Friday, November 14, 2014

Sister Wife

Yesterday I was making dinner with my mother-in-law.  At one point I started mashing the potatoes and my mother-in-law came in behind me and started finishing the gravy I had started.  While we worked together she said, "Well maybe having a sister wife wouldn't be so bad," and we both started to laugh.  We are both Mormon, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints, born and raised.  I wouldn't say we are typical members.  She mainly just goes to relief society and while I am 100% active, I have a scientist brain, I mainly vote democrat, I listen to a lot of NPR, and to be honest there are a lot of things about my church I'm not 100% comfortable with.  Polygamy has always been one of them.  When I was a kid, maybe 13 or 14 I remember getting into an argument with one of Sunday school teachers.  I'm pretty sure it was about polygamy and he called me an apostate.  Twenty years later I can tell you my opinions have not changed.

About six years ago I read the book, Rough Stone Rolling at my in-laws house.  It was a little earth shattering for me, but it confirmed that I have no good feelings about polygamy.  So when my church released a couple essays on plural marriage this last year, one specifically talking about Joseph Smith's plural marriages I was not surprised, but I guess I was a little shocked by some of my friends who posted response to it on facebook, things like, "Well this isn't as shocking as people think it is."  This was in response to the information that Joseph Smith had probably plural married at least one, possibly two 14 year old girls and that he had also plural married other men's wives.  I'm going to just throw this out there, the fact that this didn't bother other people kind of sort of bothered me.

I'm not the only one. Here in Utah in the Tribune last week there was an opinion piece written by a local Psychologist who has taken a lot of heat for saying that she thought these practices were wrong and pointing out the fact that even at the time of Joseph Smith only something like 1% of girls were marrying at 14.  2-3% at 15-17, the majority waiting until after age 18 to get married.  For stating her opinion she was taking a lot of flack, people were telling her she lacked faith and that she should leave our church.  I wonder if people feel the same about me and I know that's why for the most part I keep my opinions to myself. 

I realize this might make me exceptionally unpopular but I just want to say I don't like polygamy.  I find the practice and that part of my church's history extremely distateful.  I realize there are probably some people who can live it and have it work and be happy but I think those people are a rarity.  Support of this can be found even with our early prophets.  It is pretty well documented that Emma felt a lot of pain over polygamy and I find it hard to believe that would not have grown stronger had Joseph Smith lived longer.  Brigham Young married 55 woman in his life.  I think something like nine of those marriages ended in divorce.  Joseph F. Smith's first wife originally gave him permission to marry a second wife after Brigham Young gave him the command to do so but quickly became disenchanted with the whole thing and they divorced.  Can anyone blame her?  I certainly don't.  I try to imagine what it would be like if my husband married my best friend.  I know myself pretty well.  It is hard to believe I wouldn't have ended up hating both of them.  There is also some talk that Wilford Woodruff had two wives leave after just weeks and was divorced from at least one other wife.  These are prophets of the church and their wives and they just don't seem to be that happy to me.  Does that mean I lack faith, maybe.  Does that mean I don't belong at church, I hope not.  I do know though that I will never be a fan of polygamy, I don't think any essays are ever going to change that and you are never going to hear me say, "well this isn't that shocking."   


  1. I read a book about Mormons when I was a young, impressionable preteen (?), and I found the polygamy bit distasteful then. I always thought one reason Joseph Smith was killed and basically run out of most places he lived was that he was marrying other people's wives. I guess Mormonism is better than some in that regard since *women* were able to have plural husbands and not only men. But I just never found polygamy appealing. Never saw any good of it in the Bible nor anywhere else. I feel bad for the children. How can a man be a good father when he is divided between so many households?

    I'm glad you shared your opinion. And I totally agree with your being bothered by those who AREN'T bothered. I wouldn't want my fourteen year old marrying! Nor would I want my mom being married to another man while she was married to my dad. ETC.



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