When I was a new missionary for the LDS Church, and living at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT (this was back in 1998), I had a Branch President that I quite admired. He was a very wise man. Here is one piece of universal wisdom which he gave, and which I have never forgotten (tho perhaps not always lived):
“The scriptures say that Sampson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and every day at least that number of relationships are damaged with the same weapon… You don’t have to say everything that comes to your mind.”
Plural marriage puts you in impossible situations sometimes; situations where it is impossible to please everyone, or even most of the people. This is most often true for plural husbands. While the difficulties between the Briney women continued to play out in this most recent episode, I must say that I was pleased with the involvement that Drew displayed.
Furthermore, I have to offer an apology to Drew. In my last post I did not take into account the very likely truth that TLC is either behind much of the drama portrayed in their family, whipping it up to more than it need be, or else cleverly editing the video clips to show stern looks and eye rolls out of context, as well as leaving out parts of the story that wouldn’t fit the network’s vision for the show. Drew and all good plural husbands are much more involved in settling disputes, and counseling with their wives, than could ever be shown on television.
Note: SSW s1e6, c1 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 6, Commentary 1
Note from the blog owner: AmasaMason is a new contributor to the blog. This is his first post.
The growing dating/marriage crisis within the LDS church is no secret; church leaders have been trying to figure out what to do about it, the single women and men in the church are suffering because of it, and even secular sociologists have taken notice (for example see time.com/dateonomics ). No longer are LDS women being deprived of marriage solely because LDS men are “slacking” in their duty to find a wife and have a family; the solution is no longer as simple as exhorting more LDS men to marry. It is much more insidious yet mundane – it is a simple math problem.
Currently within the LDS church, there are more than 3 single women for every 2 single men. This means that if every single LDS man married a single LDS woman, there would be 1/3rd of the single LDS women left over. One third. Let that sink in for a moment.
This is actually a very predictable consequence within any conservative institutionalized group which encourages members to marry within the group and have large families. When there’s a positive birth rate there will be slightly more 20 yr olds than 19 yr olds, slightly more 25 yr olds than 24 yrs olds, etc. Historically (perhaps even biologically), women on average tend to marry older men and men on average tend to marry younger women; the gap is usually about 4 years. Therefore a 24 yr old man will statistically be more likely to marry a 20 yr old woman compared with a woman his own age, and a 23 yr old woman is statistically more likely to marry a 27 yr old man than a man her own age. The result? If a woman hasn’t married by the age of approximately 25-30, her prospects of finding a husband are disproportionately lower compared with the odds that a man the same age will be able to find a wife.
Bottom line: for a moment, let’s ignore the trend that more LDS men leave the church in adulthood than women; let’s ignore that more LDS men marry outside the church than women, that on average more LDS men delay marriage than women, the possibility that LDS men on average are “less valiant” as a group than LDS women, or any other potential contributing factors – even if we set aside all of that, we can STILL expect to see this disparity between single men and women due to simple math and economics.
This dating/marriage crisis within the LDS church has reached the point of being essentially irreversible. This is why more and more leaders are promising faithful women that even if they don’t have an opportunity to be a wife/mother in this life, they can still lead a happy and productive life and look forward to having those opportunities in the next. While somewhat true, this is a very inadequate “solution” to the people affected so deeply.
Interestingly, another conservative group that noticed a similar trend (Hasidic Judaism) handled it with arranged marriages, and having men and women marry peers of their same age (20 yr old men marry 20 yr old women, 24 yr old men marry 24 yr old women, etc.). This could be a viable solution moving forward if it were institutionally enforced – for future marriage/family relationships; however, in the meantime, there is a huge group of single women that would still not have their needs taken care of. If only there was another option….
The elephant in the room is that there is a solution that doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination considering the historical precedents and doctrinal foundations of Mormonism/LDS theology. What if all single women in the church were to have their marriage prospects immediately expanded to include not just the single LDS men, but also the faithful, married LDS men? Voluntary associations between consenting adults such as this could certainly provide the opportunities for marriage and child bearing that are desired by so many LDS women, who will statistically never have such opportunities otherwise.
I would not encourage the LDS leadership to get involved in arranging marriages etc. as sometimes happened in the early days – too easy to exercise unrighteous dominion and violate agency. However, to remove the severe penalties currently enforced (note: LDS people choose to practice polygyny today are immediately excommunicated as a rule according to the policy in Handbook 1) and allow the biblical principles (ironically, those restored and practiced by Joseph Smith himself) including polygyny to again be accepted by the church, this would result in a grand reunion between the mainstream LDS church and so many fundamentalist break off groups. It would provide the opportunity for people to live according to God’s inspiration and revelation in their marital relationships, a climate which has been absent since 1890. Removing the stigma against polygyny – by removing the extreme penalties enforced by LDS policy currently in place – would be a huge step in the right direction for all of Mormonism/Restorationism.
Note from the blog owner: Melissa is my sisterwife and she is a new contributor to the blog. This is her first post.
I have been asked many times how my teens reacted to me becoming a plural wife.
I’ll tell you: Horribly. And I don’t blame them.
Let’s review the collapse (there will be other blog posts fleshing out these experiences):
All my life I was raised to be very judgmental of others: hair, weight, clothing, how people carried themselves, etc. It was never just, people are different. No. There was some immeasurable standard to which all were compared, and to which all failed to measure up to. They were mocked, made fun of, and there was an undercurrent of haughtiness embedded in my very soul. I laugh now because my family was hardly the type who could lord anything over anyone. Sincerely, my own grandmother was annoyed by us – she is likely the one this critical worldview was passed down from in the first place.
Naturally, I passed all of that judgmental world-view on to my children. In the line of attack were people who lived in any manner differently from North American, mainstream, LDS, intact nuclear family. The sad part is that my own family didn’t meet the criteria for which I judged people – I was a divorced single mother.
Believe it or not, I was the worst toward polygamists. I didn’t know any polygamists, and I didn’t need to. I believed they were apostate, weird, and likely inhuman. I was mainstream LDS, born and raised in Colorado (with a 6-year stint in Seattle), and educated in Utah. I’d been living in Utah since 2000. My only reference points toward those living in plural families were news stories about how horrible the fundamentalists were; from not educating their children, to wearing old-fashioned garb, to their reprehensible lifestyle of sharing husbands. I was particularly horrible during the Texas events of 2008. I declared that all of the FLDS children should be removed by the authorities and raised by others. I confess that I vocally cheered at their trauma. God, I am such an ass (that was a prayer).
Five weeks before our lives were rocked by a series of events which left us homeless, (which in turn led to a series of events that created the structure, and mind/soul shift, for me to become a plural wife), upon hearing about a local plural family, I started off on a mean-spirited diatribe about how disgusting I thought their entire lifestyle was. We were in the car. All of my children were with me. And I was a monster. What a stage I set.
As all of this was going on, I did not prepare my children for my change of heart, and I don’t know that they would have understood it. When I first approached my children with the idea, they were horrified. They thought I had lost my mind. Suddenly, their rock-solid mom was adrift and they thought she was mad, unstable, brainwashed – everything I had said about polygamist women.
As time progressed, I did other less than mindful things which were ignorant to the venom others held and created a huge backlash for myself. I put my children in the care of my parents who were terribly misinformed and highly malignant against this lifestyle. My father told my children that my husband was going to take my 16-year-old daughter as a wife. My parents called my ex-husband – a man known to them as an alcohol/crack/porn addict, and spouse abuser – to offer him custody (apparently, they thought he would be a better parent than I, in spite of all of his limitations, and regardless of me being the legal custodial parent since September of 2000).
My father called both the police and DCFS (Child Protective Services) to report me. At the time polygamy was not illegal. Thankfully, the authorities told my father to bring my children home, or be faced with possible kidnapping charges. However, I still had to deal with a police officer coming to my home for a keep the peace call.
At one point I attempted to go to a counselor. I had no idea who to reach out to. The one place which specialized in polygamy turned out to be an agency which helped women and children flee from abusive plural situations. The counselor told me that she had never counseled anyone entering a plural marriage and could not help us. She did have a private session with my daughter where she told my child to flee the home entirely. I have since found out that counselors who are LGBT(etc.) friendly are the most open to those joining a family in a plural situation. I made one appointment for my daughter with an LGBT(etc.) friendly counselor, but the counselor moved immediately after and gave us a referral. My daughter refused to speak with the referral.
Through all of this, my kids were confused, horrified, and had no resources to sort things out. I truly believe that I could have made it much easier had I not been all along so horrendous about those unlike myself
TL;DR bottom line: Don’t judge. Don’t teach others to judge. You may be eating a feast of crow, and end up being judged by those for whom you set a terrible example of judgment.
Extremely unfair. Those are the words I used to describe what I saw in the interaction between the Snowdens and their prospective wife, Joselyn, in this most recent episode. I thought the way they treated her was in very poor form. The Snowdens talk a lot about doing things together – which is good, but if they are truly keen on family unity, then they ought to be including, as far as possible, the potential new family member. Otherwise, the new relationship is built with an imbalance from the beginning.
Ashley complains that Joselyn did not talk to her about being intimate with Dimitri, but I never saw Ashley initiate any conversations about it either!
And whose responsibility is it? If you invite someone to come play a game with you, and they accept the invitation, but only you know the rules, who should initiate a conversation about the rules of the game? Perhaps there is responsibility on both sides, but Ashley certainly has nothing to accuse Joselyn about in that area. Joselyn did not know the rules of the game. She was not privy to the conversations the Snowdens had without her. As far as she knew, she was playing by the rules – since Dimitri was the representative of the Snowden Family. The whole mess is tragic.
When they were at the restaurant, Dimitri completely threw Joselyn under the bus. What was she supposed to say? Again, she was not privy to the conversations had by the Snowdens about it. She did not know what Dimitri and Ashley had already talked about (or even if they had talked about it). Furthermore, Dimitri had apparently not talked to Joselyn about what happened on their date. The poor girl was thrown into the situation completely blind. How is she to know what to talk about? Again, she doesn’t even know if Dimitri has already talked to Ashley about their intimacy. Should that announcement come from Joselyn? Of course, she does not want to ruin what they have started by saying the wrong thing. She does not want to throw Dimitri under the bus. Unfortunately, the concern was not mutual. All during their very uncomfortable date, Joselyn keeps looking to Dimitri for cues.
She was looking for him to step up, to be a man, to lead the conversation, to help her know what to say, and what to talk about. And indeed, he should have stepped up, and opened a conversation about what happened. Instead, he just threw her away.
While there are obvious differences, I am reminded of the incident between Amnon and Tamar recorded in 2 Samuel 13 (NIV). Amnon burned with desire for Tamar. He allowed his desire to grow until he exercised it upon her by deception and force. When the deed was done,
Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
“No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her.
Now for the Brineys:
I love all the Brineys, my wives love them, and my children love their children. My family and I have interacted with them in person on several occasions, and it has always been a pleasant and rewarding experience. But honestly, I cringe when I see the Brineys’ interactions with one another on TV. No doubt, there have been glimmers of family unity and domestic felicity, but mostly it’s just been painful to watch.
I hesitate to comment about them at all; first, because they are my friends, and second because I know how difficult plural marriage can be. My own family has certainly had its share of internal discord. Nevertheless, I have been shocked and dismayed to witness how willing they’ve been to publicly criticize and belittle one another. I hope things are getting better for them, I hope their experience will ultimately be positive for their family. Every episode I watch just makes me so grateful that it is not my family’s life that is exposed to the public’s scrutiny! They are either very brave or very foolhardy – perhaps both.
Having said all that, I do not think it is a good policy to expect one wife to mediate the arguments between other bickering wives. That is the husband’s job. This is not a good family policy any more than sending a child to settle a dispute between other quarreling children. It will not, in general, improve the situation – very likely it will make it worse.
Settling disputes between children is a parent’s job. Sometimes children can settle their disputes on their own, and that’s always nice for a parent to see, and that is certainly ideal, but when the children can’t come to a resolution on their own, and the argument is dragging on and even escalating, the parent needs to intercede (see Mosiah 4:14-15).
It does seem like Drew is becoming more involved, at least in talking one-on-one with the wives about their problems, and that has been good to see. For the long-term good of their family relationships, I hope Drew can find a way to get even more involved and mediate the disputes a little more directly.
Note: SSW s1e5, c1 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 5, Commentary 1
Note from the blog owner: Joshua is my husband and he is a new contributor to the blog. This is his first post.
I’d like to express a few thoughts about the recent interactions between the Snowdens and their new prospective wife, Joselyn. There has been a lot said about it already (and much of it deleted already as well). I agree that it was certainly a mistake for Dimitri to have been intimate with Joselyn so quickly, especially given the agreement that he and Ashley already had in place about it – Dimitri himself says as much. It was impressive how open he was with Ashley about it all. Even tho it was uncomfortable for sure (and so much about plural marriage can be), he came forward about it on his own, and I think it shows how strong their marriage is already. Ashley handled the announcement with grace to spare (altho, I also choked on her tea just watching it!), and tremendous kudos goes to her for that. Ultimately, the resolution of this problem is between them and Joselyn,
So, a mistake was made. This no one doubts. But what exactly the infraction was, and how serious, are other questions. Actually, I think two offenses were potentially made by Dimitri. The first was toward Ashley, and the other was potentially toward Joselyn. Time will tell on the second.
There is a tremendous amount of imprecision in our language, and this can lead to controversy when it comes to sorting out the details of things. To make things worse, in many cases the imprecision has grown over the generations as meanings of words have shifted, while still retaining their historical significance. This is especially true in regard to words having to do with sexual intimacy. Some of the accusations hurled at Dimitri are “cheating”, “open marriage”, “not a true polygamist”, etc. But those insults are not words that we find in either the Bible or our civil codes. Rather than using these terms, it would be more helpful to actually name the sin, or the crime, that was committed.
Of course the big two are usually adultery and fornication. So, was it adultery? My answer is, certainly not. Adultery can only happen when a married woman has sex with a man who is not her husband. That is the original, and best, definition of adultery (after all, it is the scriptural usage of the word), and as Joselyn was not married, then neither of them would be guilty of adultery. So, it must be fornication then? My answer is, not at all. Fornication (as used in the scriptures) is referring to prostitution, and since Dimitri probably didn’t even pay for the date (the tab was likely picked up by TLC), I think they are both safely clear on this charge as well. I realize the meanings of these words have been changed by our modern society and that the strict scriptural usage of these words has largely been lost to us – but I’ve always been a – reject the philosophies of men mingled with the scriptures – kind of guy. I’ll do a separate, more detailed post at a later date about the scriptural usage of these terms.
If you outright reject what I have said thus far as too repulsive to even consider, well, to each their own. I claim the privilege of living according to my own conscience, and allow you the same. If you are still considering things, then you may be asking, “Well it sure seems like something is wrong here, what is it then?” His first offense is simply that he violated the agreed order of things which he and Ashley had put in place. As Ashley has already put so well, he only has to answer to himself and to her about that.
Ashley knows how hard Dimitri works to support and care for his family. She knows how loving he is to his children, and to her, and I think anyone watching the show can see these qualities in him as well. He is a loving husband and a devoted father. She does not forget all the good in him for the sake of one mistake. In fact, she feels like, “there’s really nothing to forgive” and that’s good enough for me.
Now, what about the possible offense towards Joselyn? The scriptures do say something about what happened. Not that the Snowdens are necessarily concerned with what the scriptures may say – as I realize that they are not especially religious people (please correct me if I am wrong here), but this will perhaps be of benefit to some of the fans who may be concerned with the scriptures. Here it is:
Exodus 22: 16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
You will notice that this verse is about an unmarried woman (and who is not engaged to be married), otherwise the intimacy would be adultery. The sin associated with this act would essentially come if there were a lack of follow thru – he should endow her to be his wife. Premarital sex is a crime if there is no intention to marry, or if it leads the woman along when there is no intention of marrying her. This is the main deterrent against premarital sex in the Bible. If a man has sex with a woman, then he was supposed to add her to his family, and support her as a wife. If a man can’t handle adding a wife to his family (whatever the reasons may be), then he shouldn’t be sleeping with single women.
I hope Joselyn stays, and I hope they can work it out. I think they are a potentially amazing fit. I know Joselyn has received advice online that she should, “Drop that Zero, and marry a Hero.” The truth is, Dimitri is not a Zero (ask any woman in her late 20s or 30s what the dating pool is like). I don’t think Joselyn could do better than the Snowdens (this is a compliment to the Snowdens, and not an insult to Joselyn).
So, there you go. You thought I was saying that intimacy between unmarried people wasn’t that big of a deal, but it just may be that I think it’s more serious than many of my readers do.
Note: SSW s1e4, c2 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 4, Commentary 2
When I went from 11 years of monogamous marriage to a new polygamous lifestyle, I struggled to know what to do with myself on my nights alone. All my habits revolved around having my husband with me every night. I didn’t have a life separate from him, so for a time, I felt as if when he wasn’t with me, my life was put on hold. There was definitely a transition time for me while I figured out what to do with myself when I was alone.
If a monogamous woman was planning on becoming polygamous and asked me for advice, one of the things I would suggest is for her to have things she likes to do without her husband, whatever that looks like for her.
Women who naturally like having their own autonomy might gravitate towards polygamy exactly because of this time alone. I know my sisterwife Melissa calls plural marriage the ultimate lifestyle choice for feminists. She keeps herself busy with friends and hobbies, and she even chooses to have a job (even though Joshua is a wonderful provider and doesn’t need his wives need to work outside the home). Melissa considers herself a good candidate for a plural wife because her life is so full despite not having a husband who comes to her house every day.
Nowadays, I have a life with my husband, and I have a life without him. I’m fine either way. But some of my activities require planning, so I like to know in advance what Joshua’s schedule is going to be. His schedule does end up changing at the last minute at times, but generally I know what to expect. If I didn’t know each day where Joshua was going to land, it would cause unnecessary frustration in this whole plural marriage gig, because it would make it difficult for me to have a life separate from my husband. I need that separate life because otherwise it feels like when he’s not here, all I’m doing is waiting for him.
In episode 4 of Seeking Sister Wife, Dimitri Snowden and Joselyn are on a date at a restaurant. Dimitri brings up the topic of “splitting time.”
Dimitri: So, splitting time.
Dimitri: You know, listen, I’m wondering…
Joselyn: I wanted to ask you.
(They both laugh.)
Dimitri: So I’m one man, um, you know, with one body, you know… How do you feel about that?
Joselyn: As long as we feel that we make the best of our time, that there’s no problem.
Joselyn: So how would you go about that? Like, do you have, like, you think like days, certain days, or just…?
Dimitri: I ideally don’t want to have a defined schedule. I don’t want to have a chart on the refrigerator, where it says like Ashley and then Joselyn and then Ashley… Like, I’m not interested…
Joselyn: Yeah, me either, you know, because… It feels so generic to me, like I think that’s really generic.
Joselyn: I just want it to go naturally, like you said.
I think this is an interesting idea, but frankly, I don’t think it’s very realistic. I laughed when I saw what the Brineys said about it on Twitter because they seem to agree with me:
Not every woman likes to plan things in advance as much as I do, so I suppose Dimitri’s strategy might work for some polygamists. But in most of the plural families I’ve seen, the schedule is pretty predictable. Either they simply alternate nights (like the Alldredge family on SSW) or each wife takes a fixed set of weekdays (like the Briney family), or some combination/variation. One plural husband I’ve seen on YouTube spends 2 nights with one wife before switching and spending 2 nights with his other wife. Brady Williams from the reality TV show My Five Wives simply rotates through his 5 wives, 1 night with each wife, but gives each wife an extra night for her birthday.
Some time ago I read a novel called The Lonely Polygamist. In the book, the man and his 4 wives have a torturous meeting every Sunday where they decide on that week’s schedule (in particular, the sleeping schedule). The husband doesn’t take control at the meeting; it tends to be up to the wives to duke it out. The most aggressive wives end up with an unfair portion of his time, while the newest or most passive wife might go weeks without her husband coming to her house. This seems dysfunctional to me.
In our family, Joshua’s schedule is totally up to him, which makes sense, since he’s the one going back and forth between the houses. He’s the one that best understands his own scheduling needs as well as those of his wives and children. We give him our preferences and we can request changes to his normal schedule, but we wives don’t have to hash it out between ourselves.
And, no, we don’t have a chart on our refrigerator to keep it sorted out.
Note: SSW s1e4, c1 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 4, Commentary 1
Throughout the Seeking Sister Wife episodes so far, Ashley Snowden frequently talks about how she and Dimitri are looking for a sisterwife “together.”
I remember when I thought plural marriage was going to be a team effort. I thought the 3 of us would spend all this time together. I definitely thought we would all live together. I saw the theoretical benefits of having another mom around to help with kids. I imagined that my husband having another wife might mean I would get more time alone with my husband (because my sisterwife could watch the kids, instead of me always taking care of the children and my husband and me never getting time alone as a couple). At one point I even fantasized that I would share Melissa’s (teenaged) children with her the same way she would share my little kids with me, that we’d all just be one big happy blended polygamous family.
Boy, was I wrong about all of that. I remember realizing that, no, I was going to be left out of plenty of things. It wasn’t going to work out for us to live together. I wasn’t going to get the benefits of another woman around to share the workload. I wasn’t going to be included in every event and every date and every decision. I wasn’t going to get more alone time with my husband while my sisterwife babysat my kids. And her teenagers certainly weren’t going to consider me their second mom (wow, was I naïve about stepchildren).
I’m not saying that to highlight the negative. I just see similarities between what happened in my family with Melissa, and what’s happening in Ashley’s family with Joselyn in episode 3.
Ashley is very much in control as the steps are taken to begin dating Joselyn — the setting up of the online profile, the checking of their dating website messages, the responses to Joselyn, etc….
Then, when Joselyn is coming to visit the Snowdens in person, Ashley insists that the first “date” be with both herself and Dimitri.
I’m not criticizing Ashley. I love how gung-ho she is about living in polygamy, and she’s one of my favorite people to watch on the show because she’s confident and well-spoken, and I think she and Dimitri are cute together. I just see so much of myself in her! I too was pushing and involved and confident and gung-ho, and I had this vision of how things were going to go, that we were going to do everything together.
And then my reality set in.
I don’t know. How Ashley’s family turns out will probably be different than how mine turned out. Perhaps her life will actually end up looking the way she currently envisions. I only know mine hasn’t, not at all, and there are a couple of moments in this episode that I watch and think, Oh, I know how she must be feeling!
One of the moments is when Dimitri suggests that he and Joselyn go on a date that evening, just the two of them, and Ashley stay home with the babies.
Of course this was going to happen at some point. But it seemed to catch Ashley off guard. Maybe she thought when it happened that it would be her idea? After hesitating, she responded with a not-so-confident, “[Of] course.”
Obviously my husband was going to spend time one-on-one with my future sisterwife as well. He had a relationship to develop with this new woman. But it was still a time of intense emotion for me, when the theoretical became real, very real, and I wasn’t always thrilled with how things were playing out.
Dimitri knows Ashley well, and in a scene outside the restaurant, he asks her several questions directly: “You’re not just, like, passively okay? You want me to go? You’re, like, cheerleading me to go on a date? Pom-poms, Team Snowden?”
And to each one, Ashley says, “You should know me by now.”
Dimitri concludes, “She makes the I’m-not-feeling-it face.”
I remember Joshua asking me if I was sure I was okay with what was happening. And I was absolutely convinced that I was doing what God told me to do, so I wasn’t about to change my mind, and I always answered, “Yes, yes, yes, I’m sure,” even when I was crying and didn’t know how to handle the strong feelings I was having. (My poor husband.)
Ashley does go on to say, “You go on your date. Have a great time.” This is her being brave. This is her trying to be supportive, staying the course, and holding in the emotions. The emotions are hers to sort out, not Dimitri’s.
Note: SSW s1e3, c1 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 3, Commentary 1