In La Luz del Mundo the prayers of the devotees permeate the temples as if they were the same voice. Collective crying turns on and off almost automatically. A dress is a label that says: I belong here.
In every sect, in every street and in every house of the community, the faithful chant what Nason Joaquin Garcia says, the third part of the lineage said to have been chosen by God to spread his teachings to about five million souls under the title. An apostle of Jesus Christ. Although she is serving a 16-year prison sentence in the United States for sexual assault, they still take her word for it because to challenge her would be to challenge God.
For some former devotees, the doctrine of this religion, founded in Mexico in 1926, eschews critical thinking, decision-making outside the church, and the formation of one’s own identity. The Light of the World’s guidelines dictate how to name children, when to cry, and how many hours to fast to pray to God for his imprisoned apostle, but there are no guidelines for those who decide to separate from the crowd. .
These are the memories of three women who tried to swim against the current and who asked to be identified only by their first names to avoid possible attacks for their comments: Barbara, Victoria and V.
That afternoon, the minister rushed into the temple like an angry wind and said, “Brothers, we are in a crisis situation. The apostle needs our prayers.” The scene was unusual for a church whose protocol has the precision of a Swiss watch.
“I thought ‘he’s dead, he’s had a heart attack’. A thousand things went through my mind, except what happened”, says Barbara.
And what happened was a disaster: the servant in whose ear God spoke was in the hands of the California police on charges of human trafficking and rape of minors. “They told us ‘don’t watch the news, don’t search the internet.’ They said that to see anything spoken ill of him is a sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”
Her body shuddered with fear with each vibration of the phone and she blocked out any notification that might tempt her with news. “I’m not going to lie to you: holding a cell phone was a terror that the earth would swallow you up. I thought if I saw something I would go to hell.
And so he continued until one day he saw something and the earth opened up.
That news retrieved testimony from the victim who said she was Nason’s niece. One question led to another and the wall of certainty protecting her faith fell. “That was the door to start opening his eyes and when he pleaded guilty I said: no more.”
Going to the husband did not go as expected. “He shut down. It got to a point where he told me, ‘I don’t want you to say anything to me anymore. I’m not going to fight you, but don’t bring it up.’ He says everything is a lie. Our marriage was ruined then.”
After Nason’s sentencing, she told her husband that leaving the church was a point of no return. He was reluctant, but he avoided separation and to this day only he and his mother-in-law know of his decision.
Although she has gradually improved her relationship with herself, she still needs to improve her relationship with God. “I did not try to find him, to pray that intimate prayer that would lead you to him. When I started to open my eyes I remember crying a lot and asking him: ‘Lord, if this man (Nason) is bad, open my husband’s eyes.’ It has been my constant prayer and it pains me to see him still clinging to this, obsessively. So where is God?
Victoria had a trick to avoid this: When she cut her hair at age 15, she would enter the temple with her head slightly tilted back so that the strands would fall a few inches and mislead the enemy.
Her daily life was not like the new generation who could attend parties, wear makeup or watch soap operas. She lived half a century in a small world: “no” to theater, “no” to dancing, “no” to tight skirts. To study at the university, she moved to another country and began to live alone, but Siddhant followed her like his shadow. “You always try to do the right thing. You don’t go astray because you think ‘God will punish me.’
His first rebellions were buying movie tickets and celebrating the end of his last semester at meetings with friends wearing jeans. “My action was within the rules you set. They tell you that you have free will, but that is contradictory. When you join the church you are crucified. They say to you: ‘Crucify your fleshly desires for you must be crucified like Christ’.
Language creates realities and La Luz del Mundo also acts as a servant to answer the phone. “The ideal person is one who is available for ministry. When they call, you should answer ‘I’m here’. Always ‘here I am’, for whatever”. And she was. there. For almost 50 years, for whatever it is. He decided to stop living there until Nason was arrested.
“This man ruined many lives. He enslaved us.”
Her name is not Victoria, but she asks to withhold her identity because she left the church after the arrest and does not want to disturb her peace. “In your report, call me Victoria, because that’s how it feels to achieve freedom.”
There was a time when Vee’s heart beat more for her pious than for him.
The remorse he felt for who he was became so great that he proposed to God that night. “I fell on my knees and cried and cried and said, ‘Lord, take me instead. It was my fault. It’s my fault he’s sick. Give him the life he needs and take me.’
In the doctrine of Samuel, the second apostle of La Luz del Mundo and father of Nason, there was no place for V. Devotion to a servant was welcome, but never the love of a woman to another woman.
A few minutes before he said the prayer, V was away from the temple. She was trying to recreate herself in a world where her gender identity was not a sin, but her mother said: “Your apostle is in a very bad way.” And he came back.
V was one of the thousands who prayed awake in the conviction that the end was near. Samuel assured for years that with his last breath he would “take them with Christ”, so with his death he would die. “I woke up thinking: ‘He’s going to take us, I’m going to hell'”. But nothing happened.
Vin felt a step away from darkness not because of Satan, but because his religion condemned him.
In the church that he loved so much and in which everyone called each other “brothers”, there was never a breath of encouragement for V. She was 17 when a minister questioned her about a sex life that was not only supposed to be private, but that she was unaware of, robbing her of the only “blessing” that kept her afloat. First he lost his job in the choir; Then his relationship with his family, his love for himself and his faith.
Now an invisible correction lies beneath his words. It took him 13 years to repair his broken church. Slowly he spoke to his mother again. Gradually he recovered.
“Nothing is wrong with me, nothing is ever wrong with me. I did not vomit. I never was. I didn’t like talking about myself, but now I feel that the universe has prepared me to do it. I can be happy with whoever I want, with me, which is the most important thing. It’s very emotional for me because I haven’t been able to do it in so many years. I’m so happy to be able to say: This is me, and it’s okay.”