents pertaining to LDM from the Municipio of GDL archives. I got what I did because the archive had just organized a selection of documents that had never been opened to the public before. In addition there are more documents stored in neighborhood files that are opened after 30 ears. I was able to get the document regarding the deal for Aaron's burial one day... and it was brought down to me by a member of LDM working at the archive. When I ordered it a week later I was told the document was not there. A serious problem with this research, for sure.

Scott Ogle said...

I am investigating instances of sexual molestation at the hands of LLDM ministers, and "unconditionals". Any information regarding a victim willing to speak to authorities would be appreciated.

Scott Ogle