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Sunday, March 16, 2003

'Thou sayest.'

Elizabeth Smart's answer to police officers is being described as "Bible speak," but it's even more interesting than that. Let's roll the tape:

Wearing a wig, sunglasses and a makeshift veil, Elizabeth denied her identity when police asked who she was.

"She made those statements, 'You guys think I am Elizabeth Smart. I am not,' " Sandy Police Sgt. Victor Quezada said. "She kept denying who she was, right to the very end."

Quezada said he and his fellow officers decided to "give it one more shot" as they put Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth into police cars, asking again if the girl was Elizabeth Smart.

The teenager dodged the question.

"She uttered the words 'Thou sayest,' " Quezada said, "and I had never heard that phrase before."

Nevertheless, Quezada said, "we took that as a yes."

My fiance, however, knew exactly what the phrase means. It's Jesus' answer to Pontius Pilate, in the King James Version of the Bible that both Brian Mitchell — aka Isaiah David Emmanuel — and Smart would have known. (Since I grew up Mormon, I should have recognized it, too. Oops!)

And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. (Matthew 27:11)

Ms Philocrites says: "It's her response to the question, 'Are you the one we've all been looking for?' It's the crucial moment for Christ. It's the climax, when he is taken away by people who don't understand who he really is.

"Think of the parallels: The Messiah is the long-awaited one, the one everyone has been searching for. In Matthew, it's the climax of his trial, when Jesus — who has been 'holding his peace' in his encounters with the chief priests and elders — answers Pilate. This is the moment when Christ is taken away from his followers. Emmanuel thinks that he is the messiah — and that's what Elizabeth has been hearing for the past nine months — and all of a sudden the words that should belong to the messianic prophet suddenly truly apply to her. Instead of the crucifixion, it's her resurrection moment."

Oh, and another thing: Mitchell picked quite a string of roles to play: Isaiah, the prophet (who holds a special role in Mormon cosmology, especially for apocalyptically-minded renegades); David, the warrior-king; and Emmanuel, "God with us," prophesied by Isaiah and identified by Christians with Jesus Christ.

Burqa branch?

As people start paying attention — once again — to the weird margins of Mormon culture, folks are asking why Mitchell and his veiled entourage didn't stand out more. But people in Salt Lake City get used to raving prophets; they see them all the time. (When I was in college in Salt Lake — from 1991 to 1995, I lived in the same "Ninth and Ninth" neighborhood that Mitchell lived in — a girlfriend was approached by a guy who declared that she was "the virgin Mary," and who then proceeded to preach a sermon about her to embarrassed passers-by.)

An expert on Mormon fundamentalist groups says that Mitchell's unusual cloak — and especially the veils worn by Wanda Barzee and Elizabeth — marked his sect as, well, Islamic: "I guess he's improvised to give an Islamic blend to it all." That's just what Utah needed: Taliban Mormons. (The article also analyzes Mitchell's scriptural book, "The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah.")

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 16 March 2003 at 3:48 PM

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