“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.