Nov 27, 2016

More revelations about life in Bountiful expected at polygamy trial

Vancouver Sun
November 27, 2016

CRANBROOK – It promises to be a week of revelations as the trial resumes Monday of three parents alleged to have taken their daughters from the secretive, fundamentalist Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C. to the United States to become child brides, plural wives and teen mothers.

Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Gail Blackmore are charged with taking their 13-year-old daughter to Colorado City, Arizona, in March 2004 to marry Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

James Oler, the former bishop of Bountiful, is charged with delivering his 15-year-old in June 2004 to Mesquite, Nevada, for a polygamous marriage to an older man that was performed by Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in Texas for child sexual abuse.

The specific details of the allegations are outlined in B.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Pearlman’s written decision released on Friday. The ruling followed a closed hearing to determine what documentary evidence would be allowed at trial.

Jeffs had contacted Brandon Blackmore on Feb. 26, telling him that “the Lord had revealed that his 13-year-old daughter belonged to me and we would discuss that when he brought her down south sometime Friday.

“I am praying the Lord to touch his heart to receive the Lord’s will.”

Jeffs went on to note his concerns that taking a 13-year-old bride might cause problems – “(It) will hasten the persecutions against me and this people (the FLDS) as the apostates in Canada will inform the authorities.”

But the Blackmores allegedly delivered their daughter to Jeffs on March 1 and witnessed the marriage. Jeffs was 48 at the time.

Their son, Brandon Seth Blackmore, will be called as a witness as early as today. He’s expected to testify to what happened that day since the sect’s priesthood record shows that he was also married that day along with his sister.

The prophet’s daughter, Rachel Jeffs, will also testify this week along with one of the victims. All of the victims names are protected by a publication ban.

Oler is alleged to have been contacted by the prophet on June 24, 2004 and instructed to take his 15-year-old daughter to Cedar City and then wait for further instructions.

The following day, the priesthood record (which has been admitted as evidence) shows that starting at 11:13 a.m., Jeffs began the first of 18 rapid-fire weddings in Mesquite. At 1:23 p.m. the 15-year-old Oler girl became the second wife of James Leroy Johnson for ‘time and all eternity.’

The record also indicates that 11 minutes later, James Oler, then 40, was also married to a teenager. It was his second marriage within two months.

The prosecution expects to conclude its case by mid-week. But it’s unclear what, if any evidence, will be called by the defendants.

Brandon Blackmore’s lawyer has refused to say whether he will call witnesses, while Oler and Gail Blackmore have chosen to represent themselves. So far, the unrepresented accused have refused to participate in any way and much of their time in court reading or bent forward with their eyes closed.

In the trial’s first week, two midwives who are former FLDS members testified about life in Bountiful and how they were taught that unquestioning obedience and practising polygamy were essential to their salvation. Both are related in some way to all three of the accused.

On Friday, Esther Oler Palmer recalled her arranged or placement marriage at 16 to a 30-year-old man who was already married to her sister.

She told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Pearlman she was frightened of her husband and had never spoken him until the ceremony that bound them “for time and all eternity.”

Within three months, she was pregnant.

Had she refused to marry him, Palmer said she would have brought shame and dishonour on her family and likely would have been excommunicated. As for refusing to have sex with him, she said, girls are taught that their greatest glory is to become “mothers in Zion” and have as many children as is possible.

Earlier, Palmer’s half-sister, Jane Oler Blackmore, described how FLDS members believe that before they are born, they make covenants in the spirit world with the person they will marry.

When the time is right, God reveals those covenants to the bride and groom to the FLDS prophet, who arranges the marriage.

To refuse, Blackmore said, would be to go against God and the prophet and likely result spending eternity in hell.

At 18, she was told that Winston Blackmore, the future bishop of Bountiful, was the man she would wed the following day.

“I felt like I had been sucker punched. I felt like I was going to throw up,” she said.

She knew him well and would not have chosen him. But she agreed to marry him and over the next 27½ years as Winston Blackmore took another 26 wives, Jane had nine of his 145 children.

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