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Give Elizabeth love, LDS ward is urged

She needs help in this transition, her grandfather says

In a delicate time for Elizabeth Smart, when she is reorienting herself to once familiar surroundings, church members can help her transition by giving her warmth and love but not trying to "pry her open," her grandfather said.

"The only thing I'd really like to see is just give her her own time. Give her love. Give her support. Give her friendship," Charles Smart said.

On Sunday, about 250 people listened to the words of thanks of Smart family members at the sacrament meeting of the Arlington Hills Ward in the Salt Lake Emigration Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where Brett Parkinson, who conducted the meeting, said the nine months of searching for a missing Elizabeth, now 15, were somehow a blessing.

Tom Smart, an uncle, said the meaning of those nine months could be made from the small, countless miracles that occurred.

"Everybody is looking for answers. It's so wonderful God has given us this miracle," Tom Smart said.

Smart said the search for Elizabeth brought together a community composed of people of different religions, races, beliefs. "If you can't have faith in God, have faith in each other. We can be humanists. Have faith in each other. That's what Christ taught."

Thousands of Utah residents have searched for Elizabeth since the early hours of June 5, 2002, when she was taken from her bedroom in her family's Federal Heights house. On Wednesday, Elizabeth was discovered by Sandy police officers who were responding to a suspicious person call on State near 10400 South.

Brian David Mitchell, a homeless preacher, and Wanda Ilene Barzee remain in Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of aggravated kidnapping in connection to the case.

Grandfather Charles Smart said although Elizabeth had opportunities to leave her alleged captors, she had been brainwashed and had assumed a new identity.

From June 5, 2002, through the end of August, Elizabeth, Mitchell and Barzee lived two miles up Dry Creek Canyon above Elizabeth's house, Charles Smart said. Then they lived in a teepee in Emigration Canyon, he said.

Charles Smart said at the end of October the trio took a bus down to San Diego, about the same time younger sister Mary Katherine told her parents a transient named Emmanuel, employed by the family for five hours to do roofing work at the house a year before, resembled the person who took Elizabeth.

Mary Katherine feigned sleep the night Elizabeth was taken and also had told her parents that one-time suspect Richard Ricci, who died in August of a brain hemorrhage, was not the right man, Charles Smart said.

The family passed the information on to police, who told them they would pursue it. "Month after month after month went by," Charles Smart said.

On Feb. 10, the family released information about Mitchell to "America's Most Wanted," and within a month she was found. "So what was the miracle? Mary Katherine. So what was the miracle? All those people across the country looking for Brian David Mitchell," Charles Smart said.

"The greatest day of my life was when I was told Elizabeth had been found, and she was alive and well," Charles Smart said. "I said Edward, 'Is it true?' And he said, 'Dad, I have her in my arms.'"

But there were dark days, too, remembers Dorthea Smart, Elizabeth's grandmother.

"With her absence and my children being attacked was almost unbearable," said Dorthea Smart, who called the ordeal the "ultimate test of my faith."

Bishop David Hamblin said that Elizabeth was "in the control of others," and cannot be responsible for any wrongdoings she may have committed. "Elizabeth is pure before the Lord."

After the meeting, Parkinson said the ward is "not going to get back to business as usual. Our job is to make the transition as easy as possible if not pleasurable. She can feel this is a safe place."


E-MAIL: lhancock@desnews.com