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Church Universal and Triumphant


Elizabeth Claire Prophet, a founder and the former spiritual leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), died in Bozman, MT, in October at the age of 70, having suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years. She was born into a Christian Science family in Red Bank, NJ, and by the age of nine, she said, she’d gone “to every church in town” and found that none taught “the whole truth . . . I found that within myself.” In 1986, former CUT member Gregory Mull was awarded $1.5 million in a suit against her and the church alleging, among other things, that he had been subjected to a form of thought control. At a memorial service, Prophet’s daughter Tatiana said: “I think what my mom did on balance was positive for the world. But people who still believe she’s a perfected being, that’s really hard for me.”

The future of CUT, which still keeps it’s 750-person underground shelters stocked with food in case of apocalyptic disaster, is uncertain. Says University of Montana sociologist Robert Balch, who specializes in cults and unconventional religions, “You had a clear figurehead that became the focus of the organization, the object of adoration. When that’s suddenly removed, it throws people into a tailspin.” Since Prophet’s death, 15 people have claimed to be the next “messenger.” [csr 8.3 2009)

Competing for Succession
As former Church Universal and Triumphant leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet continues to decline, suffering from Alzheimer’s, “There are at least eight people currently claiming the mantle of Messenger,” according to the CUT board of directors, which rejects the claims while urging members to continue to support Prophet. Meanwhile, CUT recently broke ground for a new office building in Corwin Springs, MT, but without the controversy and notoriety that attended the church’s activities in the 1980s and 1990s. [csr 4.2 2005]

A professor who published a book on CUT says the church, which has lost a great many members after a predicted apocalypse did not arrive, says CUT is trying to refocus and move away from origins “steeped in conspiracy and feelings of besiegement.” (Scott McMillon [sic], Bozeman Chronicle, Internet, 3/13/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

CUT Buys Church Building
The Church Universal and Triumphant, which has had its world headquarters in nearby Corwin Springs since 1986, has bough the Church of the Nazarene building in Livingston, MT, to serve its several dozen local members. [csr 1.2 2002]

Throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s, there was considerable animosity between CUT and some of its neighbors, particularly when CUT followers built fallout shelters and made other preparations for a nuclear apocalypse [predicted by retired CUT leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet]. But tensions have since dissipated, especially as CUT has reduced its presence in the county, closing down church-owned businesses, selling real estate, and laying off hundreds of staff members. (Bozeman Chronicle, Internet, 5/4/02) [csr 1.2 2002]