Three brothers from a family of 150 siblings have revealed what it’s like to grow up in a polygamous cult, including how birthday parties happen and what it’s like to be in the same school class as your nieces and nephews.
Merlin Blackmore, 19, who was born to ‘
Alongside his half-brother Murary, also 19, and full-brother Warren, 21, Merlin has taken to
The trio, who have all now left Bountiful and are close to their mothers, say they hope the next generation will be a ‘family not a cult’.
Merlin Blackmore, 19, who was born to ‘Canada’s most famous polygamist’ 64-year-old Winston Blackmore in Bountiful, British Columbia and has build a huge social media following for his open and honest discussion about life in his huge family which includes ’27 mothers’. He is pictured left with siblings in his age group and right with his ‘triplets’ who were born to different mothers on the day he was born
The family photo: Merlin shared this photo of his family – with the majority of his siblings – to TikTok
In one video, Merlin, who now lives in the US and has seven full siblings, reveals how he ‘had to get out the community to talk about his experience.
‘I wanted to talk about it but I had to get out because I feared someone would show up at my doorstep and do something to me just for talking about how I was raised as a kid,’ he says.
‘I’ve wanted to talk about this for years. Now I’m in a position I can, the world is going to know,’ he adds.
In another video, Merlin describes how he is a ‘triplet’ because he has a half-brother and a half-sister born on the same day as him – but to different mothers.
Warren Blackmore (left) who still lives in Canada, also lifted the lid on his time in the church while in another video Murray (right) explains how his family split from the church and set up another
In another clip, Warren says how he has 19 students in his class at school, which was run by his father. All the children were born in 1999. They included his siblings, cousins, and nieces and nephews
Who are the Blackmore family and what church do they belong to?
The Blackmore family are part of a church group in Bountiful, British Columbia, led by Winston Blackmore, who has 150 children and 22 wives, although he had up to 27 wives at one point.
The Bountiful group was founded by Winston’s father Ray Blackmore, and were affiliated with the he Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints, one of the largest Mormon fundamentalist denominations and one of the largest organizations in the United States whose members practice polygamy.
In September 2002, FLDS Church president Warren Jeffs ex-communicated the Blackmore family after Warren took over leadership of the group upon his father Rulon Jeffs death.
The community living in Bountiful was split then split in half with around 400 people followed Blackmore, who set up his own church, with the rest following Jeffs.
The FLDS Church emerged in the early 20th century when its founding members left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
The split occurred largely because of the LDS Church’s suspension of the practice of polygamy and its decision to excommunicate its members who would continue the practice.
The FLDS Church is estimated to have 6,000 to 10,000 members residing in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City in Arizona; Eldorado in Texas; Creston and Bountiful in British Columbia, Canada; and Pringle in South Dakota.
Sect leader Warren Jeffs is serving life in prison in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides.
‘My brother and sister are both married into the religion now, but I don’t have much contact with them anymore,’ he adds.
In another, he explains the huge age range between his siblings. His oldest brother is 44, while his youngest is only one.
He also says that the birthday parties are ‘pretty normal’.
‘It wasn’t like 150 people show up to every person’s birthday party. It was more as your closest friends and the kids that closest to you in age.
‘It was mainly your biological siblings that came and got your birthday presents and your closest friends.
The brothers grew up in this house, with two of the 27 wives and 18 of the 150 siblings. One wife had the bottom floor while another had the top floor
Winston Blackmore herds his many children outside the rodeo in Bountiful, Canada
‘Sometimes if there were a whole bunch of birthdays close together we would celebrate them as one big birthday party, but that didn’t happen very often.
‘For the most part, each kid would celebrate his birthday as any kid around the world would’.
His brother Warren Blackmore, who still lives in Canada, also lifted the lid on his time in the church.
‘Me and Merlin are full brothers and actually best friends. And then Murray we grew up in the exact same house and did everything together, our moms are sisters.
‘Instead of hating each other like a lot of siblings do, we build each other up and we let each other know we could do whatever we put our minds too,’ he added.
Above students at the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School play an afternoon game of basketball. The community has two independent schools within a few hundred yards of each other
Students at the Bountiful Elementary-Secondary School play an afternoon game of basketball
Warren further explains how the wives are related in another clip.
‘This is pretty wild, but my father had 27 wives at one point. There were six different groups of sisters.
‘There was two groups of three different sisters and there was four groups of four different sisters from another family.
In another clip, he says how he has 19 students in his class at school, which was run by his father. All the children were born in 1999.
‘I had five brothers, four sisters, seven cousins and two nephews in my class. I went to school with my nephews, we were the same age,’ he said.
He also explained that they would grow most of their own food – such as potatoes, corn and tomatoes – to pay for the upkeep on 150 children, many of whom would farm the land.
Meanwhile Murary revealed how he left the private school and went to a public high school for his final year of education, where he learned about his own family in a history class.
‘A lot of people have been saying they learned about my families in class, and so did I’.
‘During my last year of high school, I went to a public school nearby in my nearest town and I signed up for a law class.
In 2017, Winston Blackmore (pictured) was charged with practising plural or ‘celestial’ marriage in the fundamentalist community and was sentenced to six month house arrest
‘And I’m there, minding my own business, doing my law s**t, and we come across this chapter about polygamy.
‘There is an entire section in the law book about my family.
‘And everybody knows I’m from that family. So yeah, I learned about it too.’
In another video Murray explains how his family split from the church and set up another.
‘So my family use to be a part of the FLDS church, leading up until 2002’ he explained, referring to the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints.
‘When Warren Jeffs became the prophet, my family was kicked off to the side.
‘Because how intermingled everything was, all at once people so many people lost all connection to their families.
‘And so they started holding a tight grip to the ones they had left, trying to deal with all this trauma from that religion, my family tried to project that back onto themselves, instilling the same fear they encountered onto the future generations.
‘So if you grew up in this family and weren’t part of the religion, people would openly judge and criticise you in a cult-like mentality.
‘Basically s*** is changing, and we’re moving from more of cult into a family.
Warren Jeffs, who has up to 70 wives, is currently serving a life sentence in US prison for two accounts of child sexual assault.
At one point, the former church leader was one of FBI’s most wanted fugitives.
In 2017, Winston Blackmore was charged with practising plural or ‘celestial’ marriage in the fundamentalist community and was sentenced to six month house arrest.