I went to Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception.

I watch every episode of Seeking Sister Wife, but I still haven’t gotten around to watching Sister Wives.  My friend texted me this evening and told me she saw us on the Sister Wives episode that showed Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding, so I figured I should write about it.  One of these days I’ll probably sit down and watch the episode.

The invitation had a cool wax seal with the letter “T” on it (for Thompson).  I was interested to see that the bride’s name was “Aspyn Kristine Brown.”  I wonder what the story is behind the middle name.  I suppose her mom, Christine, wanted to name her daughter after herself, but without spelling it the same?

I was surprised to realize the reception was on Father’s Day; that seems like such a strange day for a wedding.  But later I was told that the venue they wanted to rent for the reception was booked solid except for Father’s Day, so they went with it.

My sister got married on her birthday.  That seems even stranger than getting married on Father’s Day.   But it’s a bummer for my sister now that she’s divorced.  C’est la vie.

Interestingly enough, a polygamous husband in one of the reality TV shows was married to one of his wives on her birthday, and they are also now divorced.  You’re not going to believe this, but not only were both my sister and my friend married on their birthday, but they also have their birthdays on the same day!  Weird!  Don’t get married on your birthday, especially if your birthday is June 19th!

We know the Browns as well as Mitch.  We also know all of Mitch’s siblings, including Vanessa Alldredge from Seeking Sister Wife (she actually stayed at our house when they were in town for the wedding).  Half of Mitch’s siblings are polygamists and half are not.  He’s the tie-breaker to tip the scale towards monogamy.

We have attended other events that were being filmed for reality TV.  One of them was an event for the Briney family from the first season of Seeking Sister Wife.  The event was a Meet ‘n’ Greet for Lenny, the newborn baby of Drew Briney’s third wife Angela.  We were required to meet TLC employees in a parking lot a mile away from the Brineys’ house, sign a contract, and get our photos taken, before being allowed in the car that would shuttle us to the actual site.  I don’t remember what the paperwork said, altho I did take a picture of it so I could go back and reread it if I ever wanted to.  I remember it was several pages and after I signed it I had to hold it in front of my body while the network took a photo of me, mug shot style.  (The Meet ‘n’ Greet never aired, presumably because the Briney family provided enough other drama that the footage wasn’t needed.  Angela told me she was disappointed that TLC focused so much on the bad stuff instead of showing one of the beautiful themes available to them: the miracle of Lenny’s conception; the footage of his birth; the visit of his namesake, Angela’s father; and his Meet ‘n’ Greet.)

One of the things I remember from Lenny’s Meet ‘n’ Greet was that we arrived, put our gifts in the designated spot, talked to people, went inside the house, used the bathroom, chatted with Drew’s mom, asked if any help was needed with the food, etc., all before any filming took place.  Then, when the film crew was finally ready, and more than an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, all the guests had to “leave” the party and then enter again, on camera this time, as if we had just arrived.  That part felt fake, for sure.  But most of the event felt normal, besides being surrounded by cameras, microphones, and film crew.  Joshua was asked to give the opening prayer.  We sat at the table with Jeff Alldredge’s daughter.  If I remember right, at that point TLC wasn’t open about the Alldredges knowing the Brineys, it was hush-hush, and Jeff’s daughter wasn’t allowed to show her face in the Alldredge scenes because she had been filmed in the Briney parts of the show.  In fact, the Alldredges weren’t even allowed to attend the Meet ‘n’ Greet, despite their being very close to Angela Briney.  (As an example of how good of friends they are, I’ll tell you, I went to visit Angela when Lenny was less than a week old.  As I pulled up to the house Angela shared with April Briney, the Alldredges came out and walked to their truck.  I asked them, “Oh, did you come to meet the new baby?” and they answered that this wasn’t their first visit, that they’d already been to visit Angela several times since Lenny was born.)  After Seeking Sister Wife aired for the first time, of course it came out that the Brineys and Alldredges know each other, and the control TLC tried to have over the families seemed extra ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the wedding reception.  I was expecting the same level of red tape at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception that we had to go thru at the Lenny Briney’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, but I was disappointed.  I actually had intended to take pictures of the contract and compare it to the earlier one.  The invitation to the Briney event warned us that it was going to be filmed for reality TV; the invitation to the Brown event did the same.  But when we showed up to the wedding reception, we weren’t asked to sign any contracts, and I don’t remember seeing any signs posted, except for this small sign I noticed by the entrance as we were leaving:

sign posted
The only notice that the wedding reception was being filmed for TV.  (We didn’t have to sign a contract this time.)

When we arrived at the wedding reception, we paid $6 for the required valet parking and walked around the outside of the building.  There’s a vineyard, so since we’re interested in wine (we make our own sacramental wine, and we even teach wine-making classes) we took our time looking at the grape vines.

Actually, while I’m on the subject of wine-making, I will take another detour to the Brineys and Alldredges.  We like to take credit for Angela marrying Drew Briney because of the events surrounding how they met.  We were teaching a wine class at the Alldredges’ house and the Brineys and Angela were also in attendance, and that was how they met.  They were married soon afterwards.  I didn’t know they had gotten married because it happened so quickly.  (A few months later they had a wedding reception we attended.)  My close friend April Briney kept texting me, asking if she could come visit me.  I repeatedly turned her down because I was so morning sick that I couldn’t take any visitors.  At some point I ran into the Alldredges and asked about Angela.  They told me she had news and I should ask her myself, so I texted Angela, and that’s how I found out she had married Drew.  I feel terrible because April had wanted to tell me herself but I never gave her the opportunity.  I think in Angela’s Year of Polygamy podcast interview, she said she met Drew “at a fireside.”  Well, that “fireside” was our wine-making class.  😊

And while I’m on the subject of husbands meeting future wives, I will mention that Jeff Alldredge met Vanessa at an event at Kody Brown’s house in Utah, which is now my house.  Oh, those polygamists all seem to be connected somehow, don’t they?

Okay.  Back to Mitch and Aspyn’s party.  It’s always fun to go to a party where the polygamists outnumber the monogamists.  I don’t know if the wedding reception fit that description, but there were a lot of polygamists at Aspyn and Mitch’s wedding reception.  We visited with friends and had refreshments.

Once it was time to sit down for the program (dancing, cake-cutting, etc.), we sat pretty close to the front.  I suppose that’s why my friend was able to see us on the screen.  It’s probably the kind of thing where you don’t really notice anyone in the background unless you’re specifically looking for them.

I gotta say, the most disappointing thing of the night was that there wasn’t an open bar.  I figured since TLC was filming it, they were also paying for the wedding, and since it was at an expensive venue, the budget was generous.  Therefore, I optimistically hoped for an open bar.  Alas, there was a bar, but it was not open.  The three of us each had a single glass of wine (a wedding is a sacrament, after all) and the bill was $26.

credit card bill
Sadly, we had to pay for our own drinks.

However, what was lacking in the drinks category was made up for in the dessert category.  My sisterwife Melissa is known for her baking, and she said the cake served at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception was the best cake she’s ever eaten.  Was there an earlier Sister Wives episode that showed a cake-tasting?  Whoever picked this one is the winner.  They had other refreshments besides the cake.  I’m not really into desserts so I couldn’t tell you, but both my baker-in-the-making daughter and my sisterwife Melissa could probably tell you lots of details if you cared to ask them.  They at least had s’mores, as shown in the photo below.

If you watch the episode closely I’m sure you’ll be able to see lots of familiar faces from Seeking Sister Wife.  Among the photos I took are some blurry photos of Jeff and Vanessa Alldredge, and here’s a not-quite-as-blurry photo I took of their son making s’mores over a candle:

Dane makes s'mores
Sister Wives meets Seeking Sister Wife: Dane Alldredge from SSW makes s’mores at his Uncle Mitch’s wedding.

Here are some of the photos I took from my front-row seat.  I suppose these are nothing new to those of you who have actually seen the episode.

waiting for the go-ahead from the film crew
Aspyn and Mitch wait for the film crew to give them the green light to walk on to the dance floor.
first dance
Mitch and Aspyn’s first dance
dancing with parents
Mitch dances with his mother and Aspyn dances with her father.

I was told that Mitch’s mom (shown in the photo above) made all the beautiful hats for the wedding.

cutting the cake

getting ready to throw the bouquet
Aspyn getting ready to throw the bouquet.

The morning after the wedding reception we left to go on our annual weeklong backpacking trip.  Good times.

Mitch is a great guy and Aspyn is a fantastic match for him.  I’m so glad they found each other and I think they make a beautiful couple.

Help the Briney Family

Want to help the Briney Family?  Being cut from the show was an unexpected financial hit for them all.

Buy a book from Drew.  He is a prolific author and has several titles including both fiction and non-fiction.  You can see his selection here.  You’re almost sure to find something there that interests you; if not, then his books would make great gifts for friends, family, and neighbors.  Someone you know is bound to be interested in either dragons or Mormon fundamentalism (or both), right?  He’s coming out with more books all the time.

Or, if you or someone you know has a new child, or is expecting one, then consider Angela’s new store, Lenny & Me.  They have some very high quality items.  My personal favorites are the books.  They are amazing!  They are indestructible! Ok, scissors or matches could probably do the trick, but they are impervious to chewing or tearing pages (something my current toddler is extremely proficient at).  They put old fashioned board books to shame!

And, if you are in Utah, you should consider coming to April’s “Paint Night”.  You can read about it on Facebook or Instagram.  She only has a few slots, but who knows, if there is enough interest, she might schedule another one of these soon.  She is an amazing artist (we have one of her pieces) and teacher as well.  The opportunity is yours to have a personal lesson from April.  And if you can’t make it to the paint night for whatever reason, but are interested in April’s artwork, then check out her Instagram page.  She sells her art, and if she doesn’t have what you are looking for you can commission her to create the art you want (new baby portrait, wedding day, Grandparents 60th wedding anniversary, whatever).

Check it out and spread the word.

The Briney Family and Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife

I suppose all the viewers have realized by now that the Briney family is not returning for the second season of Seeking Sister Wife, and I just wanted to say a few words about that.  Of course, as a polygamist myself, I will have a somewhat different view on things than most others.

Different people will want different things from a show about polygamy.  Some will want simple entertainment; the novelty of seeing a glimpse into the lives of real-life polygamous families is in itself a compelling reason to watch.  Others might find it educational.  They might be interested in how a polygamous family works, how do they manage their time, raise their children, what are their living arrangements like, sleeping schedules, etc.  Others will look forward to seeing drama and bickering.  The misery of others can be cruel sport.  There will even be some who watch with hopes of seeing plural families fail in a public way.  This will add further justification to their negative views and stereotypes relating to polygamy, and fuel their support of (and efforts to reinforce) political, social, and legal barriers to those families.  As for myself and the rest of the polygamy community, I think we all hope that shows like this will be good publicity, good PR, and will generally show the positive, functional, and healthy side of this kind of family.  We hope that they will help to change the largely negative public perception of plural families.  Yes, every family, indeed every individual, has problems and struggles, but last season of Seeking Sister Wife was, frankly speaking, a disappointing train wreck.

This is not all the fault of the Brineys, of course, but I know they have a similar feeling about their own showing last season.  Here are some quotes about it from their family blog, The Briney Family.

I see bitter bickering and failure to abide by basic Christian principles that leaves me feeling inexpressibly sad and extremely regretful that we, as a family, set such a bad example of our lifestyle on national tv. Worst. Disappointment. Of. My. Life.  – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

I’m truly heartbroken we’ve set such a bad example of our lifestyle that we fed that culture to whatever degree we did. – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

As a family (including April), we were all devastated at how poorly our family represented our Mormon fundamentalist friends and peers. We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people.  – Drew (April’s Apology regarding Season 1)

April herself has told my wives and me in person that she has regret about the way things turned out on the show.  Before anyone thinks I am picking on the Briney family, I want to say also that the family represented on TV was not a representation of their usual family life!  The Brineys are also in agreement with this point.

We know that the mentally stable April would not have done the things that she’s done. – Angela (Why the Brineys are Not Returning for Season 2 of TLCs Seeking Sister Wife)

These types of viewers notice that we’re “real” because we allowed ourselves to show our bad side on camera so people can see what the lifestyle is “really like.” I swallow hard when I hear that one. Our first season doesn’t show what our lifestyle is “really like.” It shows us experiencing our worst train wreck as a family! – Drew (We See What We Want to See)

We’d hoped to show how most polygamist families were normal, good people. Instead, unforeseen challenges led us to be a poor example of our lifestyle, our culture, and our peers. – Drew (April’s Apology Regarding Season 1)

I personally believe that their sudden television exposure, with its accompanying change of living arrangements (all moving in together in the same house), was a HUGE stressor to their family that they would not have been exposed to otherwise.  It is not uncommon for families to end up broken after large, traumatic life changes (one spouse gets a serious disease – even if they are later cured, a child dies, a child is born, career changes, becoming empty nesters, etc).  It happens, and it is tragic.

What happened with the Briney family was a tragedy as well.  I love them all and still and count them as friends.  April has been to my house several times since then and Drew and the rest of his family are welcome to visit as well.

Having said all that, I want to thank TLC!  I know that many people have expressed dismay that the Brineys did not come back, but not me.  Personally, I am glad of it, and I think TLC made the right decision.  I know that even the Brineys (Drew, Auralee, and Angela) wanted the story of their family breaking up to air, but things are probably better this way.  I think it would have been bad for everyone (all the members of the Briney family and the larger plural community as well), to have to live their personal family drama thrice. Once as it happened; once again when it was edited, distilled to its most potent form, and aired on national TV; and again when dissected and criticized ad nauseam by all the insensitive onlookers on social media. How can that be good for anyone?  What person or relationship could thrive under those circumstances? It would wither anyone.

I hope, now that the pressure and stress of being in the public eye is largely gone, that the Briney family can rest, recuperate, reflect, and put all the pain and drama behind them.  Who knows, maybe they’ll even be back for a future season after taking a break for a while.

Forgetting is actually an important part of our mental function and mental health.  Forgetting helps us to live our lives in relative peace and be able to focus on the present.  Having old offenses repeatedly dug up and examined (which is what would have happened had the juicy story aired) will not help us to live abundantly in the now.  Forgetting offenses is an important part of forgiveness.  The scriptures testify repeatedly that God will not only forgive our sins, but also forget them.  They will be blotted out.  He will mention them to us no more!

God bless the Briney family.

See here for some ideas if you are interested in helping the Briney Family.

Where Will the Brineys Live? (or Living Arrangements in Polygamous Families)

In the final episode of Seeking Sister Wife‘s first season, the Briney family is getting ready to move out of state, but there was a difference in point of view about whether all the wives should continue to live together or not.  In the final scenes Auralee is an absolute saint.  She extends the olive branch in an amazing way to her sister wife, April.  Angela chimes in as well, and they all end up coming together in a beautiful way for the good of the family in both practical and emotional ways.

family chat

As may be expected, working out where everyone lives is a very common dilemma facing plural families, and it can be handled in a variety of ways.  Some families live in a single dwelling, sharing the same kitchen and living room (like the Alldredges do).  Some families may live in a single dwelling with separate apartments like my house or like the Fosters or Morrisons.  Some families have separate houses for the wives, but they are all in close proximity to one another, on the same property (or in the same cul-de-sac, like the Brown family currently does).  Some families may have separate houses for each wife, and those houses may be in separate cities or states.  I even know one family where the wives are in separate countries halfway around the world from each other (although they are working toward living all together).

Furthermore, many plural families are somewhere in between these various solutions, scalesor in transition between them.  For example, I know a family with three wives.  Two of them lived together in a single dwelling while the third (who was reportedly more difficult to live with) lived in a separate city.  Later on, the third, separate-city wife moved to a separate house next door to the other two, and lived there for a while.  Now they are all living together under one roof!  Ultimately, the solution to this problem will be different for each family, and lies in finding the correct balance between the practical and the emotional.  Both are very real issues, and need to be addressed.

The practical side of the question deals with resources like time and expense.  It is certainly more expensive to live apart: There are multiple rents or mortgages to pay, separate utility bills will add up to greater expense than a combined bill, more property taxes, more home insurance, more time and expense for home maintenance, added expense for owning duplicates of many items, and additional time and expense is involved in travel between homes.  These, and a great many other things, are practical factors that must be considered.  I think a general consideration of practical factors will favor living together.

The emotional side of the question deals with feelings, perceptions, and jealousies.  Some wives may not be able to stand seeing their husband show affection for another wife, may not be able to abide sharing a kitchen or other living areas, or may have or want different rules for their children.  Kody Brown once said, “I have two wives who think sharing a kitchen is abusive”.  This is in contrast to the Darger family whose philosophy is: If you can’t share a kitchen, what business do you have sharing a husband?  Of course, the Dargers are somewhat of a special case as the wives are already close relatives (which I am sure has been a blessing to their family).  I mean, how different could their kitchen management styles be?  They all have the same grandma.  They probably all have the same book of family recipes.

One plural wife I spoke with told me it can be harder to share a kitchen than to share a husband.  So, if you are adding an extra master bedroom to your house to accommodate a new sister wife, you may want to consider adding another kitchen too.  Each family will have to find what works best for them.

Children further complicate emotional considerations.  Children from different wives may have rivalries (especially if they are from previous marriages) or resentments.  In addition, there may be worries about societal perceptions. (What will the neighbors think?  What will my friends think?  What will our extended families think?)  Finally, some people may just be plain old difficult to live with — there are personality conflicts of all kinds.  These, and a great many other things, are emotional factors that must be given consideration.  I think a general consideration of emotional factors will favor living apart.

From my point of view, I think most (perhaps all) polygamist men want to have their families together as much and as close as possible.  If a plural family is not living together, it is very often because of difficulties between wives, or children from different wives (think of Sarah and Hagar, and Isaac and Ishmael, for example).  I was once talking with my grandpa about the scriptures when the subject of Abraham’s wives came up.  He said it was a shame that Abraham had married Hagar (because it led to difficulties that separated his family) and that he shouldn’t have done it in the first place.  I told him the shame was not that they married, but that they didn’t stay together and try to work out their problems.  Well, I’m not trying to pass any judgment on Abram, or his views on marriage and family, but I do think it is generally better to work on problems while problems can be worked on – even if some separation is warranted while the problems are being resolved (it may take years in some cases).  Anything worth having is worth working for.

Why would plural husbands generally want their family together?  There are certainly the financial pieces, which I mentioned above, and this weighs heavily on most husbands’ minds.  In addition, a husband will be able to more effectively portion his time between the members of his family and his other household duties.  Another important factor is the way that close-living facilitates family activities, family teaching, and family worship.  Finally, there is a desire among men, even if subconscious, to have their wives and children close for the sake of protecting them.  If a family can make it work, there are so many benefits to living together!

From a Biblical perspective, during the time when a couple was engaged to be married, the bridegroom would go away for a time and busy himself preparing a home for his new bride to live in.  If the man had more than one wife, he would have prepared a home for each of them in turn.  The home(s) would be built on the ancestral lands of the bridegroom’s father.  The bride-to-be fully expected to receive her own home to live in (whether this was a separate dwelling, or an extension of the existing family dwelling, would depend on the particular family and circumstance), and providing one for her was part of the future husband’s duties toward her.  When the home was made ready, the bridegroom would return for his bride, receive her to himself, and lead her to her new home which would become her responsibility to tend and care for.

In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John 14:2,3

Are the Snowdens Married? (Or the Alldredges, or the Brineys?) – What is Marriage?

In the first episode of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to the Snowden family, Dimitri and Ashley.  A little after 7 minutes in Dimitri tells us that after dating for 2 years they, “Committed [themselves] to each other.” Additionally, on TLC’s, Meet The Families of Seeking Sister Wife, page we learn they have purposefully abstained from a legal marriage under the eyes of the law in order to ensure equality with their future wife.  They consider one another spouses, they have 3 children together, they share finances and many other things, and they also let us know that they have no marriage license from the state of Georgia (or any other state).

We Committed

In light of the several comments and questions my posts have generated (see here and here) about the nature of marriage – especially in the Snowden family, but also in the Alldredge and Briney families as well (and all other plural families too), I have decided to write a post on my views about what constitutes a marriage.

A few years ago (November 2015) some friends of mine decided to rededicate their marriage.  They threw a big party and asked if I would “officiate” at their ceremony.  It was a relatively informal event; I said a few words, and they renewed their vows with each other.  It was a beautiful thing, but the reason they were doing it was a bit disappointing.  You see, they had just left the LDS Church (the reason why is unimportant to this post), and the validity of their Church marriage (specifically their sealing – more about this later) was being called into question by some of their acquaintances.  This is sadly not an uncommon occurrence.  When the Church kicked us out we had the same experience.  Concerns were expressed to us that we had broken our covenants and now we were adulterers, had lost all our blessings, no longer had the Holy Ghost with us, etc.

This post, and my future post about the Mormon concept of Sealing, are adaptations of the words I prepared for that marriage rededication ceremony.  Here it goes:

In 1774, Thomas Jefferson said these words, “A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” This was two years before the Declaration of Independence.  At the time these were radical words – treasonous words even.

The common model of government at the time was that no rights existed for the common people – except those granted to them by the King.  The King owned all the land, the people were subject to his mandates, and any privileges the people had were granted to them by their Sovereign Lord.  He in turn received all his power from God by virtue of the Divine Right of Kings.  Alas, there are many unfortunate parallels between government and religious authorities.

As powerful as they think they may be, governments are run by men – mortals all.  Governments do not possess any powers unless those powers have been delegated to it by the people who are governed.

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence correctly proclaims this fact.  It reads in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Eleven years later these ideas were crystallized in the Constitution of the United States of America.  It was the fulfillment of the promise made in the Declaration of Independence.  And yet, despite the Constitution being the founding document of our nation’s government, our Constitution is widely misunderstood; and here is the misunderstanding:

constitutional-convention

The Constitution does not grant you the right to free speech.  It does not give you the right to print what you please, or to choose your own religion.  The Constitution does not grant you the right to carry arms for your defense, to assemble or associate with whom you please, or any of the other things we have imagined it to grant to us.

If you will take the Bill of Rights, and actually read it, you will discover that in every case, the rights mentioned are not granted.  It does not say anything to the effect that, “the citizens of the United States are hereby granted the right to worship as they choose…”  No, No!  On the contrary, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”  It does not say anything like, “you may carry arms for your defense.”  Rather it says, “the right shall not be infringed”, and on and on.

Indeed, the government cannot grant us anything we do not already have – we, in fact, are the ones that have granted powers to the government – the government does not have anything the people have not given to it.  Rather than being granted, all the rights mentioned are protected.  They are not extensions of our privileges, they are limits and restraints upon the government!

Well, what does all this talk about government and rights have to do with marriage?

The truth is: if the government has any authority at all, to marry anyone, then they have received that power from the people, and their receiving of that power from the people in no way diminishes the rights of the people (unless we let it).  The powers are delegated, yet still retained by the people – because they are inalienable.  They cannot be separated from us.  They are inherent both to our being and to our existence.

The sanctity of marriage is reduced by getting the government to protect it.  Orthodox Christian theologian Davd J. Dunn writes,

“Today’s Christian conservatives seem to be worshiping America, or at least a certain idea of it, when they ask the government to protect the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. In doing this, they have vested the state with the power to sanctify…Christians who demand the state take up the task of defending marital sanctity are effectively making the state their god. They seem to think that their local capitol can perform miracles when [in reality] only the Holy Spirit has the power to sanctify.”

Well, there are some, no doubt, who do not feel the same way about things.  They are upset with anyone who does something out of the ordinary.  And in particular with anyone who exercises their rights while ignoring the religious or civil authorities.  There are many who feel that marriages are illegitimate without the approval of the government, or the Church, or both.

But it has not always been that way.

Marriage in the scriptures, and for most of human history, has simply consisted of a man and woman (usually with the consent of the woman’s father), living together and attempting procreation.  No priest, no license, and no registration.  These are all recent innovations within the last 500 years.  The Catholic Church did not require marriages to be officiated by a priest until 1563.  The Anglican Church did not get around to making this requirement until 1753.  For most of human history, marriage has simply been an agreement (contract), recognized or arranged by the immediate families, for a man and woman to live together.

He calls her wife, she calls him husband.  They share a home, they share a bed.  They have and raise children together, and they have cast their lots together for good or ill.  They are married.  Are the Snowdens married?  Absolutely yes!

Does that mean that any two people can just live together and call it marriage?  The answer is no; that’s just called shacking up.  The other elements are required also, namely the commitment to live as husband and wife – with all the duties and privileges that are connected thereto.  Shacking up, without commitment – without the man taking the woman as wife, is sin.

You could classify marriages into three sorts: social marriage, religious marriage, and civil (or government) marriage.  Social marriage is rooted in the ideas of Common Law and Natural Rights, which I have discussed somewhat above.  It has probably been the most common type of marriage thruout the history of mankind, and perhaps the oldest as well (tho this is debatable I am sure).  Either way, it is certain that of the three, civil marriage is by far the late comer to the party.

What about all this business with government issued marriage licenses then?  When did that become a thing, and why?  First, let us take a look at the legal definition of the word “License”.  From Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition, published in 1910) we have:

“A permission, accorded by a competent authority, conferring the right to do some act which without such authorization would be illegal.”

In other words, a license is permission to do something which would otherwise be illegal.  The problem is that the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that marriage is a fundamental right for all.  And even without the Court’s decisions, marriage (both monogamous and polygamous) has existed for thousands of years as a fundamental aspect of human life and society which stems from our rights to associate and to contract.  Marriage predates all our modern laws, governments, and licensing requirements. How then can getting married be illegal?  Of course the answer to this question has everything to do with polygamy.  Licensing of marriage by governments had its origins in efforts to stamp out plural marriage among the early Mormon people (and also to prevent interracial marriage – which is beyond the scope of this post).

In closing, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself (or your friends and family – if you like those stimulating sort of conversations).

If my right to marry is fundamental, why do I need permission from the government before I can get married?

If I get a marriage license, what does that marriage license give me permission to do that I could not do before I got the marriage license?

Who is giving me that permission?

Where did they get the power to give me that permission?

And perhaps the most important question,

If I get married without a marriage license, is my marriage still lawful?

When there is no structure available to you, then make your own.  There is no approval needed from any man, or government, or religious institution to get married.  And despite the disapproval that may be shown by some, it is our God-given, and natural right to do so.

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For another post about the Snowden family and common law marriage see here.

Sampson

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 (Seeking Sister Wife, season 1, episode 6), I must say that I was pleased with the involvement that Drew displayed.

donkey

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.

Where Are the Men?

First the Snowdens:

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 (Seeking Sister Wife, season 1, episode 5).  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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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See here for my continuation of this post.