“My cousin has two moms (and a dad)”

We live in the house we bought six years ago from Kody Brown. He lived in this house with 3 wives: Christine, Janelle, and Meri. (He married Robyn while the Brown family was living here.)

The house has 3 distinct apartments, which means three kitchens, three laundry rooms, many entrances, a single driveway (with many parking spots), and one huge utility bill, ha ha. Our dream house would also have a large communal area, but all in all, this house is awesome for a plural family.

Our family has only 2 wives. We have courted a potential third wife once or twice, but obviously it’s never worked out; you might be surprised how difficult it is to find a good fit for a well-established family, but those are stories for another time. I hope Joshua will have the opportunity to love 3 wives someday.

When referring to sections of the house, we freely use the word “house” for what might more accurately be called an apartment. But since that can get a little confusing I’ll just call them apartments. I live in the “apartment” formerly occupied by Meri Brown, and my sisterwife Melissa lives where Janelle Brown used to live. In the 3rd apartment (Christine Brown’s) lives some members of our extended family, including two of my nieces. (By the way, the family isn’t polygamous.)

Today, my nieces had a friend over whom I had never met. The 3 little girls were sitting on my porch steps, and I went past them on my way to the driveway. “Hello, girls!” I said. “Eating fudgsicles, eh? Yum!”

The older niece told her friend, “That’s my cousin’s mom.”

She was corrected by my younger niece: “One of her moms.”

Older niece: “Her husband is a polygamist!”

I didn’t hear what their young friend said in response. I just kept walking.

I was charmed by the innocence of the children freely sharing a fact about their aunt with no embarrassment or hesitation.

Later that day we were out in public, and we happened to see that same girl. Once again I thought about how we polygamists often just fit right in: You probably don’t even realize when you’re sharing the children’s museum or the swimming pool with polygamists.

Being introduced as one of my daughter’s moms is something that definitely wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t a polygamist.

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

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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