Light of the World Church, Mexico
(Iglesia la Luz del Mundo)

by Clifton L. Holland

Last revised on 10 December 2007

 

This religious tradition, founded in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, in 1926 by Eusebio Joaquín González (later known as the Apostle Aarón), has blended Mexican mysticism with Pentecostal fervor to create a unique Christian movement that has spread throughout Mexico and to more than 20 countries in the Americas (including the USA and Canada), plus Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Australia. The Light of the World Church (since 1952 with headquarters in Colonia Hermosa Provincia, Guadalajara, Jalisco), has grown from 80 members in 1929, to 75,000 in 1972, to 1.5 million in 1986 and to more than four million members in 22 countries in 1990, according to church sources. 

The official name of this organization is the Church of God, Column and Pillar of Truth, Jesus the Light of the World (La Iglesia de Dios, Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad, Jesus La Luz del Mundo), but its followers are popularly known in Mexico as Aaronistas (followers of Aarón).  This religious organization has been classified as a Marginal Christian Group by PROLADES due to its unique characteristics, which include its claim to be "the restoration of Privitive Christianity" and its apostles "the voice of God on earth."

The Light of the World Church has a strong, Mexican nationalistic orientation and has an authoritarian form of church government; it strongly adheres to Old Testament teachings, is legalistic and upholds high moral standards; and its members are known for their industriousness and honesty. Although there is a strong emphasis on Bible reading and memorization, the prophetic messages spoken by the Apostles Aarón and Samuel are considered as "the fountain of truth." In addition to traditional Protestant hymns and Gospel songs (many from the 18th and 19th centuries), some of the songs used refer to the "Anointed One," the "Sent One" or the "The Prince," which honor and praise Aarón as the Church's First Apostle. The traditional worship style is simple:  people kneel to pray, women wear head coverings and long white dresses, no musical instruments are used, the choir sings a capella in four-part harmony, and the sexes are separated by a center aisle.

Another unique feature of this movement is that all ordained pastors are required to travel to the Mother Church in Colonia Hermosa Provincia (symbolic of Holy Jerusalem) in Guadalajara on August 14 for an annual celebration of the Lord's Supper, which is held on Aarón's birthday. This event is also an occasion for faithful church members (the new spiritual People of Israel) to make a pilgrimage to Guadalajara from within Mexico or from other countries, and to present the Apostle with special gifts. While rejecting Roman Catholicism as an apostate Church, Guadalajara has become a new Rome for this movement, and excommunication from the Light of the World Church means that people are "irrevocably lost for all eternity."

Doctrinally, the Light of the World Church has many similarities with the "Oneness" Pentecostal movement in Mexico (see the Apostolic Church of Faith in Jesus Christ), except for its allegiance to the Apostle Aarón; and, historically, Eusebio Joaquín González (an uneducated man of humble origins) was converted in 1926 by an Apostolic fruit vender and became a disciple of two itinerant lay preachers, known as "Saul" and "Silas," who arose within the early Pentecostal movement in northern Mexico in the 1920s. Eusebio was baptized by "Saul" on April 6, 1926, in San Pedro de las Colonias (near Monterrey) and he and his wife, Elisa, accompanied the two bearded and barefoot "prophets" for a few months on a preaching journey on foot. At some point, "Saul" spoke the following words of prophecy: "You will no longer be called Eusebio, rather your new name will be Aarón and you will become known in all the world." Later, Aarón testified that this was the moment in which God called him to establish the Light of the World Church as the restoration of the Primitive Church of Jesus Christ, and in December of 1926 the City of Guadalajara was selected its spiritual headquarters (see Gaxiola 1994:167-169).

Between 1926 and 1952, this new religious group grew from a few dedicated followers to an established movement of about 25,000 members. From 1926 to 1934, Aarón and his early disciples traveled on foot to many towns and villages, preaching to the marginalized peasants and forming "house churches" among his followers, who became known as Aaronistas. The first temple of the Light of the World Church was founded in 1934 in the lower-class neighborhood of San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara. By 1938, Aarón had established most of the rules and regulations that would govern the new movement, including the obligatory 5:00 a.m. daily prayer service, and he became known to his followers as "the new Messiah."

In 1942, the Light of the World Church suffered its first major division, when a power-struggle among the leaders (Aarón was accused of misusing church finances) resulted in the formation of a rival movement, known as The Good Shepherd Church (Iglesia El Buen Pastor), which is similar in doctrine and practice (Renée de la Torre, 1996:155).

In 1952, Aarón purchased 14 hectares on the outskirts of Guadalajara where he and his followers constructed the Colonia Hermosa Provincia as a segregated community to protect church members from worldly temptations and to strengthen the development of a community of faith. During the next few decades, a large central church was built that seated about 3,000 people and a walled, self-contained community was developed with its own commercial, medical, educational and social services, which were built by the voluntary labor and tithes of the faithful.

After the death of Aarón in 1964, his youngest son, Samuel Juaquín Flores, became the new Apostle of the movement; and he began a new era of openness to the larger world by tearing down the stone wall around the Colonia Hermosa Provincia, encouraging the growth and development of similar colonies of believers within Mexico and in other countries, and constructing a new, large central church at a cost of over $5 million--not counting the cost of volunteer labor provided by church members. In 1992, an estimated 150,000 church members gathered for the annual celebration of the Lord's Supper at the Glorieta Central de la Iglesia La Luz del Mundo.

When Aarón died in 1964, the Light of the World Church had 64 churches and 35 missions; under the leadership of Samuel, this movement grew to include 11,300 churches and missions in 22 countries in 1989, according to Renée de la Torre (1998:267).   This demonstrates the growing social strength and missionary zeal of this autonomous Mexican religious movement.

Despite strong opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and from many Protestant denominations, this independent quasi-Pentecostal organization has achieved significant numerical, social and political strength in Mexico (especially in the State of Jalisco), and through expansion to other countries has made its presence and unique message known throughout the Americas.

For a critical evaluation of the Light of the World Church, its organizational structure and leadership, and its recent controversies, see:  Revista Académica para el Estudio de las Religiones, La Luz del Mundo:   un ánalisis multidisciplinario de la controversia religiosa que ha impactado a nuestro país (Mexico City:  Revista Académica para el Estudio de las Religiones, Tomo I, 1997).

International Headquarters:

Head church official: Apostol Samuel Juaquín Flores
Glorieta Central de la Iglesia La Luz del Mundo
Colonia Hermosa Provincia, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
Telephones: (013) 608-1998, 608-1870 and 608-1742
Internet: www.laluzdelmundo.com

SOURCES:

Clayton Berg and Paul Pretiz, Spontaneous Combustion: Grass-Roots Christianity, Latin American Style (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1996)

Manuel J. Gaxiola, La Serpiente y la Paloma: Historia, Teología y Análisis de la Iglesia Apostólica de la Fe en Cristo Jesús (1914-1994), Second Edition (Nacaulpan, Mexico: Libros Pyros, 1994).

Renée de la Torre, "Pinceladas de una ilustración etnográfica: La Luz del Mundo en Guadalajara," in Identidades Religiosas y Sociales en México, edited by Gilberto Giménez (Mexico City: Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1996.

Renée de la Torre, "Una iglesia mexicana con proyección internacional:  La Luz del Mundo," in Sectas o Iglesias:  Viejos o Nuevos Movimientos Religiosos, compiled by Elio Masferrer Kan (Mexico City:  Plaza y Valdés Editores, 1998).

Revista Académica para el Estudio de las Religiones, La Luz del Mundo:   un ánalisis multidisciplinario de la controversia religiosa que ha impactado a nuestro país (Mexico City:  Revista Académica para el Estudio de las Religiones, Tomo I, 1997).