Multiple Wives in Mormon Land

May 17, 2006

A few years ago, I caught a documentary on TV about a polygamous Mormon family. I expected to be repulsed. I anticipated the women to be meek and glassy-eyed, but they weren’t. Among the three or four wives, some had careers while others watched the kids and took care of domestic duties. The older wives, in particular, seemed to benefit from the arrangement. It caught me off-guard to see the upside of the polygamous arrangement.

When both our men are out of town, Elisa and I often team up, and the old bromide “a burden shared is a burden halved” proves very true. We eat together, bathe the kids together, and take turns running errands. We are free-er and less stressed out than if we struggled through alone. The same was true with these Mormon wives. They seemed to be choosing their lot, and awake to its pluses and minuses.

But since seeing that documentary, I have read enough about other polygamous families to see the institution as a complete and utter nightmare. Particularly in small towns where the church’s power is unchecked. The patriarchs just poach the girls straight out of puberty. They are “placed” in families (i.e. married off to married men 30 years their senior) at the age of 13, 14, 15. Any signs of willfulness, and the wives are carted off to mental institutions by town cops. Even the young men are run out of town on trumped-up charges because they are viewed as competition for the young women.

The events transpiring in Colorado City, Arizona, are heinous.

“I have a corner of my state that is worse than [under] the Taliban,” Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff acknowledged.

Carolyn Jessop, who fled the community under cover of darkness with her eight children in a van and $20 in her pocket, said she still found it “hard to believe this stuff is going on in the United States.”

You gotta read this to believe it.

I wonder if the horrorific oppression is endemic to polygamy or to a church having too much power. Maybe it’s a combo?