An expert witness for the prosecution testified Friday that a religious tome authored by Brian David Mitchell doesn’t go far to prove he was insane when he kidnapped and raped Elizabeth Smart.
Daniel Peterson, a professor of Islamic Studies at Brigham Young University and also a published religious scholar, called Mitchell’s Book of Immanuel David Isaiah "derivative" and "completely mainstream" as much of it is taken from scriptures.
Jurors to have longer days
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball announced he would extend the time court is in session for the trial each day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. or later.
The judge said he has cleared his calender next week to do so in an effort to end the trial on the previously scheduled date of Dec. 10.
“Except for Tuesday we can go until we all get tired,” Kimball said.
There are numerous scriptural and religious texts that Mitchell either lifted completely or quoted in the book, Peterson told the court. He likened Mitchell’s composition of his book to "how a student would compose a term paper."
The testimony came in the final stage of Mitchell’s trial in U.S. District Court, where prosecutors are now presenting witnesses to counter defense experts who have said Mitchell’s beliefs couldn’t be explained by the fundamentalist Mormon culture and that Mitchell was delusional during the nine months he and his wife, Wanda Barzee, held a then-14-year-old Smart captive.
Friday’s session began in the usual fashion: Mitchell began singing and was escorted from the courtroom to view the proceedings remotely. But Mitchell deviated from singing Christmas carols to sing Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sacrament hymns including "Upon the Cross of Calvary," and "O God the Eternal Father."
Peterson told jurors he spent hundreds of hours evaluating Mitchell’s book, which Mitchell began writing in April 2002. The book chronicles his time with Smart and his future appointment as the true prophet of the LDS Church. The prosecution submitted as evidence a copy of the book where Peterson had highlighted which parts were quoted words from either LDS hymns or other religious writings including the Bible, and which parts were Mitchell’s additions.
In one part, Mitchell makes up a completely new verse to the song "O Come Emmanuel." In another, he changed the text of a quote from the Book of Mormon scripture in the Book of Ether that reads "Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God."
Mitchell’s version said it "mattereth not what happen to me so long as I am saved."
Clinical psychologist Richart DeMier has testified Mitchell’s core religious beliefs clearly separate him from people with extreme religious beliefs.
DeMier testified Mitchell believed he was going to lead a number of wives out of Babylon and that he would battle the anti-Christ. Those who followed him would then help establish Zion, and Barzee would be the mother of Zion and bear a son who would be the Davidic King — even though Barzee had had a hysterectomy, DeMier said.
Peterson told jurors Friday Mitchell’s idea that there is "One Mighty and Strong" is held by most of the groups that splintered off from the mainstream LDS Church. Claimants to that position first showed up in 1905, he said, meaning Mitchell’s assertion is not new or unusual.
In the book, Mitchell explained how he believes he would lead the church in the mid 1990s after the current church president at the time, Ezra Taft Benson, died.
"Mitchell believes at the death of Ezra Taft Benson, the authority is transferred to him," Peterson said, adding that authority coming to the new leader of the offshoot sect is similar to what every "schismatic group" of the LDS church believes.
Many people of faith also believe there is a Davidic King and every splinter Mormon group claims to have a prophet, Peterson said. He said the idea of an anti-Christ is not new but acknowledged that the idea that a certain person would battle him is "a little unusual."
The idea of becoming a god or goddess?
"Every [LDS] member who believes and understands the gospel as taught by the church believes that," Peterson said.
The ideas of resurrection, free will, repentance and forgiveness also are "absolutely mainstream," he said.
And Mitchell’s statement that Barzee could have a child despite having had a hysterectomy, is reasonable "if you believe," Peterson said. He pointed to similarities to the belief that Mary gave birth to Jesus without having relations with a man.
Prosecutor David Bachman also asked Peterson to explain what he believes Mitchell’s concept of a revelation is. Barzee has testified in the trial that revelations dictated nearly every aspect of their lives and their time with Smart.
Peterson told the court Mitchell does not believe a revelation consists of hearing voices or having visions, and his idea of a revelation is not typical of what Christians or LDS followers believe. Mitchell attempts to consider any ideas he has as revelation, regardless of the way they are received, Peterson testified.
The standard view of a revelation is of something that comes at a certain point, Peterson said.
"Revelation doesn’t begin one year and continue for 12 months," Peterson testified. "My sense for Mr. Mitchell is his ideas come through revelation."
Defense attorney Parker Douglas asked Peterson to read excerpts from the book of Immanuel David Isaiah.
While reading about an endowment ceremony in the book, Douglas asked Peterson to explain if there was a similar part of a marriage ceremony that was done in and LDS temple that was performed without clothes on.Next Page >
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.