Testimony from two experts on mainstream and fundamentalist Mormon history, practices and beliefs continued in Cranbrook Supreme Court this week in the trial of a man charged with removing his underage daughter from Canada to marry an American man in 2004.
James Marion Oler, who is associated with the polygamous community of Bountiful south of Creston, is being tried for the second time after Crown lawyers successfully appealed his acquittal in the first trial three years ago.
Dr. Richard Bennett and Dr. Brian Hales were both qualified as experts by the court to give evidence on the founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and the inherent beliefs and practices of the mainstream church.
Sgt. Terry Jacklin, who took over the RCMP investigation into Bountiful in the mid-2000s, also testified about his role and the evidence gathered from religious records seized at the Yearning for Zion ranch, a fundamentalist community in Texas, during the execution of a search warrant in 2008.
Dr. Bennett’s area of expertise focused on the origins of the mainstream LDS church and the fundamental precepts of the faith and significance of record keeping, while Dr. Hales’ testified about the history of Mormon fundamentalism and the beliefs of the varying sects.
The mainstream LDS church was founded in 1830 in upstate New York after Joseph Smith Jr. received revelations delivered by the angel Moroni, who passed on a set of golden plates that were eventually translated into the Book of Mormon.
Dr. Bennett, a professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, testified that the LDS church believes Smith, through those revelations, restored the priesthood authority that was lost after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
The LDS is led by a president and prophet that receives revelation from God, with a priesthood authority that is shared and delegated by various positions throughout the church body, said Dr. Bennett.
According to Dr. Bennett, those in priesthood authority positions are tasked with carrying out significant ordinances, such marriages and baptisms, which must be noted with meticulous record-keeping, as required by the faith, which believes that what is recorded on earth is also recorded in Heaven.
Plural marriage, or the practice of polygamy, was an accepted and even expected practice by Mormon members by 1852, however, it was later banned by church leadership in 1890 through a manifesto published by church prophet Wilfred Woodruff.
Dr. Hales is an anesthesiologist based in Utah and a member of the mainstream Mormon church who has written at least six books on Mormon fundamentalism.
After the mainstream Mormon church banned the practice of plural marriage, one breakaway group led by John Y. Barlow eventually set up two polygamist communities on the border of Utah and Arizona, collectively known as Short Creek.
Dr. Hales testified on the four major and primary differences between mainstream and fundamentalist Mormonism which focus on divergent interpretations of polygamy, the priesthood authority, laws of consecration and missionary work.