Truman Oler says that after he fled the polygamous community of Bountiful, his mother made him feel as though she wished he were dead.
Oler broke down in tears on Tuesday as he described the agony of leaving the small fundamentalist Mormon community.
He told the polygamy trial being heard in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver that a number of factors led to his decision in his early 20s to leave.
He said the community was in the process of splitting into two competing groups, with his brother, religious leader James Oler, on one side and religious leader Winston Blackmore on the other.
At the same time, his brother was pressuring him to be placed in an arranged marriage.
Since his departure, attempts at reconciliation with his family have been difficult, especially with his mom, he told Chief Justice Robert Bauman.
"She told me a story that one time she had a stillborn child, and it made me feel she wished I was that child," he said. "I just wish she didn't have to feel that way at all. If I talk to her, most of the time, she treats me as if I am a stranger."
Oler, a 29-year-old father of two, was asked by Karen Horsman, a lawyer for the Attorney-General's Ministry, why he agreed to become involved in the trial.
"It would be so nice to one day be able to go down to the house that I grew up in and see my family and have them treat me like a son, a brother, a friend," he replied.
At times Oler had to pause at length to compose himself, reaching for a tissue at one point to wipe away the tears.
Oler, whose father had six wives and 47 children, spoke of a community in which the men are often away working for lengthy periods and seldom get a chance to see any of their many children.
"I have a brother who has three wives and I don't know how many kids. He goes out to work, for months on end and never sees the kids.
"Personally, I can't see why.
they have so many children if they don't want to take care of them," he said.
The judge has been asked to decide whether the polygamy law is constitutional. The issue was referred to him after James Oler and Blackmore had their polygamy charges stayed in 2009.
James Oler was initially on the witness list but last week the court was told he would not testify.