Sunday, April 10, 2011

Polys in Court - Video testimony including Anne Wilde

From transcripts of January 13th of BC Supreme Court session re: s293 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Video testimony of Don Fischer.
Don is a member of the FLDS church and his father had three wives. Don was the fourth of twelve children from the same mother. His family lived in Hildale, Utah in a house with 15 bedrooms and 15 bathroom in three different apartments with three separate kitchens.  Each wife had her own room and so did his father.  The children were three or four to a room until he was about 10 years old when the older children were moving out, getting married and having their own homes.  When he was 14 he moved to Canada.  Before that he attended a public elementary school and then Warren Jeffs implemented private home schooling in the community. They were taught some Math, English and Science but most of the study was on church history and how to be good, go to heaven, get lots of wives and build the kingdom of God.

He speaks fondly of having so many children in the house and says that it was a lot of fun. There was always someone to play with and all of their friends around as well.  There was very little time with his parents.  Both were always busy tending to the needs of the family. He stood up to his father and got on the wrong side of him and still doesn't get along with him.  Don's relationship with his own children is very different and he has a sense of having missed out on that with his own parents. 

He was sent to Canada because he would argue with his father and stand between him and siblings to protect them.  His father said he was interfering with God's will and a father's right to discipline his children.  Don saw that the discipline was supported by abusively excessive punishments including physical beatings and refused to accept it or allow it to be dealt out to his younger siblings.His father went to Rulon Jeffs for assistance and Don was sent to Bountiful to work for Winston Blackmore.  He didn't attend school but was with other boys who were on a reform camp project where they worked all day and night.  They were paid room and board and $120 per month. They lived with a family and participated in the regular church study, priesthood meetings and family prayer/study activities.

Don found it to be a positive experience.  He found Winston to be a much more reasonable father figure and he got to play hockey. He returned to the US  a year later when Warren Jeffs split up his father's family and his mother was reassigned to Allen Steed.  All the children had to be at the wedding ceremony so he went home for it.  His step-dad never yelled at him or beat him like his father had and it was a surprise for him.  He stayed there and lived with his mom in the new step-dad's house immediately acquiring 16 new mothers and 60 new siblings. He worked for Allen Steed's company and was supposed to turn his paycheques over to his step-dad but refused to do so and spent his money on CD's, cigarettes and movies.  He was told to gather his belongings and be off the property immediately one day along with a brother who was years older than he was.  An older sibling drove them to the next town and rented them a motel room for the night. They were allowed to work for another of Allen Steed's companies and one of his Uncles set them up in a trailer in a trailer park because they agreed to repent and pay their tithing. He was rebapitized and allowed to return to the community after about 8 months but his brother moved to Georgia.  Don stayed in the community until he was 18 yrs old and the Warren Jeffs/Winston Blackmore split occurred. He went back to Canada and joined Winston's group for about a year and then left the FLDS community entirely.

He was taught that girls were like snakes. He wasn't allowed to look, touch or talk to girls.  Even his own sisters were not allowed to play sports with them as no contact was allowed. He was allowed to talk to his sisters but no hugging or other contact was allowed.  The boys went out to work and the girls got married.  The girls' purpose was to have kids and the boys' purpose was to be a great man of God.

Most of the community went no further than grade 8 education when he was in the community but more recently more people have been finishing high school and going on to university.  The career choice and access to higher education is at the discretion of the Prophet.  One of Don's brother's is a Dentist, a sister is a Doctor and several brothers are paramedics and firefighters. One of his mothers is a school teacher. 

Don has been out of the community for over six years and is not allowed to be in contact with family members nor are they allowed to be in contact with him.  Twice since leaving Warren Jeff's faction, he has been driving through town and seen his mother out in the garden or walking down a street.  He has stopped and given her a hug and said hello.  One time he had his son in the car and let her see him and hold him.  She asked another son with her if she was allowed to hold the child and he just walked away. Both times she has been very afraid to be seen with Don and the contact was abrupt.

Video interview of Anne B. Wilde of Principle Voices
This interview was done by John P. Dehlin for a television series called Mormon Stories.  Anne was put forward by the Amicus as an expert by virtue of her long experience in various fundamentalist Mormon communities. The status of expert was contested by the other parties and so her affadavit and video evidence was submitted as an ordinary fact witness (anecdotal evidence).

Anne says that the doctrine of polygamy came directly from the Old testament where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and a lot of early prophets had plural wives and as Joseph Smith's purpose was to restore the orginal ordinances and principles to the world, plural marriage was one of them.  It is referred to as Celestial plural marriage as it determines that you live on a higher plane.
It became part of established beliefs of the LDS church as section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants from 1852 to 1890. In response to persecution and threats that the fovernment would take away property of the church and its members, the church issued a press release or manifesto discontinuing the practice in 1890.  There were still some members practicing it until a second more restrictive manifesto was issued in 1904. Section 132 still stands as doctrine regarding the eternal principle. 

Joseph Smith received the revelation regarding plural marriage in 1831. His first wife was Emma and the second was Fanny Alltruth Louisa Beaman.  It was done in secrecy at first and there is a suggestion that Emma didn't approve of polygamy and may not have been fully aware that Joseph had taken another wife.  The wives lived in different houses so the neighbours just thought the husband was away a lot.  There was developed a pattern of 27 rules for plural marriage activity from the man going to the girls father and the church president to arrange things but after the manifesto these rules were not followed.  In 1886, then prophet John Taylor received a revelation that said that men must use their free agency in these matters in order to keep the principle alive after the church had given it up to government pressure.

Section 132 talks about the law of Sarah which is the consent of the first wife and the ceremony calls for the first wife to place the hand of the subsequent wife in the husband's hand.  There are cases where the first wife is so adamantly against it that the husband is given an exemption from the law of Sarah.

There is some historical evidence that polygamy was instituted because the men were being killed off by those persecuting the membership and leaving widows. Polygamy gave them spousal support. The interviewer says that Joseph married women who were 18, 16, 14 and not likely to be widows needing protection and disputes this theory.  Anne says the widow or abandoned woman with children was more often the choice.  The interviewer disputes this and says that teenage brides were common and suggested that the practice was inappropriate.  Anne said that 150 years ago young women matured earlier.  Generally she was the older sister and in charge of younger siblings and not hanging out in the mall as they do these days.  Currently people in this lifestyle are encouraged to wait until they are 18 which is legal age in the state of Utah (16 with parental consent) but it used to be 16 and 14 with parental consent.  The parental consent only applies to the legal marriage (the first wife) but subsequent marriages are priesthood sealings or religious commitment ceremonies which do not have this restriction. In the 1840's the legal age for marriage was much younger possibly 14.

Polyandry was also practiced by Joseph Smith as he was married to women who were also married to me who were still living. 

The early LDS were persecuted and driven from state to state because of their practice of polygamy.  Joseph Smith was very popular and had a huge following and their city of Nauvoo was the largest city in the state of Illinois.  Nauvoo had its own militia.  He was a candidate for President of the United States and this cause some fear amongs the general population. There was also a faction within the church that did not approve of polygamy and felt that Joseph was leading them astray.  So there were several reasons that he was martyred.

Some of Joseph's wives were in name only or spiritual wives but it is thought that he did cohabit with some of them  and there is an account where he had a daughter, Josephine.  Also there are journal entries noting that Joseph and one of his wives had stayed in a room in their house.  Publically he denied practicing polygamy and even after his death Emma denied that he had practiced polygamy.  The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints denies Joseph practiced polygamy and says that it began with Brigham Young.   Asked how she could reconcile them lying, Anne said that when you are the leader of a church you would likely not want the world to know everything and would keep things to yourself. Emma was noted as witness to his sealing to the Partidge sisters and the Lawrence sisters and for her to deny it was her decision.  She didn't want her children to know. Their oldest son,Joseph and youngest son, David made trips to Salt Lake and talked to some of his wives to learn that he did live plural marriage.  He is not recorded anywhere as saying that he practiced it but there is plenty of evidence that he did.

By the 1880's conforming to the law of plural marriage was a requirement to be granted a position of general authority within the church.  It was necessary to achieve exultation or go to the highest plane of heaven - celestial glory.  Six men were commissioned by John Taylor to keep the principle alive and the last living member of that group called six more men and so on until we arrive at Rulon Allred and Leroy Johnson.  There was a split and the Allred group became the United Brethren and the Johnson group became Short Creek community which later became the FLDS church. Then a group split off from Short Creek called Centennial Park and another in Davis County and various clusters of independent fundamentalist Mormons.

Between 1910 and 1940 the LDS were excommunicating members found to have more than one wife and the prophet was preaching firey sermons but performing plural commitment ceremonies secretly according to journal entries.

The LDS church wanted to distance itself from polygamy and worked hard at that but in 2002 when the world media came to Salt Lake City for the Olympics, they would into the venues and say where are the polygamists and associated Utah with polygamy.   FLDS and LDS share articles of faith, original doctrines and works that were used in the church in the 1840's and changes since are LDS and not supported by the FLDS.  Anne refers to it as the Political organization verses the Eclessiastical organization.

FLDS members do not have access to the LDS temples and performance of temple ordinances but Anne says that they wait for the promise of section 85 where God will set his house in order.
Some of the other groups have built there own temples. The interviewer wondered why there is no longer a prophet and God has withdrawn that and Anne indicated that a falling away of the church from the principle would be the reason.

Interviewer asks if she thinks Jesus was a polygamist.  Anne says that he was a Rabbi and they were required to take a wife a that time.  There is evidence that Mary Magdalene was married to him and their is evidence in writings of contemporaries of Jesus that the daughters of Kings were among his wives so she and her husband researched and wrote a book theorizing that Jesus was a polygamist.

Anne was born in Detroit and raised in the LDS church. Her mother was a Mormon but her father wasn't. Her parents moved to California and divorced.  She and her mother moved to Salt Lake city and her mother remarried a good Morman man when she was about 9 years old.  The family moved to a little community in California called Taft near Bakersfield.  Her step-dad became Bishop of the ward and she got a scholarship to Brigham Young University.  She graduated with a degree in business administration and worked for the university president until she got married and had a baby. The church was a very vital part of her life from childhood and her mother was very devoted.  she and her husband were married in the temple in Los Angeles in 1959 and eventually moved to Provo, Utah where he completed his degree, a a master's degree and got a job.  she had three children when they divorced. She and her husband were troubled by the changes in the church doctrine and felt that if the early church had the true doctrine then it should still be true. They had friends who were asking the same questions.  She met a man, August Dunn, in this group who she married in 1969 as his second wife and was happily married to him for 33 years. She accepted the principle after much prayer and fasting.

August Dunn's wives all lived in separate homes.  She wanted to have more children but wasn't able to so she and August considered the 65 books they published on their own printing press to be their children.  She did not find being a plural wife lonely as she likes her space and had time for one on one with her children and time with her girlfriends as well as good time with him.  She did not tell her mother and step-father about being a plural wife until just before they passed away in 1991 because they were mainstream Mormons and it would have been hard for them to accept.  Her friends all thought that she was a gay divorcee that didn't want things to change and as she had no further children there was nothing to explain.

August was a scientific photographer and a kind, responsible man with a good sense of humour. He was honest, intelligent and had a terrific memory as well as some strong writing skills.   He had a lot of friends and was considered very likeable.  He converted to the LDS church in his late teens and was an avid reader of church history and doctrine.  He researched and wrote books and considered writing to be his mission.  Anne would help him with research and do the typesetting and printing.  He would bind the books.  They worked as a team. 

She got along okay with the other sister wives and wishes it could have been better.  She worked through both her marriages and was able to support herself and her children.  She sees plural marriage as the best of both worlds for the women as they can have a family and lots of children but can also go bakc to school to advance her career and now her kid are well provided for by a sister wife. The idea is that you work as a team to provide for the plural family unit. 

She told her children when they were old enough to understand the need for discretion.  None of them have chosen plural marriage but they respect her choice and got along well with August.  The kids maintained a relationship with their birth father but he died early on. 

In 2000, Anne wrote and published a book called "Voices in Harmony" with Mary Bachelor and Maryann Watson which compiled the stories of 100 women who were in happy plural marriages.  They were tired of the anti-polygamy media deluge and decided that it was time someone told the other side of the story. They sent out survey letters and provided anonymity. All of the respondents are women who chose to be plural wives and no one was forced to participate or an underaged bride. The average polygamist man had two or three wives and no more.  Leaders might have more but not the others.  August was very supportive of the project.  They sold 1000 copies in the first month.

Interviewer asks Anne about jealousy.  She said that its individual adjustment. You understand that it is for religious reasons and take it out of the bedroom and into the kitchen and living room whare most of the time is spent anyway.  She said that they lived in separate houses which helped.

"I knew how much I was loved by my husband and how much I loved him and I think if a woman knows that she is really loved sincerely and deeply by her husband she can make that adjustment.  And it's the key for the man to help each wife feel sincerely loved and appreciated.  And that her voice counts.And that somebody if he takes another wife it doesn't mean he loves the
 existing wives any less.  It's like a mother having children when she has the second and third child she doesn't love the first one any less.  She has a greater capacity to love them all."

Interviewer says that his wife wanted to know if a man could really love, fulfill and satisfy multiple women. Anne said absolutely. Interviewer comments that he must have been a remarkable man. Anne agreed but said that not all men or women are supposed to live this principle.

The book was the beginning of several years of media attention and being very public about her lifestyle.  Their goal is to have people understand and respect for her lifestyle and eventually hav ie decriminalilzed.  If it is between consenting adults and all parties are in agreement then we are not doing anyone any harms and it ought to be considered legistimate.  There is a lot of diversity in family structure in America such that there are more people living in alternative lifestyles than there are in nuclear families  (husband, wife and two children).

Anne says that the Attorney General in Utah has been consulting with her group on their culture and separating the abuses of some people from the activities of the whole community and enforcing laws specific to the behaviour - not polygamy itself. 

Polgamy gone wrong is defined by Anne as a situation where their in unrighteous dominion either by the husband of the family or a leader in the community.  When that happens things like abuse of welfare or family members will also happen.  Child abuse is breaking God's laws too.  The FLDS under Warren Jeffs is unrighteous dominion in her opinion. Only when the principle is chosen by exercising free will and a desire to follow God's laws is it appropriate.  The reason the Centennial Park group split from Short Creek in 1986 was because they wanted a committe to rule and Short Creek was determined to continue the one man rule.

Anne said that they are hoping to get the Reynolds law where you can believe what you want but you can't practice (refering to polygamy) overturned by the US Supreme court.  They firmly believe that adherence to the laws of God and the laws of man is important and want to have the principle of polygamy to not be in contradiction with the laws of man.  

Anne currently puts out a magazine called Mormon focus and highlights polygamist families and the way they resolve issues. She does presentations at the university and for social services and uses these articles to teach about the culture.  Her group is called Principle Voices.

Anne talks further in her interview about some statistics and the prevalence of polygamy in various Mormon factions and other religious groups in the US but I will skip that in my summary as due to the length of this interview and more current stats were presented by the experts. She also spends quite awhile talking about really intense Mormon theology of how the heavens are structured which is interesting but doesn't add anything relevant to our interest.

(MY COMMENTSIt is interesting that she's the only person with historical background in Mormonism to say that Joseph Smith practiced polyandry (one women have several spouses) which the BCAG and other "experts" note as a rare form and unheard of in the FLDS movement.  It would appear to me that polyandry WAS an accepted form of polygamy and that Joseph Smith intending to institute gender inequality is questionable.  (Similarly the requirement that priesthood only be male was a restriction imposed to keep membership from ordaining the wives of priesthood so they could travel under a priesthood discount on the trains with their husbands. It was not a statement of the value of women to the church.)  The second really enlightening thing for me was the point about the AG consulting with her group to get a cultural background and separate the abusive behaviour of some people from the concept of polygamy in general.  That is a good sign that it is possible and reasonable from a law enforcement perspective to suggest that as the Amicus and many of the interest parties on the anti-law side have done.  That was very exciting for me. And thirdly her reference to polygamy gone wrong or "harmful polygamy" as CPAA has coined it in their closing statement exists when "unrighteous dominion", Yyranny or gender inequality exists. Amazing testimony no wonder the BCAG didn't want her testimony weighed as expert. )

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