Livingston, Mont. -- Who will become the next messenger of Church Universal and Triumphant?
It's a good bet that it won't be one of Elizabeth Clare Prophet's grown children. None of them is active in the church.
"Maybe we got too much of it when we were children," says Erin Prophet, who at 31 is the second-oldest of the four offspring of Mark and Elizabeth Clare Prophet.
There was a time when some thought Erin might follow in her mother's footsteps. She was a minister, a board member and an oft-quoted spokeswoman.
But four years ago, Erin left the spiritual community. She explains simply: "I wanted to explore other options."
With two small sons and separated from her husband, she moved to Denver. "I just think I needed more flexibility in my life," she adds.
Erin's back in Montana now, working as a free-lance writer (she recently helped her mother with a book on reincarnation) and is remarried (the wedding took place in a Lutheran church).
Her older brother and two younger sisters live farther away. Moira and Sean are both in Southern California, where she works as a radio advertising broker and he is a video film editor; Tatiana is in graduate school on the East Coast. At one point, Moira was collaborating with a longtime critic on an unflattering book about the church, but she backed out of the project and the book remains unpublished.
Growing up, Erin wasn't allowed to wear certain colors (negative vibrations) and couldn't listen to rock music (the beat was spiritually bad). Her first husband, a church member, had to get permission from Mother for them to date -- and marry.
"I sometimes wish I had a normal childhood," she says. But a few minutes later, she backpedals. "I wouldn't trade my upbringing. The lessons I've learned I would not have learned another way."
Erin doesn't like the cult word and she gives her mother's following "almost no chance" of coming to a fatal conclusion like Heaven's Gate. "People might say, 'Yeah, well you went down to the (fallout) shelters, how rational can you be?'" Erin admits. "Yeah, we went into the shelters, but we also went with the intention of coming out."
She was a little girl when her father died in 1973. Afterward, her mother turned the spiritual movement he founded into Church Universal and Triumphant.
"To tell you the truth," Erin says, "I don't think they should have even made a church out of it."
Three years ago, at age 55, Elizabeth Clare Prophet gave birth to her fifth child, Seth, by her then-husband Edward Francis.
Will Seth become the next messenger?
"Don't put that on him," says Elizabeth Clare Prophet. "He's only 3. Let him be."