Elizabeth Clare Prophet and her Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) are entering a “second life cycle” of recruiting, training, and teaching. Under the direction of CUT’s president Gilbert A. Cleirbaut, a 51-year-old management consultant who took the helm of the organization in 1996, the New Age cult faces major changes marked by the sale of two-thirds of its 12,000-acre Royal Teton Ranch in Montana. Church Universal and Triumphant had built bomb shelters on this property, which were stockpiled with food, clothing, and weapons, in anticipation of a nuclear holocaust predicted by Mrs. Prophet to occur in 1989.
Since then, disillusioned church members have left the cult in droves and the ranch headquarters shut down its construction department, printing shop, food processing plant, and farm and ranching operations, according to the 4 April Detroit News. Cleirbaut announced, “We’re getting rid of everything that doesn’t focus on our mission of spreading the teachings of Mrs.
Prophet” (ibid). Even though these changes may be, in Cleirbaut’s words, ‘guiding [the church] away from survivalism” (4 April Orange County Register), the cult still faces difficult times. Mrs. Prophet’s health and family problems contribute to the cult’s decline.
Church Universal and Triumphant is a second-generation offshoot from the I AM movement started by Guy and Edna Ballard in the 1930s. Mark Prophet, Church Universal and Triumphant’s founder, split from an I AM sect in 1958 and formed what was called Summit Lighthouse. In 1961, he married Elizabeth Clare WuIf. Church Universal and Triumphant promotes mystical teachings from “ascended masters” — also known as the “Great White Brotherhood”— the spirits of wise people from previous ages. This is in direct contradiction to Isaiah 8:19-20, which forbids us from consulting mediums and spirits.
The Prophets taught, “All of life is God. All of being is God. All of consciousness is God.” This pantheism is contrary to the Bible in which God declares, “I am the Lord, who has made all things,… who fails the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners” (Isa. 44:24-25). They taught a distinction between Jesus the man and the impersonal “Christ consciousness,” contrary to the apostle John’s warning that the antichrist denies that Jesus and Christ are one and the same (l John 2:22). Denying the gospel, the Prophets taught that “God the Father did not require the sacrifice of his son Christ Jesus… nor is it possible according to cosmic law for any man’s sacrifice to balance either the original sin or subsequent sins.” The apostle Paul declared that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In contrast to Scripture, the Prophets taught karma instead of atonement, reincarnation instead of resurrection, and secret wisdom instead of revelation.
After Mark Prophet’s death in 1973, Elizabeth assumed his role as sole representative of the ascended masters. The group moved from California and eventually centered operations in Montana. Her personal life seems to parallel the decline of the cult. In 1989, one of Prophet’s daughters began publicly accusing Church Universal and Triumphant of exercising mind control. Eventually all four of Mrs. Prophet’s adult children left the group.
Last year Mrs. Prophet’s fourth marriage ended in divorce after her husband left her for their nanny. According to Cleirbaut, Mrs. Prophet’s epilepsy is getting worse, and she is suffering from a disease that attacks her memory.