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The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus
Christ of Later Day Saints (FLDS)

The Canadian branch's history & beliefs

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Polygyny within the Mormon movement:

In 1890, Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the main Mormon denomination, the LDS, issued a manifesto. It was presented to the membership as a revelation from God and called the "Great Accommodation".  It suspended the solemnization of new Mormon plural marriages for an indefinite interval. Some secret plural marriages continued to be solemnized into the early 20th century with the church's blessing. However, most Mormons who entered into new polygamous marriages since 1890 have been excommunicated from the LDS. The church did continue to support plural marriages that existed at the time of the manifesto.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS):

The FLDS was founded in 1935 by a group of polygynist Mormons who had been ejected from the LDS. [Polygyny describes the type of polygamy involving one man and multiple wives.] The FLDS' main membership is now centered in the twin cities of Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT. All administrative power is concentrated in a single leader, who is currently Warren Jeffs, (1956 -) 1 Jeffs was convicted of engaging in a conspiracy to rape a child; he is now in prison and has other charges pending.

Jeffs appointed a single administrator over the Bountiful group: Winston Blackmore. Jeffs later removed Blackmore from control, replacing him with Bishop James Oler. Blackmore has since organized a splinter Fundamentalist Mormon group. 2 By mid-2006, the two groups were approximately equal in numbers in Bountiful. 3

The FLDS is a secretive organization. Little precise information about the FLDS is available to outsiders. As a result, most of the information comes from critics of the FLDS or from ex-FLDS members who have left the group. These can be unreliable sources. Even less information is available about the Canadian group. They have a policy of not talking to the media.

FLDS/Canada's beliefs and practices:

Polygyny presents obvious problems for a religious group or community. Since roughly equal numbers of boy and girl babies are born, it takes extraordinary steps to provide men with multiple wives. Policies have to be developed to control:

bullet The expulsion of the excess males during their teen years;

bullet The importing of additional females via human trafficing;

bullet A high level of genetic disorders due to inbreeding over many generations within a small, closed group.

Benjamin Bistline spent part of his childhood among polygynists in the main FLDS group in what is now called Colorado City, AZ. He has written a book about his experiences. 4 Bistline has observed that in order to maintain a culture in which most men have many wives, it is necessary to persuade or force most male youths to leave the community at a relatively young age. Teenage women with restricted education are then matched up with older men, preferably before they develop an interest in boys their own age. After an unregistered marriage, the new wives often financially support the family by applying for welfare as single mothers. It is quite possible that the same policies are pursued in the Bountiful group. The U.S. and Canadian branches appear to be closely linked. There have been allegations in the U.S. and Canadian media that teenage women have been exported from the U.S. group to supply men in Bountiful with additional brides.

According to The Economist magazine, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Fifth Estate TV program, some of the unusual theological beliefs and practices of the FLDS are:

bullet Men must have at least three wives and as many children as possible in order to enter the highest level of heaven, and to have the opportunity to evolve into a God. This belief was first taught by Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon movement.

bullet A wife can only attain this highest level if invited by her husband. This places incredible pressure on women to conform to their husband's demands.

bullet A woman's role is to serve a man and be submissive to his needs.

bullet Women who disobey men will have their souls burn in Hell for eternity.

bullet Children are usually required to leave school at the age of 13 or 14.

bullet Their marriage ceremony consists of the woman placing her hand in the man's hand in what is called "the patriarchal grip."

bullet A man is not permitted to have sexual intercourse with one of his wives if she is pregnant.

bullet " older man seduces a 13-year old his own mind he doesn't commit sexual abuse.....he views himself as married." (Comment by Ron Barton, special investigator of "closed societies," at the Utah State Attorney's Office)

bullet Former Bishop Winston Blackmore of Bountiful claimed that because all the plural marriages, except perhaps for the first one, are celestial, and not legal unions, FLDS men are not legally polygamists; they are only adulterers in the eyes of the state. Adultery is not a criminal act.  5,6,7 He does not seem to be aware of the specific wording of the Law prohibiting polygamy in Canada.

According to The Economist, critics say that the schools run by the Canadian branch of the FLDS provide minimal education. Boys are trained as farm and forest laborers. Girls are trained to be:

"... young brides and mothers....Women who have fled tell of girls as young as 13 being married off to polygamous men three times their age; of babies born to girls of 14 and 15; and of under-age girls being brought in from similar American communes for arranged marriages and to serve as 'breeding stock'."

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,

"...some men have close to 30 wives and father up to 80 children. ... teenage girls are married to men old enough to be their grandfathers". 6


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Brooke Adams, "Thou Shalt Obey," Salt Lake Tribune, 2004-MAR-14, in the archives at:  Reprinted by RelgionNewsBlog at:
  2. "Polygamy in Canada: Hunting Bountiful. Ending a half a century of exploitation," The Economist, 2004-JUL-8, at:
  3. Jeremy Hainsworth, "Polygamy: Polygamist leader's arrest sets stage for cross-border FLDS power struggle," Canoe, 2006-AUG-30, at:
  4. Benjamin Bistline, "The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, Arizona," Agreka Books, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  5. "Polygamy in Canada: Hunting Bountiful. Ending a half a century of exploitation," The Economist, 2004-JUL-8, at:
  6. Script of "Polygamy in Bountiful," The Fifth Estate TV program, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcast on 2003-JAN-15.

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Copyright 2004 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2004-JUL-25
Latest update and review: 2010-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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