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Next page: Canada’s polygamy dilemma: prosecution or tolerance?
Previous page: Bountiful, B.C.
Blackmore was bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Canada until Warren Jeffs muscled him and others out of the way to become prophet in September 2002. Jeffs then excommunicated Blackmore, splitting the community of Bountiful nearly in half — about 700 people continue to follow Blackmore, while about 500 follow Jeffs. [Source]
Rulon T. Jeffs, the self-styled prophet of thousands of polygamists in B.C. and the U.S., has died, triggering a three-way power struggle for control of hundreds of millions of dollars in church assets.
Jeffs, 93, died Sunday in Utah.
Weeks before his death, Jeffs visited Bountiful to denounce Blackmore and to consolidate a power base for his son Warren Jeffs, his chosen successor. Jeffs ordered followers not to listen to Blackmore’s sermons, ordered Blackmore to relinquish control of his junior wives, and place his assets under the control of the United Effort Plan.
Blackmore, who has 30 wives and more than 100 children, is Bountiful’s bishop, chief executive officer of its businesses and trustee of its property.
Now Warren Jeffs has removed Blackmore as a United Effort trustee. And another Bountiful elder, Jim Oler, has been named the head of the B.C. commune.
The third person fighting for control of the church is Fred Jessop. He is in his 90s and considered by many as the true replacement for the “prophet” because of his seniority.
- Source: Death of a 'prophet,' The Province, Canada, Sep. 10, 2002
In November, 2002, Warren Jeffs was named President of the FLDS. He soon began showing the hallmarks of a cult leader:
Critics view [Warren] Jeffs as a usurper and believe some of Rulon’s last “decisions” were merely his son’s machinations, such as the 2000 demand that followers pull their children from public schools and an order that Salt Lake City FLDS members move to Hildale and Colorado City before the 2002 Winter Olympics, which, it was said, would forever corrupt the state.
Another example: Some say Warren orchestrated Rulon’s dismissal of Winston Blackmore as leader of the FLDS’ Canadian branch in 2002, removing both a rival and a more senior leader.
With Jeffs’ ascendancy, the mantle of authority passed not to the next most worthy senior man, as it has historically, but in the father-to-son ascendancy of a monarchy.
“What we witnessed was a power play,” said Ezra Draper, one of Rulon Jeffs’ many grandchildren, who moved last June from Colorado City to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, after becoming disillusioned with Jeffs.
“Through careful manipulation he was able to disqualify, on false accusations, one person after another.”
- Source: Thou shalt obey, The Salt Lake Tribune, USA, Mar. 14, 2004
While Blackmore currently leads a small breakaway group, many say he is a potential leader of the larger FLDS -- a very real possibility now that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is in prison.
In the shadow of the astonishing cliff face of Skimmerhorn Mountain, which is part of the Purcell Mountain chain west of the Rocky Mountains, polygamist men have been trying to create their Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) version of the ideal world, heaven on Earth, where they could “go forth and multiply.” Many wives and many children are considered to be God’s blessing.
In April , however, the Canadian colony of almost 1,000 people, most of them children, was wrenched by the dethroning of the community’s once-undisputed temporal and religious leader, Bishop Winston Blackmore, who has 30 wives and more than 100 children.
Winston Blackmore was stripped of his considerable powers by Warren Jeffs of Colorado City, Arizona, who has taken over both the U.S. and Canadian arms of the colony following the death last year of his father and the sect’s main prophet, Rulon Jeffs.
Bountiful School’s principal acknowledges about half the Canadian colony, or about 500 people, have sided with Blackmore, including 28 of his 30 wives, nearly all his dozens of brothers and sisters and their many husbands and wives and children. Blackmore was in charge of Bountiful school. But no more.
“I’m a very outspoken person and I don’t want to get my neck in a noose,” said Palmer, Bountiful’s long-time principal. “But what’s happened is simple. We’re still with the church and Winston has opted to leave the church. Although 50 per cent of the Canadian members may have left with Winston, and a few Americans too, it’s only a small slice of the larger church.”
Blackmore, who also considers himself a prophet and many say a potential leader of the larger church, is a highly successful businessman in the Kootenays, owner of J.R. Blackmore and Sons, which has offices throughout the mountainous region. His operations include municipal garbage collection, logging, operating a sawmill, trucking, farming and ranching.
And, despite being defrocked and losing leadership of Bountiful, Blackmore is not going anywhere. His properties are mixed in with Bountiful’s extensive land holdings, which include the contentious low-slung elementary-secondary school that B.C. taxpayers fund with about $600,000 a year, or (following a funding formula used for all B.C.’s religious independent schools) roughly half its budget.
“The split is very ugly and creating a lot of hostility,” says Debbie Palmer, an ex-member who left the church in the early 1990s after being assigned as a teenager to become one of the multiple wives of, in sequence, three much older men.
She secretly keeps in contact with some some of Bountiful’s current female members, who she says are afraid to leave because they don’t want to lose their children.
- Source: Where polygamy rules, Vancouver Sun, Canada, Aug. 26, 2003
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