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The Joy of Sects (and Bountiful's well-hidden shame)

“I tell you in the name of God, that if we are wicked and ungodly we shall not escape His…

By Brent Wittmeier , in News Seeking: Spirituality in the media , on January 16, 2009 Tags: , , , , , , ,

“I tell you in the name of God, that if we are wicked and ungodly we shall not escape His hand.”

If you had to pick the source of these words, you might hazard any number of guesses.

The Torah? The Qur’an? Maybe even Dostoevsky’s Elder Zossima?

But you’d be wrong. These words are not an ancient prophecy or hermit’s aphorism, but a musing from six years ago in the inaugural issue of The North Star, the monthly newsletter of Bountiful B.C. polygamist Winston Blackmore.

While recent media coverage has splashed Blackmore and Bountiful across national headlines, one of the many fascinating background stories is how Blackmore has crafted an online self-portrait of a humble benevolent patriarch. And while his blog and website may not be a hit on Technorati, both have received notice from Maclean’s and the Tyee.

The blog is a crude WordPress Q&A forum. Blackmore’s The North Star newsletter, however, reveals one side of the goings-on in Bountiful. Issued every month or so from January 2003 to December 2005, the 4 page newsletters include basic community news, spiritualized editorials, history of the community, and quotes from ancient Mormon leaders Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Uncle Roy, the FLDS community’s spiritual mentor.

Throughout issues of The North Star, Blackmore assumes the guise of spiritual advisor:

“Mormonism has always been about brotherhood.  You know, the kind that defends each other, protects each other, and stands fast for the vision that allows all mankind to hold his human treasures strictly to himself.  No true brother will covet his brothers wives or children, ox or ass, or anything else.  Mormonism strictly forbids it, and brotherhood demands that it be so.  Since the days of John Y. Barlow, Mormonism has produced lots of men, but recent times have proven that it has produced few brothers.” (March 25, 2004)

The Fundamentalist Spirit of Mormonism is the salvation of the human family.  It is about forgiveness, morals, free agency.  It is about the sanctity of families, of men and women loving each other in a family unit.  It is about busy minding the Mormon business of being honest, moral and strictly truthful in the gospel cause.  You can’t blame anyone if you fail. (May 15, 2004)

While urging honest hard work and brotherhood (and protecting his own interests), Blackmore is occasionally menacing in what failure might mean:

“Yes, if you believe a lie that you know is a lie, you will be damned.” (March 29, 2003).

With an increasingly heightened sense of public scrutiny, he advises people to be careful with outsiders:

Be very careful what you say to the media.  They do not want to hear the truth or they would have tried to print some of it.” (November 6, 2004)

Throughout the newsletters, Blackmore hints at the many events affecting the community. Alongside livestock diseases and construction of farms, there are estrangements, excommunications, and betrayals. In each and every case, Blackmore assumes a stance, not of an authoritarian or exclusivist, but a genuinely concerned father or older brother. He frequently defies naysayers by arguing that if his words don’t match up with the Book of Mormon, they should be ignored.

Strangely but not surprisingly, Blackmore is convincing. Which is why media scrutiny is so crucial to Bountiful and yet unlikely to penetrate its heart.

The arrests of Blackmore and James Oler came only one day after the paperback release of The Secret Lives of Saints , Daphne Bramham’s expose of the horrible goings-on in Bountiful. The Vancouver Sun columnist is undoubtedly struck by the timing. Or would be, if the story wasn’t so tragic.

Hopefully, Blackmore’s prophecy is right.


  • Winston is very likeable, but he uses charm to get what he wants, he is a quiet master of Public Relations! But he married girls underage, even when he wasn’t being forced to by Warren Jeffs.

    Winston’s wives:

    1. Jane Oler, 18, legally married in 1975. Divorced 2005. Canadian.
    2. Christina Gallup Blackmore, 15. Married in 1982, daughter of Leroy Gallup and Karen Quinton in Colorado City. She is a second cousin to Winston. American (although possibly now has Canadian citizenship)
    3. Mary Ann Gallup, 16. Married in 1985, Christina’s full sister. American (although possibly now has Canadian citizenship).
    4. Marjorie Johnson
    5. Sharon Johnson
    6. Susan Gallup, 15. Full sister to Christina and Mary Ann.
    7. Harmony Quinton, 15. Daughter of Barlow and Becky Quinton. American
    8. Edith Barlow. Daughter of Alvin Barlow. American facing deportation.
    9. Leah Barlow, 24. Daughter of Alvin Barlow. An RN and midwife, she was actively courted by Winston.
    10. Kandi Bateman.
    11. Catherine Broadbent, 16. Sister to Fawn Broadbent, returned to Colorado City after the split and took Winston’s son with her. Reassigned to ????
    12. Marsha Chatwin, 17. Married same day as her sister, Zelpha.
    13. Zelpha Chatwin, 21. Both Marsha and Zelpha are under deportation orders.
    14. Marleena Fischer, daughter of Vaughan Fischer (possibly Sharane is her mother?)
    15. Janelle Thornton Fischer, 16. Adopted daughter of Vaughan and Sharane Fischer. Her mother, Brenda Thornton, was briefly married to Vaughan Fischer before she died of cancer. Brenda’s sisters (one if Janet Johanson) tried to gain custody of Brenda’s children in the late 1980s and lost in court. American.
    16. Shirley Black Jessop. Daughter of Orson and Leora Jessop. American
    17. Jennifer Johnson. Daughter of Larry Johnson. Amerian
    18. Lorraine Johnson, 15. Daughter of Ray Johnson. American
    19. Diana Lane, 17. Daughter of Edwin Johnson. American
    20. Marsha Lane. Daughter of Edwin Johnson. American
    21. Ruth Lane. Daughter of Edwin Johnson. American
    22. Shalina Palmer, 15. Daughter of Morgan Palmer and Ruth McKinley. Canadian. Legally married Lorraine Johnson in December 2005 under Canada’s same-sex marriage law

    The McGreggor Investigation by the RCMP in 1988 knew most of this. My dialog with Canada 8 years ago;

    Winston’s Uncle provided reams of documents to the RCMP 20 years ago;

    Geneograms for those in Canada;

    Dialog with Debbie Palmer in September of 2000, Winston is her step son, Jimmy Oler her younger brother;

    Interview with Rose from the Creston Advance Newspaper;

    CBC TV setting up an interview for the Canada issue in 2000, 8 years ago, with Jacque Rivard;

    Interview with Canada INS tape #4 in 2000;

    Canada INS Interview #3 in the year 2000;

    Canada INS interview #2 in September of 2000;

    Canada INS Interview #1 in 2000 Carol remarks at what her government knew;

    RCMP #5 Interview;

    RCMP Canada #4 in the year 2000;

    RCMP #3 in the year 2000

    RCMP #2 Interview from the year 2000;

    RCMP Interview #1 recorded 8 years ago;

    Canada Geograms December of 2000;

    Canada Press and activist meet to discuss the FLDS in Dec. of 2000.

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