Nov 30, 2016

'If you don't marry who you're told to, you're considered an apostate,' former member tells polygamy trial

National Post
November 29, 2016 

CRANBROOK, B.C. — Rachel Jeffs was in Grade 7 when she refused to comb her hair the way her father decreed. It was a small rebellion, but within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it got her expelled from school for most of that year.

Of course, her father wasn’t just any FLDS member. Warren Jeffs was the principal of the church’s Alta Academy and, a few years later, became the polygamist sect’s prophet. Jeffs, 60, is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting two child “brides.”
Rachel Jeffs was testifying in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday at the trial of three parents from Bountiful, B.C., accused of having taken their daughters, then aged 13 and 15, to the United States to become wives in plural marriages.
Brandon James Blackmore, Emily Gail Blackmore and James Marion Oler each face a maximum of 10 years in prison if they are convicted.
At the time Warren Jeffs married the 13-year-old Blackmore daughter from Bountiful in 2004, he was already being sought by both state police and the FBI for sexually abusing minors. By 2006, he was on the FBI’s most wanted list.
Now 32 and a mother of five, Rachel Jeffs left the FLDS in January 2015. She identified the Blackmore girl in photos. She saw her “almost every day” when they both lived at one of her father’s “places of refuge” in Pringle, South Dakota.
Obedience, she testified, was the first law of heaven and of the church.
“The most important thing was to obey the prophet and your priesthood head,” she said. For girls and women that meant obeying their fathers and husbands; for men, it was the prophet.
At 18, Rachel Jeffs married 25-year-old Richard Steed Allred, who already had two wives.
“My father told me I was supposed to marry Richard, so the next day I married him,” she said. “If you don’t marry who you’re told to, you’re considered an apostate.”
Being an apostate means leaving the community and breaking all contact with family and friends.
Another witness provided another example of blind obedience.
Esther Palmer admitted Monday to having lied to RCMP in 2008. She was a midwife in Bountiful and when RCMP asked whether any girls under 18 had had babies in the previous two years, Palmer said there were none. There was one.
That mother was the 16-year-old American who James Oler had married the same day as Warren Jeffs married the Blackmores’ 13-year-old daughter.
“At the time, I very much believed the religion and what they were telling me,” Palmer told Justice Paul Pearlman. “I was afraid of the consequences if I didn’t go along with covering up for my brother.
“What we’d been taught is that you obeyed God’s laws, not necessarily the laws of the land. I felt I was doing what God wanted me to do … cover up for my brother.”
(Palmer left Bountiful in 2012 when she was declared unworthy. Five of her nine children remained behind, including the daughter who came to court Monday wearing a grey, pioneer-style dress and the braided and swooped hairstyle that his daughter rebelled against nearly two decades ago.)
Palmer’s brother, James Oler, will go to trial next year on one count of polygamy. But he has not been charged with anything related either to his 2004 marriage to the American teen or the subsequent birth of their child while she was still a minor.
Oler raised no objection to his sister’s testimony. He has chosen not to have legal representation and has sat passively throughout the proceedings.
Because neither Oler nor Gail Blackmore has a lawyer, the judge appointed an amicus as a counter-balance to the Crown’s submission. So, it was left to the amicus, Joe Doyle, to object to Palmer’s statement being admitted.
The judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, agreed and ruled that Palmer’s evidence had a “potentially prejudicial effect” on Oler. For that reason, Pearlman said he intended to disregard it.
The trial continues Tuesday when Brandon Seth Blackmore is scheduled to testify. The son of Brandon James and Gail, he was married in Colorado City, Az. on the same day as his 13-year-old sister.

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