Religious leaders prophesying a date for the apocalypse have always faced a unique challenge to their credibility: Everyone who’s tried that before has turned out to be wrong. But the predictions continue. A week ago, concerns flared in Palmdale, Calif., when a small Christian group was reported missing after taking off into the night on a mysterious religious trip. Authorities said the group, led by a Salvadoran immigrant, left farewell letters to loved ones that indicated their belief that the end of the world was near.

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