Mormons should share wealth, Bountiful polygamist's tax trial hears

Vancouver, Canada - One of a handful of experts in the world on Mormonism testified at the tax trial of B.C. polygamist Winston Blackmore on Tuesday, outlining crucial aspects of the religion.

W. John Walsh, a Mormon scholar who holds a PhD in religious studies, told Judge Diane Campbell of the Tax Court of Canada that fundamentalist Mormons living in communes around North America are supposed to share their excess wealth with the less fortunate.

``Everything belongs to the Lord,'' said Walsh.

He said that the Mormon ``Law of Consecration'' states that every Mormon should transfer all wealth, land or labour that exceeds each follower's ``just wants and needs'' to his bishop to be distributed to the poor.

Unlike the 99 per cent of Mormons who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), Blackmore and his followers live communally in Bountiful, in B.C.'s Creston Valley, which was founded in 1946 by a breakaway group of fundamentalist Mormons who practise polygamy.

Blackmore is appealing a Canada Revenue Agency audit that concluded he under-reported $1.5 million of income over six years between 2000 and 2006. Blackmore claimed his income, like that of his followers, should be spread evenly over the entire community.

Crown lawyer Lynne Burch is arguing FLDS is not a true religion and that Blackmore's followers are not a congregation.

The trial marks the first time in Canadian history that the definition of ``religious congregation'' in the Tax Act has been challenged.

In 2002, Blackmore was excommunicated from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) by its president Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in a Texas prison on two counts of sexual assault of a child.

Blackmore does not recognize Jeffs as the legitimate FLDS leader and was stripped of his title as bishop of Bountiful in that church by Jeffs.

That decision in 2002 split the community of Bountiful roughly in half, with hundreds loyal to Blackmore and others following the new bishop, James Oler.

The trial continues.