Elizabeth Clare Prophet, spiritual leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant in the Sunday morning news
Apr 04, 1998 07:24 AM
by Daniel H Caldwell
Sunday, 5 April 1998
Mont. church falters after Armageddon
fails to materialize
CORWIN SPRINGS, Mont. (AP) - The bomb shelters were built, the
food and clothing were gathered, the weapons were stockpiled,
was stored. But Armageddon never came.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, spiritual leader of the Church
Triumphant, had warned back in the 1980s that a nuclear
coming. But when March 1990 slipped by without the prophesied
disaster, her apocalyptic sect went into a skid it is still
struggling to halt.
The church is selling two-thirds of its 12,000-acre Royal Teton
the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park. It is laying off
members, selling equipment, closing businesses - and losing
Disillusioned after years of costly preparations for a calamity
came, followers left in droves upon realizing the world would go
And Prophet, 58, has a still-undiagnosed neurological disease
attacks her memory, the president of the church says. In
epilepsy is getting worse. Her fourth marriage ended in divorce
after her husband left her for their nanny, and her four adult
left the church, some with bitter words.
Peter Arnone of Livingston, who was a member for 22 years and
the church for the end of his marriage, predicts continued
decline for the
religious sect. He left in 1992.
``Elizabeth Clare Prophet has been the magnet for this movement,
she's running out of gas,'' he says. He adds: ``America is not
as naive as it
used to be. People are more distrustful of cults with
Gilbert Cleirbaut, 51, a management consultant and church
became church president in 1996. He says he is guiding it away from
``Let's move away from fear and the constant building of fear,''
``I don't want to have fanaticism. In every organization where
fanaticism, love is gone. I want to have a church where our
very well-balanced, who practice what we preach.''
Chris Kelly, church spokesman, estimates the church at its peak
2,000 members living in Paradise Valley and the nearby cities of
Livingston and Bozeman. He says the number has dropped to maybe
Cleirbaut (pronounced clehr-BOH) says those members who were
``more balanced'' understood that a holocaust was averted
prayer and have stayed.
Heeding Prophet's warnings, the sect moved its headquarters from
California to Montana in 1986 and built a fallout shelter
complex high in
the Gallatin Range. The structures, with a capacity of 750, were
under seven acres with stocks of food, water, vehicles and
survival after nuclear war had laid waste to civilization.
The shelter cost a fortune. Many church members helped pay for
by borrowing and mortgaging their homes in expectation that
would be obliterated by the coming holocaust.
Cleirbaut admits the church had to change direction after what
delicately referred to as ``the shelter cycle.'' Drawing on his
background, he insists that the means used to restructure
can be used to revitalize religion.
Cleirbaut says the church is still making a modest profit -
1996, down nearly two-thirds from the year before. And the
rich in land, having bought what is now hot property among the
star and Wall Street set.
But in the last few years, it has chopped its staff from 750 to
172. It has
shut down its construction department, printing shop, food
plant, farm and ranching operations, cafeteria, medical office
distribution center. The shelter is still there. But church
officials say the
weapons were sold long ago.
Read a profile of the Church Universal and Triumphant. [at
http://rampages.onramp.net/~watchman/unipro.html The Web profile
is by a Christian anti-cult organization.]
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