British Columbia

Polygamous leader borrowed $25K for end of the world

B.C. polygamous community leader Winston Blackmore said he has often prepared for the end of the world, as it was frequently has been predicted by leaders of his faith in the U.S.

Winston Blackmore tells tax trial he's often directed to send money for world's end

Winston Blackmore, the religious leader of the polygamous community of Bountiful near Creston, B.C., leaves the newly built community centre. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

B.C. polygamous leader Winston Blackmore says he took out a $25,000 loan from the bank in an effort to prepare for the end of the world.

During testimony in the Tax Court of Canada on Thursday, Blackmore said he was directed by a patriarch in the community to get the money to "prepare for the worst."

The cash was to be used to gather supplies for a religious sect in southeast B.C., near the Canada-U.S. border, he said.

"Another deadline for the end of the world has come and gone. Some 15 deadlines have passed," Blackmore's self-published online newsletter later said in March 2004.

"Did you write that?" federal government lawyer Lynn Burch asked Blackmore.

"I could have wrote it," he said.

He acknowledged there had been at least 15 predictions for the end of the world from the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, an offshoot of the Mormon church.

"Perhaps many more," he added.

Burch asked if the predictions for the destruction of the world were part of the belief system of the FLDS faith.

"I don't think they're part of the tenet, but they certainly are part of the practice," he replied.

$1.5 million disputed

Blackmore is testifying at a Tax Court trial as he fights a claim that he owes an extra $1.5 million for his taxes from 2000 to 2004 and in 2006.

Mormons renounced polygamy more than a century ago, but Blackmore said he follows principles including plural marriage set out by church founder Joseph Smith.

Blackmore believes his income should be spread among residents in Bountiful, B.C., and that the group to be given special tax status similar to Hutterite colonies who have no property or possessions and work only for the community.

He also told the court that a "famine call" was issued shortly after the 2000 New Year.

"It was a time when everyone was pinching themselves," Blackmore said. "We were all happy the world had not ended."

He said the community saved for three months and sent tens of thousands of dollars to Rulon Jeffs, the then-church leader of the FLDS.

Burch asked if a famine call was basically a call for cash from the church leaders in the United States.

"Yes," he said.

"You're duty bound to send cash," Burch said. "Obedience is an important tenet of your religious beliefs?"

"Yes," he replied.

The trial was expected to last for three weeks, but lawyers said Thursday it may not be completed by then and closing arguments may have to be heard at a later date and perhaps even a different location.