The Briney Family and Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife

I suppose all the viewers have realized by now that the Briney family is not returning for the second season of Seeking Sister Wife, and I just wanted to say a few words about that.  Of course, as a polygamist myself, I will have a somewhat different view on things than most others.

Different people will want different things from a show about polygamy.  Some will want simple entertainment; the novelty of seeing a glimpse into the lives of real-life polygamous families is in itself a compelling reason to watch.  Others might find it educational.  They might be interested in how a polygamous family works, how do they manage their time, raise their children, what are their living arrangements like, sleeping schedules, etc.  Others will look forward to seeing drama and bickering.  The misery of others can be cruel sport.  There will even be some who watch with hopes of seeing plural families fail in a public way.  This will add further justification to their negative views and stereotypes relating to polygamy, and fuel their support of (and efforts to reinforce) political, social, and legal barriers to those families.  As for myself and the rest of the polygamy community, I think we all hope that shows like this will be good publicity, good PR, and will generally show the positive, functional, and healthy side of this kind of family.  We hope that they will help to change the largely negative public perception of plural families.  Yes, every family, indeed every individual, has problems and struggles, but last season of Seeking Sister Wife was, frankly speaking, a disappointing train wreck.

This is not all the fault of the Brineys, of course, but I know they have a similar feeling about their own showing last season.  Here are some quotes about it from their family blog, The Briney Family.

I see bitter bickering and failure to abide by basic Christian principles that leaves me feeling inexpressibly sad and extremely regretful that we, as a family, set such a bad example of our lifestyle on national tv. Worst. Disappointment. Of. My. Life.  – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

I’m truly heartbroken we’ve set such a bad example of our lifestyle that we fed that culture to whatever degree we did. – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

As a family (including April), we were all devastated at how poorly our family represented our Mormon fundamentalist friends and peers. We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people.  – Drew (April’s Apology regarding Season 1)

April herself has told my wives and me in person that she has regret about the way things turned out on the show.  Before anyone thinks I am picking on the Briney family, I want to say also that the family represented on TV was not a representation of their usual family life!  The Brineys are also in agreement with this point.

We know that the mentally stable April would not have done the things that she’s done. – Angela (Why the Brineys are Not Returning for Season 2 of TLCs Seeking Sister Wife)

These types of viewers notice that we’re “real” because we allowed ourselves to show our bad side on camera so people can see what the lifestyle is “really like.” I swallow hard when I hear that one. Our first season doesn’t show what our lifestyle is “really like.” It shows us experiencing our worst train wreck as a family! – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people. Instead, unforeseen challenges led us to be a poor example of our lifestyle, our culture, and our peers. – Drew (April’s Apology Regarding Season 1)

I personally believe that their sudden television exposure, with its accompanying change of living arrangements (all moving in together in the same house), was a HUGE stressor to their family that they would not have been exposed to otherwise.  It is not uncommon for families to end up broken after large, traumatic life changes (one spouse gets a serious disease – even if they are later cured, a child dies, a child is born, career changes, becoming empty nesters, etc).  It happens, and it is tragic.

What happened with the Briney family was a tragedy as well.  I love them all and still and count them as friends.  April has been to my house several times since then and Drew and the rest of his family are welcome to visit as well.

Having said all that, I want to thank TLC!  I know that many people have expressed dismay that the Brineys did not come back, but not me.  Personally, I am glad of it, and I think TLC made the right decision.  I know that even the Brineys (Drew, Auralee, and Angela) wanted the story of their family breaking up to air, but things are probably better this way.  I think it would have been bad for everyone (all the members of the Briney family and the larger plural community as well), to have to live their personal family drama thrice. Once as it happened; once again when it was edited, distilled to its most potent form, and aired on national TV; and again when dissected and criticized ad nauseam by all the insensitive onlookers on social media. How can that be good for anyone?  What person or relationship could thrive under those circumstances? It would wither anyone.

I hope, now that the pressure and stress of being in the public eye is largely gone, that the Briney family can rest, recuperate, reflect, and put all the pain and drama behind them.  Who knows, maybe they’ll even be back for a future season after taking a break for a while.

Forgetting is actually an important part of our mental function and mental health.  Forgetting helps us to live our lives in relative peace and be able to focus on the present.  Having old offenses repeatedly dug up and examined (which is what would have happened had the juicy story aired) will not help us to live abundantly in the now.  Forgetting offenses is an important part of forgiveness.  The scriptures testify repeatedly that God will not only forgive our sins, but also forget them.  They will be blotted out.  He will mention them to us no more!

God bless the Briney family.

See here for some ideas if you are interested in helping the Briney Family.

Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster
which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

(Othello, Act 3, Scene 3)

In the first episode of the second season of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to some new people.  The lovely McGee family (Bernie and Paige).  They seem like a very tightly-knit and loving family, and the interaction between their two boys brings an involuntary smile to my face.  They are very likable people, and I’m looking forward to watching how things work out for them.screenshot 2019-01-25 23.28.43

However, we do get several glimpses into their past attempts to add a wife to their family, and it seems that Paige’s jealousy is going to be a serious and recurring issue.  And naturally so!  There is nothing wrong with jealousy!  After all, Jealousy is God’s middle name.  Okay, okay, I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but it is one of his names at least:

For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

-Exodus 34:14

See!  There you go, jealousy must not be such a bad thing after all!

To be clear, I believe, that none of our fundamental natural desires or impulses are, of themselves, bad things.  The sin always comes from the perversion of our desires.  The desires themselves are God-given and innate.  Wrongs comes from the excesses and the misapplications.  We want things at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, or in the wrong amounts, and don’t always consider how our efforts to achieve our desires appear to God or to our fellow beings.red lizard

For those who know the reference, our desires are like a red lizard sitting on our shoulder and whispering in our ears; arguing for us to give selfish and vile expression to our natural inclinations (for those who don’t know the reference, it is The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis).  drawing-a-circle-with-the-compassesThey are a serious hindrance if unbridled and allowed to run free.  Appetites and passions are to be kept within the bounds the Lord has set.  Food is good;  we are even commanded to work for it (Gen 3:19, 2Thess 3:10), but too much of it and we are gluttons.  Wine is something to look forward to (Isa 25:6), but drunkenness is a thing to be avoided.  Human sexuality is a blessed and pleasurable thing, but is also the greatest snare and temptation of many people’s lives.  Money has definite value, and using it facilitates our exchanges for goods and services, but making it the object of our affection is the root of many evils.  You get the idea.horse

On the other hand, if bridled, trained, controlled, and allowed to give their proper vent, our natural inclinations can become our blessing, our strength, and our happiness.  This transformation may not be an easy one, but will be well worth the trade for anyone concerned enough to make it!

Back to jealousy.  It can be good.  It has a purpose.  The key is to find out what it is for and when it should be felt.  If we can figure out our own selves, and our own emotions (even if it is an incremental process), we will simplify our lives and the lives of everyone around us.

First we must understand what jealousy is.  Of course we all know what jealousy feels like, but I think it will be useful to discriminate between it and a very similar emotion, envy.  In many cases these two words may be very close in their usage.  They can both indicate a longing to posses something.  However, the word jealous carries the particular sense of “vigilant (or zealous) in guarding a possession”.  Jealousy also carries the connotation of a suspicious fear of losing something.  In other words, properly applied, jealousy ought to be used to describe feelings of protectiveness for things that are our own; for things that already belong to us (our own advantages, attachments, relationships, and possessions).  Thus, God is jealous for his people, for we are his!

We cross a line into envy when we begin to have similar emotions, but for things that are not ours.  Another word for envy is covetousness.  It is feeling possessive of things that we do not posses; it is feeling entitled to things to which we do not have a right.  This of course, needs to be suppressed, and not allowed to take root.

Here then is the purpose of jealousy: it is one natural mechanism to preserve the romantic bond between spouses. It functions to encourage fidelity between parents (or potential parents).  The jealous anger of one partner being both a deterrent to the infidelity of the other, and also a self-motivator for the person experiencing it to fight for the restoration of the bond.  This (a strong bond between spouses) of course leads to a multitude of benefits for their children (or potential children), and their subsequent reproductive success.

Predictably, men and women feel jealousy in different ways, and for different (but significant!) reasons.  To quote clinical psychologist, Dr. Vinita Mehta:

“Romantic jealously is widely understood to be different for men and women because each gender has a different level of investment in reproduction. For a man to provide for genetically distant children decreases his reproductive success—and because men are uncertain whether they really are the father of said children, they are most susceptible to [experiencing jealousy over] sexual infidelity. By contrast, women can rest assured that they are the mother of their own children; however, they are more dependent on men for resources, making them more sensitive to [experiencing jealousy over] emotional infidelity, since it could threaten the supply of resources for herself and her child.”

Generally speaking, women are concerned (on a basic, visceral level) that their partner’s affection for another woman will lead to a weaker emotional connection, and therefore less desire to care for them, or even that the emotional connection will be altogether severed, causing the man to abandon them for the other woman.

This all goes back to the scriptural, God-given roles and responsibilities for men and women in marriage.  This is the Biblical marriage covenant in a nutshell.  To quantify this difference, a large study, published in 2014 (this is not the only study confirming these results), reported that men were significantly more likely than women to be upset by sexual infidelity (54% vs. 35%), and significantly less likely than women to be upset by emotional infidelity (46% vs. 65%).

There are many things that could be said about the result of this study, but I want to mention two.  First, this does not mean that women don’t feel jealousy over sexual infidelity, or that men don’t feel jealousy over emotional infidelity; rather, it means that their primary causes of jealousy are generally different, and this has significant effects on the way that men and women think and act.  The other thing to mention about this finding is that it has nothing to do with age groups, income levels, history of being cheated on, history of being unfaithful, relationship type, relationship length, cultural differences, etc.  Like it or not, this difference is an innate, biological difference.

So, how does knowing any of this help the Paige McGees of the world?  I think there are at least two useful lessons that can be gleaned from the above.

1) Jealousy is natural, and can even be good, but care must be taken that it does not spill over into envy or covetousness.  In order to keep jealousy within a righteous bound, we need to be certain of what is ours to be jealous over.  In marriage, wives have a right to financial support for themselves and their children.  They have full claim on their husband for that purpose.  However, they do not have exclusive rights to him sexually.  This is important to know because it can keep you from worrying over things that are not yours to worry about.  To put it another way, you shouldn’t feel jealous over things that aren’t yours.

2) Understand that the source of your jealousy may largely (even unconsciously) come from a fear of being abandoned (emotional infidelity).  This is certainly a rational fear, as we all know; this scenario has played out many times before.  Many monogamous relationships have been broken by an unfaithful man tragically abandoning his wife and children for another woman.  However, if you can realize that, in the case of polygamy, your husband is not at all interested in trading you for another woman, but rather wants to keep you both (or however many wives there may be), then that ought to restore your confidence that you are not being abandoned!  At least it ought to increase the confidence in your mind – there may still be a battle with emotions, but what’s new paige and bernieabout that?  If he is a godly man, then he still wants you to be his wife just as much as ever, his emotions towards you are just as strong as ever, and he still wants to keep his commitment to you and your children just as much as ever.

So, to Paige, and to all the other plural (and potentially plural) wives out there I say: Have confidence in your husband and in your relationship, keep working on maintaining and improving your own relationship with your husband, and don’t worry too much about things that are not your business to worry about.

People and Things

I had an experience a few weeks ago that I want to share. It is not directly related to plural marriage per se; rather, it is about family relationships. Which, I suppose, may be more directly related to plural marriage than any scriptural, doctrinal, historical, or cultural commentary that could ever be written on the subject. This experience is a bit embarrassing to me, but I hope that it will be instructive to others. I hope also that it will be instructive to my future self. Hopefully, now that I have written it down, I can refer to it in times to come in order to remind myself of the wisdom I so easily forget.

Last month was Christmas. My family celebrates Christmas. In fact, we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, but we don’t do the Christmas tree, the evergreen boughs, the Yule log, the mistletoe, or Santa Claus. With our gift giving we want our children to remember the gifts of the Wise Men to the Christ child, and the loving Gift of God’s Son to the world.

john 3_16

And yet, even without Santa Claus and the shameful commercialization of the season, things can still become the focus of our attention, and mere objects can take on significance far greater than they merit.

One of the gifts that my wife Charlotte received was a Newton’s Cradle for her desk. You have seen them before. It is a clever little toy that uses swinging steel balls, suspended from strings, to demonstrate Newton’s laws of forces and motion and the conservation of momentum. There is a picture of one at the beginning of this post.

Charlotte liked her gift, but she wasn’t the only one. My son also took a keen interest in the toy. Those first few days he played with it more than the rest of us combined. He was fascinated with it, and experimented with all the different combinations of ball collisions he could think of. He would pull 1, 2, 3, or 4 balls from the left, or from the right and let them collide with the remaining balls. He would even pull back different numbers of balls from both sides at once and let them strike the remaining balls – sometimes simultaneously and sometimes intentionally delayed by a moment. It was fun just to watch him play and discover.

Then one afternoon I walked in on my son who was standing over a miserably tangled Newton’s Cradle. It was a useless, hopeless, knotted mass of strings and balls (apparently this is a common occurrence as I had no difficulty finding this picture with a Google image search).  I was shocked and disappointed at the sight complicated_ballsand allowed my displeasure to be known. With some exasperation and annoyance in my voice (and yet still attempting to remain calm) I asked him firmly, “What, are you doing?!”. I could tell that he was afraid of being punished, yet he replied that he had turned it upside down, and that everything had become suddenly tangled when he did that. This only increased my anger and annoyance with him. “Why would you do that?” I asked, along with many other, similarly accusatory and belittling, questions. “What were you thinking?”, “What did you think would happen?”, “Why would you treat someone else’s property in such an abusive manner?”. I restrained myself from spanking him, but the verbal lashing I gave to him was more than harsh enough.

I pushed him aside and sat myself down to see if I could do anything to remedy the situation. As I inspected the toy I discovered, to my surprise, that it was not nearly as difficult to untangle as it had appeared, and I had it completely resolved in less than 5 minutes. You might think that this result would have brought me happiness, relief, and satisfaction, but it only furthered my disappointment; not at my son, but at myself.

As I was untangling the dumb trinket, I realized how simple and trivial the mere thing was in comparison to my son, and how little I really valued it in comparison to him. The thing was $6 plus shipping, but my son was priceless! And yet, in my moment of weakness, I had allowed the thing to become more important to me than my son! How foolish and silly I am at times.

After finishing I looked around and saw that my son had been anxiously watching me the whole time. I thought that he had left the room. With my heart now considerably softened, I showed him the toy. He expressed his relief at the result. I asked him, this time more gently, about how it had happened. He explained to me that he was moving it with both hands, but that one of them had slipped. He had kept a hold with the other hand, but the toy had swung upside down as a result.

He had not behaved in an abusive manner towards the toy, but I had behaved in an abusive manner towards him. It was all just an accident! It was something I might have done myself! I have done similar things before – we all have! My heart was further broken by hearing this. I had jumped to accusations and anger without even bothering to discover the truth first! Isn’t my son worth asking a few questions? Isn’t the truth worth asking a few questions? Yes, the thing is important (how important? – $6 worth, plus shipping), but it is not more important than my boy.

Advice For Potential Plural Husbands (From a Current Plural Husband)

This post will be written primarily to those men who are contemplating becoming plurally married.  However, those men (and women too) who are already part of a polygamous family may still find this post interesting and entertaining.

I hope that the comment section of this post will fill up with additional bits of wisdom from other plural husbands or wives – people who have lived within this type of family structure and have some insight to share.  I know that some have had wonderful experiences with polygamy, and others have experienced heartbreak.  I invite the wisdom from both in the comments below.

Also, I plan on doing several more advice posts, so save your advice for wives until then.  I decided to start this series of advice posts because someone has reached out to my wife Charlotte asking for this type of advice.  I apologize for the tardiness, the advice was asked for quite a while ago, but I just haven’t been able to get to it.  Here then is the first thing to plan for:

1) Be prepared to have much less free time.

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In fact, I should probably be doing something else right now other than working on this blog post.  You will have nearly constant demands for your time from both wives and children, and rightly so.  The demands, each in turn, will be physical, logistical, emotional, or spiritual, but each will require a slice of time.  Each person will have to have their father or husband cup filled on a regular basis in order for the relationships to remain healthy and strong.  Of course, no wife needs constant attention from a husband, nor does any child need constant attention from its father (or mother(s)), but when you have several, their needs tend to spread and overlap in such a way that will cause you to always be attending to someone.  It could overwhelm you if you let it.

2) You don’t know anything.

Women are more emotional than men.  This is true no matter the marital status of the woman whether single, monogamously married, or plurally married.  This also makes women mysterious (as the poets and storytellers have noted since antiquity).  Adding more women to your life will add more mystery, bewilderment, and confusion to your life.  And the addition is not as straightforward as 1+1=2.  No no, going from 1 woman to 2 will more than double the emotional complexity of your life.  Be prepared to face utter cluelessness on a regular basis, where you are completely stupefied, and have no idea what to do to fix the problem at hand.

While the emotional burden will be draining (at times to the point of exhaustion), this is not to say that it isn’t worth the effort – far from it.  Nothing worth anything comes without effort.  And of course, it’s not all difficulties.  There will be wonderful times as well.  You will have the highest highs and the lowest lows of your life. It will bring you face to face with your greatest fear: failure.

3) Make friends with other plural families. 

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
– Proverbs 27:17

The detractors and critics will take care of themselves – you will probably have more of them than you would care to have.  That being said, find a plurally married man who is respectable; someone you can look to for advice and support.  Knowing another, well-functioning plural family will be a great support to your wife or wives and your children as well.  Building or joining a network or community of supporting, like-minded people is one of the best things you can do for your own family, and you and your family will be a support for them as well.  Win-win!  I am so grateful for all of my supportive friends and neighbors.

And, while we are talking about supporters:

4) You should be your own family’s best supporter.

If you have a family already, then build them up and encourage them.  If you are single, then seek to be optimistic, positive, helpful, and useful rather than negative and criticizing.  Yes, there is a place for discipline, and sternness, and all that comes along with that, but you want to be like a benevolent king to your family, not like a tyrant.  Your wife and children should desire your company.  You should accentuate and notice the positive in them, and make your support and approval known to them.  You should realize that a husband or father criticizing his family is really a criticism of himself.  If there is something wrong with a wife or child, then a good husband or father will accept the fact that he has played a major part in creating his family.  Take the moment to teach instead. And if you must correct and discipline, then you must always show afterwards an increase of love towards the person you have chastened – lest they consider you their enemy.

If you are ever called upon to chasten a person, never chasten beyond the balm you have within you to bind up. – Brigham Young, JoD 9:124-125

Not only should you be supportive of your own family, and encourage a general feeling and practice of mutual support among all the members of the family, but you should also discourage detractors from within as well.

5) Family members should not spread their views about the faults of current family members to the potential new spouse; thus tainting her views from the get go.

Orson Pratt had some excellent things to say about this idea in his essay entitled, The Equality and Oneness of the Saints.  In his essay, Elder Pratt is speaking about people joining the saints, but the principle applies just as well to people joining any family.

“Through faith, repentance, baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, the imperfect sons and daughters of Adam become the sons and daughters of God; and being born of God, and all baptized with the same spirit into the same body, they begin to feel alike, think alike, and act alike, in many things: this is a first approximation towards a oneness: but being weak, and only having obeyed the first principles of the celestial law, they are tempted by the devil; divisions of feeling arise; each one sees the faults and imperfections of his brothers or sisters; and instead of trying to reclaim them in the spirit of meekness from their faults, he whispers them to others; prejudice rises; their love towards them begins to grow cold; this coldness is felt by others, and begets the same feeling in them. And thus the seeds of division are sown, and begin to sprout, and grow, and, if not checked, they speedily bring forth nauseous and bitter fruit, which, when ripened, contains the poison of death.

To counteract these divisions strict laws are given, and authorities ordained to strengthen and succour the weak; to root out all evil-speaking; and to check every sinful thing on its first appearance. Those who give diligent heed, will become habituated to keep the law of God, and will understand their duties, and perform them with cheerfulness and delight. Such will become more and more assimilated in their feelings; their love towards each other, and towards God, and His word, will grow stronger and stronger; and thus by habit they learn obedience to the law of oneness, until they are ready and willing to do anything which that law requires. While those, on the other hand, who do not give heed, find themselves more and more tempted, and their love growing colder and colder, and the faults and imperfections of their brethren and sisters still more magnified in their eyes; and at last, they become destitute of the spirit—destitute of good desires—destitute of the meekness and humility of the Gospel; and the devil takes possession of them, and leads them captive at his own will and pleasure. These do not abide a celestial law, therefore they cannot be made one.”

Orson Pratt, The Seer, Vol. II, No. 7, pg. 290

A husband should not speak ill of his current wife to a potential wife.  He should not taint or influence her first impressions in a negative way.  It will be detrimental to the family to gossip in such a way.  The right way for a potential wife to form her own opinions of her future family members is to meet and spend time with them.  The only reasonable exception I might imagine to this policy is in the case of serious physical or mental illness.  Even then, it still might be better for the potential wife to find out these things by her own interaction.  Either way, it will not be good to start a relationship with spouses on different “teams“.

6) Work on being the best man you can be first. Work on being the best husband you can be first. Work on having a good marriage first. 

I call this the Jordan Peterson principle – clean your room.  If you are single, getting married will not fix your problems.  Fix yourself up before getting married.  Make yourself a person that a woman would want to be married to.

If you are already married, getting married again will not fix your problems.  Adding a second marriage will not fix your first marriage (nor will a third marriage fix a second, etc.).  Have a good, loving, stable relationship first before adding another wife.  If your current marriage is already unstable then you have got more than enough problems to deal with already, without adding further complexity to your lives.  You may hear anecdotal occasions where this sort of thing may have helped, but don’t bet on it.

No man ever did, or ever will rule judiciously on this earth, with honor to himself and glory to his God unless he first learn to rule and control himself. A man must first learn to rightly rule himself, before his knowledge can be fully brought to bear for the correct government of a family, a neighborhood, or nation, over which it is his lot to preside. – Brigham Young, JoD 3:256

This idea is very similar to the common tragedy of a woman wanting to have a baby with her husband (or boyfriend) in order to get him to stay with her, or to love her, or to fix their relationship.  It doesn’t work! And it is a terrible plan! Fix yourself and your relationships first.

Growing your family is important, but we should not run faster than we are able.  Adding people brings chaos.  Get your house in order before adding additional members (whether wives or children) and complexity to your family.

7) Take as much care in the additional wives as you did in the first.  Don’t rush headlong into a second marriage (or third).goat and fox

Additional marriages can, and often do, happen faster than the first.  This is very understandable as the situation is quite different.  People generally know how things work, are more mature, know what they are looking for, are in a better financial situation, aren’t waiting for their parents’ input/approval/funding etc., and yet there is much folly.  It often happens that people rush into plural marriage without giving proper consideration to the personality, habits, beliefs, etc. of the new person they are wanting to add to the family.  Go slow, and don’t be afraid to back out.  There is so much at stake.  People have often make a perfect wreck of their lives by jumping into something without looking.  Of course, the very same things can and should be said about monogamy.

Here is a good example; if a potential wife already has children of her own (however that may have occurred), you should realize that you will be presented with more than an extra measure of drama.  As Joe Darger once remarked, “It’s harder to add a stepkid than to add a wife.”  It may take years to develop a good relationship with stepchildren, and it may never happen if there is resentment.  Things to consider.

The wise saying holds true for any type of marriage: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.

8) It’s not all about the sex.

It is certainly true that sex is an important part of any good marriage (whether polygamous or monogamous), and I will have an entire post about this subject in the future.  However, this is not a sound basis upon which to build any relationship.  Sex is one dimension of a multidimensional thing called marriage.  Sex alone is not enough to make anyone happy in marriage.  Most of marriage is not sex.

However, I do believe this is a common mistake for men to make in both monogamous and polygamous situations.  I have known monogamous men who told me they were looking forward to marriage just so they could have sex.  No wonder the divorce rate is so high.  It is particularly enticing bait that women hold out for us, and rightly so as it is intended to lead to marriage, but marriage is a long-term relationship.  You want to find someone you can grow old with; someone you will be happy to share your life with; someone who will be happy to share their life with you, and this is based on much more than sex appeal.

9) Be upfront and above board in your communications about the possibility of having another woman join your family in the future.

If you are single, be upfront with your potential spouse about the possibility of having another woman join your family in the future.  Clear, upfront expectations can make anything go more smoothly.  No one likes to have the rules changed mid-game or the terms changed mid-contract.  If you are already married it is the same story, but may be complicated if polygamy has not been a part of the plan from the beginning.  As I just said, it’s not fair to change the rules mid-game.  Having a wife united with you is heaven, having division between you is hell.  If polygamy was not potentially a part of the game plan from the beginning, then you need to be sensitive, honorable, and respect that fact.  Whatever happens, be patient (who knows, she might be the one to bring it up with you).  Do not go around in secret courting and collecting wives.  I know it has been done before, but I would never recommend it as a general course of action (I wouldn’t even recommend it on an individual basis – there is so much at stake).  Don’t make it part of your plan.  It will only lead to heartache and loss.

10) Know why you are doing it, and then stick to it. Tower

Be committed thru thick and thin.  It’s going to be rough sometimes (maybe oftentimes); you’ll need to be committed to get thru.  Count the cost! Like Jesus said,

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” – Luke 14:28-30

Consider the difficulties first.  Polygamy will place financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, and social pressures on you and your family.  Be sure that you are aware of the possible extent of these difficulties ahead of time, have a plan to deal with them, and be sure that your mental and emotional resolve is sufficient to meet the challenges in advance.  Then, once you have started don’t look backRemember Lot’s wife.  Be all in, or not at all.  Hot and cold both make pleasant drinks, but lukewarm gets spit out.

11) Get yourself into good financial shape.

moneyThe truth is, you may not be able to afford additional wives.  Being welcomed into an impoverished family situation is not what women are looking for.  Financial security is a particularly enticing piece of bait that men hold out for women, and rightly so as it is intended to lead to marriage. Financial difficulties are a major cause of marital problems, and even divorce, in monogamous couples.  It is no different for polygamists.  Polygamy itself can be more stressful than monogamy at times (and sometimes less stressful too); therefore, you will not want to add financial stress on top of other stresses that are already intrinsic to polygamy.

Closely related to financial preparations are the physical, logistical preparations such as lodging and transportation.  Adding another master bedroom is good, but may not be enough.  You might need another kitchen too, and maybe other space.  This will depend on your wives.  Maybe they can live together harmoniously in the same house, maybe they would even prefer it, and more happiness to you if they can, but it is not an unreasonable request if they want their own space – they are entitled to that much.  Putting a wife in a regular room (while the other wife is in a master bedroom) is not good enough for a long-term arrangement.  Don’t make this your plan.  It may be fine initially, but will probably fail in the long run.  If you can’t afford to do this, then you probably can’t afford to have another wife.

12) Women are afraid of being abandoned.

Your first wife must feel secure in her relationship with you, she must feel secure in your love for her, and feel secure in her financial support from you.  You should be sensitive toward these natural and understandable fears.  One area where you may want to be especially sensitive is in public displays of affection to a new or potential wife in front of established wives.  You may want to limit this at first (and you will want to limit it both ways).  Showing affection in public and in private is an important part of a marriage relationship, and it is something that a first wife is going to have to come to terms with, no doubt.  That doesn’t mean it will be easy.  However, it will become easier and more natural as time goes on.

                                                                       

There you have it.  Take this advice for what it’s worth.  Not all of these may apply to every situation, and some things you may disagree with.  I openly invite your additional wisdom or counter advice in the comments below.  Feel free to ask me to clarify my thoughts on anything that didn’t seem perfectly clear above. One more thing, after saying all of this you may get the impression that plural marriage has so many difficulties that it should be avoided all together.  This may be true for some people, maybe even most people, but it is not true for all people.  Even with all the difficulties, I am a fully converted polygamist.  I find the rewards well worth the efforts, and I wouldn’t trade it back if I could.  Thank you Charlotte and Melissa for making my life so full and blessed!

Sealing Part III (The Parable of the Two Sons)

And when Jesus was come into the temple, the high priests and the elders of the church came unto him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority do you do these things?”, and, “who gave you this authority?”

Jesus answered them, “Tell me what you think? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, ‘Son, go find yourself a wife, and make an eternal family.’

The first son said, ‘I’m not interested.’  Nevertheless, he eventually did find a wife, but they were not married in the temple.  And yet he loved and cherished her like a treasure, and worked hard to lead their growing family, and to provide for all her needs.  She likewise loved and honored him as her husband, and was a devoted and supporting wife.

Then the man came to the second son, and told him likewise to, ‘find yourself a wife, and make an eternal family.’

And he answered and said, ‘I will sir.’  He found a woman, and married her in the temple – a fact that he was always very proud of.  By and by he began to neglect and abuse her, and she him.  They insulted rather than complimented one another, they were always on the lookout to find fault and to take offense, they never apologized or reconciled, and they were secretly glad when something bad happened to the other.  They were miserable, but still took pride in the fact that they were married by the proper authority.”

When Jesus was finished he asked, “Which of the two did the will of his father?”

It was actually harder for them to answer than you might realize, but eventually one elder, who was a little wiser than the rest, replied, “The first.”

Then Jesus said unto them, “Truly I say unto you, that the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.”

What is Sealing? (Part II)

What is Sealing? (Part II)

Marriage vs Sealing

It will be good now to make a distinction between marriage and sealing.  They are different, but not in the sense that they are two similar but different sorts of contracts (or covenants, or relationships) between people.  Nor are they different as if they were alternatives to one another.    If you have been in the LDS Church a while, you likely have heard people say things like, “People outside the Church have marriages, but we have sealings.”  Or perhaps, “In the temple you don’t get married, you get sealed.” Or something else along those lines.  They speak of sealing as if it were a different and advanced form of marriage, or a higher type of relationship.

Sealing is not different than marriage in this sense; rather, it is in addition to it.  A “sealing” is not a type of relationship.  I will go a little farther and say, there is no “sealing” of one person to another where there is no relationship between the parties.  Our language is very sloppy.  One person does not get sealed to another.  As I will show in this post, it is the relationship that is sealed.   Sealing is not a stronger kind of marriage; the marriage is the thing that is sealed.

But we must back up a little first.  You see, marriage was always intended to be eternal.

In the New Testament we have recorded an instance where some Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him about divorce.  We have Jesus’ answer to them recorded:

Matthew 19:4-6  “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

So it’s not just the Mormons!  Even the Catholics and Protestants, who perform marriages “until death”, believe that marriage, at least originally, was intended to be eternal.

Our first parents came to this earth as immortal souls, with bodies of flesh and bone, and while in this state of immortality, Moses records that they were Man and Wife – they were married!  They had been joined together by God.  If they had remained in the garden they would seemingly have remained wed forever.  Thus, the original intent was always an eternal union – an eternal family.

Image result for adam and eve ldsEven upon their expulsion from the garden, there is no indication that the change from immortality to mortality brought a severance of their marriage.  They were still Man and Wife.  Nor is there any indication that their transition to the next world by death brought any sort of severance of that relationship.  Thus the words of Jesus (Matthew 19:6):

“What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder.”

Image result for canned peaches

Alright then, marriage is supposed to be permanent, and sealing has something to do with that, what then is the meaning of the word, “seal”?  And how are we to understand it?

I have heard several different analogies given to describe this concept, maybe you too have heard it explained in one of these ways.  One is that sealing is like canning food.  When you can peaches, for example, you “seal” them in a jar.  Thus, the peaches are preserved, and this is similar to the way a marriage is preserved for eternity.  Well, this is interesting, and perhaps there are some things to learn there, but this is not quite right.

Image result for pipe sealAnother way to think about it, is pipes, or machine parts, with a gasket between them, and sealing compound, so that the joint is “sealed”.  In this way, nothing can leak out; nothing is lost.  This is also an interesting analogy, but is still not quite it.

A third way to think about sealing is like “sealing” an envelope.  Image result for envelopeThe two sides are stuck together, there is glue between them, and nothing can get in between them or pull them apart.  This is probably the most common cultural understanding among Mormons that believe in the concept of sealing which I am describing.  It is like a divine glue that sticks one person to another.  It is the idea that Joseph Smith had people sealed to him so that he could drag them along to heaven with him.  They were stuck to him you see, so they had to be with him wherever he went.  What a tacky idea.  Sealing does not mean that someone is stuck to you like glue. This idea is not right either.

As I said before, sealing has to do with relationships.  It is not the people that are sealed together, it is the relationship that is sealed, and this is an important distinction.

So, in what sense then aught we to understand the word, “sealed”?  I have here the definition of the word as found in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language:

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SEALED:  Furnished with a seal; fastened with a seal; confirmed; closed.

Ah, this is the correct understanding of the word.  Let us now read a little farther to discover the definition of, “seal”.  Here it is (also from the Webster’s 1828):

SEAL, noun [L. sigillum.]:

  1. A piece of metal or other hard substance, usually round or oval, on which is engraved some image or device, and sometimes a legend or inscription. This is used by individuals, corporate bodies and states, for making impressions on wax upon instruments of writing (a.k.a. documents), as an evidence of their authenticity….
  2. The wax set to an instrument (a.k.a. document), and impressed or stamped with a seal…
  3. The wax or wafer that makes fast a letter or other paper.
  4. Any act of confirmation.
  5. That which confirms, ratifies or makes stable; assurance. 2 Timothy 2:19.
  6. That which effectually shuts, confines or secures; that which makes fast. Revelation 20:3.

SEAL, verb:

  1. To fasten with a seal; to attach together with a wafer or with wax; as, to seal a letter.
  2. To set or affix a seal as a mark of authenticity; as, to seal a deed. Hence,
  3. To confirm; to ratify; to establish.

There are a few other definitions but this will suffice, and this is the correct sense of the word.  We ought to understand it in the same sense as a, “Seal of Approval”, or “Stamp of Approval“.

Here are several examples of documents that have seals on them:

  • Related imageA US issued passport with the Seal of the United States of America.
  • A US dollar bill with the seal of the Federal Reserve, and the US treasury, and also the Great Seal of the United States of America.
  • My Driver License with the seal of the State of Utah.
  • My diploma with the seal of the University of California.
  • My daughter’s birth certificate stamped with the seal of the State of California.

In every case, the purpose of the seal on these documents is to show their validity, and authenticity.  You could contact the State of California and they would tell you that my daughter’s birth certificate is valid, it was issued by them, and they will vouch for its authenticity.

The dollar bill has the seal of the United States on it, and it is a valid currency, but what would happen to this money if the United States collapsed and went away?  It may well become worthless then, because the authority that issued it, and placed its seal upon it, would be gone.  Or, what would happen to my Driver License if the State of Utah seceded from the Union and became the Independent Nation of Deseret?  Of course, my license would become invalid.  True, they may grant me some sort of grace period, but I would ultimately have to get a new license issued by the new authority – or else stop driving.

All things that exist, will exist for as long as the power that upholds them.  This is very clearly expressed in section 132 as well:

D&C 132:7  “And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise… are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”

Notice, it is the relationship that is sealed!  It is the covenant, contract, association, connection, etc. which is sealed.  Whatever it is that has God’s seal on it, also has his approval.  It means that God has placed his stamp upon that thing, that he claims and supports that thing as his, that he will preserve and protect that thing, and that he will vouch for its authenticity.  Jumping to verse 13:

D&C 132:13-14  “And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.  For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.”

In other words, all things are upheld for as long as the power which upholds them remains.  Who then seals?  And by what power are eternal, sealed relationships upheld?  Ultimately, it is by the power of God’s One Anointed.  And who is that?  The Anointed in Hebrew is Messiah; in Greek it is Christ.  He is Jesus.

People, relationships, and things may be sealed (or approved) by men, and even by the devil:

Alma 34:35  “For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.”

And people, relationships, and things may be sealed (or approved) by God:

Mosiah 5:15  “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.”

However, everything ordained by men, or by Satan, will ultimately crumble and will not be upheld (D&C 132:13) at the last day.

Alma 30:60  “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.”

In contrast, whatever God has placed his stamp, his approval, or seal, upon will be preserved.  He claims it as his, he seals it as his, and he will uphold it (D&C 132:14).

Ecclesiastes 3:14  “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it.”

If you want your marriage to have God’s stamp of approval upon it, if you want your marriage sealed, then here is my simple advice to you:  Make your relationship the kind that God would want to preserve in Heaven, because he finds that it is a small piece of Heaven already.  Keep the covenants you have made with each other, and with God.  Remain faithful thru both the difficult times and the good.

If your marriage has been neglected, then do what needs to be done to remedy it.  Swallow your pride, seek after God to help you first become what you should be, and second to help your marriage become what it should be.

We have probably all caught glimpses of Heaven on Earth at times.  Moments when our peace and satisfaction with life and our relationships seem full to the brim and overflowing.  And yet, we are very often our own worst saboteurs.  When the seeds of Heaven have been cast upon our lives, and upon our relationships, we so easily, and carelessly, let the thorns grow unchecked until they choke the sprouting seeds, or we uproot the tender plants ourselves, just so we can check to see whether they are growing or not.

God will sow the seeds of Heaven on all types of soil.  He is very generous and merciful in that way.  But we must nourish and protect the seeds in order for them to produce fruit to harvest.  Some will return thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some an hundredfold.

What is Sealing? (Part I)      Sealing Part III (The Parable of the Two Sons)

What is Sealing? (Part I)

In my post about the social/legal side of marriage I said that I would write a future post about the spiritual aspects of marriage.  In particular, I am going to give some thoughts on the Mormon concept of “sealing”.  I realize this might not be interesting to all readers, but it is an essential concept for understanding the full import of Mormon polygamy.

The words that follow are adaptations of the words I prepared for a marriage rededication ceremony for some friends of mine.  Just to give a little of the back story, I will repeat the beginning of my previous post:

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.

My friends were not polygamists (never have been and never want to be), but many of the things I said will have obvious application to marriage in general.  Here we go.

engagement-photo-props-forever-photo-prop-scrabble-tiles-wedding-decor-love-scrabble-photo-prop-save-the-date-mr-and-mrs-wedding

To express it briefly, sealing is all about a continuation of the family relationships that are formed in mortality.  The hope is that those relationships which have been sealed will have the power to extend beyond this life, and into eternity, or in other words, that the covenants involved in family life will continue indefinitely.

The belief is that there is something essential about human familial interaction that can be preserved and endure forever – if it is worth preserving (that is, if it is Heavenly).  While it is true that we may not know the exact details of Heavenly life, we believe that earthly life can be made to mirror Heaven in some respects, that earth can be made a little piece of Heaven, that the Kingdom of God can be within us, and among us, and that we can be personally (and as a family and even as a community) fashioned and made fit for Heaven as clay in a potter’s hand.

If you had to guess which one heaven was more like, a Church or a Family, which would you say?  I would say that Heaven is more like a Family than a Church.  In fact I would say that it was like one family in particular: The family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In fact Jesus calls Heaven, “Abraham’s bosom“.  Those who enter are said to, “sit down” with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And all the faithful who are Christ’s will be part of that family.  Whether natural branches or adopted in, they will be the seed of Abraham.

Capture

The structure of this family looks like this; there are 3 patriarchs at the head (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), below them are the 12 tribes (the sons of Jacob), next are the 70 descendants of Israel that entered into Egypt (which is symbolic of the world), finally there is the mixed multitude of their descendants and others who have joined them in their journey to the Promised Land.  This structure is very similar to the hierarchical structure of the Church with it’s Presidency (3), Apostles (12), 70s, and members.

But here is the question: is Abraham’s family supposed to be reminding us that the Church is the real thing to be a part of, or is the Church supposed to be reminding us that Abraham’s Family is the real thing to be a part of?  Well, I’ll give you a hint; Jesus never refers to Heaven as Russell’s bosom.

For Elder Parley P. Pratt, a knowledge of this doctrine of an eternal, heavenly family deepened his love for his own family:

     “It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes, in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.
.     Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which my heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.
.     It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.
.     It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.…
.     I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean.… In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also.”
– Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 297–298

Picture1
Lester Ralph’s illustration from Eve’s Diary, pg 42

For those who love and cherish their families, and spouses, it would not fully be Heaven without them.  Mark Twain expressed it very well in, Eve’s DiaryThe final words of that story are Adam’s description of his beloved Eve:

“Wheresoever she was, THERE was Eden.”

Mormons get too wrapped up in authority. They argue with everyone about it.  They even argue among themselves about it.  For many of them it seems that authority, for all the reverence they give it,  is their religion, and this sometimes leads them to say foolish things.  Things like, “Plural marriage without the proper authority is sin.” or, “Unauthorized polygamy is adultery.” or, “Polygamy will damn those who practice it, unless their unions have been authorized by the One Man who holds all the authority (keys)”.

I’ll say a little more about authority in the next installment of this post, but for now I’d just like to point out that in section 132 the Lord mentions three separate cases where a man and woman can make a covenant with each other (these cases are in verses 15, 18, 19).  In every case mentioned, the covenant is between the man and the woman, or between the man, the woman, and God.  There are no mentions made of government officials, state approval, judges, magistrates, or licenses, nor priests, bishops, elders or other clergy.  Furthermore, in every case, no matter how it is done, the Lord calls it “Marriage”, and marriage is always honorable.

And yet, a marriage union has both civil and religious recognition and ramifications.  This is because marriage is fundamental both to our society here as well as in Heaven.  In D&C 130:2 we read,

“And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”

Indeed, there is something potentially eternal about our relationships.  Hopefully, we will treat them that way.

What is Sealing? Part II