Jim Oler (front) walks towards the Cranbrook Law Courts building in February. Oler, who is associated with a fundamentalist Mormon sect, is currently on trial for polygamy charges. (Trevor Crawley/Cranbrook Townsman)

Bountiful polygamy trial testimony continues on day 3

Record keeping key to mainstream Mormon faith says church history expert

The trial for two men charged with polygamy continued Thursday with testimony from a Texas Ranger and an expert in the mainstream Mormon church in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Winston Blackmore and James Oler are charged with practicing polygamy in Bountiful — a religious Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) community south of Creston — by allegedly marrying multiple wives over roughly a span of 20 years.

Nick Hanna, with the Texas Rangers, was a law enforcement member who was part of a raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, in April 2008. That action led to the seizure of FLDS marriage records that Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor for the trial, has entered into evidence.

Hanna delivered his testimony on Wednesday, while Dr. Richard Bennett, an expert in archives and records management and mainstream Latter Day Saints church history, spoke about the importance of accurate record keeping to the LDS faith on Thursday.

Bennett, a member of the mainstream LDS church and a professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, outlined the early history of the faith led by Joseph Smith and the origins of religious documents such as the the Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

Under direct examination, Bennett also broke down the various positions of authority in the LDS church and how priesthood authority is bestowed through religious ordinances.

Bennett also referenced scripture from the New Testament that what is sealed on earth is sealed in Heaven, which is why record-keeping is so important to the Mormon faith.

“There would not be an LDS church without record-keeping,” Bennett said. “There would be no ordinances without record-keeping.”

Documentation includes membership records, financial records, temple records and church history records, all of which are carefully maintained by local chapels and church archives in Utah, U.S.A.