Mormons denounce forced polygamous unions, expert says

Mormons denounce forced polygamous unions, expert says

By Keith Fraser

The Province

January 6, 2011

A Mormon scholar told the polygamy trial Wednesday that it would be an “abuse of power” if a woman was forced into a plural marriage.

The comment was made during the cross-examination of Dr. John Walsh, a witness called by a lawyer representing fundamentalist Mormons.

During direct examination by lawyer Robert Wickett, Walsh told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman that Mormon theology decrees that people not be forced into polygamy.

Under questioning by Eva Ross, a lawyer for the B.C. attorney-general’s ministry, Walsh told the judge that “God would not recognize” the marriage if a woman was forced into polygamy.

“It would be an abuse of power and a deviation from Mormon standards.”

Walsh admitted his comments were restricted to the theological doctrines of Mormonism and do not necessarily reflect what is actually happening in communities that practise the religion.

Court has heard evidence that many underage fundamentalist Mormon women have in the past been coerced into marrying much older men.

Walsh testified that there is no dogmatic statement in the Mormon religion on the age of marriage for women and men.

He admitted under cross-examination that he had heard of a girl marrying at the age of 13, but insisted that was a “deviation” and most Mormons would frown on marriage at such a young age.

Walsh, who has a PhD in religious studies and describes himself as an “independent scholar” who does not work at a university, testified as an expert in the theology of the Mormon religion.

The judge also heard videotaped testimony from Ruth Lane, the 10th wife of fundamentalist leader Winston Blackmore, who described how her marriage became progressively more difficult as Blackmore accumulated more wives and children.

When she left the Bountiful man in 2005, there were 25 wives and between 80 and 100 children, she said.

Two of the wives were 15-year-old girls, she added.

The judge has been asked to determine whether or not the polygamy law is constitutional. The trial is expected to finish by the end of January.

kfraser@theprovince.com

http://www.theprovince.com/life/Mormons+denounce+forced+polygamous+unions+expert+says/4068255/story.html

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