As long ago as the summer of 1946, plump, slick-pated Jerry E. Hauff, pastor of the Full Gospel Assemblies in Christ Inc. Church of Van Nuys, Calif., got the word that doomsday was approaching. "Voices from heaven" speaking incoherent foreign tongues had brought it to him. He translated for his congregation and reported that a great storm from the north was going to knock off all mankind—all, that is, who didn't sell their property and flee to the mountains.

Parson Hauff didn't like the sound of this, or so he said, and he...

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