1 Nov 2010

Accused polygamist had nine underage brides: affadavit

National Post - Canada June 30, 2009

by Daphne Bramham | Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER -- Four of the 25 wives of fundamentalist Mormon leader Winston Blackmore of Bountiful, B.C., were just 15 when they were bound to him in spiritual marriages, says an affidavit filed Tuesday in his polygamy case.

Another two were 16 and three were 17, says the document, which depicts a complicated family tree.

The details were compiled by Const. Shelley Livingstone, one of the officers involved in the RCMP investigation into the polygamous community that began in 2004.

In all, it says, Mr. Blackmore has fathered 101 children with his host of wives.

The affidavit was filed in B.C. Supreme Court, where Mr. Blackmore's application for a stay on charges of practising polygamy is currently being heard.

The document alleges that among the 15-year-old brides was Lorraine Johnson, who married Mr. Blackmore, now 52, when he was 41. The first of her four children was born a year later, it says.

Ms. Johnson is one of 16 Americans who came to Canada with and without visas to marry Mr. Blackmore, according to the court document.

She was legally married in December, 2005, to her "sister-wife" Shelina Palmer in a civil ceremony, it said.

At the time, it was unclear whether that was a love-match made legal in defiance of the community's beliefs or whether it was a marriage of convenience aimed at ensuring Ms. Johnson was not deported for living illegally in Canada.

Both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Palmer married Mr. Blackmore in 1998. Like Ms. Johnson, Ms. Palmer was only 15, the court document alleges.

The first of four children was born in 2000, and her second conceived only days before her 18th birthday.

The other two, who were 15 when they married Mr. Blackmore are Harmony Quinton and Christina Gallup Mr. Blackmore, according to the court document. Gallup Mr. Blackmore was the first of his celestial or plural wives in 1981.

It "wasn't long after when they had sexual relations," the RCMP constable alleges in the affidavit.

Quinton had the first of five children at 18.

Gallup Blackmore, who is now a respected midwife in Creston, B.C., has had 12 children. Her oldest is 21, the youngest was a year old when Const. Livingstone compiled the list in 2005.

Gallup Blackmore's sister Mary Ann was 16 when she became Mr. Blackmore's third bride. Another sister, Susan, was also 16 when she was his sixth bride.

According to Const. Livingstone, the RCMP investigation began after Mr. Blackmore's 11th wife -- Zelpha Chatwin -- spoke up at a conference in Winnipeg in February, 2005, and said that her husband had been forced to marry a 15-year-old.

Ms. Chatwin was 20 on the day that she and her sister Marsha both married Mr. Blackmore. Marsha was 17. Both Chatwins have five children.

Despite RCMP having identified nine child brides, Mr. Blackmore has never been charged with sexual exploitation.

Up until 2002, Mr. Blackmore was the Canadian bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since 2002, he has led a breakaway group from the FLDS, which itself is a sect unrelated to the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy in 1890.

All of the under-aged brides are named on the indictment that charges Mr. Blackmore with one count of practising polygamy.

Not named on the indictment are Aloha Alaire Oler, Cherene Palmer and Carlene Gallup Blackmore, who were all in their 50s when they married Mr. Blackmore in religious marriages. According to Const. Livingstone, each of them said they were "not like a real wife."

Others not listed on the indictment are Shirley Black and Catherine Broadbent. Both left Bountiful in 2002. Black's age was not listed, while Broadbent was 17 when she was sent to Canada to marry Mr. Blackmore, the document alleges.

Of the wives, seven were Americans and one was a landed immigrant.

Const. Livingstone's affidavit indicates Mr. Blackmore and his wives all agreed to co-operate in the RCMP investigation and all came freely to interviews. The list of 25 names was compiled after interviewing all of the wives and Mr. Blackmore himself. Mr. Blackmore, she notes, confirmed the names of the wives on Sept. 26, 2005.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Blackmore said some ages of the wives when they were married are wrong.

In the past, Mr. Blackmore has admitted to having married "several" teens including some who were "just barely" under 16.

"There was one that was [under 16] and one that -- that lied about her age," Mr. Blackmore told a CNN reporter in December, 2006. "But that's not unusual for women, is it?"

Mr. Blackmore has long contended that the charter guarantee of religious freedom protects polygamy.

This article was found at:


Click here [pdf] to download a document listing Blackmore's wives and children.

Update on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 by Perry Bulwer

Daphne Bramham, the author of the above article, wrote:

... the FLDS, which itself is a sect unrelated to the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy in 1890.

While Bramham has been an excellent reporter on this issue and her book, The Secret Lives of Saints, is an excellent expose, I think she is dead wrong that the FLDS is unrelated to the mainstream Mormon church. I could understand if she had said the FLDS sect held different views and interpretations than those of the mainstream church. But to claim that it is unrelated is just sloppy reporting at best, and at worst acquiessence to the Mormon church's requests to media outlets that they clarify the distinction between the two groups.

Saying the FLDS is unrelated to the LDS is like saying Anglicans are unrelated to Catholics, or fundamentalist Protestants are unrelated to mainstream Protestants. It is an absolutely inaccurate and unfounded assertion. Fundamentalist and mainstream Mormons both have the same founding "prophet", con man Joseph Smith, and believe in the same "holy" book. In fact, the similarities between the two groups far out number any differences, and those similarities are rooted in the same scriptures. So the FLDS and the mainstream Mormons are most definitely related. For Bramham to report that they are unrelated groups is simply wrong and does her readers a disservice.

Furthermore, mainstream Mormons constantly point to the fact that they renounced polygamy, but they usually omit the fact that they only did that for political expediancy, not because they thought polygamy was wrong or harmful. The mainstream church was willing to compromise its belief system in order to survive, whereas the fundamentalists hold fast to the original doctrines of the church regardless of the consequences. That is the main difference between the two groups, but that doesn't make them unrelated, as Bramham claims.

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