Seeking Sister Problems

Humans are obligatory problem solvers.  They cannot help it.  If they didn’t have problems of their own, they would invent them.

We humans love problems!  Dealing with problems is essential to our health and well-being.  Our brains are designed to anticipate them, think about them, worry about them, and eventually solve them.  Our brains do this all the time, very well, and sometimes too well.

Even tho tendencies we may have are natural, evil can come of them when they are allowed to roam too far, or wander outside of the bounds the Lord has set. Problem-solving is one such tendency.  It is so ingrained in our being that when things are going generally well, and no problems seem to be presenting themselves to us, we will, of necessity, create our own problems.

If they chose to, most people could objectively look at their lives and see how frequently the problems they had were of their own engineering, and their suffering self-inflicted.  Yes, it is true that time and chance happens to everyone, and yet, it is also true that our lives are largely of our own making.

While these two ideas may seem to be at odds with one another, they are both true.  It is true because: what happens to us is only half of our life.  The other half is how we respond to the things that happen.  This weightier half is made up of what we think and do about the things that happen to us, and those around us.  It is our response to both the past and present, and also our response to the future.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.  – Shakespeare (Hamlet; Act 2, Scene 2)

We interact with the past thru our our mental and emotional analysis of our memories.  We interact with the future thru our mental simulations of possible events.  We imagine the things we might say or do, and we play these things out on the stage of our mind.  The data we have collected, and analyzed, from the past is fed into these simulations of the future.  We interact with the present thru our choices, which are determined by the outcomes of the simulations of our future.  After running these simulations, we do a mental calculation.  We weigh the pros and cons, consider the benefits and costs, the difficulty and feasibility.  In other words, we plan, and then we choose the action based on our plan, however hasty or shortsighted it may be.

molehills“Problems” have everything to do with our perception of them.  As I mentioned above, we even have the power, in our minds, to transform non-problems into problems, or small issues into big issues.  The proverb speaks of turning mole-hills into mountains.

For example, it is normal to have disagreements with those around us.  It is even normal to argue about those disagreements, but it takes special effort to turn agreements into something to argue about.

Here is an example of what I mean.  In episode 10 (of the second season of SSW), Brandy comes back to visit the McGees.  Brandy is spending the day with Paige, chatting and helping with the household chores.  In this scene the two women are folding laundry together, and we quickly see that things are not going very well.  I don’t know how much of this scene is the result of “editorial sculpting”; regardless, this exchange is illustrative.

Brandy: “Do we fold the same?”
Paige: “That’s what I was looking at.  I was like, yeah, she actually folds like I do.”
Brandy: “Nice.”
Paige: “That’s pretty cool.”
Brandy: “So, are you particular about, like, say I would have, (she begins to demonstrate folding a towel another way) because there is another way, and so…”
Paige: “No, I would have fixed it.  I wouldn’t have said anything; I would have just fixed it.”
Brandy:  “You would have fixed it?”
Paige:  “Mm-Hmm.”
Brandy: “Ok, so there is a particular way of doing things?”
Paige:  “Yeah.  There’s a right way and a wrong way.”
Brandy:  “Any other, like, pet peeves or particulars?  Like, if it was my day to do dishes – would you come in behind me and see if the dishwasher was loaded right?”
Paige:  (Nods, Yes)
Brandy:  “Yeah?  I used to be very particular, but now I’m just so grateful if someone helps.  I’ve gotten to where I’m just like, just put it in the closet and shut the door.”
Paige:  “No.  Towels, they have to be put in a certain way because they will fall over.  So, you have to fold them a certain way.”
Brandy:  “So, how would that work, you know, with me coming in?  If I come in, like, how would that work?”
Paige:  “You’ll just have to learn to do it my way.”

Towels

If you can grasp the reality, that our lives are largely what we make of them, and yet you continue to feel like you can’t stop worrying, can’t stop creating problems for yourself, can’t stop creating problems for others, cant stop sabotaging yourself and your relationships; then perhaps there’s something wrong with your understanding of the human brain and our search for happiness and satisfaction.

We aren’t made to experience “happiness” in the way normally think of it: carefree,  pain free, completely fulfilled, excited, and free of any suffering.  Rather, we were made to survive, and survival, in a very human sense, means to create.  The strange thing is that suffering (that is, the mental component of suffering), and creating are connected.   A large part of suffering involves a mental process called rumination.

Rumination is when we focus all our attention on the ways we are suffering, on its possible causes, and on our failures (and the failures of others) that have led us to our suffering.  These thoughts are repeated over and over (thus the name, rumination) without resolution.  We allow ourselves to rehash and dwell upon the causes and consequences of our suffering, rather than dwelling on its solutions.

Instead of devising the next step for our life, we ruminate on the last one. Rather than imagining new opportunities, we assume nothing better is possible. Rather than taking control of our life, we embrace an attitude of powerlessness. We become helpless, and our suffering becomes meaningless because we are at the whim of how the world makes us feel, but we were meant for better things.  We were created to create.  We were made to act, and not to be acted upon (See 2Nephi 2:14-16).

So what is the connection?  Rumination (a component of mental suffering) and creativity are controlled by the same parts of the brain, and they have an inhibiting effect upon one another.  Suffering will result when we stop creating, and visa versa.

Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

When we focus on creating, our pain is no longer meaningless – it is no longer “suffering for suffering’s sake”.  Rather, as pain cannot be altogether avoided, it becomes an expected part of the process – the pain becomes “worth it”.  When we focus on creating and doing, we no longer categorize our emotional experiences as: “things that feel good” or “things that don’t”. Instead, we use the vastly superior categories: “things that are worthwhile” and “things that aren’t”.

Use your mind and energies to create, to do, and to improve.  It will give your brain something productive to do.  These are the things in life that are worthwhile.  These are the things that will give our lives actual meaning, and in a deeper and more satisfying way than complaining and worrying about things will ever do.  I repeat, our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by complaining.  Our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by worrying.  Our lives are not made meaningful nor satisfying by suffering needlessly, nor by needlessly increasing the suffering of those around us.  

Our lives are made meaningful and satisfying by the things we do and create.

Increase the talents given to you, rather than hiding them.  Read a book, write a book, grow a garden, fix your marriage, plan a trip, learn a foreign language, learn to play an instrument, go back to school, make your children a larger priority in your life, become a regular volunteer for a local charity, change your own motor oil, quit an addiction, start exercising, organize a chess club, get yourself right with God. 

The possibilities are quite literally endless.  There are so many things you could do.  There are so many thing you ought to do, and you know it.  God is the creator, and we are made in his image.  We were made to create.  We were made to improve.

Excuse me, ma’am, but Jacob had 4 wives.

I was still an active member of the LDS Church, and I was substituting as the pianist in primary.  Singing Time was over for the Junior Primary, so I had a few minutes to relax before the Senior Primary came in.

The Primary President was in charge of Sharing Time, and she was having the children role play some Bible stories.

Since we believe we are Israelites, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) is a key person in our story and covenant heritage.  The trouble for a strictly monogamous Church is that Jacob/Israel inconveniently had 4 wives, and each wife was the mother of at least 2 of the sons who would become the namesakes for the “tribes of Israel.”

How does one tell the story of the family and hold Jacob/Israel up as a good example we should emulate without condoning his polygamy???

When trying to role play this awkward marital situation, what is a Primary President supposed to do?

She did what any self-respecting monogamous Primary President would do.  She pretended that Jacob had only one wife, giving her the credit for birthing all 12 of his sons (and 1 daughter).

I wasn’t a polygamist back then — in fact, I didn’t even like the idea of polygamy — and yet I was shocked at this blatant mis-telling of the common Bible story.

(Side note: The famous musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat mentions Jacob’s “wives and states that Joseph’s mother was Jacob’s favorite wife.  As far as I remember, the play leaves it at that; the plural wives are not major characters and they are never explicitly named, so the screenplay skirts around the polygamy issue without either making a big deal about it or being inaccurate.)

Screenshot 2019-10-29 17.21.24

Screenshot 2019-10-29 17.20.46

Back to the Primary President.  She invited 1 boy and 1 girl to the front of the room and let them dress up in some simple homemade costumes.  Then she introduced them to the primary as Jacob and his “wife“, who were the parents of the 12 sons we know as the tribes of Israel.

I was stunned.  I couldn’t let this error pass without comment, so from the back of the room, I raised my hand and opened my mouth and said,

“Excuse me, ma’am, but Jacob had 4 wives.”

The Primary President blushed and hemmed and stammered and couldn’t find a way to remove herself from the embarrassing situation she’d put herself into.  The story was cut short and the children were shooed back to their seats.

I felt bad for correcting the Primary President in front of everyone, and yet, what would you have done?

An hour later, when the same activity was being done with the older age group, I noticed that the Primary President still had children act out Adam and Eve, Noah and Mrs. Noah, Jonah, Daniel, David and Goliath, and so on, but she didn’t dare repeating the Jacob-and-his-monogamous-wife incident, and that story was left out.

Jacob family tree

“They Must Have Been Raised in Polygamy”

This is the first of a series of posts that I am calling, “For Gail“.  This  series will consist of my answers to a range issues brought up in comments (mostly on this post about the McGees, but also on the Dateonomics post by Taylor) and personal correspondence with a blog reader, Gail, back in April of 2019.

Nits make LiceOne of the views Gail repeats in her comments is that polygamists must have a sense of satisfaction and happiness that is stunted, malformed, or distorted in some way by their own upbringing in a polygamous family.  There is something seriously wrong with them. Thus, they can completely accept the inherent unhappiness and dissatisfaction they experience while interpreting it as its opposite: actual (or full) satisfaction and happiness.  Understandably, this makes Gail “sad” and “greatly troubled”.  Especially since (at least at the time of her writing) it was, by her own admission, impossible for her to understand things in any other way.  She says of my family’s reasons, “I cannot fathom [them] other than its how you were raised to look as marriage”.  Here are some longer quotes with more context so that we can better understand the issue at hand.  I have included links to the full comments as well, but please note that I will not be addressing every issue in every comment in this post – it is just too much to cover in one sitting (but I will be getting to everything eventually).

Speaking about Christine Brown (from the show, Sister Wives), Gail said:

“But she grew up in a plural family and I think her cultural upbringing formed her ability to find satisfaction and happiness in these circumstances. This intrigues me and yet saddens me at the same time. But I don’t doubt that plural families are intrigued and saddened by my perspectives regarding monogamy too.  – Gail, April 4, 2019

on another occasion, Gail went on to say about my own family:

“These inequities in your marriages greatly trouble me, but I think you and your wives just accept them for reasons I cannot fathom other than its how you were raised to look as marriage — as a group endeavor.”  – Gail, Apr 6, 2019

I am quite sure that Gail is not the only one out there who has difficulty with this concept, and, to be honest, I can sympathize with her and others who can only understand it thru this lens.  It is undeniably true that it is difficult (if not impossible) to comprehend something that you have no experience with.  In the case of polygamy, this is all the more true when the only reference point you have is what the media has to say about polygamists, which is almost all grossly imbalanced and sensationalized (but further comments on this will have to be its own post).  This is the source of most people’s information, and it is almost exclusively about one group of polygamists: the FLDS.

“Then there was the horrible Warren Jeffs trial that further soured my view.”  – Gail, April 4, 2019

The FLDS undoubtedly have many unique problems all their own, and their leaders have done plenty of things to muddy the public’s perception, but this will have to be its own post as well.

For many people, Gail included, the information they have also comes from reality television.  While this is actually much much better than the standard media coverage, it is still only glimpses, is distorted in sometimes surprising ways, and doesn’t really paint the full picture.

To all the people in this camp I would say that the chances are very good that you don’t personally know any polygamists (altho you might be surprised).  Therefore, to understand them you can only do so by analogy with your own way of thinking and feeling.  I would like to point out that there is nothing wrong with this – there is no other way of understanding things!, and I am not just talking about understanding plural marriage here.  No, no, my friends, this is true of all our understanding, and of every branch of knowledge.

When I pointed this out to Gail, she, to her credit, concurred.

“I agree that I cannot understand plural marriage well at all because I don’t see it lived day to day by anyone.”  – Gail, April 4, 2019

So, limited understanding, due to naivety on the subject (whatever it may be), is not a hurdle to comprehension.  It just calls for a little humility.  Problems come when those with zero experience, begin telling those who have experienced something what that thing is all about; and furthermore, wont accept their words as valid if they go contrary to their experience-less understandings.  Have you ever had this happen to you?

When my wives and I write about these things it is coming from an entirely different perspective than most of our readers.  Our knowledge isn’t second, third, or fourth hand at all.  We are living polygamy! and, in addition, we personally know and interact with dozens of other polygamist families as well!

Now we come to the really important thing that I wanted to communicate in this post.  I want Gail, and other readers in her boat, to realize that we also know perfectly well where they are coming from, because we were there too!  This is probably a difficult thing to wrap your mind around, (and understandably so because it is such a foreign concept), and doesn’t fit at all into your preconceived notions about it.  Therefore, just to make this explicit,  and I realize this may be a mind blowing realization to some,  I want to say:  In my family, we were all formerly monogamists, and we were all raised in monogamist families.  This has very little to do with the way we were raised.

Anyone who is sincerely curious to know about our family can read about our former monogamy and our mainstream LDS upbringing in one of several posts that we have already written (here, here, here, here, here, here, or here – it does little good to rewrite material that has already been organized and published as a post already).  So, when you tell us about the virtues of monogamy, you’re preaching to the choir. We love devoted monogamists, and think the world should have more of them! 

I just want you to know that we completely understand your point of view.  There is likely nothing that you can tell us about living monogamy that we don’t already know (because we were monogamists, like you), but there are things that we can tell you about polygamy (because we are polygamists, unlike you).  Please also know that we fully respect and accept the sincerity of your decision to be monogamist.  Please grant us the same sincerity.

Next I’m going to share an even more mind bending fact:  We aren’t even close to the only ones.  I do know many polygamists who were raised in polygamist families, but I actually know more who weren’t.  Dozens of them (both husbands and wives), were raised in monogamist families, and were monogamists themselves for a number of years.  Case in point, in the Brown family, which Gail mentioned earlier, Kody was raised in a monogamous, mainstream, LDS family.  I have actually visited with Kody’s mother (who was also raised monogamous – as was his father).  They converted to fundamentalism when Kody was on a mission for the LDS church!  Can you imagine? When he came home his family had joined another church (and one that he had been preaching against).  You should hear the things she said about LDS singles wards (haha, this will have to be another post).

It is not an uncommon occurrence within polygamist circles, for monogamists, and people who were raised in monogamy, to become part of a plural family, and I don’t think this fact is commonly known or appreciated by “outsiders”.  Rather, my strong suspicion is that that the common perception is that people are born into polygamy and then later flee, leave, or escape polygamy.  I’m not sure people realize that there is lots of movement the other way as well.  Normal, everyday people leave monogamy to become polygamists regularly.  The funny thing is that when people “escape monogamy” they usually just call it “divorce” – because no one (or nearly no one) believes that monogamy is something you need to escape.  The common belief is that the specific marriage, or the specific family situation, was bad or abusive and worthy of leaving.  This is in contrast to those who leave their plural marriages.  They don’t simply get divorced; rather, they “escape”!  Why is it so difficult to realize that there are some bad or abusive plural families just as there are some bad or abusive monogamist families?  It is because polygamy is unusual in our culture, and therefore easily sensational.

Having said all this, how do you account for this movement of people from monogamy and monogamist upbringings with the axiom that polygamists have a warped “ability to find satisfaction and happiness” because they were raised in a polygamist home?  No need to answer that question, because you can’t.  Without modification, the axiom does not even allow the situation to exist as a possibility.  Nevertheless the situation exists, and has continued to manifest and repeat itself for millennia.  Keep reading these posts, and you might gain a glimpse into some of the reasons why.  But beware! you may have to modify or discard this axiom.

One more thing, for those who might be interested in learning more (sorry for the short notice), on Saturday, August 3rd 2019 (that is today), session number 358 of the Sunstone Symposium will be titled:

Panel Discussion: Mainstream Mormon Women Go Plural

The brief description given on the website is as follows:

“This session features a panel of women who chose to leave mainstream Mormonism to live the polygamous lifestyle. Panelists include the stars of a popular reality show and women from a variety of polygamous sects.

This is your chance to pick their brains on how and why each came to choose plural marriage, how their family and friends have been affected, and what the various benefits and challenges of the polygamous lifestyle are.”

The session will begin at 2:00 pm in room 300-D of the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, Utah.  Charlotte and Melissa will be there, as well as several other women.  It should be an interesting time.

Family Is Always First

I want to write about a serious deficiency that many families face.  It is a plague upon the modern family: absentee fathers.  Sadly, much of the blame for this plague can be placed at the feet of our own government.  For generations now they have incentivized (in other words, encouraged) fatherless homes, and encouraged our women to marry the government. Fatherless homes are perhaps the biggest problem facing our culture.

The percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased dramatically in this country over the past few decades.  A generation or two ago only 5% of births were to unmarried women.  The current figure is hovering somewhere around 40%!  One of the amazing things about this trend is that it has happened after the invention of modern birth control! Shouldn’t the availability of birth control methods have lowered the incidence of births out of wedlock?  It seems that it has had the opposite effect in some regards. It has simply helped to create a culture of ever deteriorating morals. It doesn’t take a psychologist or social scientist to realize that this trend is detrimental to our society in a great many ways.

75_Births-to-Unmarried-Women_Image1

Children do better in every way with both a father and a mother in the home!  And fathers especially seem to have a large positive influence.  Children do better in every way you could think to measure when there is an involved father in the home.  There is a large body of evidence supporting what we already instinctively know about fathers, but in a time such as ours, when truth and wisdom are so often seen as foolishness (or “backwards” or “outdated” or “sexist” etc.), it is good to have some facts at our disposal.

Here I have gathered some statistics from various sources.  Please don’t write any comments about exceptions to these statistics.  I know there are bad fathers and husbands out there.  Maybe even your very own father was abusive.  If so, I would be very sorry to hear it, but it in no way contradicts the numbers I am about to share.  These numbers are speaking about fathers in general, and, generally speaking, fathers are very good to have around.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes.

71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

71% of pregnant teens have no father present in their life. Fatherless children are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership whatsoever.

90% of runaway children have an absent father.

Fatherless children are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood.

nationalfatherhoodinitiativefatherabsencecrisis

Fathers are the natural protectors of their families. Therefore, fatherless children are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.    Preschoolers living only with their mother are 40 times more likely to be sexually abused, and 5 times more likely to experience physical abuse and emotional maltreatment (with a 100 times higher risk of that abuse being fatal).

Fatherless children report significantly more psychosomatic health symptoms and illness such as acute and chronic pain, asthma, headaches, and stomach aches.

Children with absent fathers are consistently overrepresented among those with anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

As adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness.

Children with absent fathers are more likely to divorce, or dissolve their cohabiting unions.

Fatherless children are more likely to die as children, and live an average of four years less over the life span.

Given the fact that these and other social problems correlate more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other factor, surpassing race, social class, and poverty, father absence may well be the most critical social issue of our time.

Fathers are an absolutely vital part of human life and development, but a part that is often discredited and marginalized.  Our society at large is screaming at men and boys that they ought to be ashamed for what they have done (i.e. existing as males), and for the negative effects they have had on the world.  And that they ought to apologize for some imagined and unearned “privilege” which they have stolen from women – whom they have horribly abused and oppressed for the whole of history, and continue to oppress to the present day.  Our children are constantly being fed the lie that men ought to be more like women, and that women and men are equal in every way.  It is all a part of the attempted suicide of our western culture, and there are real and concerted efforts on many fronts to achieve this end.

For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) recently released their Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men wherein they state, “Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment.”  The entire premise of this sentence is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in print.  Conflict of interest much?  In other words these psychologists are saying, “Teaching boys to be strong, self reliant, and to manage their own problems, makes them not give as much money to us when they are adults.”  Just think of it, they are criticizing teaching boys to be self-reliant, strong, and to manage their own problems!  These people are actively engaged in the destruction of everything good and right in the world.

Here is what Jordan Peterson had to say about the document mentioned:

Let me translate this opening salvo into something approximating clear and blunt English. The authors are claiming that men who socialize their boys in a traditional manner destroy their mental health. This translation/clarification needs to be extended to the second major claim of the document, which is distributed more subtly through its body. We’ll begin with this quote, taken from the Guidelines (p. 3): “Research suggests that socialization practices that teach boys from an early age to be self-reliant, strong, and to minimize and manage their problems on their own yield adult men who are less willing to seek mental health treatment,” in combination with this one (p. 3, as well): “Men are overrepresented in prisons, are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, and are at greatest risk of being a victim of violent crime (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015).” So, it’s not only that men who encourage their boys to be “self-reliant, strong and manage their problems on their own” destroy the mental health of their children: they also produce adults who are a primary menace to their families and society.

This is all bad enough (and by that I mean inexcusable) conceptually, rhetorically and politically. But it’s also a lie, scientifically—and worse (because not merely a lie; instead, something more unforgivable). To indicate, as the writers have, that it is the socialization of boys and men by men that is producing both a decrement in the personal mental health of males and females and a threat to the social fabric is not only to get the facts wrong, but to get them wrong in a manner that is directly antithetical to the truth…

It’s simple – and it is this simple fact that is absolutely damning to the claims in the APA document. What kind of families produce violent young men? Fatherless families. The pernicious effect of fatherlessness is exceptionally well-documented. No serious researchers question it. Even the generally damnable sociologists admit it (see, for example, http://bit.ly/2HB27JL). Fatherless girls tend, for example, toward early sexual experimentation (something in itself linked to antisocial behavior) and, unsurprisingly, higher rates of teenage pregnancy. What might be more surprising, however, is that there is even evidence for earlier puberty among girls whose fathers are absent. Fatherless boys are over-represented as alcoholics, addicts, gang-members, prisoners, rapists and murderers. And there’s plenty of what is positive that is lacking among fatherless children, in addition to the negative that is more likely to be present (here’s a decent summary, in lay language: http://bit.ly/2HB27JL)

Consider this (it’s of primary importance): If it is fatherless boys who are violent, how can it be that masculine socialization produces harm both to mental health and society? The data should indicate precisely the opposite: that boys who are only raised by women are much less violent than boys who have men in their lives and, similarly, that boys who do have fathers are more violent than those who do not.

This is not the case. Period.

What does all of this have to do with polygamy?  A lot.  Diminished influence of a strong father figure is obviously a potential problem facing polygamous families as well – especially if the wives live in separate houses (and more especially if those houses are separated by great distances).  And of course, the danger of this increases with each additional wife in a family (assuming the branches of the family live separately).  Having the father absent every other evening, or whatever, is potentially going to have a negative effect on his children, and that is a problem that plural husbands need to address!

A few episodes ago Vanessa Cobbs has her two sisters visit in L.A. and there are some tense moments between them – especially between her and her twin sister Adrienne.  At one point Adrienne tells Vanessa that she will never be the center of Dimitri’s world.  I Vanessa’s reply: that Dimitri’s universe is big, that she and Ashley are both the center of it, and that his children are at the center of it too!

so are his children

In the next episode we see Adrienne talking to Ashley and Dimitri around the pool.  She’s still not convinced, but she is showing some openness to the idea, and wants to actually know more about it.  At one point she is talking to Dimitri and I ❤ this exchange as well!  It so completely shows the outlook that a successful plural husband must have.

hobby

She asks him about the difficulties of providing for the emotions and well being of two women.  In reply he speaks of listening and giving each woman what she needs.  She then asks him about time, and his response is that he, “builds around his family”, “keeps them in the center”, and makes his “family always first”.  In this way he can allocate his time and resources to meet his family’s needs.  From what we are seeing, Dimitri seems to be doing it well.  I love too that she eventually came around, and even apologized to Vanessa for her earlier offensiveness.

family first

Men need to be there. They need to make their families a priority. There is no substitute for a father in the home, and polygamous men, if they want to have a successful family, need to work extra hard to make it happen. They need to be thinking of their families all the time, and acting in a way that puts them first.  Polygamous men don’t have time for hobbies – their families need to be their hobby, or they need to find a way to involve their family in their hobbies.  Seriously; if you are a video gamer, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.  If you spend all your evenings watching sports with the guys, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.  If you spend every free weekend at the golf course, you probably shouldn’t be a polygamist.

I am not speaking against recreation. I am speaking about priorities and life-habits. By all means, read a book, take a walk, watch the big game. All that is a needful part of a healthy life, but these things will necessarily occur much less frequently for plural men.  At least, they will occur less frequently without your family present.

The difference is that polygamous men might read a book – to their children, take a walk – with their wives, and watch the big game with their sons – rather than with the guys.  I am not saying that monogamous men don’t do these things; I am saying that polygamous men must.

There are amazing plural families and amazing monogamous families. Of course, both can be dysfunctional as well. In either case the difference, I believe, is largely a difference in dedication.

No matter your position in life, or the type of family structure you are a part of, let’s raise healthy, strong, confident, self-sufficient children – and unapologetically so.  Let’s push back against the cultural suicide that is occurring. Let’s make this country and this world a better place!

Doing Hard Things (Bernie, Brandy, and Paige)

This last episode (Episode 7, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”) of Seeking Sister Wife was honestly very hard for me to watch. This difficulty had nothing to do with the quality of the filming or of the editing. It had to do with the raw truth of the matter: polygamy can be very difficult at times. And this episode, more than any of the previous episodes, highlighted many of the difficult things about it. Part of the reason it was hard to watch was that it showed the difficulties even well-adjusted, loving plural families (or potentially plural families) can experience.

We saw the very tense and awkward moments when Vanessa’s sisters were visiting in Los Angeles. Dimitri puts it so succinctly when he says that people are going to fall off, meaning relationships will be severed one way or another. It is a sad, painful, and unnecessary reality. We even got a glimpse into the struggles of (arguably) the most functional of plural families, the Alldredges, when Sharis tells about how she sometimes misses Jeff on nights he is not with her.

What’s more, it’s not just theoretical, or televised “plural families” that can have difficulties; it is my family. Watching this episode was difficult partly because it brought back memories of our own difficulties trying to live as polygamists in a society that largely frowns upon that. Fortunately, we have overcome most of those difficulties, both with others and with ourselves (but we’re not perfect yet), and things are so much better and smoother than they were in the beginning. There is so much to talk about in this episode that it is almost overwhelming.

As a plural husband, Paige McGee’s melt down was so hard to watch. I can tell that Bernie has a genuine, deep, and abiding affection for his wife. He is hurt when she is hurt. He is concerned for her welfare, for her physical and emotional well being. A person’s own emotions are difficult enough to manage. Handling other people’s emotions requires an added measure of patience and control.

I’ve talked about Paige’s issues with jealousy here and here already, so I won’t address it again – there’s not much more to say. Jealousy is natural and jealousy can serve a positive function, but jealousy also needs to be checked before it turns into envy. All that aside, I feel for Paige in this episode. When it comes to changes in plural marriage, the first wife has got some of the biggest adjustments to make. To be sure, everyone involved has to make some pretty huge changes when a new wife is added to the family. Of course, the biggest changes to any family come with the addition of the first two wives.

It is arguable that the biggest and most difficult changes accompany the marriage of the first wife. This is when the family is first forming, and therefore is experiencing the most dramatic changes. Consequently, this can also be the most difficult time for a family. I am speaking in general terms here, but the risk of divorce is highest during the first few years of marriage. There are so many adjustments that need to be made! And so many different types of adjustments – mental, physical, financial, logistical, etc. The stress can be crushing. But commitment pays off, hang in there, and give it some time and effort. Things get better with every passing year, and just because marriage is sometimes hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it!

Of course, adding the second wife is a huge adjustment for everyone too. The new wife has to adjust to being married (just as the first wife did), and adjust to the rest of the family and the first wife as well. The first wife has to adjust to her changing schedule both with her husband and also new interactions with the second wife. The children will certainly have adjustments to make, and the husband will obviously have a large additional load on his shoulders as well.

I don’t know the McGees personally (but I’d like to; they seem like very nice people) but my guess is that the mixture of emotions Paige was feeling have a lot of basis in a fear of the unknown. This fear is largely informed by our culture, which includes our family, friends, churches, laws, and a multitude of other factors. As I recall, Paige talks about her family playing the role of devil on her shoulder in the first episode – whispering doubts and encouraging envy. We saw some of the same with Vanessa Cobbs in this episode too.

Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, the fear, the jealousy, the envy, the uncertainty, and the negative responses are all real, but none of these things are sufficient reasons to give up. They are all obstacles to overcome, and, much to Paige’s credit, she pulled thru in the end! She is not even the one who asked Bernie to come back – that was TLC (and I think that was a bad move and poor form on their part). Regardless, it looks like things turned out anyway. It would have been an absolute tragedy if the date had not gone thru.

I feel for Paige and the difficult emotions she is dealing with in this episode. I feel for Bernie and his loving concern for Paige. And I feel for Brandy too! What thoughts must be going thru her head as she is waiting out in the car alone while Bernie gets called back in to console Paige? She seems to handle it well tho.

Paige knows what she wants, even if it is hard, and I admire her for that! Hard things that are worth it. We could easily make a list of a hundred things that fit this description (some harder than others) – things that you want and are willing to work and sacrifice for: Marriage, child birth, raising children, going to school, training for a marathon, quitting smoking, changing your life for the better, cleaning your room, getting up in the morning, going to work, going to church, etc. You get the idea.

There is pain and emotion connected to all of these things. That is real, and that is something that has to be dealt with if you want to accomplish anything useful or good in this world. Just because these things are hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. Just because they make you cry sometimes doesn’t mean you should give up. It is an uphill battle. Be patient with yourself and others. Things take time, and there will be setbacks. Get back on that horse and keep riding!

Happiness

“If they’re happy with her and they make her happy, then I’m happy.”  Bree 33:30 Season 2 Episode 6

This. This exactly.  So.many.times, this is the type of response I have wanted, but it has not been something that has been expressed upon disclosure by people whom I have had relationships with the longest. Rather, there has been outrage, upset, and hateful words and deeds.  There are literally 5 people, who are close family or long-time friends, whom I have disclosed to in real life that did not express some form of hateful judgment, or have their spouses want them to limit contact with me.

Why?  Why do people insist that others stay in a prescribed box, and not allow them to act according to the dictates of their own conscience?  Why wouldn’t they give latitude for grown adults to make their own decisions and live their lives as they see fit?

Surely, it can’t be that they think they are the only ones going to Heaven?  Because I don’t think that all that many actually are; regardless of whose signatures are on that piece of paper carried in their wallet or purse.  A thorough, actual review of the Bible never condemns polygamy as these non-scripture reading folk seem to be blissfully unaware.  They prefer to avoid the scriptures in lieu of pastors, preachers, and others dictating to them what they should believe rather than the actual Word of God.

I can only assume that those who react the most vehemently are either somehow dependent on what I do for them in order to be okay with their own lives, or else they are people who insist that everyone have the same belief system that they do.

Both points of view are frankly dangerous. They are the basis for either being unwilling to live one’s own life, or they are the basis for extremists to enact violence against others – as has happened through ages past. This is a possibility that we are very sensitive to, and there is generational sensitivity to this.  Sadly, many other polygamists I know have been the subject of persecution, discrimination, and various forms of abuse and even violence.  Not just at the hands of individuals, but also at the hands of religious and civil authorities as well (for example, the cases of Short Creek in 1953 and the 2008 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch.

Because of the history of and possibility for violence, I am all the more grateful, for those few who have expressed that they simply wanted me to be happy.  They are like beams of light on a dreary day.  They have created a small net of safety in the face of uncertainty, and I consider them true friends.  Their friendship is as precious as gold, and likewise untarnishable.

Gold

The World is Upside Down

If buttercups buzzed after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches in the sea,
If ponies rode men, and the grass ate the cow,
If cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,
If mamas sold their babies to gypsies for half a crown,
If summer were spring and the other way ’round,
Then all the world would be upside down.

world upside down

I am amazed sometimes by the world I live in. Things are changing at such an alarming and accelerating rate, and it seems like things have just gone absolutely mad at times. The whole world does indeed seems upside-down at times, and here is the latest:

This legislative session, the Utah State legislature has just declared that adultery, sodomy, and fornication are no longer crimes. The justification given for this change is that these laws aren’t enforced anyway. Fair enough, but this is the very same thing they say about plural marriage, “We don’t enforce it.” However, in the case of plural marriage they go on to say, “But we just want to keep holding it over your heads.” The whole situation is crazy! These are the descendants of polygamists who settled the desert lands of Utah. They would happily throw their grandparents and great-grandparents in prison, while turning a blind eye to actual crimes. It is a sad state of affairs indeed, but I don’t want to get too much into the hypocrisy and lies surrounding the position taken by the state (that would take a separate post). I just want to highlight the absolute turn about of things!

When I heard about the startling change, I was immediately reminded of a passage from the book, Key to the Science of Theology, by Parley Pratt (one of the first apostles in the Mormon Church). Check it out.

Where is the nation called “Christian,” that does not uphold or permit prostitution, fornication and adultery with all their debasing, demoralizing, degenerating and corroding effects, with all their tendencies to disease and crime, to operate unchecked, and to leaven and corrode all classes of society?

Where is the “Christian nation” that does not prohibit the law of
God, as given to Abraham and the ancients in relation to marriage?

Where is the “Christian nation” that punishes the crime of adultery and fornication with death, or other heavy penalties?

Where are the institutions which would protect, encourage, and honour the patriarch Jacob, with his four wives and their children?

Where is the community who would feel themselves honoured in associating with such a family—although, all corrupt practices would be frowned down, and all persons discountenanced, who, under the name of gentility, nobility, or royalty, glory in their conquests and victories over the principles and practices of virtue and innocence?

Echo answers, Where?—unless we look to the far off mountains and distant vales of Deseret, a land peopled by the Latter-day Saints, and governed by the law of God, the keys of the eternal Priesthood, and organized in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, Chapter 17

Oh how the tables have turned! They have flipped a full 180 degrees. Things could not be more upside down. Parley must be turning in his grave!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20