The Polygamy Trap of the Mormon Faith and Family

Polygamy is the practice of being married to multiple husbands or wives at the same time, and in our society is tied in many cases to the Mormon faith. This was the area that I focused on for my study, and the results I found were astounding.

This sub-culture is composed of a known 60,000+ individuals in the . This is an alarming number of men, women, and children, especially because Polygamy is illegal under law. In the , the highest concentration of Polygamists exists in Utah, and there are also large numbers of these families in Colorado, Virginia, and a number of other areas. Globally, Polygamy is legal and is practiced in many Middle Eastern and African countries.

Why is it that there are so many Polygamist families in Utah, and why are they tied to the Mormon faith? “Mormon Doctrine states that in order to enter into the highest heaven that those who enter must live in polygamy.” (www.absalom.com/mormon/polygamy/faq.htm) It is a part of the old Mormon belief system that men should have up to seven wives in order to please God. Polygamy was openly lived from 1852 to 1890 in Utah by the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), the official Mormon Church. The illegal practice of Polygamy in Utah at the time was holding the UtahTerritory back from receiving full statehood. By 1890, Mormon Church President Woodruff signed a proclamation called “The Manifesto” pledging that the Mormons had given up Polygamy in order for Utah to be able to claim statehood (www.polygamy.com/Mormons/Mormon-Revelations-Of-Polygamy.htm). However, Polygamy was still practiced in secret and is still practiced today against the laws of the land. Those that practice Polygamy are excommunicated from the official church (LDS), and are often forced to hide their plural marriages.

Why does Polygamy still exist today? Traditions are often hard to break, and such is the case with Polygamy. Many people that live in Utah today are ancestors of past Polygamists and are determined to carry on traditions and follow the practices of their religion, despite the consequences. People that openly live in a plural marriage, are not usually connected to the LDS church. There are many different religious Mormon sub-groups that have broken away from the official church in order to practice their beliefs without shame or discrimination. They include Mormon Fundamentalists, a group that feels that it is more important to obey the word of God than the word of the land. Independent Mormon Fundamentalists also believe that neither the church or the state should interfere with family matters. While Polygamy is technically against the law and not protected by religious freedom, practicing polygamists are rarely prosecuted.

So what is a typical American family that lives in polygamy like? From my research, I have discovered that many of the children in polygamous families are often home schooled. Polygamist husband Bryan Tate said that “Our children are home schooled because of the growing violence and bad influences in our school systems.”

(www.polygamy.com/Families/Tate.htm). While this may be a viable reason for his children not to attend public school, perhaps he just wants to keep them separate from other types of children. At their young age, they may not be able to understand why other kids tease them for having 4 mothers and for being different. Children in polygamy are often repressed and denied a proper education and wholesome upbringing for these reasons. Furthermore, since their mothers aren’t legally married to their father, they are seen as illegitimate by the state. Unless the father adopts them, they legally have no father in the eyes of the state and are eligible for many different kinds of tax-evasions and benefits.

Many of the testimonials that I came across from polygamous families stated loving the outdoors, God, and family. While these are good qualities, it seemed to me that polygamous families didn’t want people to join their family out of love, but out of necessity. The information I received about the Tate family came from a website designed as a sort of “singles” room for people looking for potential families to join. The Tate’s said that; “We are looking for a woman who is 18-30. Those are our only specifications. Any physical characteristics are handed down from God and we celebrate everyone’s diversity.” This seemed like a rather callous request to me and showed that they only see the woman joining their family as an extra set of hands, an extra baby-machine, an extra cook and clean. Since they had no interest the potential wife’s lifestyle or hobbies, likes and dislikes, then it was a sign to me that they weren’t really interested in her as a person.

It is rare to find a negative testimonial from a person that currently lives in polygamy. Divorce is highly frowned upon in Mormonism, and many of the women seemingly love the situation they are in. It just doesn’t seem likely that each wife wouldn’t be even a little bit jealous of the others. Polygamist wives aren’t all the stereotypical stay at home mothers like some people picture. Journalist Elizabeth Joseph lives in a Polygamist marriage with her husband and eight other women. She wrote an article entitled “Polygamy: The Ultimate Feminist Lifestyle” and here is what she said:

“I’ve often said that if polygamy didn’t exist, the modern American woman would have invented it. As a journalist, I work many unpredictable hoursâÂ?¦because of my plural marriage arrangement, I don’t have to worryâÂ?¦my eight year old has never seen the inside of a day-care center, and my husband has never eaten a TV dinnerâÂ?¦it’s a rare day when all eight of my husbands wives are tired and stressed at the same time.” (www.polygamy.com/Practical/Ultimate.htm).

In my opinion, her ideas on feminism and polygamy are a little warped. This woman who is an intelligent journalist lives inside a plural marriage and denies herself the right to have one man love and care for only her.

People like Elizabeth Joseph lead people to think that polygamists are a little crazy, have bad moral values, and brainwash their followers. While this is not completely true for all polygamist, there is some danger for women and children in polygamy. Mental abuse, repression, and loss of freedom are often common cases in unhealthy family units. These are a few danger signs within a polygamous relationship:

*Control over private lives: telling people where they should work; expecting attendance at multiple church services and activities.

*Total control over members daily lives.

*Exclusivity and isolation

*Development of unhealthy emotional dependence

*Discouragement of free and independent pursuit of education

*Sexual demands

*Threats of intimidation: threats to “take away” the husbands attention for “wrong behavior”

*The group seems perfect: everyone agrees and follows orders cheerfully

*Males are believed to have more rights an abilities than females

*Leadership is never shared

It is for these reasons that polygamy can be dangerous and oppressive. Furthermore, there are often many cases of child brides, such as 14 year old Ruby Jessop, who are exploited through polygamy. Because these children are traded and bartered for under polygamy, they are often looked over and their abusers aren’t punished.

It seems odd to me that such an ancient practice as taking on multiple spouses is still practiced today in modern day . Its hard for me to understand why a woman would want to share her husband with other women, and why men can’t be satisfied with just one wife. Nevertheless, polygamy is a dangerous sub-culture, shrouded by tradition and belief. In a way, polygamy allows men to have a harem of sorts, and to spread their seed and heritage. While on the surface, those engaging in polygamy praise God and highlight family values and morals, underneath they are exploiting their women and children and are going against the laws of the land.

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