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Former CUT members say they are the "messengers"

Big Sky & Front Page/May 28, 1999
By Scott McMillion

LIVINGSTON -- The Church Universal and Triumphant will host its annual summer conference at its Corwin Springs ranch headquarters for the first time in three years.

However, people may be disappointed if they are expecting to hear new messages from the ascended masters, an array of spiritual beings that speak through church spiritual leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet, her followers believe.

On the other hand, many of the same ascended masters are scheduled to speak in Bozeman at a conference organized by former followers of Prophet, Monroe and Carolyn Shearer. The Shearers are now the leaders of a Vermont-based group called the Temple of the Presence, which some observers say is competing with CUT.

Both Prophet and the Shearers now maintain they are the only "messengers" for the ascended masters, a debate that has popped up sporadically among different New Age religious figures at least since the 1950s.

Prophet has taught since the 1973 death of her former husband and fellow messenger, Mark Prophet, that she is the world's only messenger, that she alone is the mouthpiece for spiritual entities like Jesus, Buddha, El Morya, Saint Germain and many others.

But Prophet, 60, now suffers from Alzheimer's disease and has resigned her official position as president of the church. She has announced plans to retire as spiritual leader this summer, but the church has named no successor for her.

She will give no "dictations" at the annual conference, the biggest event in the church's annual calender, spokesman Chris Kelley said Thursday, and has given no public dictations since she announced her pending retirement in January. She also was unable to attend the annual Easter conference in St. Louis, according to a church newsletter.

She "will participate as she is able," Kelley said. "There will be at least taped dictations."

However, at the Shearers' conference, "a number of the ascended masters will be addressing the students" through the Shearers, Monroe Shearer said in a telephone interview this week.

A former archbishop for CUT, Monroe Shearer said he was asked to leave that organization in 1981, a time when the church was first buying land in Park County and it was embroiled in a number of disputes in California.

"I was asked to resign, and I was willing to cooperate," he said.

Carolyn Shearer remained in CUT for several years after that. The two began taking dictations from the ascended masters in 1995, Monroe Shearer said.

That is about the time Prophet's Alzheimer's disease began to manifest, her family members and church officials have said.

TOP is a fledgling group with less than 1,000 members and is not in competition with CUT, he said. CUT has thousands of members worldwide, leaders say, though they will give no specific figures.

"I would hope there would not be a conflict or competition" between the groups, Shearer said. "I can't control what others do, but from our point of view, there would be no reason for it."

He said his goal in coming to Bozeman -- he and his wife made a similar trip last summer -- is to spread the religious message of the masters, "to tell people about their real God identity and the love of that God self."

If disaffected CUT members find the message appealing, he is happy to talk to them, he said.

"We have a lot of compassion for what that group has to go through, and other groups as well," he said. "Our appointment is to be as healing as possible."

After years of legal and financial troubles, CUT is trying to reorganize itself without Prophet at the helm. Some members support the changes, while others are leery and have left the group, some in anger over what they call past financial and emotional abuses by church leaders.

The Shearers' website makes a number of veiled reference's to CUT's troubles.

"Should you choose to join us in this cause, we will not betray or subvert that sacred trust, ever," the Shearers say in an open letter on their website.

Another document refers to the "current apprehensions of many students concerning the present state of affairs" and calls a key tenet of CUT theology "a trendy smorgasbord of unclean meats."

Still, both TOP and CUT have remarkably similar theologies. Both rely on the wisdom of the ascended masters released through an appointed "messenger," both believe in reincarnation and both practice decreeing, a rapid-fire form of chanted prayer.

"It's a pretty close copy of everything the church does," Kelley said of the Shearers' message.

Shearer said he and his wife are now the only messengers for the ascended masters.

And that means Prophet isn't.

"The masters felt it was wise to speak with a unified voice," Shearer said.

Kelley said Prophet is still the messenger.

Shearer last year "was walking around saying the mantle of the messenger has been passed," Kelley said. "I asked her last year and she said her mantles had not been passed. Elizabeth is still the messenger until she announces she is going to retire."

El Morya, an ascended master who plays a key role in CUT theology, "has bestowed that mantle upon us," Shearer said in the interview.

He stressed that he and his wife are not "gurus" and his organization is not a "church," though it accepts donations and its legal status is as a charity. Its finances come from donations by members, he said.

Disputes over who is the mouthpiece of the ascended masters are not new.

Between 1958 and 1961, Edna Ballard of the Mighty I AM Movement, Geraldine Innocente of the Bridge to Freedom Group, and CUT founder Mark Prophet all claimed to be messengers for the same entities, according to a web site called the Ascension Research Center.

By 1964, Elizabeth Prophet was taking dictations, along with Mark Prophet and Edna Ballard, who later became an ascended master, according to CUT doctrine.

Other movements that have embraced the idea of messengers speaking for the same ascended masters include the Theosophical Society and the Agni Yoga Society.

The TOP conference runs from June 4 to June 6 in the Emerson Cultural Center and is free. Contact (802) 685-3039 for more information.

The CUT conference runs from June 27 to July 10. Call 1-800-437-3366 for more information.

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