Charlotte is the owner of the blog "Speaking of Polygamy". She grew up in the mainstream LDS Church, but now the Torah is the foundation of her religion and the rest of the scriptures are a bonus. (It's amazing how much the Book of Mormon and Old Testament support each other.) She's been Joshua's wife since 2002 and Melissa's sisterwife since 2013. Together, they are blessed with a whole bunch of children and live in Kody Brown's old house in Lehi, Utah. They love celebrating the Biblical holidays with like-minded friends (both old and new).
I was chatting with one of my readers who is being courted as a potential second wife. My conversation with her brought up some things I felt I needed to share. Consider it advice if you want to, but I have such a big beam in my own eye that I wouldn’t dare correct anyone. I’m just sharing some thoughts.
First off, I don’t see why it’s ever a good idea to criticize your (potential) husband’s current/first wife. She has made it just fine this far successfully without you, and she doesn’t need you to waltz in to her life and start telling her how she should and shouldn’t behave. The possibility of living plural marriage will bring plenty of things to her awareness that she needs to fix about herself without you pointing them out directly, trust me. If you do see something that you can’t bear to just leave alone, tell your (potential) husband and leave it to him to handle.
The above advice applies to first wives as well. Your (potential) sisterwife is an adult who has long ago moved out of her parents’ home and isn’t looking for another mother. Just focus on improving yourself and your own children. When things come up that need to be addressed, either trust your sisterwife to figure it out on her own or bring things up with your husband.
Come to think of it, this advice applies even more broadly than merely sisterwives.
Think about how difficult it is to change yourself. Consider how often you fail to follow your own sage advice.
If your experience is anything like mine, upon reflection, you’ll realize how overwhelmingly improbable it is that you will ever succeed in changing another person.
“Are you the groom’s sister?” I am asked by a fellow wedding guest.
“Are you a friend of the bride?”
“Nope, not a friend of the bride.”
Cue an awkward silence while she decides whether to keep guessing, and I anticipate my ultimate answer, which will almost certainly be a surprise to her.
“So… Where do you fit in? How do you know the bride and groom?” she presses. It’s such a simple, natural question, so why do I cringe?
I give her a big, friendly smile and answer directly and without hesitation: “You know the groom’s mom? I’m her sisterwife.”
Her “Ohhh” response plus her body language tell me that this answer is, indeed, not what she was expecting. I give my attention back to the two babies I’m in charge of: one mine, the other my sisterwife’s.
The woman’s husband had commented on the little ones a few minutes prior: “Are they both yours? They look too close in age to both be yours.”
He was right, in a way. The babies are too close for both of them to have come from my own body; Melissa got pregnant when I was 6 or 7 months along in my own pregnancy. At their current ages, they’re obviously not twins, but that might change in a few years.
But he was also wrong, in a way, since I claim all 7 of our family’s children as my own. So to answer the question “Are they both yours?” is not so easy for me.
My sisterwife Melissa has 3 grown children from her first marriage. I’m not particularly close to them, unfortunately. Early in Melissa’s and Joshua’s relationship, when her first batch of children were teenagers, I dared to fantasize about being a second mother to them. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. However, the youngest son is friendly with me, and he invited me to his wedding in southern Utah.
Here’s a question for you: What should be done when a Christmas card, a graduation announcement, or a wedding invitation is being sent to a family with more than one wife?
Melissa and I have cracked the code.
Think about this: After you open the envelope, read the card, mark your calendar, and make a note to yourself to get a gift, where do you put the card?
On your fridge, of course. And you leave it up there until it’s no longer relevant.
That common habit is the basis of our rule of etiquette when mailing things to families with multiple wives.
If the wives live separately, you mail them each their own wedding invitation. If they live together and share a kitchen, just send one invitation. Easy enough.
But if they live at the same address and have their own kitchens (and hence their own refrigerators), here’s what to do: Mail to the household the same number of invitations as there are kitchens. That way, each wife gets to put the card up on her fridge. Go ahead and mail both of them in the same envelope and save yourself a stamp.
Melissa’s son understands this concept, so I got my own copy of the wedding invitation.
I found this sweet and thoughtful. I also realized that if he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have known for sure whether I was meant to be included in the invitation. His giving two copies of the invitation to our household made it clear that I was, for sure, invited.
Back to the wedding guest who found out I was the sisterwife of the groom’s mother. After she recovered from her initial shock, she approached me. Melissa was getting herself ready for the wedding ceremony, and I was tasked with getting her reluctant preschooler dressed in his handsome ringbearer suit, complete with a bow tie and suspenders.
I was also taking care of Melissa’s infant and my toddler, so my hands were reasonably full. The kind wedding guest helped me, all the while chatting in a friendly manner and showing that she was fine with what I’d told her. Never knowing what to expect when someone finds out about my polygamy, this experience was nice.
The wedding was one I wouldn’t have attended if I wasn’t a polygamist.
We live in the house we bought six years ago from Kody Brown. He lived in this house with 3 wives: Christine, Janelle, and Meri. (He married Robyn while the Brown family was living here.)
The house has 3 distinct apartments, which means three kitchens, three laundry rooms, many entrances, a single driveway (with many parking spots), and one huge utility bill, ha ha. Our dream house would also have a large communal area, but all in all, this house is awesome for a plural family.
Our family has only 2 wives. We have courted a potential third wife once or twice, but obviously it’s never worked out; you might be surprised how difficult it is to find a good fit for a well-established family, but those are stories for another time. I hope Joshua will have the opportunity to love 3 wives someday.
When referring to sections of the house, we freely use the word “house” for what might more accurately be called an apartment. But since that can get a little confusing I’ll just call them apartments. I live in the “apartment” formerly occupied by Meri Brown, and my sisterwife Melissa lives where Janelle Brown used to live. In the 3rd apartment (Christine Brown’s) lives some members of our extended family, including two of my nieces. (By the way, the family isn’t polygamous.)
Today, my nieces had a friend over whom I had never met. The 3 little girls were sitting on my porch steps, and I went past them on my way to the driveway. “Hello, girls!” I said. “Eating fudgsicles, eh? Yum!”
The older niece told her friend, “That’s my cousin’s mom.”
She was corrected by my younger niece: “One of her moms.”
Older niece: “Her husband is a polygamist!”
I didn’t hear what their young friend said in response. I just kept walking.
I was charmed by the innocence of the children freely sharing a fact about their aunt with no embarrassment or hesitation.
Later that day we were out in public, and we happened to see that same girl. Once again I thought about how we polygamists often just fit right in: You probably don’t even realize when you’re sharing the children’s museum or the swimming pool with polygamists.
Being introduced as one of my daughter’s moms is something that definitely wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t a polygamist.
I was at the local swimming pool the other day and I noticed a woman reading a book — a real, live book! with a highlighter! Initially, it was the novelty of someone reading a book instead of scrolling on their phone that caught my attention.
But then I recognized the cover of the book she was studying. It was Let’s Talk about Polygamy by Brittany Chapman Nash.
My LDS friend (who, let’s face it, is obsessed with polygamy) recommended this book to me a few months ago. I checked it out from the library but only read a chapter or two before it was due back. I frequently listen to audiobooks, but I’m not very good at finding time to sit still and just read a book, so if I’d found this book in audiobook format, I could have listened to it in no time. Can anyone relate?
Anyway, when I saw the stranger sitting on the pool deck reading and highlighting this book, I decided to go talk to her. I was curious why she was interested in reading it at all, much less studying it so closely. I wondered what she thought of polygamy and whether she knew any polygamists personally.
I didn’t know how she’d respond to me coming up and talking to her out of the blue. Maybe she’d think it was weird or maybe she’d refuse to talk to me, but I also knew I’d regret it if I went home without attempting to strike up a conversation.
So when my baby needed a nursing break from our swim in the cold water, I wrapped him in a fluffy towel and we went and sat near my new bibliophilic friend. Between her AirPods and her concentration on her book, it took me a minute to catch her attention, but I found success.
We had a nice chat. I learned she’s in the mainstream LDS Church and she’s interested in the history of Mormon plural families in the late 1800s running from the law and/or hiding from raids.
I told her a little of my own story.
Yes, we all live together.
I had 3 children at the time Melissa married Joshua; now I have 5 and she has 2 (not to mention her grown children from her first marriage), but I often say simply that I have 7 children. I love saying it: “I have seven children.” It feels a little like cheating, since I only gave birth to 5 of them.
My sisterwife’s preschooler calls me “Mama Charlotte”, which I find very sweet.
I told her briefly about my aunt, who decades ago became convinced that polygamy was required in order to go to the highest degree of heaven. She begged her husband to take another wife. When he refused, she left him and her 4 small children and went and became someone’s second wife. That plural marriage didn’t last, but the trauma it caused her children did; even now, some 35 or 40 years later, when they refer to “Mom” they’re speaking of their stepmother, the heroic woman who stepped in and raised them when their overzealous mother wouldn’t.
The ripping apart of a family by someone too eager to live “The Principle” almost definitely contributed to my aunt’s brother (my father) reacting negatively when he found out his own daughter (me) had decided polygamy was for her as well. The big difference is that in my aunt’s case, her choice led to her children losing a mother, and in my case, it led to my children gaining one.
By the way, I don’t want to mention my father without also mentioning that altho things were rough at first, in time, my parents have really come around. They even consider Melissa and Joshua’s children to be their grandchildren, which is a dream come true for me.
Back to the deck of the pool. Yes, the book-reading stranger has met polygamists before; in fact, she’s friends with one that goes to a certain fundamentalist Mormon sect that meets not too far from here. She was curious whether we’re in that one? But no, we haven’t joined another group, and probably never will.
We aren’t members of a Church? Do we have community? Yes, a wonderful one we’ve built for ourselves. The families we hang out with the most are a mix of polygamists, monogamists, and single people; polygamy is certainly not a prerequisite for being friends with us. The two main things our closest friends share with us are (1) They have Mormonism in their background and (2) They believe in keeping the Torah, which has become a big part of our religion (I would even say a larger part than our Mormonism).
By the way, my husband Joshua was recently invited on to The Mormon Renegade Podcast to do a series of interviews on the topic of Torah, Mormonism, and especially the celebration of Biblical holidays.
I occasionally get emails from readers asking when I’m finally going to write more of my story on my blog. The answer is “In good time” but for those of you who don’t want to wait, go listen to episode #15 of that podcast. In it, Joshua tells the interviewer the story of how we became polygamists.
Which is what I did with the woman at the swimming pool a few days ago, something that never would have happened if I wasn’t a polygamist.
None of my children is old enough for dating and courtship, but I’ve still had many important conversations about choosing a spouse, preparing to be a good husband/wife, what to look for in a potential partner, how to really get to know someone, etc.
I have repeatedly talked to them about dating versus real life.
You can go on a planned date with someone, where you’re both dressed up and presentable, you’re on your best behavior, and you get to just have a nice time at a restaurant where someone else is doing all the work. Enjoying one another’s company when the event is low-stress and nothing but fun is a facet of compatibility.
But it’s also important — and arguably more important — to see what someone is like when they’re in a stressful environment or when there’s work to be done. How does he behave when he gets a flat tire on the way to the restaurant? How does she treat you if you forget your wallet? Does he have a sense of humor if you’re spending time with children and he gets messy? Does she pitch in and work hard if you’re doing a difficult project together? Does he step up as a leader if he’s put in charge of motivating a group of children to help clean up after an event? Does she make it into a game and a challenge if she’s asked to help with something unpleasant?
When you are exploring whether a person is a good match for you, it’s essential to see them in situations that are closer to real life, and not just fun. Everyday life is work. Everyday life can be stressful. Everyday life isn’t just pleasant and relaxing, hour after hour, day after day.
My plan for my children when they start dating/courting is for them to invite their date to service projects, the big events we host, our family time, the work days. I want them to have opportunitites to interact with each other around parents, siblings, children, and people who need help. I want them to get to see each other in action when there’s work to be done, tool belts and boots to wear, mud or chicken poop to wade thru, fences to put up that catch on clothes. I want them to see each other at their best but also at their worst, in those kinds of situations that let the person’s character shine thru.
There’s a Kristina Kuzmic video about her as a divorced mother dating a man who wanted all of it, even cleaning up the vomit:
This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. He didn’t just want Kristina when her makeup was done and her children with with a babysitter. He was willing to take on the entire package, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.
Seeking Sister Wife, S3E2, titled “Irreconcilable Differences”, shows Garrick and Dannielle at dinner with some family. They are planning on yet another trip to Mexico to vacation with Roberta and spend some time her. Their sister-in-law Samantha points out the problem with meeting Roberta only on vacation.
I do have some questions about Roberta ’cause you guys only met her in Mexico because it’s different in a vacation. And then you come out here and it’s reality.
Samantha (Dannielle’s sister-in-law)
I agree with Samantha. Putting aside all the cultural and language differences the Merrifields will have to overcome, I am genuinely concerned that they are in for a reality shock when their relationship with Roberta moves from vacation to real life. I’m happy for them that they enjoy each other so much when the situation is fun and entertaining, but I wish they had the chance to see each other in the more realistic daily life and make sure they’re still compatible.
As Garrick acknowledged in the episode,
Yeah, I think there’s definitely gonna be a huge adjustment.
Did you know that polygamy doesn’t always mean a man with more than one wife?
The new season of Seeking Sister Wife is here! The Snowdens and Winders are back on Season 3, and a few new families have joined the cast.
One of the new families is from North Carolina and currently has 2 wives. The husband’s name is Jarod Clark, and in Episode 1, he brought up some of the vocabulary surrounding polygamy:
We practice polygamy; specifically, polygyny. Polygamy is the umbrella term for a multi-person relationship. And in polygyny … the male [has] separate wives.
The distinction he makes is correct. Polygamy means basically “many marriages” and can refer to a man with multiple wives or a woman with multiple husbands. The former is called polygyny, and the latter is called polyandry.
So why is polygamy the word used in so many contexts when referring to polygyny?
One reason must be the fact that one man with multiple wives is far more common than a woman with multiple husbands. Someday, I may write about why this is the case, but for now I’ll just point it out as a fact that thruout history and across cultures, polygamy almost universally means the husband has more than one spouse.
It’s universal enough that Dictionary.com acknowledges it in its definition of polygamy: “the practice or condition of having more than one spouse, especially wife, at one time.”
I admit I perpetuate the lack of distinction on this blog by using “polygamy” instead of the more specific “polygyny” most of the time. The simple reason I use “polygamy” is that it’s a much more familiar word.
I should mention that most fundamental Mormons prefer the phrase “plural marriage”. I think that’s the terminology used in Sister Wives most of the time.
Now let’s discuss the title of the episode: “Polygamist and Proud!” along with some grammar.
Polygamist is a noun. A polygamist is “a person who practices or favors polygamy.”
Polygamousis an adjective. (Quick review: Adjectives describe nouns. In the sentence “handsome man”, “handsome” is the adjective and “man” is the noun.) “Polygamous” is an adjective that describes something or someone as being “of, pertaining to, characterized by, or practicing polygamy” and is synonymous with the less-commonly used adjective polygamic.
Used in a sentence, you would correctly say:
“Garrick Merrifield is polygamous.”
“Sidian Jones is a polygamist.”
“Jarod Clark is a polygamous man.”
“I know a polygamist who writes a fascinating blog called ‘Speaking of Polygamy’.”
“I know the polygamous family who lives in Kody Brown’s old house.”
“I know a bunch of polygamists.”
“I am polygamous.”
“We are polygamists.”
You wouldn’t say:
“Dimitri Snowden is a polygamous.”
“Colton Winder is a polygamist man.”
“I am polygamist.”
I’ll bet the person/people who titled Episode 1 meant to pair the adjective “Polygamous” with the adjective “Proud”, rather than awkwardly pairing the noun “Polygamist” with the adjective “Proud”. I asked my teenaged daughter what she thought of the title, and she caught the presumed error as well. In other words, I think title should have been “Polygamous and Proud!” instead of “Polygamist and Proud!”
I’m not nitpicking with the intention of criticizing the show. I enjoy watching it and I’m sure my own writing has plenty of grammar mistakes for someone who cares to look. My goal here is simply to educate the reader about some of the vocabulary and grammar in the world of polygamy, clear up any confusion about those words, and provide a little help on correctly using them.
Here’s an example of the usefulness of knowing the proper vocabulary and grammar: In writing this post, I discovered that, according to Dictionary.com, polygamists include people who simply believe in polygamy, no matter whether they are practicing it or not.
From time-to-time I come across someone who is unmarried or monogamous but who calls himself or herself a “polygamist”. This has always bugged me, because I thought their marital status was incompatible with the category “polygamists”. I did not realize that the actual dictionary definition of polygamist really does include a person who simply “favors polygamy”. I stand corrected.
I have hesitated in the past to call myself a “polygamist” because I’m only married to one man, so technically my husband, and not me, is the one with multiple marriages. Realizing what the full definition of “polygamist” is gives me more confidence in calling myself a polygamist.
Getting back to S3E1, what is the deal with not having a schedule? Two of the families said something similar in E1.
Here, one of the couples that is new on SSW, Sidian and Tosha Jones, say that back when they were polygamists, they didn’t have a schedule:
Mostly at night, we would sort of switch off time.
Yeah, it wasn’t really scheduled.
And here, Jarod Clark says it’s “natural” and “fluid” to switch between wives without having a schedule.
It feels very natural to spend some nights with Kaleh and some nights with Vanessa. No schedules, no rules. We just keep it completely fluid.
My sisterwife Melissa, our husband Joshua, and I like to watch Seeking Sister Wife together, but they were both out of town when this episode aired, so we watched it separately and then discussed it later. When I asked Melissa what she thought of the episode, the very first thing she brought up was the lack of scheduling.
Not having a schedule honestly makes no sense to me. I wrote about this in “I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator“, a post about a conversation between Dimitri Snowden and Joselyn in SSW Season 1, Episode 4. In that post, I included a tweet from @TheBrineyFamily saying, “Good luck with no schedule for time in plural marriage!” I won’t repeat all my arguments here.
A major factor at play is whether the wives share a home. When I wrote that post, Melissa and I didn’t live together, so whether Joshua was coming to my house or to hers vastly changed the evening’s plans and the home’s atmosphere. Nowadays, we are under the same roof, so it matters a lot less. However, we still do certain things separately. If we shared a kitchen and shared every meal, shared the living spaces, and never did anything separately, maybe the small detail of which bedroom Joshua went to at bedtime would matter even less.
But how does a husband choose who to sleep with, if it’s not based on a schedule? Does it depend on which wife is more/less demanding? Does it depend on the husband’s mood? Does it depend on the moods of the wives? The whole concept simply does not compute for me.
I don’t want to think that my husband will only come to my house if he feels like it. He has duties to me and I have duties to him. Marriage is important enough that sometimes spouses need to spend time together whether they both want to or not; otherwise it might become all too easy to avoid working out problems and just go with the easier route of avoiding each other.
I don’t care what the schedule is, and there are plenty of forms it can take (I give several real-life examples in the Refrigerator post), but the logistics of polygamy are already complicated. I say, let’s not make them more complicated by going without a plan.
I completely understand basing the schedule on what is going on with every family member on any given week. Maybe that’s what is meant by the people on SSW? Rather than having a schedule that is repeating and predictable, perhaps it’s simply flexible, depends on the week, and is based on the needs of the husband, wives, and even children. That sounds fine, and from time-to-time Joshua has adjusted his schedule depending on all those things. I guess “no schedule” just sounds to me like the husband waiting until 9:00 p.m. to announce which bedroom he’s sleeping in, or in the case of wives living in separate homes, waiting until 6:00 p.m. to decide at which house he’ll be spending his evening, eating dinner, and going to bed.
I admit that my personality type may be to blame for my strong preference for a predictable schedule. I like to plan. I like to visualize what my day/week/month looks like. I make time for myself and my projects and tasks, I have one-on-one time with each my children every day, I make time for my husband and for the entire family; for me, all that requires scheduling.
My entire life, I have always been frustrated at changes of plans, even when the change is potentially for the better. I admit this is a personality flaw, and maybe if I was better at going with the flow, I wouldn’t care so much about knowing when my husband is going to be with me versus not. Maybe the wives on SSW are different enough in that respect that it really does work for them.
The more I comment on it, the more I think I should write a whole post about the plural husband’s schedule when his wives live together versus separately, since we’ve now experienced several years of both situations.
As a homeschooling mom, I was interested to learn that another one of the new families on SSW, the Merrifields, also homeschools. We’ll see if that comes up again in a future episode.
We have two boys… We homeschool them… [to their two sons] All right, do you guys wanna get your books and stuff ready?
I liked hearing Garrick and Dannielle Merrifield’s story about not coming from a polygamist background but being Christian, reading the Bible, and realizing plural marriage was practiced by godly people that were loved by God.
The way I see it is living a plural lifestyle is a great way to follow Christ and be like him.
I do not envy this family for courting and becoming engaged to a woman in a different country who speaks a different language! We have several friends with at least one wife in a different country, and they all have definitely chosen a hard way to live. The sisterwives don’t get the benefits that come from living together, and they end up living alone and almost like single mothers for weeks or months at a time. Melissa and I used to live only 1 hour apart, and that was difficult enough.
She [Roberta] lives in Brazil … so she speaks Portuguese, and only Portuguese.
Here’s what my preteen son has to say about it: “It seems like such a dumb idea to marry someone who lives in a different country and you don’t even know each other’s languages. They should probably know the same language!”
One last thought about the episode. I like the comments Jarod Clark made about polygamy and kings and queens.
[Polygamy] was something that I [came] across in some research on how tribes and kingdoms were built, where a king had multiple queens, and each wife played an intricate part in that king’s life and in building and growing the kingdom.
In my home I present myself as a king. … Same thing with Vanessa and Kaleh: they present themselves as queens.
The blog’s header image is a castle I designed with the Mars and Venus symbols, meant to symbolize the husband in a plural family being a king and his wives being queens.
And, finally, I wrote some about the king/queen concept in this post about being proud to be a polygamist. In that post, I talk about how wonderful I think my family and my husband are, how I consider Joshua a king and Melissa and I his queens, and especially about how being polygamous used to be embarrassing for me but now I hold my head up high.
I guess you could say I’m “Polygamist and Proud!” … or should I say “Polygamous and Proud!” ?
Mothers everywhere know what it means when their husband is traveling for work: All the parenting, 24 hours a day, falls to you.
Such was the situation I found myself in, with my husband across the country on business, and I was discouraged and exhausted. The days were long, our routine disrupted, and the children tired of not seeing their father.
My son blew the shofar to call us to our evening family time, where everyone has a chance to show something or tell about their day; we lovingly call this time “Shofar & Tell” (a play on “Show and Tell” — get it?).
We gathered in the living room of my sisterwife Melissa, and as I routinely do, I pulled out the family Happy Book to write in while we shared our lives and visited together.
My son disrespectfully jumped on my case and told me I shouldn’t have a “toy” during Shofar & Tell (referring to my writing in the Happy Book). He’d been nitpicking and criticizing me a lot, so the uncalled-for criticism was especially frustrating.
We officially got started with Shofar & Tell, and when my daughter’s turn came to hold the shofar and show/tell us something, she took the opportunity to complain about me.
I was hurt, and since I had been struggling for some time with those two children disrespecting me, questioning me, and dishonoring me, it got to be too much.
I said to my sisterwife Melissa, “Why does everything come down to criticizing me and complaining about me? Everyone in this house seems to be starting from a place of ‘Mom is wrong. Mom has wronged me. What is Mom doing wrong right now? What can I criticize Mom about right now?’ I feel like everyone is assuming my guilt until I’m proven innocent.”
Melissa saw the problem, recognized my need for support, and she truly stepped up.
She launched into a scolding lecture about about how lucky the children are to have me; how lucky they are to have a mother who stays home with them and focuses on taking care of them; how they shouldn’t be rude to me; how they should treat me with respect and love; how they ought to show gratitude for me and the good life they have.
She went on and on. A couple of the children got teary-eyed over it. When she was done, she gave every child a chance to say something. To me she said, “I want you to write down in the family Happy Book what they say: I want you to recognize it and embrace it.”
Each of my children expressed their sincere gratitude for me and came over and hugged me. Melissa even had her young child say something nice and hug me, and then she also expressed her love and gave me a hug.
I felt extremely validated and supported. Someone saw me and wanted me to feel appreciated. Someone wasn’t going to stand by and let me be treated with disrespect by my children.
I wasn’t doing all the parenting by myself after all. Melissa and I were together, taking care of the children, trying to teach them, being a good team.
If I had been the only parent home that week, things would not have gone so well, I can promise you that. I would have continued to be sad, and I might have lost my temper with the children and just made things worse.
If our husband Joshua had been there, he certainly would have shushed the children to keep the peace and given me moral support later in a private conversation.
But Melissa took it further and worked right then and there to truly change the hearts of the children and let me know how much she supports me.
This is one real-life example of the benefits of a polygamous family.
My children are lucky Melissa is invested in them the way every mother should be invested in her children, and I’m grateful to have her as a co-parent.
Wasn’t it only 3 years ago that rabid lawmakers passed HB99, making life even worse for polygamists in Utah?
HB99 was so strict, it made it a felony to cohabitate OR purport to be married to someone you didn’t even live with. I figured with Utah getting even stricter, the law was here to stay, and the only way to get it to change would be to get the Supreme Court involved, which process would be helped along if someone was actually arrested.
Cuff me: I’m a polygamist.
Then, last year, adultery was decriminalized, and the world felt like it was upside-down. Why is it okay to be married and to sleep around with people who are already married (against the wishes of the respective spouses), but actually marrying, committing, providing for, and otherwise taking care of multiple consenting spouses is a crime?
Then an amazing thing happened! Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Utah State Senate which would lower the criminality from a felony to an infraction (which means no jail time).
I thought changing the law would require a polygamist actually getting prosecuted, and then challenging the law (which kind of, sort of, almost happened with Kody Brown — long story). I’ve been pleasantly surprised to watch the progress of SB102 and realize it was probably going to pass. It feels so easy compared to what I was expecting.
A few weeks ago, I hung out with some other polygamists at the Utah State Capitol building while we lobbied the State Legislature to pass SB102.
Among others, Enoch Foster (of Three Wives, One Husband) was there with two of his wives, and Joe Darger (a famous polygamist who’s been on TV and in the news many times) was there with one of his wives. Colton Winder (of Seeking Sister Wife) was there with one of his wives, and he wrote a blog post about it. (Check out those awesome photos of Tami and Colton in the State Capitol building! I took those photos, tee-hee!)
My sisterwife’s schedule and mine conflicted so she ended up going on Tuesday and I was there on the Wednesday before the Utah State Senate unanimously passed the bill, which is really amazing!
The Utah House of Representatives also passed it, and yesterday the governor signed it into law! Read the news reports here and here.
Is this really when and how the law is changing?
How have things changed so much in such a short time?
I distinctly remember the first time someone looked up to me for being a polygamist.
We had been invited by some polygamous friends to a Thanksgiving dinner that was attended by an eclectic group of fundamental Mormons (some were members of a sect of Mormonism, but many were independent). I knew almost no one there. (This was the first time I met Benjamin Shaffer, the attorney who purchased Drew Briney’s law firm when the Brineys moved away from Utah.) I was introduced to a married couple and I asked them if they were polygamists. The wife said, “No, not yet. I wish. Are you guys polygamists?” When I answered in the affirmative, she said with sincerity, “Oh, that’s so great. I hope I can be a plural wife someday.” (She’s a plural wife now and one of the best I know. As one example of how she’s so supportive: She has a huge picture of her husband and sisterwife on their wedding day on her living room wall.)
That was a very nice moment for me. Up to that point, people expressed many different feelings about my marital status, ranging from outright rejection to disgust to fascination to neutrality to supportive, but I had never met anyone who was actually jealous of me for being a polygamist.
I didn’t consider myself a fundamental Mormon, but after that Thanksgiving dinner I started to feel more and more comfortable hanging around Mormon fundamentalists because of their general belief that polygamy is acceptable, desirable, even preferred.
I still spend plenty of time with people who merely tolerate my polygamy. When I’m around those people, I will either hide my polygamy or at the very least I feel an overarching sense of embarrassment/shame about it, like the girl who keeps brushing her bangs in front of the zit on her forehead.
However, those feelings of shame or embarrassment are left over from when I cared what those people thought. I’m not ashamed to be a polygamist. I’m actually quite proud of my plural family and in particular of my husband. I’m proud of my husband for keeping two emotional women happy most of the time. I’m proud of him for financially supporting a large family. I’m proud of him for bearing the weight of a marred reputation caused by society’s feelings about plural marriage. I’m proud of him for always putting his family first and for being the most selfless person I have the privilege of knowing. I’m proud of him that God trusts him with such a great responsibility. I’m proud of him for keeping peace (and restoring it when it’s lost) between all the members of our family. I’m proud of him for his wisdom in difficult decisions. I’m proud of him for functioning on 2 hours of sleep when one of his wives needs to talk with him all night. I’m proud of him for never putting himself first but for always always serving God and his family and others around him. I’m proud of him for being stable when one or both of his wives are being crazy. I’m proud of Joshua for so many reasons. I think of him as a king and I feel it an honor to be married to him. I’m proud to be one of his queens.
The feeling of pride I have over our functional, beautiful plural family has grown and expanded almost imperceptibly until an event that happened yesterday. We went to a party for Joshua’s aunts, uncles, and cousins. This party is held annually, but it was our first time attending since becoming polygamists. We used to go every year (and to other events with these people as well), and Joshua and I have been married for 17 years, so I’ve known these people for a good long time.
The family is a pretty big group, I would say about 85 people, and almost all of them are active LDS. This is the kind of group I have historically felt awkward to be around. None of them are excited that we’re polygamists, and many of them openly disapprove (even writing letters and making phone calls to make sure we know how they feel).
And yet, yesterday when we walked into the party, I held my head high. I felt like a queen. I look at Joshua as a king and Melissa as a queen, and yesterday I felt no shame or embarrassment whatsoever. I greeted everyone with a confident hug and just acted like my old pre-polygamy self. If anyone felt awkward, it wasn’t me. If anyone wished I wasn’t there, it wasn’t me. I didn’t feel like I was inferior to any of the monogamists in the room. I didn’t feel like I had anything to apologize for. I didn’t feel like I had a zit on my forehead I was trying to hide. I just felt proud of my plural family and proud of my kingly husband. It was a wonderful experience and certainly made me feel as tho I have progressed in my journey as a plural wife.