There are a few people at my work who know that I am a polygamist, but the majority do not. It isn’t that I’m secretive, it just doesn’t come up, and I don’t go out of my way to bring it up. I generally prefer to keep my work and home lives separate.
That being said, there are occasions, sprinkled thruout my career, where I have had the opportunity to mention my home life, and I always smile when I am talking to someone who isn’t in the know. Over the years when talking about “my wife” I have let them know that:
She has a bachelor degree in Mathematics Education,
A bachelor degree Animal Science (with an emphasis in Veterinary Technology),
Another bachelor in Nursing, and is a board-certified lactation consultant.
She also has a Master’s Degree in Abstract Algebra.
She has been a high school teacher and a college adjunct professor,
A maternity nurse, and worked full-time while homeschooling our children.
She is a musician, plays the trumpet, piano, and shofar, and teaches our children piano.
She has been a choir member, choir pianist and been involved in community bands.
She knits and bakes, makes amazing bread, brownies, and cookies.
She has had 9 children, with one on the way! The youngest is 4 months and the next is due in the beginning of April!
She has been a sign language interpreter and, speaks a little German, Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew.
She makes wine, cheese, sour kraut, yogurt, and sour dough bread.
She raises chickens, quail, ducks, and sheep.
She gardens, and grows tropical plants in our kitchen.
She is an amateur astronomer, and likes to give lectures on naked-eye astronomy.
She has been a birth doula. Six of her own children have been born at home, all of them unmedicated, and two of them unassisted.
She hosts a never-ending stream of social and religious events at our home.
That is a list that would be impressive even if it were split between two women! Yes, I truly have an amazing wife! And we have accomplished a lot together. We are a great team. I pity my coworker’s wives a bit. I imagine what they must think when they hear stories about my amazing wife. Her children rise up and bless her, and I do as well. Strength and honor are her clothing, and her value is far above rubies.
This is a very hard post for me to write. I could not watch the fight, but buried my eyes in my hands while I wept, listened, and re-lived.
Kaleh came to the Clarks extremely damaged. It doesn’t matter how. Trauma is trauma. Any perceived slight to her is taken exponentially. Her baseline is that she is unneeded and unwanted. There is a lifetime of being trashed caught up in the phrase, “bringing the trash home”. Add in the cultural stereotype of being a brainwashed whore/side chick, and the lack of external support for plural marriage. Add in the time, effort, and financial resources needed to support a new wife. She’s well aware that the Clarks don’t need her. They did just fine before she came along; otherwise, there would have been no room for her at all.
She believes she is not worthy of any sacrifices for her. She doesn’t understand how they could love her, because no one ever has. She has been systematically used and abused with her only value being her fuckability, her labor, and/or her bragability. She’s terrified that the Clarks are going to get rid of her. She is not at this moment able to financially provide for herself; thus the jobs. They are critical to her mental survival. She knows that she needs this family more than they need her. She hates herself for that too.
She makes herself hard to love. She is trying to get rid of herself before they get rid of her. That’s all she knows, and that’s the only power she has. The push/pull of wanting to be with them, and undermining the entire relationship by being hard enough to love that they may give up trying. She has to prove that she’s the trash because that’s what she thinks of herself. It’s not her label, it’s her experience. A throwaway. Number 5 plastic.
In all of it, it is the family that pays the price for the damage that bad men created. The men who didn’t and couldn’t love, even though they had someone who loved them fiercely, and was never going to give up on them until they threw her out into the street – like so much garbage.
She truly believes she is expendable. More than expendable – Dead Weight. A drain. A black hole. A sucking wound. Broken. So broken.
It’s going to take years. Maybe a lifetime. It’s a rare man who can walk through fire to gather the pieces and to remold the shattered glass.
Tom Green died last month (Feb 28th, 2021). Here is his obituary. Tom was one of the most famous and controversial figures in modern Mormon polygamy. There is both much to love and much to disagree with in the life and person of Thomas Arthur Green. He lived a full and interesting life that spanned many different Mormon groups. His journey took him from the LDS Church, to the FLDS, to The Branch, to Fred Collier’s Group, to the LeBarons, to an Independent, and finally to the Kingston Clan. We were never closely associated with the Greens, but we have been privileged to meet Tom and some of his family members a few times in person. He has always come across to me as a humble, kind, and honest man. I believe the first time I met him was at a campout up Spanish Fork Canyon. It was an interesting get-together with fundamentalist Mormons of every stripe.
A few years later, at the same annual gathering, Tom gave those present an account of his life. I happened to have a recorder with me and captured his story in audio, which is nearly 3 hours long. It was a rainy evening up the canyon (as you will be able to hear in the recording) and we were all huddled under a tiny pavilion, some pop-up canopies, and tarps to keep out of the weather. There is also the occasional train in the background, and I dropped the recorder once; despite these distractions, it was a thoroly interesting and informative evening. It will probably spawn some additional blog posts – to comment on some of the things he relates in his telling.
This recording was made on August 11th of 2017, which was only a few months before this blog was started by my wife, Charlotte. One of the first things I wanted to post on this blog was the recording I had made of Tom sharing his memories. I asked Tom what he thought of my idea, and he wasn’t particularly comfortable with it. He asked me not to share it at that time, and I honored that request. You see, he was on parole at the time, and wasn’t particularly interested in stirring up the hornets’ nest so-to-speak. He had done so years earlier – he had been quite public and vocal about his practices and beliefs, and it had landed him in a lot of hot water. They (the government and society at large) don’t care if you are living polygamy (or any other “strange” practice), or hold to any less-than-mainstream beliefs, as long as you are quiet about them. Don’t openly resist the system, and you will be left alone – that is the deal.
Well, Tom is dead now, his probation has ended, and I figure the time is right to share these memories. I hope you will find them interesting and useful. Below the recording, because it is so long, I have some breakdown of the times. The times are not linked to the recording (Sorry, I’m not that tech savvy), but you can just drag the play bar along to the spots you are interested in. Enjoy.
0:00:00 Introduction by Kevin Kraut. 0:01:11 Tom begins by telling us that he’s one of the old timers (seats get shuffled around). 0:03:36 Introduces Shane Whelan and his book, More Than One. 0:04:46 Continues about “old timers”. 0:08:00 Talks about Ogden Kraut. 0:09:56 Tom starts his story, talks about his grandfather in Canada as a polygamist. 0:11:45 Tom talks about his Patriarchal Blessing. 0:14:05 Discusses different branches of Mormonism. 0:17:10 Mormon Church History. 0:18:30 Tom tells about experiences while serving as an LDS missionary. 0:24:30 Home from his mission, answers to prayers, and finding a wife. 0:28:06 Tom gets married, early married life, early business life, and his introduction to Mormon Fundamentalism. 0:31:31 New business partner (Jethro Barlow). 0:32:25 Arranged marriages. 0:33:26 Being angry at God and being tested by God. 0:38:53 Discussion with Jethro Barlow. 0:43:10 Doing Church History research. 0:49:26 Comes to the realization that plural marriage is a true principle and that he has been a fundamentalist his entire life. 1:03:20 Matthew 10 vs Mark 10. 1:04:40 Meeting Rulon Jeffs, being ready to leave the LDS Church and be baptized. 1:08:20 Being introduced to the Righteous Branch (Peterson Group) by Bill Ander. 1:13:30 (Lights go out – power problems). 1:14:00 Tom joins the Peterson Group. 1:14:15 Studying Fundamentalist History, meeting Fred Collier, debates with Max Anderson. 1:17:12 Meeting Ortel Kingston. 1:19:00 Convinced of Collier/LeBaron lines vs. Lorin Wooley line and leaves the Peterson Group. 1:23:15 Following Ross LeBaron. 1:27:15 Beginning a plural family. 1:29:35 Dan Jordan got shot and the news interviews begin, Janet Bennion. 1:37:05 David Levitt (Juab County Attorney) gets involved. 1:41:15 Utah Common Law gets twisted, hearings and trial begin. 1:43:50 Charges Filed – Criminal Non-Support. 1:50:58 Charges Filed – Child Rape. 1:54:01 Thought he couldn’t be prosecuted, Haddlow vs Haddlow (Utah Supreme Court Case). 1:58:00 Sentencing and prison experiences. 2:11:25 Attorney experiences. 2:13:20 News coverage in prison and visiting family. 2:27:30 Dreams, adjustments to freedom (on parole), and meeting children for the first time. 2:35:00 Story about his father-in-law, looking for peaches in a hay-field. 2:38:10 Joining the Kingstons. 2:53:00 Closing.
WARNING: THIS POST MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER OR IMMATURE READERS.
This is subject is a little delicate, and perhaps even controversial or scandalous, so reader beware. This post may not be appropriate for younger readers. I will try to be tactful in my delivery of this information, and yet still remain true to the facts as they are.
Marriage is so much more than sex, and yet sex is one key distinguishing feature of marriage. It differentiates marriage from other types of close family relationships (like siblings for example), and is thus an essential part of marriage. In fact, many states recognize failure to consummate the marriage as grounds, not for divorce, but for annulment (as per common law there was legally never any marriage without consummation). Additionally, even if the marriage was initially consummated, if one spouse refuses to continue having sexual relations this can be grounds for divorce in many states. In either case, these situations are treated legally as a type of fraud.
So, marriage is much more than sex, and sex is much more than biology (meaning just procreation), and all that is true, but it will have to wait for a separate post.
Toward the beginning of episode 10 of the second season of SSW, Dimitri and Ashley are talking about the recent sexual intimacy between Dimitri and Vanessa. In the course of discussion, Dimitri reveals that there are multiple “Channels of sexual tension”. This comes as a surprise to Ashley (and would probably be a surprise to most women). My own wives were similarly surprised when I told them that it was true.
Here are some screen shots (with closed captions) from the episode.
Ashley, confused at how this could possibly be the case (since she and Dimitri are already having regular sex), asks him about it.
Dimitri explains that it is true, that men can have multiple channels of sexual tension, and Ashley learns something that she did not know.
I actually hinted at this phenomenon in an earlier post, and I still stand by the principles that I discussed there. There are at least several reasons why it is important to know the truth of the situation. First for a potential new wife; she may feel like she needs to compete with the established wife(s) who is (or are) already having intimate relations with their husband. She may feel the need to overtly advertise her sexuality (in sexually flirtatious ways) in an attempt to draw his attention or affection, but she needn’t do so at all. Second, an established wife has no need to fear that the presence of a new wife will diminish her husband’s attraction for her.
This ability for men to have multiple, separate channels of sexual tension is colloquially known as the The Coolidge Effect. The term was first suggested by behavioral endocrinologist Frank A. Beach in 1958. He attributed the neologism to an old joke about Calvin Coolidge when he was President.
The President and Mrs. Coolidge were being shown [separately] around an experimental government farm. When [Mrs. Coolidge] came to the chicken yard she noticed that a rooster was mating very frequently. She asked the attendant how often that happened and was told, “Dozens of times each day.” Mrs. Coolidge said, “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” Upon being told, the President asked, “Same hen every time?” The reply was, “Oh, no, Mr. President, a different hen every time.” President: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”
The joke appears in a 1972 book (Aggression in Man and Animals, by Roger N. Johnson, p. 94). You can read here for some more background about the origins of the term.
What is the Coolidge Effect? It is a biological phenomenon exhibited most commonly, and strongly, by males. After a male (this phenomenon is not limited to human men – it is displayed by males of most animal species) engages in sexual activity to the point of orgasm with a particular female, he will experience a refractory period. That is, there will be a period of time (which is variable and may last from hours to days) where he is unable to have additional orgasms with the female. During this refractory period he will also have a reduced sexual interest in the female. Repeated matings with the same female will result in successively longer refractory periods. However, if the male is presented with a different, sexually available female he will exhibit renewed sexual interest, arousal, and a reset (or significantly shortened) sexual refractory period. He will even release a larger volume of semen with more active sperm in an encounter with a new partner (in comparison with the volume released after repeated encounters with the same partner).
Of course this phenomenon is easy enough to understand. From a biological perspective, it is advantageous to his reproductive success for a male to distribute his genes as widely as possible, and a single man can impregnate many women. The inverse however, is not true. It is advantageous to a woman’s reproductive success to have a single devoted male that will help to provide for and protect her young.
This sexual phenomenon in males can be repeatedly exhibited (until exhaustion) if a new female sexual partner becomes available each time. Men are biologically wired to experience renewed dopamine releases with each new encounter. The male acts as tho he does not have an “absolute” refractory period. That is to say, a refractory period which is only dependent on time. A more correct description is that he has a separate refractory period for each individual female, or, as Dimitri would say, “different channels of sexual tension” for each woman. A current wife will not detract from a man’s attraction to a new wife, nor will a new wife detract from a man’s attraction to his current wife.
This refractory period is not a constant time interval, even between the same male/female pair. In the graph above you can see that repeated (frequent) matings with the same female will result in longer and longer durations between male climax. If the mating is less frequent (with the same female), there will be a reset of the arousal levels, arousal time, and refractory period, etc. This is because the female becomes “new” again after a sufficient delay. Thus, the average American couple will have sex about once per week (studies show that couples who have sex less often are less happy and satisfied with their relationship, but couples who have sex more often are not more happy than couples who have sex weekly).
For females, this phenomenon is not experienced, or is significantly muted (it has been demonstrated at least in some female rodents, but to a lesser extent than in male rodents). At least part of the reason this phenomenon is not prominently exhibited in women is that they have essentially no sexual refractory period. Rather, they are able to continue having multiple orgasms with the same male, in a single sexual encounter, until exhaustion (more on this in a later post). Furthermore, when looking at attraction in humans, women are found generally to prefer familiarity, while men are found to prefer novelty. It could be generally said that men are biologically geared towards polygamy and women towards monogamy. These are just some of the many biological differences between men and women.
This phenomenon also explains the increased sexual arousal that is often associated with new lingerie, different sexual positions, pornography, etc. This is also a reason why women tend (stereotypically) to have more outfits, shoes, and hairstyles than their male partners. By changing their physical appearance they are subtly suggesting novelty. The goal with all this simulated novelty is to trick the male brain into thinking that he is actually fulfilling his biological role as a polygamist (or at least that he is mating with multiple females).
In probably most cases of “erectile dysfunction”, there is no actual physical or physiological dysfunction at all. Rather, the Coolidge Effect is being manifested with a single long term sexual partner. If the male with “ED” were introduced to a new female sexual partner he would find himself fully functional and sexually reinvigorated.
Of course, we are not slaves to our biology; nevertheless, we ought to understand ourselves as best we can. Yes, men will take notice of a pretty woman who is not his wife, he can hardly help it. Just remember not to take a second notice, and to keep your eyes off of other men’s wives (whoever lusts after a married woman commits adultery in his heart); it will only lead to trouble.
Having written all that, nothing in this post should be used as an excuse for bad behavior. Sexual activity alone is a poor predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. Men (and humans in general) are not merely wired for sex with multiple partners. We are also wired to seek stability, and this is a much better predictor of satisfaction and happiness. Therefore, it would not only be immoral, but also destructive in many other ways (to themselves, to the women involved, and to society at large) for men to fulfil this biological programing outside of the bounds of marriage. Our natural, biological programing must be chained by our larger moral and religious inclinations and training. Intimacy comes after commitment.
In conclusion, there is absolutely no need for a potentially new wife to feel that she is at a disadvantage in comparison to any established wife in the area of sexual attraction. Also, there is no need for a current wife to feel any jealousy or sexual inadequacy in comparison to a newer wife; a husband will have separate channels of sexual tension for each of them individually.
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.
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.
I’m pretty affectionate in public and I simply don’t think about how it could be perceived by others until I have this moment of shock, clarity, and realization that we are not a “normal” family.
Joshua sometimes goes on business trips. When he flies back into town the rest of us like to meet him at the airport. Everyone loves watching for him and being the first to call out when they see him come down the escalator to baggage claim where we are all waiting for him.
The last time we did this, He kissed both Charlotte and me upon greeting.
I then had this moment of “Whoa! what did we just do?”
His coworkers had come in on the same flight. He had not told them about our family. If they saw, what would they think? More importantly, what would they do? There is a law here in Utah making my marriage illegal. Potential reprucussions, although unlikely, huge.
We have this happen every so often in public. Affection in public shown to both wives and I don’t think about it when it happens, and then I look around and see people avert eyes, or stare. It gets all weird. I just want to live my life. I don’t want to be a spectacle.
It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog, and many things have happened since my last post. Sadly, many of those things will have to be left without comment – the moment has simply passed. But, in order to get back into writing, I thought I would start with a simple, and lighthearted post, and one which I have been wanting to write for some time.
In 1872 Samuel Longhorn Clemens, (Mark Twain) published an autobiographical account of his travels thru the Wild West during the span of years from 1861-1867. It was during these travels in the pioneer west, that he first made use of the pen name, “Mark Twain”. While on these travels Samuel learned many things; among them was “how far he could push a joke” a lesson learned from some “disagreeable experiences” he brought upon himself.
He made these travels with his older brother, Orion Clemens, who was the newly appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory (its first and only). In writing the account, Twain relied on his brother’s diary to refresh his memory. In order to fill in the gaps, he borrowed heavily from his own active imagination, and wry sense of humor.
Altho I would recommend the book generally, it is very long, being 608 pages. And tho I have read a good deal of it, I could not push myself to complete it before the library stopped allowing my renewals.
However, for the interest and entertainment of the reader, I will reproduce some briefer quotations from the book below. The Great Salt Lake City, founded by Mormons in 1847, became known as, “The Crossroads of the West”. A great many travelers, famous, infamous, and otherwise, came thru Salt Lake City in those early pioneer days. Many of them were naturally curious to see the Mormons and their peculiar ways; namely, plural marriage. Samuel Clemens was no exception, and goes on for several chapters of his book, Roughing It, describing his experiences in Utah among the Mormons.
In the beginning of Chapter 13, after arriving in Great Salt Lake City (more commonly known today by its short form, “Salt Lake City”, or even just, “Salt Lake”), Twain reports:
We had a fine supper, of the freshest meats and fowls and vegetables—a great variety and as great abundance. We walked about the streets some, afterward, and glanced in at shops and stores; and there was fascination in surreptitiously staring at every creature we took to be a Mormon. This was fairy-land to us, to all intents and purposes—a land of enchantment, and goblins, and awful mystery. We felt a curiosity to ask every child how many mothers it had, and if it could tell them apart; and we experienced a thrill every time a dwelling-house door opened and shut as we passed, disclosing a glimpse of human heads and backs and shoulders—for we so longed to have a good satisfying look at a Mormon family in all its comprehensive ampleness, disposed in the customary concentric rings of its home circle.
He goes on to say:
Next day we strolled about everywhere through the broad, straight, level streets, and enjoyed the pleasant strangeness of a city of fifteen thousand inhabitants with no loafers perceptible in it; and no visible drunkards or noisy people; a limpid stream rippling and dancing through every street in place of a filthy gutter; block after block of trim dwellings, built of “frame” and sunburned brick—a great thriving orchard and garden behind every one of them, apparently—branches from the street stream winding and sparkling among the garden beds and fruit trees—and a grand general air of neatness, repair, thrift and comfort, around and about and over the whole. And everywhere were workshops, factories, and all manner of industries; and intent faces and busy hands were to be seen wherever one looked; and in one’s ears was the ceaseless clink of
hammers, the buzz of trade and the contented hum of drums and fly-wheels.
The armorial crest of my own State consisted of two dissolute bears holding up the head of a dead and gone cask between them and making the pertinent remark, “UNITED, WE STAND—(hic!)—DIVIDED, WE FALL.” It was always too figurative for the author of this book. But the Mormon crest was easy.
And it was simple, unostentatious, and fitted like a glove. It was a representation of a GOLDEN BEEHIVE, with the bees all at work!
We saw the “Tithing-House,” and the “Lion House,” and I do not know or remember how many more church and government buildings of various kinds and curious names. We flitted hither and thither and enjoyed every hour, and picked up a great deal of useful information and entertaining nonsense, and went to bed at night satisfied.
On the next day Twain was very much excited to meet the famous, Brigham Young, but the feeling was not as mutual as he would have liked.
The second day, we made the acquaintance of Mr. Street (since deceased) and put on white shirts and went and paid a state visit to the king. He seemed a quiet, kindly, easy-mannered, dignified, self-possessed old gentleman of fifty-five or sixty, and had a gentle craft in
his eye that probably belonged there. He was very simply dressed and was just taking off a straw hat as we entered. He talked about Utah, and the Indians, and Nevada, and general American matters and questions, with our secretary and certain government officials who came with us. But he never paid any attention to me, notwithstanding I made several attempts to “draw him out” on federal politics and his high handed attitude toward Congress. I thought some of the things I said were rather fine. But he merely looked around at me, at distant intervals, something as I have seen a benignant old cat look around to see which kitten was meddling with her tail.
By and by I subsided into an indignant silence, and so sat until the end, hot and flushed, and execrating him in my heart for an ignorant savage. But he was calm. His conversation with those gentlemen flowed on as sweetly and peacefully and musically as any summer brook. When the audience was ended and we were retiring from the presence, he put his hand on my head, beamed down on me in an admiring way and said to my brother:
“Ah—your child, I presume? Boy, or girl?”
As for Twain’s intentions to bring about a reformation of the Mormons, on the subject of polygamy, he had these sobering words to share in Chapter 14:
Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days, and therefore we had no time to make the customary inquisition into the workings of polygamy and get up the usual statistics and deductions preparatory to calling the attention of the nation at large once more to the matter.
I had the will to do it. With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here—until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically “homely” creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, “No—the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure—and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.”
And finally in Chapter 15, he shares a humorous tale which, tho fictitious, has a kernel of truth. It was supposedly told to Mark Twain by a Gentile named Johnson:
Mr. Johnson said that while he and Mr. Young were pleasantly conversing in private, one of the Mrs. Youngs came in and demanded a breast-pin, remarking that she had found out that he had been giving a breast-pin to No. 6, and she, for one, did not propose to let this partiality go on without making a satisfactory amount of trouble about it. Mr. Young reminded her that there was a stranger present. Mrs. Young said that if the state of things inside the house was not agreeable to the stranger, he could find room outside. Mr. Young promised the breast-pin, and she went away. But in a minute or two another Mrs. Young came in and demanded a breast-pin. Mr. Young began a remonstrance, but Mrs. Young cut him short. She said No. 6 had got one, and No. 11 was promised one, and it was “no use for him to try to impose on her—she hoped she knew her rights.” He gave his promise, and she went. And presently three Mrs. Youngs entered in a body and opened on their husband a tempest of tears, abuse, and entreaty. They had heard all about No. 6, No. 11, and No. 14. Three more breast-pins were promised. They were hardly gone when nine more Mrs. Youngs filed into the presence, and a new tempest burst forth and raged round about the prophet and his guest. Nine breast-pins were promised, and the weird sisters filed out again. And in came eleven more, weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth. Eleven promised breast-pins purchased peace once more.
“That is a specimen,” said Mr. Young. “You see how it is. You see what a life I lead. A man can’t be wise all the time. In a heedless moment I gave my darling No. 6—excuse my calling her thus, as her other name has escaped me for the moment—a breast-pin. It was only worth twenty-five dollars—that is, apparently that was its whole cost—but its ultimate cost was inevitably bound to be a good deal more. You yourself have seen it climb up to six hundred and fifty dollars—and alas, even that is not the end! For I have wives all over this Territory of Utah. I have dozens of wives whose numbers, even, I do not know without looking in the family Bible. They are scattered far and wide among the mountains and valleys of my realm. And mark you, every solitary one of them will hear of this wretched breast pin, and every last one of them will have one or die. No. 6’s breast pin will cost me twenty-five hundred dollars before I see the end of it. And these creatures will compare these pins together, and if one is a shade finer than the rest, they will all be thrown on my hands, and I will have to order a new lot to keep peace in the family.
Sir, you probably did not know it, but all the time you were present with my children your every movement was watched by vigilant servitors of mine. If you had offered to give a child a dime, or a stick of candy, or any trifle of the kind, you would have been snatched out of the house instantly, provided it could be done before your gift left your hand. Otherwise it would be absolutely necessary for you to make an exactly similar gift to all my children—and knowing by experience the importance of the thing, I would have stood by and seen to it myself that you did it, and did it thoroughly. Once a gentleman gave one of my children a tin whistle—a veritable invention of Satan, sir, and one which I have an unspeakable horror of, and so would you if you had eighty or ninety children in your house. But the deed was done—the man escaped. I knew what the result was going to be, and I thirsted for vengeance. I ordered out a flock of Destroying Angels, and they hunted the man far into the fastnesses of the Nevada mountains. But they never caught him. I am not cruel, sir—I am not vindictive except when sorely outraged—but if I had caught him, sir, so help me Joseph Smith, I would have locked him into the nursery till the brats whistled him to death. By the slaughtered body of St. Parley Pratt (whom God assail!) there was never anything on this earth like it! I knew who gave the whistle to the child, but I could, not make those jealous mothers believe me. They believed I did it, and the result was just what any man of reflection could have foreseen: I had to order a hundred and ten whistles—I think we had a hundred and ten children in the house then, but some of them are off at college now—I had to order a hundred and ten of those shrieking things, and I wish I may never speak another word if we didn’t have to talk on our fingers entirely, from that time forth until the children got tired of the whistles. And if ever another man gives a whistle to a child of mine and I get my hands on him, I will hang him higher than Haman! That is the word with the bark on it! Shade of Nephi! You don’t know anything about married life. I am rich, and everybody knows it. I am benevolent, and everybody takes advantage of it.
I hope you all enjoyed these accounts, and can see the humor in them.
I’ve been a plural wife for almost 6 years. We have lived separately for 5 of those years as I got my teens grown and launched.
Charlotte had 3 children when I joined the family. Now she has 4.
It’s been very interesting being a second mother to her children.
I am very grateful that the basics of early parenting are so similar. Cosleeping, extended breastfeeding, baby wearing, etc. I”m grateful that we agree on discipline techniques and are constantly looking for better ways to parent each individual child.
For a long time, because I was only around parts of a couple of days a week, it was difficult finding my voice as a parent to the portion of the family I didn’t live with daily. Now that I live in the same overarching home, it has gotten much easier and I have much more enlightenment on the day to day running of the household. I’m beginning to understand how kids can work the system, and how much more plural parents have to be in communication in order to limit treats and deal with chore assignments.
I am a parent to these children of Joshua and Charlotte. I have a very vested interest in them and even more so now. We are a family.
We support each other in parenting. If we believe another adult to be out of line or too harsh, we save those criticisms for out of child earshot. I have been very neededly pulled out of situations where I escalated too abruptly and too loudly (AKA lost my damn mind). A pair of scissors and a Bluebird flour bag come to mind.
There are a couple of funny things which have happened recently:
Each night we have family time which consists of Joshua reading, each person sharing something about the day, and family prayer. A while ago, while gathering the 10-year-old came in sulking and complaining “In the last 5 minutes, I’ve been asked by 3 parents if I’ve brushed my teeth!” Sorry kid; it’s just a parent thing, and you have more than most.
I was reading a book to the 2 1/2-year-old about 5 little monkeys and their mother’s birthday. The little monkeys were making their mother a cake. Our toddler was very confused and asked “Where is the other mama?! as she thumbed through the pages looking for another mother. I told her that there was only one mother in the monkey family and she kept asking why. I just explained that there are many families with only one mom. She was very dissatisfied that that was the case.
We were at a Sunday meeting with other multiple-mother families and the 6-year-old was on a stairwell with a group of other young girls. She was attempting to explain who I was, “She’s kind of like my Stepmother, but she’s not.” I called up to her, “Just call me your other mother. All of these girls likely have at least 2 maybe 3 moms.” She had a sigh of relief and the other girls collectively nodded their heads in understanding.
One of the most exciting and joyful things about being in my family is that I am expecting a baby in about a month.
As hard as it was to wait for so long, I am so happy this kiddo is being born into a plural family who lives together. I’m excited to have other parents who are so good at parenting and are much closer to the tiny years, so I can ask for help on things like baby carriers and EC. I’m excited that this baby will be like an only child, but with older siblings who are eager to help and excited for a new family member.