Grab your eighth cup of coffee for the day.
We’re about to talk plural marriage.
Sister Wives resumed the other week,
and I’m as hooked as I ever was.
The show has made quite a splash,
bringing plural marriage into dinner table conversation.
Although, bringing it into conversation in an evangelical small group
where you’re the new and only unmarried woman,
I’ve learned is a poor idea.
Looking to brush up on my fundamentalist Mormon basics,
I hit the local Barnes and Noble this weekend.
Under the heading “Mormon”, there were four books,
all about the tragic lives of children within fundamentalist Mormon sects.
The store didn’t even carry a Book of Mormon.
Yes, I realize it is Minneapolis, but that is ridiculous.
First, let’s get all of our ducks in a row:
Wives and Kody are not LDS-ers.
They are not these folks:
After the Supreme Court ruled that polygamy is not protected under the Constitution and Congress passed the Edmunds Act outlawing its practice, the LDS Church suffered persecution and, then, abandoned the practice of plural marriage.
The fundamentalist Mormons believed that the LDS Church went off track when they abandoned the principle.
It is certainly more complicated than that, and a good history is found here and here.
For a group that can hold complex marital arrangements together,
the various sects divide often.
The two predominate ones are
the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS)
and Apostolic United Brethren (AUB).
Wives and Kody are members of AUB.
Many of the child/sexual abuse cases come from FLDS.
The stories of abuse that have came from some fundamentalist Mormon sects are revolting.
They are wrong. They should not be justified.
Child abuse of any kind is horrible beyond what language can describe.
Mixing religion of any kind with abuse brings a certain kind of hell upon the victim.
In turn, I believe there is a very special place in hell dedicated to such perpetrators.
Whether they believe in it or not.
Wives and Kody show no signs of such abuse.
Instead, they show a moderately dramatized version of consensual plural marriage.
Throughout the seasons,
the viewers get a fairly intimate and extremely emotional peek
into the push and pull of living with sister wives.
It’s this struggle that left me with the feeling
that there is something sacred about the arrangement.
Meri is most secure when she’s in control.
Christine is quirky, refusing to own a toaster
because people die in toaster fires every year.
Janelle is often aloof.
Robyn is trying her darndest, often to her own detriment.
Their everyday-all-too-human flaws are revealed.
In that mess,
you see them struggle together
and move beyond significant rifts as a community.
That, folks, is rare.
When the subject of Kody courting Robyn came up,
it was not an easy choice.
The sister wives had strong opinions.
They shared them.
Respectfully, but loudly.
However, their emotions did not dictate their behavior.
Rather, they expressed that they had committed themselves to something
(the Work, the Group, the Faith)
and they were going to work through the messy parts together rather than attempting to cover them up or to jump ship.
I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in religious communities,
so that experience and language seems pretty ordinary to me.
What is extraordinary is their day in and day out living of such vows.
Whether you’re living in a monastery or sharing your life with your small group,
these tensions arise.
Often, they dominate life.
There are many cynical nuns, wounded ex-church goers and divorcees.
We don’t stay committed to that struggle very often.
One of the more popular arguments against plural marriage is that such an arrangement destroys the sanctity of marriage.
Wives and Kody prove that this is not true.
If anything, they show one possible way to retain the sanctity of marriage.
If it’s not morally or spiritually bankrupt, what about its treatment of the ladies?
Back in the 19th century, plural marriage was a part of mainstream Mormon practice and it brought with it a good deal of freedom.
When Bringham Young brought his people out west into Utah, plural wives experienced freedom unknown to most women at the time.
Moving beyond the domestic sphere, they were allowed to co-create this new society.
From working the fields to teaching the children, the success of the Utah endeavor demanded that these women’s active involvement.
Plural marriage also allows for sharing of domestic responsibilities.
On Sister Wives, Janelle works full-time because she’s less thrilled with the stay-at-home lifestyle that Christine loves.
Their different personalities allow for each woman to pursue what she desires.
Great questions of the necessity of men, matriarchy, spiritual roles and the definition of “women’s liberation” come up.
There’s obviously a lot to be talked about.
So, let’s do it.
How do you feel about plural marriage?
The illegality of it?
The recent rise in t.v. shows and memoirs surrounding it?
While you’re thinking:
This is why Christine is fantastic.
And this is what you should play during your dance break today.