By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
José Luis Jr., meanwhile, has established a congregation of his own. He says he has about 80 members in Puerto Rico and groups of 30 to 40 in Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, and Miami. Virtually all are former Creciendo en Gracia members. Among them are his mother and two of his four sisters.
In many ways José Luis Jr.'s teachings mirror his father's. He believes the Devil was destroyed and that salvation is predestined. But parishioners don't have carte blanche to indulge their urges. And he never claims to be Jesus Christ. As he puts it: "I offer people a safe alternative to that kind of fanatical thinking."
Creciendo en Gracia devotees believe, on the other hand, that Junior is just another minister of deceipt and that, little by little, De Jesus is exposing the one true Gospel. As he does, their minds are evolving. When it's all over, they'll have perfect knowledge but only if they believe. De Jesus says his followers will then shed their tired flesh and he'll give them new bodies that feel no pain and never die. Although he can't say exactly when the change will come, the buzz around headquarters is that it could be any moment.
Some of his followers, like Albarracin, are so convinced salvation is imminent that they refuse to plan for retirement or take out health and life insurance.
After all, when the transformation is over, they won't want for anything.
"We're the government of God on Earth," explains De Jesus. "We will spread all over and rule the world. We will control the church, the economy, society, education, politics, technology. There will be no war, no corruption. I mean, if a lie can change the world, why can't the truth do it?"