Trial hears from former wife of polygamist leader

Jane Blackmore, the first wife of Winston Blackmore, testifes about her upbringing and relationships with sister wives.

Jim Oler (front left) and Winston Blackmore (right) are currently facing a polygamy charge and are standing trial in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Jim Oler (front left) and Winston Blackmore (right) are currently facing a polygamy charge and are standing trial in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

The first legal wife of a member of the polygamous community south of Creston testified about her marriage and and life as a sister wife with up to two dozen other women.

Called by special prosecutor Peter Wilson, Jane Blackmore testified in the trial of Winston Blackmore and James Oler, who are both facing polygamy charges based on multiple marriages sanctioned by their faith in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) — a breakaway sect from the mainstream Mormon church.

Jane Blackmore married Winston Blackmore in 1975 in two ceremonies; the first as a celestial marriage through the FLDS church in Rosemary, Alberta, and the second a few months later in a legal ceremony in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho.

Jane Blackmore left Bountiful and her relationship with Winston Blackmore in 2003, but testified that her former husband married over 25 women during the course of their relationship.

Jane Blackmore, who was born and raised in the FLDS faith, testified she knew when she was first married to Blackmore that other wives were likely to follow, as the religious doctrine dictates that a man must have three wives to advance in the church and attain the highest level of celestial glory.

Jane Blackmore said she was sometimes asked for approval on the marriages, while she didn’t find out about others until after the ceremony had occurred.

One ceremony even included a planned marriage between Winston Blackmore and a new wife, who had travelled up from the United States with her younger sister.

However, the FLDS prophet Leroy Johnson— who conducted the ceremony — also wedded Winston Blackmore to his new bride’s sister as well, claiming divine inspiration.

In 2002, Rulon Jeffs, the FLDS prophet at the time, passed away, with his son Warren and Winston Blackmore vying for the church leadership. The ensuing power struggle split the Bountiful community, as half declared support for Jeffs, while the other half declared for Blackmore.

That had a direct result on the family life, Jane Blackmore said, as some of Winston’s wives supported Jeffs and left the relationship to live in the United States.

Jane Blackmore also testified that some of Winston Blackmore’s marriages were to widows and sealed for time only instead of time and eternity. FLDS religious doctrine dictates that marriages that are sealed for time and eternity on earth are sealed in the afterlife, while marriages sealed in time only are valid only while the spouse is alive.

Jane Blackmore also testified that Oler, her brother, also had plural wives and had attended the birth of at least one child from two wives.

Jane Blackmore grew up in the Creston area and went to elementary school up to Grade 9. She completed her high school diploma through distance education before getting married and having six children.

During her childhood, she was raised by a religious culture in school, church and at home that demanded submission to priesthood-head authority — the father or husband of the family unit — and that plural marriage was necessary to reach the highest glory of heaven.

After pressure from her father, she agreed to be married and taken to a conference to see the prophet who would determine a husband for her based on divine instruction.

She learned she’d marry Winston Blackmore at 10:30 p.m. on May 3, 1975.

The next day at 9 a.m., they were married.

At 30 years old, she went to Selkirk College and took a nursing program based on a FLDS blessing she received as a young teenager where she was told that she would administer to the sick in the last days.

She finished her education in 1998 and moved on to take training as a midwife in 1995, travelling to Short Creek, an FLDS community on the border of Utah and Arizona, to get practical experience delivering babies.

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