Truman Oler, whose brother James leads one of two divided factions within Bountiful, left the fundamentalist Mormon community in southeastern B.C. several years ago and has rarely seen his family since.
Oler, now 29, testified Tuesday at a B.C. court case examining Canada’s anti-polygamy law, describing a community where children are taught from an early age that anything less than complete obedience — including entering into polygamous marriages– would mean an eternity in hell.
“My thinking about Bountiful and the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has evolved the longer I have been away from the community,” Truman said in a written affidavit filed in advance of his testimony.
“I now think that the FLDS is like a cult and that it is damaging for children to grow up in that environment. The FLDS does not permit anyone free choice. You are told what to do.”
Religion controlled every aspect of life, said Oler, and children were told to be prepared for whatever the church leadership asked of them.
Marriages were arranged. Children and young adults were moved to and from the U.S. to work or marry. Boys, including him, dropped out of school to work in the community’s timber and logging businesses.
He said boys were taught to treat girls as “dangerous snakes” whose role was to become wives and produce babies.
Oler said he began to have doubts about the religion as he approached adulthood, and those feelings were solidified after the community bitterly divided in 2002 between followers of Winston Blackmore and James Oler.
Families were broken apart, relatives were forbidden to speak to each other. Oler concluded it wasn’t “Christ-like,” and he left.
The constitutional case was prompted by the failed prosecution of Blackmore and James Oler in 2009. They were each charged with practising polygamy, but the case against them was thrown out for technical legal reasons.
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