Crown Calls Final Witnesses at James Oler's Child Removal Trial

Cranbrook Law Courts (Photo: Bradley Jones)

"The only honourable way to leave the FLDS is to die," testified one Crown witness on Friday, knowing the difficulties she faced when she left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and the Bountiful community in 2012.

On Friday, the Crown called its final witnesses in James Oler's trial in Cranbrook B.C. Supreme Court, the former FLDS member testifying to her upbringing in the community, what she was taught in school and in her home, and the importance of being obedient and following instruction from her priesthood head.

James Oler is facing one charge of removing a child from Canada for a sexual purpose, allegedly taking an underage girl to the United States to be married within the FLDS.

The emotional testimony from the Crown witness saw the woman break into tears in Cranbrook B.C. Supreme Court on Friday. She told the court that simply testifying in James Oler's trial, could mean that she will never talk to her children or see them again.

The witness testified that she was married at 16 years old to a man she didn't know and now has nine children. Never asked by her father to be married, the witness told the court that she felt she couldn't refuse what, "God had told me to do," believing that the prophet's instructions and direction for her life was from God's authority on Earth, aware of the consequences of excommunication from the FLDS Church for those that disobeyed, being considered traitors and apostates.

Answering questions from Peter Wilson, the special prosecutor for the Crown, the witness testified to the importance of obedience in the FLDS Church, citing a piece of scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants that is used by the FLDS, specifically verses 62 to 64 in Section 132.

"62 And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified. 63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified. 64 And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law."

The witness testified that the scripture and what she was taught in her FLDS upbringing is that as a woman, she was meant to submit completely the fully to her priesthood head. Before marriage, her priesthood head would be her father but after marriage, her priesthood head would become her husband.

When asked about sex in the FLDS Church, the witness said, "I felt I couldn't say no" if her husband wanted sex. The purpose of sex in marriage to the FLDS was to have children and that it was expected of her to engage in sex, that it was her "moral duty" under the FLDS belief. The Crown's witness testified that she only knew her husband's name when she was married at 16 and that it took more than two years for her to talk to her husband, becoming his second wife.

The witness' compelling testimony detailed her upbringing in the FLDS Church and shedding some light on the Bountiful community, that woman were generally not able to make their own decisions, first needing permission from their husband or father including further education and schooling, to purchasing items at the store or using any form of money.

Besides the Crown witness on Friday, Rachel Jeffs also testified on Thursday in Cranbrook B.C. Supreme Court, alongside her husband Brandon Seth Blackmore, and B.L.B., a witness protected under a publication ban.

Jeffs, the daughter of Warren Jeffs, the current FLDS Prophet serving a life sentence plus 20 years in a Texas prison for two counts of child sex assault, testified to her upbringing in the United States and the importance of obedience to their priesthood head. Jeffs left the FLDS Church in 2014 and has publicly spoken out against her father and the FLDS, publishing a book Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult and My Father, Warren Jeffs on the subject. Jeff had testified with Brandon Seth Blackmore back in 2016 when Brandon's parents Brandon James Blackmore and Emily Ruth Gail Blackmore were on trial in the first child removal case. That same case is when James Oler was acquitted by Justice Paul Pearlman, while the Blackmore parents were convicted and eventually sentenced with Brandon serving one year in prison while Gail was sentenced to seven months behind bars.

Both Rachel Jeffs and Brandon Seth Blackmore testified to the role sex had in marriage and to the FLDS teachings and beliefs on the importance of obedience and of plural marriage.

B.L.B. also testified on Thursday, the one witness in the trial that's protected under a publication ban. B.L.B. told the court that she crossed over the Canada United States border at the Porthill crossing on June 24, 2004, with her parents. At 16 years old, B.L.B. was later married on June 25, 2004, in Mesquite, Nevada to a 69-year-old man in the FLDS. B.L.B. testified to the court that when they crossed the border, their van pulled off the highway to a secluded area. Leaving the van to relieve herself in the forest, B.L.B. said she returned to see another van with James Oler and her brother transferring luggage to the new vehicle. B.L.B testified that she then entered the van to see C.E.O., the underage girl that Oler is alleged to have taken across the border to the purpose of being married. B.L.B. said they then travelled to Cedar City, Utah and that on the way Oler had a conversation with those in the vehicle about how Warren Jeffs had called him and spoke B.L.B. and C.E.O.'s names to be married and that it was "very faith building" as to them it was if the Lord had taken interest in them personally. After arriving in Cedar City, Utah around midnight, B.L.B. testified that they stayed the night and then travelled to Mesquite, Nevada in a 15-passenger van the next day, where she was then eventually married in a ceremony performed by Warren Jeffs.

Earlier in the proceedings, the Crown had submitted marriage and priesthood records from that day on June 25, 2004, where 18 total marriages took place, including B.L.B.'s marriage and the marriage of C.E.O.

Crown submitted C.E.O.'s school attendance records in Bountiful as evidence on Friday, as well as various birth certificates from retired RCMP Cst. Shelley Livingstone, who was involved in the RCMP's investigation into the Bountiful community.

Following the conclusion of witnesses on Friday, the Crown is expected to begin their closing arguments on James Oler's trial on Monday, with the conclusion of the trial expected next week and B.C. Supreme Court Justice Martha Devlin reserving her judgement on the trial.

More stories from James Oler's trial in Cranbrook B.C. Supreme Court: 

FLDS Marriage and Priesthood Records Approved as Evidence in James Oler's Child Removal Trial (April 10, 2019)

Crown Argues for Admissibility of FLDS Records at James Oler's Child Removal Trial (April 8, 2019)

United States FLDS Bishop Testifies at James Oler's Child Removal Trial (April 4, 2019)

James Oler's Child Removal Trial Enters Third Day in Cranbrook (April 3, 2019)

BYU Professor Testifies at James Oler's Child Removal Trial as Voir Dire Continues (April 2, 2019)

Child Removal Retrial Opens for James Oler After Previous Acquittal (April 1, 2019)

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