Smart book reveals new details, proselytizes for Mormon faith
Oct. 24, 2003
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Saturday October 25, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The day last October when Mary Katherine Smart told her parents she thought her sister’s abductor was a homeless man the family knew as Immanuel, they wondered how she’d come up with his name.
”(S)he told us that she’d been reading the ‘Guinness Book of World Records.’ She saw a photo of a very muscular woman, and something triggered her memory of who took her sister the morning of June 5. It’s strange, because Brian David Mitchell was a thin man,” Ed and Lois Smart write in a new book about Elizabeth Smart‘s nine-month kidnapping.
”Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope,” is full of small stories like that – details her family kept to themselves until they told the story their way. Published by Doubleday, the book officially will go on sale Monday, a day ahead of schedule.
Along with the tidbits, readers still curious about the case that has drawn global media coverage for a year and a half will get a huge dose of proselytizing.
The deeply religious Smarts spend much of the 215-page book recounting how they became even more devoted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during their ordeal. They quote Mormon scripture, cite lessons from church prophets and frequently relate how they and thousands of supporters prayed and asked for blessings.
”Though our experience was terribly painful, though our faith and trust in God’s power we gained tremendous strength, which became the cornerstone of how we survived,” they write.
The book is expected to be such a big seller – Doubleday has printed 250,000 copies – that Mormon church-owned Deseret Book on Friday was busy ordering more, said Boyd Ware, the bookstore’s retail director.
”It is faith-promoting and a tender look from inside the family,” he said.
Ware wouldn’t release specific numbers, but said the company ordered more than twice the number of books they usually do with a predicted best seller.
In the early hours of June 5, 2002, Elizabeth, then 14, was abducted from her bedroom at knifepoint. Last March 12, she was found in a Salt Lake City suburb with her alleged kidnappers.
Prosecutors say Mitchell, 50, a drifter and self-styled prophet who claimed God spoke to him, and his wife, Wanda Barzee, 57, held Elizabeth against her will as Mitchell’s second ”wife” at a crude campsite in the dry foothills above the Smart home until Oct. 8. They then took her to California, where they stayed until March 5, according to court documents.
Mitchell and Barzee have been charged with burglary, kidnapping and sexual assault. They are both being held on $10 million bond pending psychological examinations to determine whether they are competent to stand trial.
Elizabeth, who turns 16 on Nov. 3, is in 10th grade at Salt Lake City’s East High.
For those less interested in religion than new details about the story, there are some intriguing revelations:
-A month before Mary Katherine told her parents about Immanuel, someone tipped police about Mitchell and his possible connection to the kidnapping. The police, already dealing with hundreds of tips, didn’t follow up on this one.
-Elizabeth was ”treated like a slave, forced to wait on Brian and Wanda like a servant,” the Smarts write. Elizabeth used a paring knife to try to cut the cable that tethered her to a tree. Mitchell and Barzee ”were constantly ranting and raving;” as they quarreled, they once forgot to secure the cable, and Elizabeth tried to escape.
”Elizabeth, who had been a very good runner before she was taken, simply didn’t have the strength to outrun Brian … Brian was somewhat of a health fanatic and exercised constantly to keep fit,” the Smarts write.
-William Smart, Elizabeth’s then-3-year-old brother, didn’t understand his sister was missing; he thought she was having a very long harp lesson. At a candlelight vigil a few days after Elizabeth’s June 5, 2002 disappearance, the little boy prayed that the ”conductor” – he couldn’t pronounce ”abductor,” his parents say – would set her free.
-On March 12 of this year, when Elizabeth was riding home with her mother after police in a Salt Lake City suburb found her walking a busy boulevard with Mitchell and Barzee, Lois Smart pointed out the pale blue ribbons festooning trees and signs.
”Elizabeth said she had noticed them over the nine months but never realized they were for her,” Lois writes.
”’I thought light blue was appropriate, since it’s your favorite color.”’
”’Mom, light blue is not my favorite color! Why would you pick light blue?”’
-When inspired, Elizabeth, now 16, can recite long passages from her favorite Sandra Bullock movie, ”Miss Congeniality.”
-Elizabeth had been asking her mother for permission to spend a few days with a friend and her family as soon as school let out for the summer. Lois, who had spent the previous months caring for her dying father, wouldn’t allow Elizabeth to go. Just before bedtime the night of the kidnapping, Lois relented. It was the last conversation mother and daughter had for nine months.
At times, the family was fiercely critical of the police investigation, which focused on the now-deceased Richard Ricci as the top potential suspect. In their book, the Smarts are subdued, even oblique, as they discuss the investigation. For example, every time Salt Lake City Police spokesman Detective Dwayne Baird appeared, they write, ”we knew disappointment was imminent.”
About the two Salt Lake Tribune reporters who lost their jobs after selling information, some of it fabricated, to the tabloid National Enquirer: ”(W)e have, as a family that has endured hurtful and painful lashings in the press, not to put those reporters through what we have been through.”
But while they decry the ”media circus” that is bound to come with Mitchell and Barzee’s trials, they currently are ringmasters as the book release, Elizabeth’s network interview appearances and an upcoming sweeps-week CBS movie entertain the masses.
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