BOZEMAN, Mont. -- As many as 1,000 followers of a New Age spiritual leader and doomsday prophet are expected for her memorial service this weekend at the sprawling Montana ranch she used as a headquarters.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, 70, died last month in Bozeman after a decade-long decline caused by Alzheimer's disease.
The church she founded still maintains a network of bomb shelters in a mountainside north of Yellowstone National Park — "insurance," its leaders say, against possible dark days ahead.
Yet it's uncertain whether the spiritual movement Prophet embodied will prove as lasting as the 750-person shelters.
Robert Balch, a University of Montana sociologist who specializes in unconventional religions, says that with no clear successor, Prophet's death could throw the church into a "tailspin" that would be difficult to overcome.