Former Mormon fundamentalists testify in B.C. child bride trial

Crown witnesses describe the control that church leadership held over men, women and children

Evidence from a process determining admissibility was rolled into the formal trial of a man charged with the alleged removal of a child from Canada that began on Thursday in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Three former members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect testified for Crown prosecutors in the case against James Marion Oler, who is accused of taking his underage daughter from Canada into the United States to marry a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

In his opening statement, Special Prosecutor Peter Wilson said the Crown’s case relies on evidence proving that Oler should have reasonably expected his daughter to be placed in a relationship that would facilitate sexual offences.

“Establishing that Mr. Oler intended his daughter to be the object of sexual exploitation requires proof that he acted with what is sometimes described as an ulterior intent,” said Wilson. “In the circumstances of this case, that requires proof that he did anything for the purpose of facilitating an act outside Canada that would be an offence under Section 153 of the Criminal Code, if it happened in Canada.”

Oler is associated with the polygamous community of Bountiful, south of Creston in the B.C. Interior.

READ: Judge admits contested documents into child bride trial

A former FLDS member, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said she drove with her parents in a van across the Porthill U.S.A border on June 24, 2004. Shortly after crossing the border, the van turned into a highway pullout and she left the vehicle to go into the woods to relieve herself.

After returning from the forest, she said another van had pulled up, which contained — among others — Jim Oler and his daughter. The whole group, except for one member, piled into the newly arrived van and continued to Cedar City, Utah.

Staying overnight, the group headed to Mesquite, Nevada, the next day, where the Crown witness and Oler’s daughter were married in separate FLDS ceremonies, according to her testimony as documentation from an FLDS church record that listed 18 weddings that day.

Another church record, consisting of an audio recording by Warren Jeffs — the FLDS president and prophet — described a phone call that the church leader had with Oler, instructing him to bring his daughter to be married.

FLDS members, particularly women, are taught from birth about the importance of obedience to fathers and husbands for heavenly salvation purposes, according to testimony from another witness — Warren Jeffs’ own daughter, Rachel.

Rachel Jeffs left the FLDS four years ago, but grew up in the fundamentalist Mormon faith in Sandy Hill, Utah. She said she attended an academy led by her father that included at least two hours a day of training in FLDS religious doctrine.

“We were taught that obedience is the first law of heaven,” said Jeffs. “To get into heaven, we were taught that we had to obey our priesthood head. The priesthood head consists of the father in the home or the husband, depending what station of life you were in.”

Rachel Jeffs said she was placed in an arranged marriage when she was 18 years old, and was her husband’s third wife.

“I knew I didn’t really have a choice,” said Rachel Jeffs. “They told me I had a choice, but I knew that if I said no, then they would kick me out of the church or…I wouldn’t have any blessings. And I was told that if I didn’t obey, I would lose my place in Heaven.”

“…I was taught that I should submit to my husband in obedience, that he was my leader and my priesthood head and as a wife, I should cook and clean and sew and have children and take care of the children.”

A third Crown witness, Brandon Seth Blackmore, testified that he last saw Oler and his daughter at a FLDS church gathering roughly a week before the wedding of Oler’s daughter on June 25, 2004.

Brandon Seth Blackmore testified that Oler’s daughter sang an old Mormon ballad — This is Our Last Farewell — on the guitar.

“I remember he [Oler] was extremely emotional while she was singing the song,” said Brandon Seth Blackmore. “The atmosphere of the whole meeting was quite sad and emotional. He was crying.”

Brandon Seth Blackmore left the FLDS church in 2012.

During his upbringing, Brandon Seth Blackmore was taught that plural marriage, or celestial marriage, was a required religious doctrine in order to get into heaven.

“I was taught that a woman’s role was to sustain and support her husband and to conceive, bear and bring children forth through a celestial marriage,” he said.

The trial will continue on Friday in Cranbrook, with Crown prosecutors hoping to present closing arguments by next week.



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

A campaign encourages families to put down their phones and talk this Mother’s Day

OpenTable’s #DiningMode gets Okanagan restaurants on board with a no phone policy while dining

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

Olympian Andi Naude retires from freestyle skiing

Penticton native skied in 62 World Cup single and dual moguls events in her career

Syrup commercially produced from Summerland maple trees

Maple Roch produces 50 bottles of syrup after trees in the community were tapped

Photos: Saddle broncs and bullriders raise the dust in Similkameen

The 54th annual Chopaka Easter Jackpot Rodeo took place near Keremeos Sunday

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Okanagan experience for the Blue Man Group

The world tour of the Blue Man Group came to Penticton this week for two shows.

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Okanagan College names new fundraising director

Helen Jackman will join the college as executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation and director of advancement

Most Read