Yet Another Prophet: Brian David Mitchell
by Sharon Lindbloom

Brian David Mitchell

March 12th 2003 was a happy day for many Americans. Elizabeth Smart, the young Mormon girl from Utah who had been missing since June 2002, was found alive and well. Elizabeth's kidnapping from her bedroom at knifepoint had driven many people to their knees in prayer for her safety. After 9 long and silent months, few expected her safe return to the loving arms of her family. But God was merciful, answering our prayers, setting Elizabeth free from her captors. We continue to pray for Elizabeth and her family as they try to again find some normalcy in life.

Now that Elizabeth's crisis has passed, attention has turned to Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda. This couple has been accused of kidnapping and sexual assault against Elizabeth Smart. According to news reports, on the night of the kidnapping 49-year-old Mitchell allegedly "married" 14-year-old Elizabeth, forcefully taking her as his plural wife.

Mitchell claims to have been chosen by God and given a new name, just as many biblical prophets had been chosen and renamed. During the investigation of Mitchell's crimes, police obtained a document titled The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah which consists mostly of revelations Immanuel (a.k.a. Mitchell) claimed to receive from Jesus Christ. The book is 27 pages long and bears the date of 6 April 2002. It contains 7 revelations plus a "Statement of Intent and Purpose" for Immanuel's organization: "The Seven Diamonds Plus One - Testaments of Jesus Christ - Study and Fellowship Society."

According to news reports, both Mitchell and his wife had been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until fairly recently. Mrs. Mitchell was described by family as having been a "devout church member" who was a talented LDS Church organist. Mr. Mitchell, described as a "devout mainstream Mormon" as recently as the early 1990s, had been a high counselor and a counselor in the bishopric. Both were, at one time, LDS temple workers. But then Mitchell was "chosen," renamed Immanuel, and began to receive revelations.

The LDS Church took action against the couple when The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah appeared. According to Mitchell's former son-in-law, the couple was excommunicated at least in part because of this "Manifesto." On 13 March 2003 the LDS Church provided the public with an "Official Statement About Brian and Wanda Mitchell" which explained, "Both are former Church members who were excommunicated for activity promoting bizarre teachings and lifestyle far afield from the principles and doctrines of the Church."

Given that Church statement, one would expect to find some very strange things in The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah. Indeed, there are things in the Manifesto which seem strange to many people. Overall, however, Immanuel's writings should not sound strange to Latter-day Saints. The prophecies contained in the book are much like the writings found in the LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants. Moreover, the Manifesto is liberally sprinkled with quotes from the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures. Consider the following examples.

Hearken! Oh ye inhabitants of the earth. Listen together and open your ears, for it is I, the Lord God of all the earth, the creator of all things that speaketh unto you. Yea, even Jesus Christ speaking by the voice of my servant whom I have called and chosen to be a light and a covenant to the world in these last days. (The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, p. 1, 9 February 2002)
Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; ...And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. (D&C 1:1, 4)
...the destroying angel shall pass them by and not slay them, and they shall have health in their navel and marrow in their bones, and they shall run and not be weary and walk and not faint, and they shall have great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures... (The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, p. 11, 27 February 2002)
...shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. (D&C 89:18-21) do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. (The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, p. 12, 27 February 2002 and Mormon 8:36)
Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, p. 14, 27 February 2002 and D&C 1:38)

The basic message of the Manifesto is that the churches of this day are lacking in truth and authority; God has chosen and called a prophet to be a light in this darkness, to gather people into the true and living church in its purified form -- The Church of the Firstborn; and to call people to repentance and obedience to Christ.

So far, this sounds just like the LDS Restoration under founding Prophet Joseph Smith.

The Manifesto speaks of the importance of the law of consecration and the Word of Wisdom, both doctrines introduced to the Church by Joseph Smith and valid in the LDS Church today. Immanuel talks respectfully about the Melchizedek priesthood, priesthood keys, and the new and everlasting covenant -- things about which every Mormon has knowledge.

The Manifesto perhaps begins to raise LDS eyebrows when it lists the 7 Diamonds Plus One: inspired sources (according to Immanuel) containing God's Word. The first three would cause no qualms among members of the LDS Church. They are:

1. The King James Version of the Bible
2. The Book of Mormon
3. The inspired words of the prophets of the LDS Church

Nor would the "Plus One" be a problem: "Inspired sacred music and song and the testimonies of all the humble followers of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost."

However, the remaining 4 sources of truth are likely to send up red flags. They are:

4. The Golden Seven Plus One by Dr. C. Samuel West
a book about basic cellular philosophy by a chemist/lymphologist
5. Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie
a spiritual book filled with Mormon, New Age and Mind Sciences teachings by an LDS woman
6. The Literary Message of Isaiah by Avraham Gileadi
a book dissecting the teachings of Isaiah by a Mormon scholar who was excommunicated in 1993
7. The Final Quest by Rick Joyner
a book about endtimes with Gnostic overtones by a "prophet" of the Charismatic Movement

Yet the Mormon belief is that there will come a day when additional scripture will be revealed, so the fact of Immanuel's claim for the inspiration of these books should not be sufficient to immediately discount him and his teachings. Indeed, Joseph Smith also introduced new writings which he identified as inspired.

Perhaps teachings considered "far afield from the principles and doctrines of the Church" might include the portions of these revelations which denounce the current leadership of the LDS Church as "false prophets who speak vain and foolish and lying words" including one who has "acted deceitfully...lifted up in the pride of his heart..." (The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, pp. 2-3, 9 February 2002). While the LDS Church may not appreciate this revelation recorded by Immanuel, it, too, has a familiar ring within Mormonism. Joseph Smith (as well as other LDS Prophets) similarly denounced the leadership of Christian churches, accusing priests and reverends of deception and pride.

Immanuel believes himself to be the true prophet chosen to lead the LDS Church, working to purify it -- and he has received a revelation to prove it. Certainly this assertion from Immanuel would be "far afield" of accepted Mormonism. The LDS Church has a prophet and, according to both Gordon B. Hinckley and Immanuel David Isaiah, there can only be one at a time. One of them might be the true prophet, or both of them might be false prophets, but both can't be true. In this declaration Immanuel has crossed a very important line with the leadership of the LDS Church. Yet he might respond in words similar to Joseph Smith's: "I had actually seen a light...and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true...I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by doing so I would offend God, and come under condemnation." (Joseph Smith--History 1:25)

Probably the real crux of concern over the Manifesto is Immanuel's implication that God's desire is for the "true church" to be engaged in the practice of polygamy. According to the book, because of Latter-day Saints' refusal to fully live the law of consecration, "I, the Lord God took away from my church the fulness of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and I commanded them to have one wife only. Wherefore, they received a lesser law and a lesser blessing. Nevertheless, I, the Lord God am merciful and just and I know the hearts of my children, and I restore every blessing lost to them so long as they sin not against the Holy Ghost." (The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, p. 15, 27 February 2002)

Of course, Joseph Smith also taught God's desire for His followers to have plural wives. Is it a coincidence law enforcement investigators believe the Manifesto indicates Immanuel intended to take 49 wives -- the same number of wives some historians attribute to Joseph Smith? Brian David Mitchell's behavior in kidnapping and forcefully "wedding" little Elizabeth Smart was appalling -- without doubt "far afield" from anything Mormon. Yet even here there is at least a partial parallel with the life of Joseph Smith.

In 1843 Smith requested 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball to consider becoming his 25th plural wife. Helen was given 24 hours to reach a decision. When the time was up Smith told Helen: "If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of your father's household & all of your kindred." Helen later recalled, "This promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward." (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 499)

Joseph Smith's 22nd wife, married to Smith earlier in the same month, was Lucy Walker. Lucy was 16 years old when Smith asked her to become his plural wife. Smith told her that God had commanded him to marry her, and if she believed him a true prophet of God she would consent. Like Helen, Lucy was also given one day to decide. She described her agony in trying to reach a decision: "I was tempted and tortured beyond endurance until life was not desirable...I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the alter a living sacrifice..." Lucy married Joseph Smith one day after her 17th birthday. (Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pp. 465-466)

Immanuel David Isaiah makes some strong assertions about his identity and God's calling on his life. Those who trust in the Bible and obey God's commands to test the prophets easily find Immanuel to be a false prophet. By the same method and criteria, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are clearly shown to be mendacious. But how can Latter-day Saints charge Brian David Mitchell as a false prophet? He claims the LDS Church has strayed from the truth; and, in fact, his teachings seem to be more consistent with Joseph Smith's Mormonism than with the LDS Church of today. Perhaps it would be wise for Latter-day Saints, while examining Brian David Mitchell's claims, to reexamine Joseph Smith and his claims as well.

Online news sources used:
Brandon Griggs, Strange Views Split Barzee From Family, Salt Lake Tribune, 3/18/03
Ashley Broughton, Mitchell's Father Asks for Leniency, Salt Lake Tribune, 3/18/03
Kevin Cantera and Michael Vigh, Elizabeth a 'Plural Wife'?, Salt Lake Tribune, 3/15/03
Sean Kelly and Gwen Florio, Utah Girl 'did what she had to do,' Smart family says, Denver Post, 3/16/03 (also see The Chicago Tribune 3/15/03)