In 1975, Prophet founded Church Universal and Triumphant, which became the umbrella organization for the movement, and which she expanded worldwide. Prophet controversially called on her members in the late 1980s to prepare for the possibility of nuclear war at the turn of the decade, encouraging them to construct fallout shelters. In 1996, Prophet handed day-to-day operational control of her organization to a president and board of directors, maintaining her role as spiritual leader until her retirement due to health reasons in 1999.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet was born Elizabeth Clare Wulf at Monmouth Memorial Hospital in Long Branch, New Jersey on April 8, 1939, to Hans and Fridy Wulf. She grew up with her family in Red Bank, New Jersey during the Second World War. She describes her earliest childhood as idyllic. However, problems arose, such as the detention of her father as a suspected German spy in 1942. Upon his release he conveyed the need for her to help others who may also suffer because of their nationality, their race, or their religion. After seeing the horrors of the Holocaust in media and print, she became convinced of the reality of absolute evil in the world, which contributed to her decision to major in political science in her studies.
One of the major difficulties in her early life was her father's addiction to alcohol. He verbally abused her mother and had a violent temper which he directed towards them and the destruction of his beloved fish tanks. After witnessing this for many years, Elizabeth became convinced that when the blood alcohol content creates a chemical imbalance in the body, possessing demons take over the mind and the emotions.
In Elizabeth's early life, she periodically blacked out. This happened in the third grade, when she was about to say her lines in a Christmas play, and recurred throughout her life. Her condition was first diagnosed as petit mal epilepsy, known more commonly today as absence seizures. She did not find medication helpful, and discontinued using it. Her mother later confessed that in 1937 she took some pills in an unsuccessful attempt to abort her pregnancy with Elizabeth. Prophet thought that her mother was implying that the medication may have contributed to her childhood blackouts. Prophet herself did some research, and learned that the use of quinine sulfate could have damaged the developing nervous system and the brain.
Elizabeth Wulf claimed mystical experiences while growing up. She claimed that when she was about four, she had a vision of herself playing on the sands of the Nile river in Egypt. (Her mother told her that it was a past life.) She claimed that as a child she felt God's light around her naturally, and heard a sound in her inner ear like that of an ocean wave or the roar of Niagara Falls. While water-skiing, she said she felt that she was suspended in a place where other spiritual beings existed, who were joyous in the light, radiating love. This motivated her to find out more about who these "saints robed in white" (Rev. 7:9-17) were, for she had always believed in the "universality of all true religion."
Prophet grew up in a home that was mainly non-religious except for major holidays. Her father was Lutheran, her mother Catholic. Yet it was her mother's interests in Theosophy, the I AM Activity, and Christian Science that had the most influence on Elizabeth. In Theosophy and the I AM Activity she heard about the Ascended Masters, Karma, and Reincarnation; in Christian Science she was told that matter was not the only reality and that the spirit part of us made in the image of God was our true nature. Prophet stayed with Christian Science until she met Mark Prophet at the age of 22.
Elizabeth Clare Wulf spent her junior year studying French in Switzerland in 1956 and a year later graduated from Red Bank Regional High School second in her class. She attended Antioch College in Ohio from September 1957 to March 1959 majoring in political science and economics. She transferred to Boston University in September 1959, from where she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in political science in August 1961.
In summer 1958, Prophet took a co-op job as a camp counselor in a French immersion school in Vermont. She was in charge of a number of high school girls between 15 and 16 years old and her role was to discipline them. She described the experience as frustrating and said she ended up praying to God that she never be put in a position of authority over others.
In fall 1958 she served an internship at the United Nations as secretary for Leo Rosenthal, a UN photographer. Her experience at the UN showed her that many of the ambassadors were not there to solve the world’s problems but rather were engaged in power politics and manipulation of the world’s economies. Leaving after three months made her depressed, with the opinion that to solve the world’s problems people would need to change their concept of themselves and of God.
After moving to Boston in 1959, she worked as a secretary for the Christian Science church and the Christian Science Monitor. According to Prophet, that is where she learned much about the publishing operations, organization, and administration of a church on a worldwide scale which was to help her later in running her own church.
Prophet claimed that she realized that she was intended to be a messenger while meditating with Mark L. Prophet at a public meeting in Boston on April 22, 1961. He had come to teach about what he called "the Ascended Masters". She later claimed to have received a vision while meditating with him that her role in life was to pass on a higher teaching to further humanity's spiritual evolution. She confided to Mark the next day that like him, she was also to be a messenger; he accepted her as a student at his mystical school, The Summit Lighthouse. She said she received another vision in June of that year in the way of a visitation by the Ascended Master El Morya who told her to go to Washington, D.C. to be trained as messenger.
After attending her first conference in Washington in July, Mark Prophet returned to Boston in August to help her move to Washington to begin her training under him. They married in 1963, and upon his death on February 26, 1973, Elizabeth Clare Prophet assumed leadership of the organization. In 1981 the Church Universal and Triumphant purchased the 12,000-acre (49 km2) Forbes Ranch, just outside Yellowstone Park, near Gardiner, Montana. In 1986, Prophet relocated her headquarters to that property.
The dogma of The Summit Lighthouse included a doctrine called the Path of Personal Christhood, or the way of the soul's one-on-one relationship with God through Christ consciousness. Elizabeth Clare Prophet believed that she shared the gift of the word, both written and spoken. She claimed to be in constant communion with God.
The Science of the Spoken Word, as Elizabeth and Mark taught it, was thought to be a gift of sound combined with meditation, prayer and visualization. They believed that a Divine Gift (The Ascension) of union with God was possible.
Prophet predicted nuclear war would cause the end of the world in March 1990. Adherents started construction of a large bomb shelter in the church compound in Corwin Springs. Construction was halted by court order when large amounts of stored diesel fuel leaked and contaminated the area.
Prophet was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in November 1998 and died on October 15, 2009.
Prophet was survived by her five children. In 2009, her daughter Erin Prophet published Prophet's Daughter: My Life with Elizabeth Clare Prophet Inside the Church Universal, and in 2016 contributed a chapter to The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements.