I like to watch Oprah when the topic interests me, and Friday's show definitely interested me. It was about polygamy and families who are practicing it in the U.S. today. These are predominantly splinters from the mainstream Mormon church who disagreed with the Church when the practice was formally renounced in 1890, so they continued to practice it anyway and formed their own little communities out in the desert to do so.
The polygamous wives on the show were so normal looking. It was weird! They were attractive and articulate, their homes were lovely, their kids were cute (all 25 of 'em!)...in short, they were a lot like modern-day "soccer moms." A husband came on the show with his three wives--two of them were sisters. Creepy! He was a successful businessman who seemed nice enough. It was hard to believe these people were polygamists and were so (seemingly) happy and content with the practice. (Are these women from another planet?) They want it to be legalized so that they don't have to be outcasts anymore and can live in the community like normal people. The case can be made that if gay marriage is allowed, then other forms of marriage are going to need to be permitted as well. I hope legalization of polygamy doesn't ever happen. The most I can see happening is it maybe getting de-criminalized. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure.
A woman named Carolyn Jessop was also on the show. She grew up in Colorado City, Arizona in a cult-like community of fundamentalists that is much, much worse than the places where the above-mentioned people live. These are the people who totally shun the outside world and dress like they still live in the 1800's. That's where Warren Jeffs is from...he's the so-called prophet of these people who was recently convicted as an accomplice to rape. It is really sad. That place is like Iran. Anyway, Carolyn Jessop escaped with her children in 2003 after years of misery living in polygamy in this awful dictatorial world. She just wrote a book called "Escape" about what her life was like there. I went out and bought it the next day and am eager to read it. Here's the link to find out more about the book if you're interested:
I have always been fascinated by these polygamists. I can't believe what they're doing! I feel a small level of affinity for them because their forebearers were once members of the Church and so we share some doctrinal beliefs (unrelated to polygamy) and practices (such as Sacrament Meeting and singing the same hymns and songs) as well as a similar heritage. Some of my ancestors on my father's side were pioneers who trekked out West to settle; one of them was even an associate of Joseph Smith's. None of them practiced plural marriage, however. Only a small percentage of the pioneers ever did.
I once read in an opinion piece in Time magazine that members of the Church wish these people would just go away, and that's kind of true, at least for me. They perpetuate the association of Mormons and polygamy and make it seem like it's something that Mormons really do still do, or at least want to do, and that isn't true. They discredit the Church and its message, which it doesn't deserve. I personally do not understand polygamy. I know that great men like Abraham practiced it, and in more recent times, Joseph Smith and of course Brigham Young. But I just can't understand it and I find the idea of it to be abhorrent. I cannot imagine living life like that. The practice is inherently sexist and demeaning to women. It would be less so if women were allowed to have more than one husband in these communities so that then there would at least be equality in that respect. Wouldn't that be interesting? But still, it wouldn't be good. Maybe someday it will indeed all just go away. One spouse at a time should be enough for everyone!