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A Big Waste of Time

August 6, 2007

This week’s topic: “Big Love”: the TV show depicting a modern polygamist marriage

by carrie ann

I have never seen the show “Big Love.” I’m sure it’s entertaining and all; it just doesn’t look that interesting to me or my husband (he watched 1/2 of the pilot and lost interest). We can barely keep up with the TiVo or with our other downloaded favorites (“Flight of the Conchords” anyone?).

However, for our book club last month, a friend selected a book about modern polygamy called “Predators, Prey, & Other Kinfolk” by Dorothy Allred Solomon. SO FASCINATING. I have often wondered how and why people are still living the principle of  plural marriage (or the Principle with a capital “P”). We only ever hear about the crazies and the trouble-makers: the Kingstons, the Jeffs, & the LeBarons. But there are sincere people out there who don’t seem crazy, who live in the mainstream, and who really believe that what they are doing is right, and I wanted to know why.

After a few books and recent newspaper articles, I feel like I understand it a little better. Maybe I wanted to understand the sincerity of living the Principle because it is my heritage both genetically and religiously.

However, one of my many issues with modern polygamy, no matter how sincerely practiced, is that it seems like a big waste of time. I see people who claim to live the Principle for religious reasons as putting themselves through a false refiners fire. Well, that’s because I don’t believe in the Principle, right now at least.

We all wonder if, as faithful Mormons, we will ever be called to live the Principle once more… My grandmother (the one from polygamous stock) once told me, “You don’t have to worry about polygamy right now…just make sure you’re the first wife!”  Thanks, Grandma.

As a side note, I wrote about 5 versions of this post. The topic of polygamy has been of great interest to me as of late, much to the discomforting of my husband. (No worries, dear, I am definitely not a convert.) The topic brought up more questions and lines of thought than I could write about in one sitting.

The books that I read that provided interesting insight and food for thought were the afore mentioned “Predators, Prey, & Other Kinfolk” by Dorothy Allred Solomon, “In My Father’s House” also by Dorothy Allred Solomon (this one is more personal and philosophical…I enjoyed “Predators” more), and “Taylor-made Tales” by Samuel Talylor who was John Taylor’s grandson and who was one of the youngest survivors of a sanctioned polygamous union (also a male point of view on the Principle). Also, the Deseret News wrote an article about a polygamist family in Salt Lake Valley sometime in July.

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7 comments

  1. I have been fascinated by modern day polygamy lately as well. Thanks for the book suggestions. I, myself, love Big Love.

    I am not a Mormon and so I have always wondered how Mormons felt about the idea that one day (maybe someday soon), they would be called to practice polygamy again. Maybe in the future you guys can write about that 🙂

    I really enjoy reading this blog, keep up the good work.


  2. My great aunt was married to Warren Jeffs pre-polygamy. My grandpa says he knew things were going wrong when he started calling the Prophet “Brother McKay”. Jeffs asked my great aunt to be the coveted first wife and she served him with divorce papers. Cool huh?


  3. Amri,

    that’s the coolest thing I have ever heard! Your great aunt denied Warren Jeffs. You know, in the book I recommended, the author’s father’s first wife rejected plural marriage as well. It was devastating to the entire family for the rest of their lives. Weird. I would love to know more about this aspect of your family history. Was Jeffs “normal” at one point? Was he power hungry? How did he treat your great aunt? At onetime were the intentions pure and then they deteriorated? Where did Jeffs’ group splinter from? Is she still “sealed” to him? So many questions…

    Lucy,

    polygamy is something that all Mormons have to come to grips with. Being a woman in the church, it’s not always easy to comprehend. I feel like I understand polygamy and why it was instituted. We should write about that sometime. But the thought of living it? As far as I know, I don’t think Mormons will asked to live it again before the Second Coming (that makes us sound to Apocalyptic!), but if you get really deep into our doctrine we believe that the Principle will be lived in the hereafter. Not in the Muslim/martyr sense…it’s not a reward (Muslim suicide bombers…called martyrs on FOX News…are promised 100 virgins in the afterlife…hmmm). In our doctrine, it is seen as a practical means of mass creation. I feel very uncomfortable with innuendo suggesting that the more wives a man has the better for him. As slow as we seem, our church IS modernizing, and the role of women in the Church and in doctrine itself is changing a little. Is it egotistical to think that the more “feminist” we become the more “true” it is simply because of the times? I tend to think that we are becoming increasingly enlightened, and that just because we anticipate the return of Christ it doesn’t mean we will be thrust back into Victorian or Biblical times.I teach the young women in my congregation and thirty years ago I guarantee that they did not have Sunday lessons on getting a good education and finding meaningful ways to contribute to society in the case that you don’t marry and become a mother. That situation was never discussed in my mother’s time. I think if we are ever called to practice the Principle it will be different, not easier, but different than it was 150 years ago. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. I actually don’t know much about their relationship. I know they had two sons but I don’t know how they relate to their father. She had the sealing broken and is sealed to another man plus I’m sure Jeffs was excommunicated, though I don’t know that for sure.
    I think he was charming and charismatic and that’s why she was allured but he slowly fell to delusions of grandeur. I think people knew he was getting wackier and wackier and the polygamy proposition sealed the divorce deal.


  5. Carrie Ann, maybe I’m the one mistaken, but in my 32 years as a Mormon I’ve never been taught (and certainly don’t believe) that polygamy will be re-instituted in the hereafter. IMHO, God prefers monogamy and monogamous marriages, though he has allowed (or even commanded) polygamy at specific, finite times for specific, finite reasons (which we may or may not understand). Plural marriages that were sealed by the proper authority will endure in the next life — what God has joined together let no man put asunder and all that. But I don’t think it’s *official doctrine* (“folk doctrine,” maybe?) that people in monogamous marriages (also sealed by authority) will be asked to take on additional partners in the next life. I’m certainly not going to share, lol!

    I could be totally wrong, of course; I find the whole subject pretty distasteful so I haven’t delved into it the way you have. Do you have any references to educate me if I’m talking out of my butt? LOL 😉


  6. Carrie Ann,
    I think it is curious that you grandmother was of polygamous stock. Did she actually grow up in a p. family? How old is she now?


  7. RCH, I would have to look through some books to answer whether that is “folk doctrine” or not, but the way I understand it is that it is not compulsory, we will not be forced into it here or there. People who call themselves “fundamentalist Mormons” believe that to achieve the highest level of glory in the Celestial Kingdom you must be sealed in a “principled marriage”. (But as Gordon B. Hinkley said himself..”there is no such thing as a fundamentalist Mormon…”)

    mmiles, I just meant that my polygamous ancestors come from her side of the family. Her great grandfather was Perrigrene Sessions who settled Bountiful. He had something like 12 wives and 60 or 70 kids…She never knew her great grandfather, but does remember a little about her g-grandmother although she does not remember details like living situations etc. If I had asked my grandma about 10 years ago I bet she would have remembered a lot more…my grandmother is 83.



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