They were taught to trust no outsider. That, in fact, given the chance, non-believers would seek them out and murder them in their own beds.
The deep slumber of childhood sleep was an unknown luxury for Brenda Jensen and Lorna Jean Blackmore.
“You were always on guard,” says Jensen. “We were terrified about what you, the outside public, were going to do to us.”
It was a terror with absolute certainty at its foundation; to think anything different would have been in direct opposition to their upbringing, their faith, and the men who ruled their lives with an iron fist — a life that demanded complete obedience.
The two half sisters, who no longer follow such rigid doctrine, despite systematic brainwashing, were in Calgary on Wednesday, speaking before a crowd of about 200 about their experiences living in a polygamist sect.
Jensen and Blackmore, the daughters of Harold Blackmore and two of his wives, sisters Florence and Gwen, grew up in Lister, B.C.
That’s where Harold established a polygamist sect, Canadian Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known today as the community of Bountiful, B.C.
They were asked to speak to a gathering of social workers and other child advocates at a conference sponsored by the Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse. As they talk about their experiences, they provide a rare glimpse into the world of polygamy, and the effects it has on the children born into them.
The sisters’ voices join a growing chorus that focuses attention on a world that up until recently was virtually unknowable to members of greater society.
In 2008, Vancouver Sun reporter Daphne Bramham’s book, The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect, provided a thorough account of this offshoot of Mormonism, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. The practice is illegal in the United States and Canada.
The book details the sect’s abuse of women and children, along with far reaching influence on what’s been estimated to be up to a million North Americans.