Polygamy Is About Family


A Mormon pushes back against the stereotypes of polygamy.

With all the talk in the world and the media about gay marriage and the death of the "traditional" family, it's natural that our movies and TV shows would explore the idea of "alternate" family arrangements such as gay marriage or polygamy. 

The current show Sister Wives and other similar shows that have recently aired try to unite polygamy and the Mormon Church. There's only one problem though: Mainstream Mormons don't actually have more than one wife at a time. Monogamy Is Good, And It's Here To Stay

The family depicted in the show, Sister Wives are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, one of many churches that have left the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and gone on to preserve the practice of polygamy, which hasn’t been practiced by the mainstream LDS Church since 1890.

Yet even now in this Internet age, even though the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hasn’t practiced polygamy in 120 years, Mormons are still associated with it today. Marriage Without Monogamy

"So…how many wives do you have?"

"You’re Mormon? Aren’t you the guys who get lots of wives? Where do I sign?"

As a Mormon, I get these kinds of comments all the time. Mostly I take it in stride and try to gently correct people’s perceptions whenever I can. I understand that movie and TV producers are looking for ratings, and sex and controversy and loads of conflict and drama drive up ratings. When I see shows about polygamy, I can’t really get too worked up about it. The struggles that the family on Sister Wives face today in living an illegal practice because of their beliefs are part of my Church’s history. Proposal: Polygamy For The Rich

The LDS Church faced a lot of persecution for their belief in the practice of plural marriage. Despite their efforts to explain why they were practicing it, heavy negative media coverage turned public opinion against the Church, and a law was created that made polygamy illegal in the United States. The Church became torn between obeying the laws of God, and obeying the laws of the land. We were commanded to do both, and we couldn’t.

Our current president at the time, Wilford Woodruff, asked God what to do about the situation, and it was told him that the members should decide what to do. The body of the Church chose to end the practice of polygamy, rather than be destroyed by the federal government. It took some time to transition out of this practice.

Ultimately, those who rebelled were excommunicated and began their own churches, such as the church that the family in Sister Wives belongs to. The fundamentalist, splinter groups from our church believe that Wilford Woodruff and every other president after him were corrupt, and that polygamy is essential for salvation in the kingdom of God. Most mainstream Mormon's do not hold the same belief. Saying that the fundamentalist groups are like mainstream Mormons is like saying that a Lutheran or Baptist is really a Catholic deep down. There’s a world of difference.

So, if you want to watch Sister Wives, we’re not offended. Just don’t be fooled into thinking you’re learning all about Mormons. But, this talk about polygamy runs deeper than the stereotypes about the LDS community.

Between spouses in the Church and sometimes in Church conversations, the question of "What if?" occasionally comes up. It’s like the elephant in the living room for the Church members. If polygamy became legal in America, it might be reinstated as a practice in the mainstream Church. I’m guessing the mind of God here though…I could be wrong.

Some people are not uncomfortable with the idea of practicing polygamy in the Church today, and some are very adverse to the idea. Polygamy delivers some benefits, and some drawbacks. Most wives in the Church hold very strongly to the traditional idea that a husband should love her and no one else. There’s no question polygamy is a difficult and complicated life to live, even if it was legal.

My wife and I discuss polygamy sometimes. There’s no real way to prepare for such a thing. If God commanded polygamy, then we would find a way to obey it. The important thing is that we would communicate, and we would work it out together as a couple, with decisions mutually agreed upon. That’s necessary for any kind of marriage. Polygamy as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints used to practice it was never about sexual gratification. It was about family; survival, parents for children, and raising children to learn what we believe are correct and ethical principles. If it were reinstated, it would be about family again.