A former member of a fundamentalist Mormon sect testified about life growing up in a polygamist community south of Creston in the trial of man charged with the alleged removal of a child from Canada in 2004.
“The only honourable way to leave the FLDS is to die and I’ve known that since I was a baby,” said a Crown witness, who asked not to be identified fearing reprisals from FLDS members.
She left the religion in seven years ago but still has family, including children, who remain in Bountiful.
“I knew there was no one in the world who could help me,” she said. “There wasn’t a lawyer, there wasn’t a policeman, there was no one that could help me leave Bountiful and still be able to have my children.”
Jim Oler, a former religious leader associated with Bountiful, is accused of removing his underage daughter from Canada in order to facilitate a marriage to an American member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) in 2004.
The witness was born in community and raised in the FLDS doctrine, which included religious training in school, church and in the family home.
She said she was taught by religious leaders to fully obey the family priesthood head — her father as a girl, and her husband after she was married.
Women were taught that bearing children and living in plural marriages was essential to achieving the highest level of celestial glory. Disobedience could mean being branded a traitor against God by FLDS church leadership, put eternal salvation at risk and excommunication from the community, she said
Women are not allowed to keep money or own assets and require permission to go anywhere, which make moving on from the community and the religion difficult for those who want to leave.
The witness said a relative who left Bountiful struggled to adjust to the world outside the FLDS community because she had no financial resources, post-secondary education or formal work experience and job training.
The role of women and obedience in the FLDS is a key element to the Crown’s case.
In his opening statement, Special Prosecutor Peter Wilson said that Oler should have reasonably expected his daughter to be placed in a relationship of dependency that would facilitate sex offences.
Oler’s daughter, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was married to an American FLDS member when she was just a young teenager in 2004.
That marriage was documented by priesthood records kept by Warren Jeffs, the FLDS president and prophet. The records were seized after U.S. law enforcement raided the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas a decade ago.
Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for aggravated sexual assault of a child.