SALT LAKE CITY — An expert in religious texts testified Friday that the writings of the former street preacher accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart drew heavily from other religious works, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
As the trial for Brian David Mitchell enters its final phase, the testimony of Brigham Young University professor Daniel C. Peterson seemed to support the prosecution’s contention that the defendant is a smart, cunning person — an argument that runs counter to defense attorneys’ claims that he is mentally ill and can’t be held responsible in the case.
Peterson was the first in a string of witnesses federal prosecutors called on Friday to help shape a portrait of Mitchell’s character. He told jurors that the 27-page “Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,” thought to be an expression of Mitchell’s religious beliefs that spells out his divinely inspired calling to battle the Antichrist at the end of the world, was not an entirely original work.
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“One of the things that strikes me about the (book) is the barrenness,” Peterson said. “In terms of doctrine, there’s nothing new.”
Peterson said the book, dated April 2002, and a subsequent edition drafted after Mitchell’s 2003 arrest quotes heavily from the Bible, particularly the Old Testament and its Book of Isaiah, the Book of Mormon and hymn books. The book also draws from modern writings, including Betty Eadie’s story of her near-death experience, “Embraced by the Light.”
“I think the composition of these writings is much the way a student would compose a term paper,” Peterson said.
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