Stepdaughters provide emotional testimony of abuse by Brian David Mitchell

Published: Friday, Dec. 3 2010 7:00 a.m. MST

There are also many groups who claim to have a "one mighty and strong," as Mitchell has claimed he is, even if such groups don't have a following, Peterson said. He said he knows of a single family who has no followers but also claims to have a "one mighty and strong," which is taken from Mormon scripture.

"There is a crowd of the 'one mighty and strong' out there," Peterson said.

As for Mitchell's use of archaic language, Peterson said every Mormon is taught to use reverent language in prayers and blessings. Mainstream LDS Church members also believe they will be gods or goddesses one day. Ideas of repentance and forgiveness mentioned by Mitchell also come from mainstream LDS culture, the BYU professor testified.

At times, Peterson's testimony sounded more like a lecture on religious studies than court testimony to determine insanity, going over stories about Nephi and Noah.

If Mitchell were to be considered delusional because he found meaning in what most would consider everyday coincidences, Peterson said there would be a lot of other people who would be considered delusional.

Mitchell told Smart during the nine months she was kidnapped that she needed to sink below all things in order to rise above them. Peterson said that reference also came from a scripture. But in common religious terms, the scripture meant Christ experiencing temptation and weakness so that he could understand it. The scripture was not a "blank check" to go out and commit as much sin as one wanted, he said.

Paul Mecham was Mitchell's LDS stake president in Salt Lake City when Mitchell was married to Debbie Woodridge in the early to mid-80s. Mecham testified that his first impression of Mitchell was a clean-cut, soft-spoken, good-looking man. But Mecham said he saw a very different person when confronted with allegations of "improper behavior."

"The first sentence that included the word 'improper,' there was an explosion. This mild-mannered young man stood, shouted and denied any, any, any improper action of any kind," Mecham testified. "He then stormed out, and I have not seen him since."

When Mecham later learned Mitchell had been granted a recommend to enter a Mormon temple, the former stake president said he felt "dismay, almost unbelief." Outside the courtroom, Mecham described Mitchell as a "master manipulator" who likely deceived his church leaders to receive a recommend.

Mecham said he often witnessed Mitchell interact with other church members. He would be animated to some and more calm to others. "It dawned on me he was playing to his audience," he said.

Mecham also noted it was interesting that sacrament meeting was the one meeting that Mitchell never attended, but his wife and children did.

When asked whether there was ever an indication of mental illness during the time he knew Mitchell, Mecham said, "No."

Another prosecution witness Friday was psychologist Randall Oster, who conducted a mental evaluation of Mitchell when the defendant wanted to put his two children from his first marriage up for adoption. Oster, who worked for Sugarhouse Mental Health when he did the evaluation in 1983, said Mitchell was mentally fit to relinquish custody of children."

"In my opinion, (Mitchell) did not show evidence of a severe mental illness," Oster testified.

Mitchell's former brother-in-law also testified he did not believe Mitchell was mentally ill. "I didn't see anything that would make me think that he was," said Scott Dean.

Next week is expected to be the final week of the trial.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com TWITTER: DNewsCrimeTeam

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