Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mormon Polygamy on Trial : January 18 courtroom notes

January 18, 2011 Court Notes (please note that this is not an official transcript and I am not a professional stenographer. There are likely many errors in spite of my best efforts)

Testimony of Truman Richard Oler -

Karen Horsman from AG BC direct examination:

Understands that the court proceeding is to determine whether section 293 prohibiting polygamy is constitutional under Canadian law. After careful review, confirms that the affidavit is the same as the one that he swore. The affidavit contains information about his experiences growing up in Bountiful.

Truman is the son of Dalmon Oler and Memory Blackmore - sister of Winston Blackmore. Dalmon had six wives and memory was the second wife. Memory had 15 children and Truman is the 13th - he is 29 years of age. Truman is the full brother of Jimmy Oler.

Truman grew up in Canyon and was raised in the big house that Dalmon had made for his family. It was the biggest house in the community at the time that it was built. Not all of the wives lived in the big house all the time. On occasion, some of the mothers would move away and then come back. Truman stayed in the big house for his whole life in Bountiful. Truman was 16 when Dalmon died.

Truman went to church in Bountiful on every Sunday. There were also Saturday morning “work day” meetings. These meetings were required.

Once you turned 12, you were allowed to go to the priesthood meetings. At the meetings, they spoke about the work - how well they were doing financially compared to those who left and went to make their own living outside. There was also talk - not only in priesthood and also in church - how you needed to be sheltered and how you needed to train your children to be filled with the holy spirit every minute of every day. How you needed to be ready to give your heart and soul to the priesthood and the prophet at any time.

The men were taught that they were supposed to look up to their priesthood head - of your area - and do whatever you were told by them. Also that the duty of the man was to be willing to drop everything and do gods will at any point. Rulon jeffs was the prophet during Trumans younger years. Winston was the bishop and everyone was to check in with him. he was the number one man in canada and the representative of the prophet.

The role of the woman in the community had several main themes. If the man was old enough and married, that if a woman was placed with a man she was supposed to do whatever he wanted. They were supposed to have children - this was taught to them from the time they were children. From the age of 15 or 16, the girls wanted to be married and have children. The women were taught to look after the men.

As he was growing up, Truman was taught that marriage was something that they needed to do to get into the highest degree of heaven. you would have to be ready to marry anyone who was chosen for you. You could not get to the highest degree of heaven unless you had more than one wife. this was taught from the time they were very small. They were taught that there was no choice in marriage.

At home, at church and at school, you were taught that you should want to do whatever you were told to do. There were two choices - if you lived the way you were taught you would go to the highest level of heaven. If you chose to live another way, then you would be damned and go to hell. For a small child, the second choice was no choice at all.

As for marriage assignment - whenever the guys were deemed good enough or for the older guys if they were giving more money to the church - for the younger guys, when they reach 18 or 20 you had to be ready to accept anyone that they gave you because you had no choice and you had no idea who they would choose to give you. Truman saw cases where men were told that they were to marry someone, that if they rejected the woman, then they would be kicked out. IF they did not whole-heartedly do whatever they were told then they would have to leave. Often the young men were already ready to leave by the time this happened. They were always taught that the prophet would know God’s choice as to who they would marry and tell them. Looking back, it seems clear that winston had a lot to do with who would marry who. One prophet could not even know all the people in Canada, their ages and so on. From Truman’s perspective, Winston must have had alot to do with it.

Growing up, Truman was taught to stay away from people outside the community. They would prosecute them for what they did. They were the only people on earth who would be lifted up and everyone else would eventually be killed and swept off the earth.

Growing up, Truman was aware of the Utah communities that followed the same prophet that they did. People often went back and forth between the communities - especially from Canada for the April conferences in Utah. Girls from Canada would go down to be placed with men in the states and girls from the states would be brought to canada to be placed with canadian men. People would also travel to visit with family members. Young men would often be sent to other communities for work missions. Sometimes young men from the states would be sent to canada because they were being rebellious in the states and they would be placed with canadian people who it was thought that they could help keep the young men from doing the wrong things.

It was quite common for girls from the states to get married to men in Canada. Several of Truman’s sisters were married to men in the states. Truman lived for 3 months in colorado city during a time when he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. he did it as a self-test because he knew that the people that he would live with were on the straight and narrow path. while he worked with them, he attended all of the church meetings - saturday, sunday and even monday morning. he stayed with a brother-in-law and stayed on their straight and narrow path. He wanted to see if he would want to live the rest of his life like that and he decided that he did not. Truman called his brother Jim, who suggested that he talk with Warren Jeffs - where he said that he needed to go back to work on the logging crew in sundrie. truman did not want to be stranded in colorado city - whatever the prophet woudl have said, he would have to do. Jim came down to the states to get him and shortly after coming back to canada, truman left the church.

Truman had been out of the community for a bit and learned that people outside theh community were not that evil. After he learned this, he began to lose his faith in the church.

Truman does not remember spending any extended periods of time with his mom - especially one on one attention because there were so many children in the house. It was basically the same for all the other kids. they were taken care of and watched mainly by their older brothers and sisters. Truman’s mother worked as a school teacher and this took alot of her time. he remembers spending more time with his father - who would take the boys to help with work around the farm, as a mechanic and to work for other farmers in the valley. He only remembers celebrating a few birthdays - mostly in his early teens. On a couple of occasions, they had birthday breakfasts. One time he remembers getting a birthday cake. This didn’t happen every year and there weren’t many presents because this was a wordly tradition.

Truman remembers, from his perspective, that the wives were not as happy and holy as they often say. As a small child, he recalls his mother and the other ladies complaining about what the other wives were doing. the women were not treated equally and the mothers treated their own children better than the children of other mothers.

Truman was educated in the bountiful elementary school from kindergarden to grade 9. only members of the religious community attended the school. He doesn’t remember getting any practical education in bountiful. Going to school, it was never brought to their attention that they were going to need education later in life. he wasn’t told that he would need a grade 12 education to get into college. he doesn’t even remember being told what a college was. there was no career planning. the mentality was that there was no need for schooling - all they needed to know was how to make fence posts. That is what he did after he dropped out of school. every morning there was an assembly which was the main religion class. however, there was a second one during the day. there were reading assignments to read from the religious books. the boys and girls went to the same classroom. when the boys started getting to the age where they were interested in girls, they began to separate the boys and the girls to opposite sides of the classrooms. boys and girls were not supposed to talk to each other and they were not supposed to be alone together. even brothers and sisters were not supposed to be alone together in the same room. They were not taught that they were not supposed to marry someone that they were related to. Boys were to treat girls like they were dangerous poisonous snakes - it was taught in church and even more so at school. Brothers and sisters were not supposed to do anything together without adult supervision.

The bountiful school only went to grade 10. they were taught that they only needed to count to 175 because that is the number of fence posts that are shipped in a bundle. Truman dropped out in grade 9. his 2 younger brothers went back to school - however, at the end, they decided the last year at school was a waste of time. it is possible that they already had the attitude that they would not need school so they didn’t apply themselves. after grade 10, girls would often be placed with a man at the age of 16 or 17. Once in a while, younger girls would be pulled out of school to be placed with a man and they would not come back.

truman started working for Jr blackmore and sons. this company was owned by winston. he was 13 years old and at this time the company made posts and holes for fencing. At the same time, they had a farming operation with cattle and hay. They tried a number of other things, like buying a grain elevator, mattress factory, grocery store, etc. but these operations did not work out. The people from the church community would come and take advantage of the businesses through credit and not pay for it. When truman started working, he went out on crews to make fence posts during the summer. after quitting school, he made fence posts full time. Then he started working in the blackmore mechanic shop in kitchener near creston. his brother jim was the head mechanic for jr blackmore and sons at that time. Truman did not like working under jims direct supervision. He was only 15 or 16 at the tme and all the other mechanics were much older. he preferred to work with guys his age so he asked to go back out and make fence posts. This was seen as being a bit rebellious because jim told him that he was needed in the shop. around the same time. truman had asked to play on the creston community hockey team and this was denied. He was always living in the big house and he wanted to go and live in one of the crew houses where the other young men were living. After asking Jim, the was told that this would be considered. however, finally truman went out to work on fence posts without asking.

Finally jim assigned him to a logging crew in sundrie to operate machinery where he could use his mechanic ability to get the most out of the logging equipment. He worked in sundrie for 5 or 6 years. during this time, the blackmores began having financial troubles and the olers started seperate companies.

For wages, the young men got about 20 every two weeks (85 hrs). working full time, he was given 60 every two weeks. after leaving school, he received 100 every two weeks until he was 18. While working for blackmore and sons, he would be given checks to sign and cash but he never received the money himself. he doesn’t know what happened to the money but suspects that winston had control of it. he would not be given his 100 for the 2 weeks if he did not sign over these checks.

initially blackmores made fence posts for one of the mills in sundrie. when they started logging, they stopped making fenceposts. the young men stayed in several crew houses in one location. All the young men who worked there were from bountiful.

Concerning tithing; everyone was expected to pay ten percent of everything they owned to the church. at other times, they were expected to give back half of all the money that they were given to pay the back taxes. This was called a time of famine. no one was allowed to go out and get something to eat, instead they were to eat food that they had stored at home.

after the split, warren said that every male above the age of 18 had to pay $1000 to help pay for court cases that they were fighting in the states. if you did not pay, you were looked at differently. it was supposed to be voluntary, but it you did not pay, someone would start asking you what was wrong. men who were more diligent with paying these contributions would often get more wives. Individuals mostly did not have much for personal resources.

Truman did not pay the “famine fees” - (one half of his pay) and he did not pay the $1000 that warren wanted. his mother tried to cover for this so people would think that he was on the straight and narrow. (break at 11:15)

Reconvened at 11:30

During the time of the split which occurred in the bountiful community after warren Jeff's became prophet, truman was living in canyon, in the big house, as was his mother and much of the family.

warren accused winston of doing something wrong and tried to demote him from being bishop. everyone stayed together at first after Jim Oler was initially given the title of lead oler of canada. Jim then became the lead speaker at meetings and everyone continued to go to church. not long after, winston started having his own meetings and proclaimed himself a prophet of sorts. family members ended up on both sides of the split and they were no longer allowed to talk to each other or do anything together. this was one of the main things that led truman to question. what they were doing did not seem to be anything god-like or christ-like. it was nothing like the love your neighbor that they were taught. Truman was on the Jimmy oler side and there was alot of talk about all the things that winston was allowing and how these things were wrong. some of the women were beginning to cut their hair and wear jeans, etc.

after truman left warren’s side, he was able to associate with the winston side. however, all the winston group spent all their time complaining about the way that the winston side were doing everything wrong. whenever truman goes down to lister, he leaves feeling sad that they are holding on to the old ways and old grievances and they are not moving on to what they could be.

Recounting a conversation with jim oler about how he might be able to get a wife, truman relates that jim took him aside to one of the rooms in the big house and told him that if he was willing to make an extra step that he would be able to get a girl placed with him soon. that extra step was to make sure that you weren’t lagging in any areas, that you didn’t miss any meetings, etc. not long after this, truman decided to leave and not be involved in the church any longer. at this point in time, truman did not want to face the fact that he would not be able to accept just anyone that they might choose for him. after this, he made the decision to leave. he was in his early 20s.

In making the decision, it was very difficult. Growing up, everything he knew about was in the community. there was no way to imagine what it might mean to leave. when he got older, he saw how many of the older boys had to leave and be began to imagine that this was something that he might eventually have to do. he would have to leave all of his family behind - those who were still involved in the church. This was one of the major difficulties. on of the hardest things that that when all you know is in that lifestyle, you are never taught what it might mean to have your own car, your own house, to be your own person. He had no idea of where to go. The number one factor was that his grandma told him that - because he was on the verge of leaving - and he could not see anywhere that he could go because he was leaving both the teachings and the people - but his grandma told him that no matter what he did he would always have a place to come back. this meant so much to him because he now knew that he had a place to go. That was Lorna Blackmore.

One of the hardest things he faced going out was that he still believed that this was the one and only true church. he was now a goner. however, once he made the decision, he felt like something was lifted off his back. he felt like he could not live his life in there and even though he thought he was going to go to hell, he knew that he could not live his life there anymore. Lorna had lived in the community herself and had left before.

When truman was growing up, it was not very common for people to leave. after the split, there were already a few who left before him and they gave him support until he was able to get out and meet other people and do things. this made it easier. Several people began to leave the teachings, especially those who have followed winston. Only a few have left the warren side - he can only think of a few who have left. since warren took over, things started to get more enclosed. before they were under the direction of winston, even before the split, and even more after. people have lost lots of respect for him over things that he has done with his work and other areas. they are leaving the teaching and beginning to learn more about the world around them.

Truman is now married and has two young sons. Becoming a parent, has changed him so much, especially the way the kids in bountiful were and the way they are now. it was the women's responsibility to take care of the kids. the men went out to work and did not spend any time with their children. he can’t see why the men would have so many children if they don't want to take care of them. he can’t see anything more important than spending time with his children. He can see the children’s need and how his wife needs a break from time to time. when he was growing up, the women never had this chance. they were always having babies and there was no time for anything else.

Truman saw with his own eyes how one of his older brothers came home from a period away with work and he picked up one of his younger children who immediately cried because the child did not even know who his father was. Truman can’t imagine what it would be like if his boys did not know who he was.

His mother, memory, still lives in bountiful. the only contact that truman has with her is if he calls her. even when he does, he is not treated well and does not feel like calling again. when he see her or talks to her he can’t understand the way she is or the way that she does things. he wishes that his mother could somehow see that he is a good person. he doesn't;t hurt anyone or break any laws. in spite of this, she looks at him like he is lost. she says that it would be just as well if he was dead. she once told him a story, after he had left, that she had a still born child and she told it in such a way that it made him feel that she wished that he was that child. His mother has no interest in the way that he went back to school. Most of the time, his own mother treats him like he is a stranger. She doesn’t even ask about her grandchildren. she seems to think that it is like the end of the world.

Truman is tired of talking about and thinking about his childhood years in bountiful. However, he agreed to be involved in the court hearing because when he has the experience of trying to contact his family, he hears about their lives and it is heartbreaking to him. The enclosed state that they have come to - no television, limited computer access - he is hoping that his presence here may get back to some of his relatives on the inside. He is hoping that someday he might be able to go back to the house that he grew up in and be accepted as a son, a brother and a friend. He doesn’t believe that many of his relatives - especially those at the top - are living a very good life at the benefit of others. They can’t even see the harm that they are doing. most of them involved are very good hearted people who for the most part are among the best people he knows but they just don't know what they are doing or the harm they are causing and they think they are doing it in the name of God.

to take a young child's ability to think away from them is something he can’t comprehend. Winston often speaks about the charter of rights and freedoms - especially relating to the freedom of religion. the teaching of that one right takes away all the the other rights in the charter. it just doesn’t feel right to him that children should have to go through what he went trough - and all for no reason.

testimony completed at 12:05

No cross-examine from Mr. Wickett

Amicus thanks Mr. Oler for coming to court and providing his testimony-

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