Finally

About ten years ago, my husband and I bought our first house together.  While I lived in that house, I planted trees and gardens.  I bought furniture.  I hosted events.  I had a variety of houseguests.  I put up pictures and had pets and houseplants.  While I lived there I went from 1 child to 3 children and began homeschooling.  I had a variety of Church callings and a good selection of friends and friendly neighbors.  I was in living that house when my belief system about the LDS Church crumbled (although I stayed an active member for a number of years).  I also gave birth in one of the bedrooms upstairs.

In that same bedroom, my husband and I first discussed the possibility of his marrying my best friend Melissa.  (Short version: I could no longer ignore the spiritual experiences I was having regarding God’s will in the matter.  Joshua and I had never talked about it before, but I opened the conversation with: “So, Joshua, are you going to marry Melissa?”  His answer: “Well, I don’t know.”  My shocked reply: “What do you mean you don’t know?  I know!”  Two days later he had his first conversation with Melissa about it; I think it’s fair to say the latter conversation was far more awkward than the former.)

A few weeks later, in that same upstairs bedroom, I announced to my husband my plan to essentially give the house to Melissa and her children and move with my children more than an hour away, in order for her teenagers to have the space they needed to finish growing up.

That very day, about 5 years ago, we packed up a single carload and I moved away from my trees and animals and gardens, most of my possessions, my friends and neighbors, and the only home most of my children had ever known.

Gradually, tediously, over months and many many many trips between the two houses, Melissa patiently helped me finish moving out of the house which was now, bewilderingly, hers.  And she made that house her own, changing out the kitchen appliances and paint and window coverings and furniture and animals and gardens to better suit her preferences.  She continued the arduous task of parenting children without their father.  And she got used to being a plural wife.

Melissa has now lived in that house longer than I ever lived in it.

For 5 years, my children have had just one parent half the time.  I tell you, it sure is a special treat for the kids when Baba walks in that front door after they’ve been stuck with only me for a couple of days.  Two of our children don’t even remember life before their father was a polygamist.  They don’t remember what it was like to eat dinner and have devotional with him every single night.  They’ve developed habits such as asking me every couple of hours whether Baba will be here today, and writing things down they don’t want to forget to tell him.

For 5 years, my husband has had more than one carpool to get to his job.  (It’s very confusing for his fellow carpoolers.)  He’s had multiple houses and yards to maintain.  He’s been forced to have duplicates of numerous things (including cars, lawn mowers, and property tax bills) so he can frequently seesaw between his two domiciles.  And I can’t even count the number of times he’s needed something but has turned up empty-handed because the tool or other item was in a different county.  He’s been like an unlucky stepchild, constantly going back-and-forth between two houses.

Over the last 5 years, all of us have had more difficulties than I care to list right now.  We’ve also had a lot of personal growth and character-building, but I’ll save that for another time.  I’d rather get to the good news.

For 5 years, Melissa has been finishing the job of turning children into adults.  Her youngest is now 18 years old.  He recently graduated from high school and is launching out on his own.

We are all ready for a big life change.

Melissa’s time in my old house is coming to a close.

Tomorrow my sisterwife finally moves in with me. 

Well, sort of.  I live in a house with several separate apartments, all connected on the inside.  Melissa and I will live together, but each of us will have our own part of the house, our own front door, our own master bedroom, our own kitchen.

Our husband will no longer need duplicates of so many things.  He will get to come home to his entire family every evening.  The children will get to see their Baba and their other mother daily.  Melissa will have to do a lot less driving.  And she and I get to begin a new phase of our relationship.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Adonijah Foster

My heart goes out to the Fosters as tragedy struck their family today.  Enoch and Lillian’s house caught on fire and her 2-year-old son Adonijah (the one Lillian gave birth to in the first episode of the show Three Wives, One Husband) was badly burned and he died.

Enoch and Catrina’s 17-year-old daughter Cherish is in the hospital with smoke inhalation.  Lillian is understandably in shock and keeps passing out and is going to the hospital.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the funeral expenses.  https://www.gofundme.com/baby-fosters-funeral

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I wish Lillian could wake up from her nightmare and hold her baby again.  Sometimes this life seems so cruel.

Are polygamists creeps?

When I first heard about Joe Darger and his 3 wives, my immediate reaction was, “He has 3 wives? What a creep!”

That reaction seems comical now. At the time, I didn’t know any polygamists in person. I assumed if a man has several wives that he must be a controlling jerk who likes to get served by lots of women.

At some point I realized how illogical that thinking was.

If several independent, intelligent, free-thinking women all choose to get married and stay married to the same man, that should actually make me think, “Wow! He must be an amazing man for so many women to want to be married to him! He must be a remarkable husband to be able to keep that many women happy!”

I’m not speaking of institutionalized underage marriages that are compelled by the cult leadership. I’m talking about the situation in which a single woman who has freedom makes the decision to marry and stay married to a man with plural wives.

Nowadays my thinking is very different than it used to be. Why would multiple women choose to be married to a creep? No, if a man successfully keeps more than one woman satisfied, he must be an extraordinary man, and he very likely works hard to serve his wives.

Welcoming a sister wife: Two different ways

Note from the blog owner: minnearminne is a new contributor to the blog, and this is her first post.

Since this article is specific to the two different ways things worked out for bringing and welcoming a new wife into the family, I will try to leave out too many details even though it will be hard.

Before I get started please keep in mind that, from a 1st wife’s perspective (well, mine I guess), we are giving part of our lives not just our stuff.  Yes.  I said giving.  Some may seem expected and small while others rather significant depending on your point of view.

I feel like I should mention that the 2nd wife and I were going to welcome the 3rd wife in together but just a few weeks before, she bailed.  I love her dearly and it was really hard.   I think I know it was because of the pressures of bringing a new wife in, the teens were not happy and I think she caved.  She would not give a reason so I don’t know for sure.  No. I don’t have resentment toward the new wife because… if she wouldn’t have come then the other one would have stayed.  People have asked that so I thought I would just mention it now.  Another thing that might be important is that both were mainstream LDS but had gained a testimony of plural marriage.  This was helpful because we all came from similar backgrounds.

Pre-discussions and Time Before

The FIRST time we spent some time talking and discussed the “27 Rules of Celestial Marriage” by Orson Pratt and seemed to agree on most things.  We spent a lot of time together as a family rather than one-on-one time.  Maybe that’s because we had kids that were about the same age so it was easier and more fun.  When we went to these activities, we had to take two cars and she insisted to ride with me and explained that she didn’t want anything to do with the relationship if she didn’t have one with me.  I liked that and it made me feel relieved, of course.  It’s important for a 1st wife to know the new wife is giving some thought to the existing wife or wives.

With the SECOND, I had a few discussions with her but mostly testimony and personality traits etc.  No logistics whatsoever were discussed.  However, we did talk about how, if the husband has the final say, there will be fewer problems.  While I agree with this idea wholeheartedly, I have seen it be used as a tool for one wife to actually rule the family through her persuasive (others would use the word manipulative) power over the husband—unbeknownst to the husband.

We didn’t spend much time all together.  The husband spent the most time with her while I held down the fort.   This was not because the husband and I didn’t try.  I tried to instigate outings but there just wasn’t the interest.  In fact, I invited her to come to the ice cream shop because I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon and I was glad she accepted.  But, when it came right down to it (the husband arrived), she decided to stay and asked me to bring hers back.  Well, that was a devastating and blow and I realized she was what I call a “multiple monogamist” at heart.

Recap:  The FIRST time was good because we got to know each other as a family but also as individuals.  That was also bad because she expressed feelings that the husband didn’t really get to know her and she him.  I took it at face value so when the SECOND time came around, I went overboard the other way—even with living space and time after marriage.  I can see how that would trade new problems for the old but I couldn’t see it at the time.  The FIRST definitely had more value for the whole.  We had figured out how to talk to each other and made decisions together and then brought them to the husband to add and/or take away.  It worked out very nicely and saved time and grief for him.

Living Space

In the FIRST experience we were not in a position to pay for an apartment and neither was she.  She didn’t have a job or a car and had two little kids.  So, we had a mother-in-law outbuilding that we refinanced our house to fix up.  It added about seven years and $250 per month to our mortgage but we ALL felt it was the best arrangement.  It worked well as the husband got to spend time with all the kids and wives when he got home from work.  We were able to eat together, etc.   We just alternated nights and it worked out great.  It wasn’t but a couple of months, though, that her ex found out about her lifestyle and was threatening custody so she had to get an apartment.  This caused some rifts and it didn’t help that the time and money was stretched thin.  After she moved, she felt that the husband didn’t feel at home at her place, so she started moving some of his things that he cherished over to her apartment; things like books and camping stuff.   He was uncomfortable with this.  He DID indeed feel the family’s home was where we had originally talked about and that was all together.  We still alternated nights but it was really hard because I couldn’t get a hold of him sometimes and had to drive 20 minutes when there was something pressing to talk to him about and vice versa. Ugh…living that far from each other definitely put a strain on things.

The SECOND time we didn’t really discuss living arrangements because the plan was she was going to live in the apartment below the second wife but, of course that fell through at the last minute, so I decided to move a few of my things out to the mother-in-law apartment while they were gone for a week on their honeymoon.  This was as a gesture so it would be known I was willing to move out there and also because there wouldn’t be much time when they got back. It had been winterized so it would only be a bedroom until summer.  When they got home, the husband said he thought it would be best if she had her own space without the kids running around but she refused to have her room out there so she took the master bedroom in the house and I went out there.  We shared a kitchen and the rest of the living space.  Some of my children moved out with me when summer came.

Time

I was still feeling bad about the statement the first one said about feeling like she didn’t get to know the husband and he didn’t feel at home with her so I thought maybe I would take less time with the husband.  Instead of alternating equally and every night, I offered to have ¼ of the time.  She accepted without hesitation.  We shared dinner responsibilities every other day but soon changed to trading off every week.  We suddenly got new rules for our home and new places for things. I don’t know what that tells you, but it tells me that my husband was being influenced by and trying to please her or something because he never imposed new rules on the family like that before.  This did not go over very well with me or the kids.  If you read the Daniel and the Lion’s Den story, you will see this same type of thing.

Recap

The FIRST time was very good as we had our own space but also had closeness.  There were a few changes to the place she did that I thought were stepping over the bounds but we always worked them out.  The real problems didn’t start until she had to move away.  The SECOND time was okay but there was a constant overstepping of bounds, at least from my perspective.  No matter how good an idea or change is, if it’s too soon or too overbearing, it’s not going to go over very well.  The main problem was that she kept telling me that she already talked to the husband and he gave his approval and, to her, that’s all that mattered.  All she had to do was talk to him and I was forced.  I think a detail is necessary to fully understand the 1st wife’s point of view. The detail I have chosen (because it was one that didn’t affect the kids and is sort of petty) to share is about the placement of the spatulas and ladles, etc.  You know…some people have them in a canister on the counter near the stove for convenience and others keep them in a drawer.  I could see how convenient it was to have them on the counter and didn’t mind the clutter look.  But, I had tried many ways to do things in the house over the years and found, in this instance, keeping them in the drawer was best because living in the country brought more flies than living in the city.  The utensils would often have fly specks on them so I it was cleaner and less gross if we kept them in the drawer.  I explained this and voiced my disappointment that she took it upon herself to go buy a canister:  First, because I already had one and Second, because there was no discussion or asking about whether I had tried it before and if I had, why I didn’t do it or like it.  Anyway, the resolve was that she promised to wash, with soap, the utensils before using them on any food that we would be eating.  This caused problems because I and the kids saw many instances that this was not happening.  It may seem like a petty thing but it’s not necessarily about the placement.  It’s more about…if the respect is not there to talk about something like that, what other things can happen due to lack of respect?  Having respect and interest in the wife as much as the husband is so important but sometimes, the husband and some wives get it in their heads that if every decision and problem goes through the husband and he has the only say then all will be well.  Unfortunately, this is not the case most of the time because the squeaky wheel gets the grease and sometimes the husband feels he has to cater to one or the other for various reasons.  If decisions are based on logic and right vs. wrong and not by the fear of consequences (typically a wife being upset), then the wives will have more respect for the husband and be more obedient.

Where will the Brineys live? Or: Living arrangements in polygamous families (SSW s1e7, c1)

In the season finale episode of Seeking Sister Wife, the Briney family is getting ready to move out of state, but there was a difference in point of view about whether all the wives should continue to live together or not.  In the final scenes Auralee is an absolute saint.  She extends the olive branch in an amazing way to her sister wife, April.  Angela chimes in as well, and they all end up coming together in a beautiful way for the good of the family in both practical and emotional ways.

family chat

As may be expected, working out where everyone lives is a very common dilemma facing plural families, and it can be handled in a variety of ways.  Some families live in a single dwelling, sharing the same kitchen and living room (like the Alldredges do).  Some families may live in a single dwelling with separate apartments like my house or like the Fosters or Morrisons.  Some families have separate houses for the wives, but they are all in close proximity to one another, on the same property (or in the same cul-de-sac, like the Brown family currently does).  Some families may have separate houses for each wife, and those houses may be in separate cities or states.  I even know one family where the wives are in separate countries halfway around the world from each other (although they are working toward living all together).

Furthermore, many plural families are somewhere in between these various solutions, scalesor in transition between them.  For example, I know a family with three wives.  Two of them lived together in a single dwelling while the third (who was reportedly more difficult to live with) lived in a separate city.  Later on, the third, separate-city wife moved to a separate house next door to the other two, and lived there for a while.  Now they are all living together under one roof!  Ultimately, the solution to this problem will be different for each family, and lies in finding the correct balance between the practical and the emotional.  Both are very real issues, and need to be addressed.

The practical side of the question deals with resources like time and expense.  It is certainly more expensive to live apart: There are multiple rents or mortgages to pay, separate utility bills will add up to greater expense than a combined bill, more property taxes, more home insurance, more time and expense for home maintenance, added expense for owning duplicates of many items, and additional time and expense is involved in travel between homes.  These, and a great many other things, are practical factors that must be considered.  I think a general consideration of practical factors will favor living together.

The emotional side of the question deals with feelings, perceptions, and jealousies.  Some wives may not be able to stand seeing their husband show affection for another wife, may not be able to abide sharing a kitchen or other living areas, or may have or want different rules for their children.  Kody Brown once said, “I have two wives who think sharing a kitchen is abusive”.  This is in contrast to the Darger family whose philosophy is: If you can’t share a kitchen, what business do you have sharing a husband?  Of course, the Dargers are somewhat of a special case as the wives are already close relatives (which I am sure has been a blessing to their family).  I mean, how different could their kitchen management styles be?  They all have the same grandma.  They probably all have the same book of family recipes.

One plural wife I spoke with told me it can be harder to share a kitchen than to share a husband.  So, if you are adding an extra master bedroom to your house to accommodate a new sister wife, you may want to consider adding another kitchen too.  Each family will have to find what works best for them.

Children further complicate emotional considerations.  Children from different wives may have rivalries (especially if they are from previous marriages) or resentments.  In addition, there may be worries about societal perceptions. (What will the neighbors think?  What will my friends think?  What will our extended families think?)  Finally, some people may just be plain old difficult to live with — there are personality conflicts of all kinds.  These, and a great many other things, are emotional factors that must be given consideration.  I think a general consideration of emotional factors will favor living apart.

From my point of view, I think most (perhaps all) polygamist men want to have their families together as much and as close as possible.  If a plural family is not living together, it is very often because of difficulties between wives, or children from different wives (think of Sarah and Hagar, and Isaac and Ishmael, for example).  I was once talking with my grandpa about the scriptures when the subject of Abraham’s wives came up.  He said it was a shame that Abraham had married Hagar (because it led to difficulties that separated his family) and that he shouldn’t have done it in the first place.  I told him the shame was not that they married, but that they didn’t stay together and try to work out their problems.  Well, I’m not trying to pass any judgment on Abram, or his views on marriage and family, but I do think it is generally better to work on problems while problems can be worked on – even if some separation is warranted while the problems are being resolved (it may take years in some cases).  Anything worth having is worth working for.

Why would plural husbands generally want their family together?  There are certainly the financial pieces, which I mentioned above, and this weighs heavily on most husbands’ minds.  In addition, a husband will be able to more effectively portion his time between the members of his family and his other household duties.  Another important factor is the way that close-living facilitates family activities, family teaching, and family worship.  Finally, there is a desire among men, even if subconscious, to have their wives and children close for the sake of protecting them.

From a Biblical perspective, during the time when a couple was engaged to be married, the bridegroom would go away for a time and busy himself preparing a home for his new bride to live in.  If the man had more than one wife, he would have prepared a home for each of them in turn.  The home(s) would be built on the ancestral lands of the bridegroom’s father.  The bride-to-be fully expected to receive her own home to live in (whether this was a separate dwelling, or an extension of the existing family dwelling, would depend on the particular family and circumstance), and providing one for her was part of the future husband’s duties toward her.  When the home was made ready, the bridegroom would return for his bride, receive her to himself, and lead her to her new home which would become her responsibility to tend and care for.

In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John 14:2,3

Sympathetic Biological Envy in Polygamy

Note from the blog owner: Natali Dilts is a new contributor to the blog and this is her first post.

The first memory I have concerning my “bonus-mom” plays back in my mind as follows: being excited to see her and then running towards her but then stopping at the tip of her left ring finger. “Your father asked me to marry him”, I perfectly recall her enthusiastic inflection as she urged me to admire her engagement ring. I looked at it in disbelief, I remember thinking “What about my mom?”. Before I could fully articulate my original reaction, I saw my biological mom embrace my soon-to-be mom, and as any seven year old would, I followed my mother’s example and began to welcome this new woman into my life.

Ten years later, I informed my birth mother of this memory. She then asked me several questions, her questions were questions that I already had. One of the questions being: Most of the people I knew as a child were directly involved in a polygamous relationship; why was my initial reaction negative?

Perhaps the engagement simply caught me off guard because of my expectations of what a romantic relationship looked like.  The courtship process in polygamy is strict and similar to that of a Christian Baptist dating ritual. No physical intimacy before marriage, apparent family involvement, and the purpose of the relationship to be “to the glory of the one and only God”. To the untrained or youthful eye, such a relationship could easily be determined as a close friendship.

I was homeschooled; my two social groups were family and church so the idea of polygamy was not foreign, in fact, it was incredibly common. I was actually more familiar with the polygamous way of life than the typical monogamous way of life. Though I had mentally understood the concept of polygamy fully and I had seen polygamy my entire life, I think I was surprised at my own family’s involvement. However, I do not think that fully explains why I reacted negatively to my bonus-mom’s engagement.

When I was seven, monogamy and polygamy to me was just a difference between two families. Refrigerating bread versus not refrigerating bread was a more prevalent difference between family beliefs than polygamy was. I would talk openly about my two mothers whenever I came into contact with children my age who were not acquainted with polygamy. I continued on that way until I was told not to do so.

“You shouldn’t tell other children that you have two moms; they might get jealous. You get two moms but they only one. You get a bonus-mom.”

Obviously, this was not the real reason I was not to tell “outside children” of my way of life but it’s the reason I believed. I do not think that the general public’s negative view of polygamy influenced my thoughts that day either. However, the majority of the world is mono-normative, meaning, monogamy is the ideal, typical relationship. This is similar to the idea of a physical relationship defining a romantic relationship. People’s certainty of normality speaks so much louder than people’s active disagreeance in regards to your lifestyle.  This concept of normality likely had an effect on me; the effect was not drastic but probably influential.

To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure what prompted me to think this way, there is likely a combination of several things both seen and unseen. I recognize that trying to understand my seven-year-old psyche in order to explain the immediate, sympathetic jealousy that many children of polygamy have felt in defense of their biological mother, will not provide many if any concrete answers. However, opening the discussion may lead to more concrete or evident answers and it may inspire “plyglets” to come forward and tell of their experience in polygamy. I do not claim to speak for all children of polygamy, I also know many “plyglets” who have formed a closer bond to a bonus-mom and felt jealous for her instead of automatically empathizing with their bio-mom. Nor do I claim to be an expert in psychology. These are mere theories of why some children of polygamy may feel jealous in the name of their biological mother.

Transition to siblinghood is similar to the transition into polygamy.

A common explanation describing how one man can love many women is described through how one woman can love many children. Psychoanalytic theorists such as Freud have emphasized the stressful nature of this transition for firstborn children, often citing it as one of the most traumatic experiences of early childhood (Adler, 1957; A. Freud, 1946; Winicott, 1964). Parental attention, once the sole province of the firstborn, must now be shared with a sibling rival. Winicott (1964) considered the distress of first borns during this time to be normative; “it is so usual as to be called normal when a child is upset at a new one” (p. 133). Since several children experience this, they are likely to relate to their mother and be empathetic. I personally experienced this with my mother. I am the oldest and I remember how I felt at the birth of my younger sister, not incredibly positive, I projected the emotions I felt towards my sister onto my mother and how she may have felt about her sister wife. Whether or not my predictions were correct, it caused me to empathise with my bio-mom and her struggle to accept a new wife.

Fetal Bias

Many neonates demonstrate a stronger connection to their biological mothers in contrast to their additional caretaker (father). It has been concluded that the main reason for this phenomenon is the physical dependence of early life. Emotional bonds are created and called “womb bonds” while there is a physical growth of the fetus. Then following the birth of the child, the first moral development stage of life is termed “trust vs mistrust”, where the child learns to trust their mother through physical care or where the child learns mistrust through neglect. The intimacy of this relationship does not extend to the additional caretaker until around the age three. To extend this trust to even more caretakers it could take an additional amount of time and it is not guaranteed to have the same intensity.

Egocentric Sympathy

It is estimated that until around the age of eight children are completely egocentric. Many interpret this as “a lack of sympathy until the age of eight years old” but this is not the case. Children are able to comprehend the difference between positive and negative emotion by the age of twelve months and they typically respond accordingly but they do not see the emotion felt by others as important as their personal emotions because it is not a central part of their world. It would be fair to assume that their biological mother’s emotion is of more importance to them than the emotion of their additional mother.  Simply because, their bio-mom typically plays a more central role in their lives, thus she is more important and her emotional state trumps the emotional state of her sister wife.

Conclusion

In what I have observed in my personal experience and through the basic childhood psychology that I have studied, I conclude that it is likely for a child to feel jealousy out of empathy for their biological mother when the possibility of polygamy is proposed. It is likely for the following reasons: societal influence and expectations help to dictate which ways a child may think of polygamy, there is a closeness to a biological mother that cannot be recreated, and the child is more likely to know of the emotional effects of their biological mother than of their additional mother.

This topic is important to present to the general public and the polygamist public because it highlights an important emotional process that “plyglets” experience. Further psychological speculation or anecdotal information from children of polygamy could be useful in defining polygamy’s place in the modern world.

References and Bibliography

Adler A. The progress of mankind. Journal of Individual Psychology. 1957;13:9–13.

Affonso DD, Mayberry LJ, Sheptak S. Multiparity and stressful events. Journal of Perinatology. 1988;8:312–317. [PubMed]

Alter JK. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Columbia University; New York: The relationship between language maturity and the adjustment to the birth of a sibling.

“Biomental Child Development: Perspectives on Psychology and Parenting” (2013).

“Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy” (2010).

Are the Snowdens Married? [Or the Alldredges, or the Brineys?] (SSW s1e1, c2)

In the first episode of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to the Snowden family, Dimitri and Ashley.  A little after 7 minutes in Dimitri tells us that after dating for 2 years they, “Committed [themselves] to each other.” Additionally, on TLC’s, Meet The Families of Seeking Sister Wife, page we learn they have purposefully abstained from a legal marriage under the eyes of the law in order to ensure equality with their future wife.  They consider one another spouses, they have 3 children together, they share finances and many other things, and they also let us know that they have no marriage licence from the state of Georgia (or any other state).

We Committed

In light of the several comments and questions my posts have generated (see here and here) about the nature of marriage – especially in the Snowden family, but also in the Alldredge and Briney families as well (and all other plural families too), I have decided to write a post on my views about what constitutes a marriage.

A few years ago (November 2015) some friends of mine decided to rededicate their marriage.  They threw a big party and asked if I would “officiate” at their ceremony.  It was a relatively informal event; I said a few words, and they renewed their vows with each other.  It was a beautiful thing, but the reason they were doing it was a bit disappointing.  You see, they had just left the LDS Church (the reason why is unimportant to this post), and the validity of their Church marriage (specifically their sealing – more about this later) was being called into question by some of their acquaintances.  This is sadly not an uncommon occurrence.  When the Church kicked us out we had the same experience.  Concerns were expressed to us that we had broken our covenants and now we were adulterers, had lost all our blessings, no longer had the Holy Ghost with us, etc.

This post, and my future post about the Mormon concept of Sealing, are adaptations of the words I prepared for that marriage rededication ceremony.  Here it goes:

In 1774, Thomas Jefferson said these words, “A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” This was two years before the Declaration of Independence.  At the time these were radical words – treasonous words even.

The common model of government at the time was that no rights existed for the common people – except those granted to them by the King.  The King owned all the land, the people were subject to his mandates, and any privileges the people had were granted to them by their Sovereign Lord.  He in turn received all his power from God by virtue of the Divine Right of Kings.  Alas, there are many unfortunate parallels between government and religious authorities.

As powerful as they think they may be, governments are run by men – mortals all.  Governments do not possess any powers unless those powers have been delegated to it by the people who are governed.

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence correctly proclaims this fact.  It reads in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Eleven years later these ideas were crystallized in the Constitution of the United States of America.  It was the fulfillment of the promise made in the Declaration of Independence.  And yet, despite the Constitution being the founding document of our nation’s government, our Constitution is widely misunderstood; and here is the misunderstanding:

constitutional-convention

The Constitution does not grant you the right to free speech.  It does not give you the right to print what you please, or to choose your own religion.  The Constitution does not grant you the right to carry arms for your defense, to assemble or associate with whom you please, or any of the other things we have imagined it to grant to us.

If you will take the Bill of Rights, and actually read it, you will discover that in every case, the rights mentioned are not granted.  It does not say anything to the effect that, “the citizens of the United States are hereby granted the right to worship as they choose…”  No, No!  On the contrary, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”  It does not say anything like, “you may carry arms for your defense.”  Rather it says, “the right shall not be infringed”, and on and on.

Indeed, the government cannot grant us anything we do not already have – we, in fact, are the ones that have granted powers to the government – the government does not have anything the people have not given to it.  Rather than being granted, all the rights mentioned are protected.  They are not extensions of our privileges, they are limits and restraints upon the government!

Well, what does all this talk about government and rights have to do with marriage?

The truth is: if the government has any authority at all, to marry anyone, then they have received that power from the people, and their receiving of that power from the people in no way diminishes the rights of the people (unless we let it).  The powers are delegated, yet still retained by the people – because they are inalienable.  They cannot be separated from us.  They are inherent both to our being and to our existence.

The sanctity of marriage is reduced by getting the government to protect it.  Orthodox Christian theologian Davd J. Dunn writes,

“Today’s Christian conservatives seem to be worshiping America, or at least a certain idea of it, when they ask the government to protect the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. In doing this, they have vested the state with the power to sanctify…Christians who demand the state take up the task of defending marital sanctity are effectively making the state their god. They seem to think that their local capitol can perform miracles when [in reality] only the Holy Spirit has the power to sanctify.”

Well, there are some, no doubt, who do not feel the same way about things.  They are upset with anyone who does something out of the ordinary.  And in particular with anyone who exercises their rights while ignoring the religious or civil authorities.  There are many who feel that marriages are illegitimate without the approval of the government, or the Church, or both.

But it has not always been that way.

Marriage in the scriptures, and for most of human history, has simply consisted of a man and woman (usually with the consent of the woman’s father), living together and attempting procreation.  No priest, no license, and no registration.  These are all recent innovations within the last 500 years.  The Catholic Church did not require marriages to be officiated by a priest until 1563.  The Anglican Church did not get around to making this requirement until 1753.  For most of human history, marriage has simply been an agreement (contract), recognized or arranged by the immediate families, for a man and woman to live together.

He calls her wife, she calls him husband.  They share a home, they share a bed.  They have and raise children together, and they have cast their lots together for good or ill.  They are married.  Are the Snowdens married?  Absolutely yes!

Does that mean that any two people can just live together and call it marriage?  The answer is no; that’s just called shacking up.  The other elements are required also, namely the commitment to live as husband and wife – with all the duties and privileges that are connected thereto.  Shacking up, without commitment – without the man taking the woman as wife, is sin.

You could classify marriages into three sorts: social marriage, religious marriage, and civil (or government) marriage.  Social marriage is rooted in the ideas of Common Law and Natural Rights, which I have discussed somewhat above.  It has probably been the most common type of marriage thruout the history of mankind, and perhaps the oldest as well (tho this is debatable I am sure).  Either way, it is certain that of the three, civil marriage is by far the late comer to the party.

What about all this business with government issued marriage licenses then?  When did that become a thing, and why?  First, let us take a look at the legal definition of the word “License”.  From Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition, published in 1910) we have:

“A permission, accorded by a competent authority, conferring the right to do some act which without such authorization would be illegal.”

In other words, a license is permission to do something which would otherwise be illegal.  The problem is that the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that marriage is a fundamental right for all.  And even without the Court’s decisions, marriage (both monogamous and polygamous) has existed for thousands of years as a fundamental aspect of human life and society which stems from our rights to associate and to contract.  Marriage predates all our modern laws, governments, and licensing requirements. How then can getting married be illegal?  Of course the answer to this question has everything to do with polygamy.  Licensing of marriage by governments had its origins in efforts to stamp out plural marriage among the early Mormon people (and also to prevent interracial marriage – which is beyond the scope of this post).

In closing, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself (or your friends and family – if you like those stimulating sort of conversations).

If my right to marry is fundamental, why do I need permission from the government before I can get married?

If I get a marriage license, what does that marriage license give me permission to do that I could not do before I got the marriage license?

Who is giving me that permission?

Where did they get the power to give me that permission?

And perhaps the most important question,

If I get married without a marriage license, is my marriage still lawful?

When there is no structure available to you, then make your own.  There is no approval needed from any man, or government, or religious institution.  And despite the disapproval that may be shown by some, it is our God-given, and natural right to do so.

 

Note: SSW s1e1, c2 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 5, Commentary 2.