‘There is no such thing as an underage priesthood marriage. When the Lord commands, He knows best and we obey,’ Warren Jeffs wrote
By Daphne Bramham,
Vancouver Sun columnist
February 26, 2011
The ugly, depraved face of polygamy that some academics and civil libertarians refuse to acknowledge is laid bare in the detailed diaries of North America’s most notorious polygamist.
The dictated ramblings of Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, coldly describe how he demanded Canadian fathers and brothers bring him their daughters and sisters as young as 12 to be married, and how they conspired to get the girls to him undetected by law enforcement officers.
It’s proof that B.C. government lawyers are anxious to get into evidence as part of the constitutional reference case to determine the validity of Canada’s polygamy law.
In March 2004, Jeffs described how Brandon James Blackmore brought his 13-year-old daughter from Bountiful to marry him in Arizona. Twenty minutes after he married the Blackmore girl, Jeffs — 49 at the time — married a 14-year-old American girl.
Earlier that same day, Bountiful’s bishop James Oler had delivered his two 17-year-old sisters to be married to two other FLDS men. Oler had also witnessed the marriage of a 16-year-old American to Brandon Seth Blackmore. While she was still a teen, the American girl gave birth to a child in Canada.
This information comes from Jeffs’ dictations, which came to the attention of B.C. government lawyers only a few weeks ago when Texas authorities asked for the birth dates of the two 12-year-old daughters of MacRae Blackmore and Spencer Blackmore, who were Jeffs’ brides in 2005.
B.C. lawyers have combed the diaries and found details of eight Canadian child brides and one American one. It’s evidence they wanted considered in the constitutional reference case to determine whether Canada’s polygamy law is valid.
Aside from the ages of the girls and the parents’ complicity in their exploitation, what’s startling about Jeffs’ dictations is the banality with which he talks about these girls and young women.
Mixed amid his recollection of marrying the 13- and 14-year-olds, Jeffs recounts a conversation he had with Oler where they talked about log and metal lathes and whether they could be sent across the border without taxes or duty on them.
He then muses, “These young girls have been given to me to be taught and trained how to come into the presence of God and help redeem Zion from their youngest years before they go through teenage doubting and fears and boy troubles. I will just be their boy trouble …
“Now, I have a quorum of seven young girls.”
That night, Jeffs, his new brides and his favourite wife, Naomie, swayed in a motor home over the switchback roads near Colorado City, Ariz. There was “some throwing up among the ladies.” But that didn’t stop Jeffs from continuing his instructions on how to be a good wife to the 13- and 14-year-old brides as they drove.
In his recordings, Jeffs muses whether Blackmore’s 13-year-old daughter received the message of his marital training.
Naomie, who typed the dictations later, added in italics, “She did, but I could tell she could not comprehend. She just looked at me like, ‘What?’”
Later, Jeffs gathered all his young wives and reminded them that, “According to the laws of the land, guided and controlled by the devil himself, you girls married to me make me a criminal …
“There is no such thing as an underage priesthood marriage. When the Lord commands, He knows best and we obey.”
On Friday, Craig Jones, B.C.’s lead lawyer in the constitutional case, asked Chief Justice Robert Bauman to admit the diaries and other church documents, even though the evidentiary phase ended last month.
Jones noted that it is the first evidence of the extremity of the early sexualization of girls in Bountiful. Former residents testified that the youngest girls they knew of were in their mid-teens. Jones argued that it shows the “commodification and trafficking in girls,” which was predicted by ethnographer Joseph Henrich, economist Shoshana Grossbard and others.
He described the new information as essential to refute McGill law professor Angela Campbell and University of Ottawa classics professor Lori Beaman, who testified that child brides are historical anomalies and that allegations of abuse within the Bountiful community are unfounded.
But more than that, Jones said information such as what is in Jeffs’ diary entry quoted above refutes the notion promoted by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and law professor Martha Bailey that it’s okay to decriminalize polygamy because other laws deal with harms such as child brides and human trafficking.
Chief Justice Bauman gave a tentative “yes,” agreeing that B.C. can tender the information. He also agreed that FLDS lawyer Robert Wickett will have seven days after receiving it to challenge its admissibility.
But now that at least some of the information is out, the more pressing question is: When will B.C. file criminal charges?
After all, even Jeffs knew that he and other FLDS men had broken the law.