The Making of Immanuel

Brian David Mitchellby John-Charles Duffy

Brian David Mitchell was born into a family largely alienated from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints but with roots going back to the Mormon pioneer era. Although he attended church as a child, Mitchell professed to be an atheist until he was nearly thirty, when an LSD-induced vision convinced him that God wanted him to return to the Church. Twice-divorced, Mitchell has been accused of physical and sexual abuse, but he had served as a high councilor and a temple worker and was unusually strict in applying Church standards—the kind of Mormon who eats only whole wheat bread and walks out of movies containing profanity. Media interviews with relatives and friends paint contrasting pictures of Mitchell, but together, they suggest a disturbed man struggling to find stability through strict obedience to the gospel.

Beginning in the late 1980s or early ’90s, Mitchell and his third wife, Wanda Barzee, observed rigorous home devotions, praying for hours at a stretch. Angelic visitations and revelations followed. They insisted that relatives call them by new names: David (pronounced as in Hebrew, DAH-vid) and Eladah. In 1995, Mitchell and Barzee sold their possessions and spent the next two years hitchhiking around the country, returning to Salt Lake in 1997 with intentions to preach to the homeless. In his white robes and unkempt beard, Mitchell—now calling himself Immanuel—became a familiar sight in downtown Salt Lake, where he and Barzee panhandled. On 6 April 2002, Barzee finished transcribing a twenty-seven-page collection of Mitchell’s revelations titled The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, which the couple distributed to relatives. Local Church leaders obtained a copy as well, leading to the couple’s excommunication in absentia at the beginning of June 2003—the same week that Elizabeth Smart disappeared.

The Book of Immanuel is a collection of eight documents, numbered one through seven, with an additional section bearing the odd title “Plus One.” All but one of the documents are oracular revelations in the voice of the Lord, akin to those found in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Section One of The Book of Immanuel begins:

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. I have called him and given him a name to be had in remembrance before me, even the name Immanuel David Isaiah. . . .

In Mitchell’s revelations, the Lord chastises the Saints for rejecting the Book of Mormon and the words of the prophets, especially the words of Ezra Taft Benson; for loving money and seeking the praise of the world; for ignoring the poor and needy; for failing to testify against secret combinations; for turning to doctors to cure illness instead of relying on faith, herbs, and fruits. The revelation titled “Plus One” speaks to Barzee rather than Mitchell, commanding her to welcome into her home seven times seven plural wives. Though Barzee had a hysterectomy after divorcing her first husband,12 the revelation promises her that if she is obedient, “thine own womb shall be opened, and thou shalt bring forth a son to sit upon the throne of his father David.” Mitchell is told that he will be a king and a lawgiver but also that he will suffer in similitude of Christ. There are quotations from Isaiah (but not from the King James Version) prophesying that Mitchell will be “marred beyond human likeness” and “numbered with criminals.”

Besides the oracular revelations, The Book of Immanuel includes a “Statement of Intent and Purpose,” dated 1997, for an organization called The Seven Diamonds Plus One—Testaments of Jesus Christ—Study and Fellow-ship Society. This society is dedicated to examining “the covenants between God and man as contained in the Testaments of Jesus Christ that are herein set forth; and to . . . consider how we . . . may fulfill the solemn and binding agreements that we have entered into with our God.” There then follows a list of seven documents, plus one, which Mitchell and Barzee regard as testaments of Christ:

1. The Holy Bible—King James Version
2. The Book of Mormon—translated by Joseph Smith
3. The inspired words of prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
4. The Golden Seven Plus One by Dr. C. Samuel West
5. Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie
6. The Literary Message of Isaiah by Avraham Gileadi
7. The Final Quest by Rick Joyner
Plus One

Where is all this coming from? Why does Mitchell accuse Latter-day Saints of rejecting the Book of Mormon and the Latter-day prophets? Whence his opposition to doctors? Why does he apply to himself Isaiah’s “suffering servant” prophecies, which, like other Christians, Latter-day Saints traditionally understand as referring to Jesus? Avraham Gileadi and Betty Eadie will likely be familiar names to Latter-day Saints; but who are C. Samuel West and Rick Joyner?

Little wonder that mainstream Saints have concluded that Mitchell’s beliefs are “bizarre,” even delusional. Yet the worldview laid out in The Book of Immanuel is not the product of lunatic imaginings on Mitchell’s part. Mitchell’s worldview is entirely derivative. Everything about The Book of Immanuel that is likely to strike mainstream Saints as bizarre has a precedent in beliefs that thrive on the margins of the LDS community itself. (Exerpt from an article by John-Charles Duffy, Sunstone Magazine issue 129, October 2003)

Brian David Mitchell temple photographDiscovered: A photo and brief biographical information about alleged Elizabeth Smart kidnappers Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee have recently been discovered in an unusual place—a book celebrating the one-hundredth anniversary of the Salt Lake Temple. The Salt Lake Temple: A Centennial Book of Remembrance, 1893–-1993 was privately published by the Church in 1993. More than half the book features photographs of temple workers at the time of publication, as well as a listing of every worker since 1893. Mitchell and Barzee (listed as Brian Mitchell and Wanda Mitchell) appear on page 196. (Sunstone Magazine, December 2003, Issue 130)