Joe Darger—a co-author of the recently-released Love Times Three—takes care to explain that he is not a member of the mainstream LDS church. Nor is he a member of the Warren Jeffs-headed FLDS Church, which in recent years has gained notoriety for its refusal to stop conducting underage marriages. Rather, Darger and his wives—Alina, Vicki, and Valerie—consider themselves Independent Fundamentalist Mormons, or "Joseph Smith Mormons." They believe in the Mormon faith as it was originally conceived, but do not belong to any church or follow any leader.
Darger describes how plural marriage is a deep part of the Mormon culture. Having been introduced by church founder Joseph Smith early on in its history, plural marriage was eventually acknowledged as a key tenet of the faith in 1852. "So much is centered around the family, and it is an important aspect of the faith," he says.
Though the LDS church now excommunicates those who practice polygamy, Independents believe they must continue to abide by the gospel, which includes perpetuating plural marriage. For this reason, they avoid organized communities, churches, and groups. Darger likens himself and other Independents to those of Orthodox faith. "We follow a stricter code," he says. "This is a deep part of our culture."
Darger responds to the criticism that polygamy is inherently patriarchal. "Our Christ is our head, but he's really our servant. That is the model we use. In marriage, a man is the head of the family, but this is not a place of power. It is one of service. Women are equally important. They just have a different role. We hold high reverence for mothers and motherhood in our faith." He describes his book as part of a campaign to educate others on the myths and stereotypes that exist around polygamy—an attempt to eliminate persecution.
But it is not just the Independents who are facing persecution. Couples like the newlywed Garrets grow up to lead faith-driven, monogamous lives, yet still face confusion from others about their religion, despite the fact that their lives look pretty much like yours and mine.
"As for the day to day of our marriage," says Brandon, "it's pretty normal. Both Brittany and I work. We're trying to save up for a home, and for kids. I do marketing and Brittany is a dental assistant."
Only a few months into marriage, Brandon seems optimistic about the future. "It's great to know that my family will be my family forever because I was sealed through God's power. I will be able to be with Brittany forever."
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