The second episode of Season 2 of Seeking Sister Wife is by far my favorite episode to date! There are so many funny moments! I just laughed out loud on more than one occasion. One was the very awkward conversation that Bernie has with his son John. Oh man, you just can’t make that stuff up! The confusion on John’s face was just priceless. Bernie, from one father to another, I think you handled it well.
Another time that got me laughing was actually in the preview for the next episode where Vanessa provocatively orders a piece of red meat on her first date with Dimitri. This, of course, was after she learned that the Snowdens are essentially pescatarian, as a matter of family policy. But she likes her steaks and cheeseburgers! Such a funny situation, and very bold of Vanessa. I know it sparked some interesting conversations in my house, and I am sure there will be more to come.
Perhaps the funniest moment, however, was the public debut of the Winder family. The situation was just too comical for words, and probably more funny for me because I know, first hand, the courage it took to do something like that! And yet, despite all the emotional buildup and bravery, there was no one to appreciate it but some ducks. It’s just too funny! It reminds me of that old saying about sounds and falling trees in the forest. You know the one: if a polygamous family comes out in the open together, but no one is there to see it…?
Baby steps, baby steps.
In all seriousness, I think divulging themselves to the ducks is an admirable first step! It means they have personally, and fully, embraced the reality of their own family, and are ready to take the next step, and that can be one of the hardest things to do. Honestly, this may have been the best way to do it. If they could go together, as a family (and those are not the same things), to an empty park (but where the possibility of being seen is a reality – where the sense and prospect of danger are real) a dozen times before actually going out where people would be guaranteed to see them, they would already have gone a long way towards conquering their personal fears. And of course, they have gone quite a bit farther than that now. What with being on national TV and all.
I remember, with a twinge of PTSD, our own efforts to announce the change in our family when we became plural. The fear and uncertainty were so intense at times!! And the losses were bitter and painful!! But it has all been worth it.
There was fear of the repercussions from so many angles! And it is the same for most, if not all other polygamous families. We faced social, familial, and religious shunning wondering what our neighbors, friends, coworkers, family, and fellow church members would say, or how they would treat us and our children. We were especially keen to the possible social consequences for our children – the decisions were horrible! There were also financial fears, and legal fears. We could go to jail, I could lose my job. Every. Single. Thing. that we had worked so hard to gain and build – our family, our home, my career, our children, our friendships, and our very reputations – was literally at stake. It could all so easily come tumbling down into a broken pile of smoldering garbage. Everything could be lost, and there was literally no earthly help or community that we could fall back on for support (however, we have built or received all of that community and support structure since). It seemed sometimes that it was us against the entire world (and us against ourselves at other times). Prayer was almost as common to me as breathing. I look back on those days with wonder, and almost awe, that we survived at all, and I thank God that he walked us thru that fiery furnace. Yes, the refining was intense, and our fears were not at all misplaced; yet, we were also given peace and courage sufficient to meet our fears, face them, and overcome them. It was an amazing roller-coaster ride!
We had letters written to us by family members accusing us of adultery and other sorts of gross wickedness. Similar letters were sent out to other family members, warning them of our dangerous influences. We had death threats against us, the police were called to investigate us, ecclesiastical leaders were called to discipline us, and child protective services were called (DCFS) to remove our children. But nothing came of any of these attacks. There was no weapon forged against us that prevailed.
Melissa’s children were even kidnapped by her parents for a short time. They were going to send her kids up to Washington State to live with their deadbeat father who is generally unstable, has lived in dozens of locations, is a known drug addict, owes 6 figures in child support, has been physically abusive, has multiple arrests, is into prostitutes, and has been married to 6 different women! Can someone please explain how that is better than a man being financially stable, providing for his children (in both emotional and financial ways) but being married and maintaining a healthy relationship with 2 women!? It’s crazy! Literally crazy! Eventually, they relented and changed their actions when they realized that they were the felons (kidnapping) and not us (polygamy was alegal in Utah at the time of the kidnapping – thank you Judge Waddoups!).
We were openly uninvited to family parties. I had family members that I hadn’t talked to in years, go out of their way to reach out to let me know that they disapproved of my life. We were all excommunicated from the church that we had been born and raised in. But when we kept on attending as non-members, my daughter was abused by her Sunday School teacher, and the church gave us legal notice that we were unwelcome in the most profound way possible. We were not even allowed to set foot on any church property anywhere in the world! The McGee family sadly describes a similar experience with their Synagogue (I’ll have a future post on this topic).
We literally had former friends place curses (in the name of the Lord – of course) upon us and our family. I’m not making this stuff up. I couldn’t. I can hardly believe it now.
I used to ride a van pool to work. It was convenient because the van would meet at a parking lot just one block from my house. Rain or shine I would always walk in between my house and the van pool. After we became plural, I remember being so grateful for the change in daylight savings time – just so I could walk home in the dark and not have to see my neighbors.
I thought about the 6th lecture on faith many times during those days. Especially verses 5-8.
For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest; and be a partaker of the glory of God.
– LoF 6:5
I remember having Jesus’ parable of the man building a tower brought to my mind so many times! Those words were a steady a source of strength and inspiration for me.
At some point, everyone needs to live an authentic life – in my opinion. The potential dangers and discomforts of the many forms of persecution are eventually outweighed by the desire to simply live rightly and face the consequences – whatever they may be. Sophie Winder expresses this in the first episode when she talks about not having to be the hidden wife anymore, and Tami mentions it in the second episode when they are planning their outing to the park for Sadie’s Birthday party. There comes a point when you are ready to just be done hiding. There is no need to act rashly or foolishly, but when the time is right you’ll know it. Hopefully, you will then have the courage to carry it out and see it thru to the end.
Despite all the hardships we endured, there have still been some good and true friends who have stuck by us while the false have fallen away. Also, there have been plenty of new friends, a thousand times better than the old ones. Some family members too, from the beginning, have maintained and reaffirmed their love and support of us, and that has been wonderful. There are even some family members, originally antagonistic, who have now come around in some ways, and our relationships are healing.
Things have calmed down significantly for us since then. The roller-coaster ride has slowed and transitioned from almost constant nausea to almost constant enjoyment. There are still ups and downs, but we are enjoying the view and the thrill of the ride much more now, and we’ve loosened up our grip on the safety bar – now that our fear of certain and sudden death has subsided. Even so, it has taken us years to fully come out into the public eye. Starting this blog has been another step for us, and I’m so glad Charlotte did it.
We told our friends and family one by one. Maybe there was a better way, but at the time it seemed like the most manageable way to handle all the upset and emotion. Like eating an elephant one bite at a time. And I suppose we are still not finished. When Melissa and I were married we had no public celebration, but we are finally getting around to doing it this summer! Let us know if you want an invitation.