I’ve watched several tv shows about this topic. It intrigues me. I can’t comtemplate sharing my husband. It’s truly unfathomable. However, these women do it, supposedly, willingly and lovingly. Here are some basics:
* Traditional Mormons no longer practice polygamy. Mormon Fundamentalists do which is a group that branched off the main Mormon church about 100 years ago. It is said that the Mormon church abandoned the practice so Utah could become a state in the late 1800’s. The current day Mormon church neither practices nor condones this practice.
* Polygamists believe Jesus was married and had several wives. They believe God has several wives and in order to enter “the highest heaven that those who enter must be living in polygamy.” How do they know this? They believe one of the founders of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, was a prophet and God told him this directly.
* Some people are familiar with a large sect of Mormon Fundamentalists living in Colorado City, AZ (which is just over the state line from Utah). Their leader, Warren Jeffs, was on the run from the law for several years and was just caught a couple months ago. He is facing prosecution for child abuse and child endangerment for marrying girls as young as 12, 13, and 14. Some marriages were even arranged between neices and uncles. This sect is very private and strangers are basically not allowed in their town. Even though it’s “public land” anyone not from the town found within the city limits are immediately escorted out of town – forcibly if necessary. This sect lives almost in another time. They don’t have internet and are very sheltered.
* Two miles down the road is another city of about 1200 Mormon Fundamentalists who are more open and welcoming to strangers. This is the group that was featured on tv last night in a special investigation (I think the series continues for the next two weeks). This town boasts a lot of mansions. Part of their religion is “help they neighbor” so the people of the community help each other build their homes at no cost. The people can get a private, low interest loan from the church for building materials and all the labor is free which is why there are so many mansions. Also, remember that some of these familes can have close to 100 people so they would have to have large homes to accomodate all those people. The schools are hard wired and the kids listen to rap music, have e-mail, go to dances, etc. They are much more “main streamed” than some of the other sects. However, the still don’t wear makeup and women are required to dress modestly which prohibits them from wearing pants. Most don’t cut their hair either.
* The news story centered on a 32 year old man whose father had 16 wives and 75 children. He had a 30 year old wife with whom he had 7 children and a 20 year old wife with whom he already had 2 children. He was the math teacher for both his wives. He works at a school which is owned and operated by the church.
* Mormon Fundamentalists aren’t allowed to date. When a woman finds a man she thinks she’d like to marry, she is to pray about it. After much prayer, she is to discuss it with her parents and the church elders. If those parties all agree that this is a good match, the young man is told about his pending nuptials. The man is allowed to say no but I don’t think it happens often as basically, the church has already decided that this is a good match.
* The wives say they pray for sister wives. As a “good Christian” if they have something good, it is their responsibilty to share it with other good Christians – their husbands included. As for jealousy, they say they don’t have a right to be jealous. They don’t “own” their husbands and must support him in all things. It is his decision to take a new wife or not and the existing wives should accept that he has made the best decision for them and their family.
* They say multiple wives isn’t just about sex. They are responsible for another person and any children that relationship bears so it is a huge undertaking. It’s not all fun and games. Most wives “take turns” having evenings with the husband. They are normally on a rotating schedule with however many wives there are.
* One of the main problems with polygamist towns is in order for men to have multiple wives, they must run off a lot of the young men. There aren’t enough women available so in high school or just after graduation, about two thirds of the young men are driven out of town.
* Polygyny is one man married to several women. The Utah Morman church practiced this.
Polyandry is one woman married to several men. You rarely hear about this arrangement.
Polygamy refers to either arrangement.
Several of today’s Mormon faiths practice both polygyny and polyandry, which is consistent with the practices of Joseph Smith the faith’s founder. Plural marriage is a a synonym for any of the above and is often used as a euphanism in place of polygamy.
* Why not arrest people for doing this? Technically, the husband only marries the first wife. Any subsequent marriages are not “legal” in the eyes of the law but are sanctioned by the church and recognized by the church. About 60,000 people in just the state of Utah are thought to be Polygamists.
I believe these people are brainwashed. The vast majority of people living polygamist lifestyles were raised in polygamist families and have always been taught that this is the “Christ like” way to live. This is the only way you’re going to get into heaven. They really don’t know any better. I feel sorry for them. No way can these women REALLY be happy. They might say that because they are taught that this is right but deep down in their hearts I have a hard time believing that they are thrilled with this lifestyle. Jealousy is a natural human emotion – you can’t just make it go away. Amazing, huh?