Sister Wives

I know it sounds like a spoof, but it’s not. On September 26th (2010) TLC will premiere a new reality show: Sister Wives. According to ABC News,

“The series will follow the fundamentalist Mormon family of Kody Brown and his four ‘sister wives’—Meri, Janelle, Christine, and their new wife, Robyn. Together, they have 13 children [16 including Robyn’s children by a previous marriage] living in a Utah apartment building.”

The Browns are political activists going public with their lifestyle in an effort to legalize polygamy in Utah. They believe the felony-status of polygamy results in discrimination toward the 40,000 Utahans currently living as polygamists.

Choosing plural marriage due to religious convictions, the Browns have joined a campaign for legalization called Principle Voices. According to an interview video at BBC News, one of the organizers, Anne Wilde, sells a popular book titled, Jesus Was Married. Anne’s late husband authored this book after extensive research into ancient documents as well as LDS Church history and doctrine. Explaining the painting on the cover of the book Anne said,

“This is Martha and Mary. And those, we believe, were two of [Christ’s] wives, along with Mary Magdalene. So, if Christ says ‘Come follow me,’ He didn’t say come follow me in every way but marriage, and so He meant in all ways. And we believe He set the example for plural marriage.”

Anne Wilde and her group agree with at least two early LDS apostles:

“Now there was actually a marriage [at Cana]; and if Jesus was not the bridegroom on that occasion, please tell who was. If any man can show this, and prove that it was not the Savior of the world, then I will acknowledge I am in error. We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed, before he was crucified.” (Orson Hyde, Conference message, October 6, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:82)

“One thing is certain, that there were several holy women that greatly loved Jesus — such as Mary, and Martha her sister, and Mary Magdalene; and Jesus greatly loved them, and associated with them much; and when He arose from the dead, instead of showing Himself to His chosen witnesses, the Apostles, He appeared first to these women, or at least to one of them — namely, Mary Magdalene. Now it would be natural for a husband in the resurrection to appear first to his own dear wives, and afterwards show himself to his other friends. If all the acts of Jesus were written, we no doubt should learn that these beloved women were His wives.” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 159)

Fundamentalist Mormons also embrace the declaration of another early LDS Apostle who said,

“You might as well deny ‘Mormonism,’ and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.” (Heber C. Kimball, October 12, 1856, Journal of Discourses 5:203)

Though the LDS Church continues to try to distance itself from polygamy, plural marriage is a fruit growing directly from the root of Mormon founder and Prophet Joseph Smith. Smith started it, his followers embraced it, and subsequent LDS leaders insisted that God required it.

In 2006 fifteenth LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I wish to state categorically that this church has nothing whatsoever to do with those practicing polygamy.” It was a hard sell then, and remains a hard sell now. Official members in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not currently allowed to engage in mortal polygamy. But those fundamentalist Mormons who do practice polygamy do so because they cling to the very foundation of Mormonism, and live by the teachings of those early Mormon prophets, seers and revelators.

Sister Wives is scheduled to air on TLC for 7 weeks. That may not be enough to really change people’s perceptions of polygamy as the Browns hope. But it will surely cause more problems for the LDS Church as viewers once again connect polygamy with Mormonism.
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Information and help for polygamists: A Shield and Refuge Ministry–a loving, Christ-centered outreach to those seeking freedom from Mormon Fundamentalism and Polygamy.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Early Mormonism, Fundamentalist Mormonism, Polygamy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Sister Wives

  1. f_melo says:

    "But it will surely cause more problems for the LDS Church as viewers once again connect polygamy with Mormonism."

    It definitely will!! Just in time for General Conference – i´ll watch to see if they will make mention of it. I can already hear "… in these latter days we were warned that great tribulations would come upon those who are faithful to the revealed doctrines of the restoration…" "…there are evil men in the world whose sole purpose is to work for the destruction of the lord´s kingdom on earth… don´t listen to them, but hold fast to your testimonies…"

    Maybe the Browns should also make a series of ads: "my name is ** Brown, i´m a mother, i´m a professional (whatever) and i´m a mormon polygamist!

    "We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed, before he was crucified."

    Ok, so, do the first presidency know were "His" seed is at the moment? Are they 1/4 god and 3/4 man?(mormons believe Christ was half God half man, just like some deities of greek mythology). Can they walk on water?
    Anybody making a connection with the DaVinci Code? I did some research on British Israelism before and some of that kind of stuff, and i´m almost sure that this is an ideia a lot older than the mormon church itself…

  2. NGM says:

    The ideas behind Mormonism are indeed very old; similar to gnosticism. Mike Reeves, over at Theology Network has a lecture introducing Ireneaus, who spoke out against the heresies of his day, most notably: Valentinianism.

  3. Ethan says:

    Actually, this may not hurt anyone in the long run if gay marriage and the public's opinion of it continue on their current trajectory (read: like it or not it will be accepted). After all, what seperates gay marriage from consenting adults practicing polygamy? Not much, and reality shows like this may actually break down barriers, ala gay rights. Ironically, shows like this that show functioning, normal polygamists (polyandrists) may have the opposite effect that [filtered profanity or slur]s wish. It might ignite a broadening of minds regarding what is OK. Fifty to a hundred more years of this positive pub (Big Love has revolutionized polygamy like Will and Grace revolutionized gays) and you all may be scratching your heads as polygamy is legallized and embraced. Just saying.

  4. Martin_from_Brisbane says:

    Ethan wrote

    Actually, this may not hurt anyone in the long run if gay marriage and the public's opinion of it continue on their current trajectory (read: like it or not it will be accepted).

    What's the real problem here?

    The pioneers of same sex marriage have created a sense of inevitability about their cause, aided largely by the mass media. They have very effectively managed to silence the opposition by fostering a perception that it comprises a bunch of xenophobic killjoys who simply want to stop consenting adults enjoying themselves in private.

    Two very effective marketing phrases here in Australia have been "Marriage should be about love, not laws", and "Let's keep the law out of the bedroom".

    (Incidentally, I think the logic is perverse – if it's about what you do in your bedroom, why bring it into the public square by calling it "marriage"; and if you want to keep the law out of the bedroom, why are you seeking to change the law?)

    Anyway, the opponents of same sex marriage need to do two things, IMO. One is to present a message that's more than just "it's wrong", the other is to challenge this sense of inevitability.

    Interestingly, the BBC has just published the results of a survey that suggests that about 1% of the population in the UK identify themselves as homosexual (3% were undeclared, and 0.5% were bisexual). However you look at it (pro or con), it's a lot of fuss over a very small slice of the population.

    Getting back to the topic of marriage (and its potentially lawful variations), I think the real problem is that marriage is now viewed as a contract between private individuals, rather than a social entity. It has got to this state because of the inestimable impact of modernism on western life, in which everything is impermanent and the only thing that directs choice is a person's inner impulses (a "burning in the bosom", perhaps?).

    The contract between private individuals can take any form that the individuals entering into the contract wish it to take, be it subject to prenuptual agreements, fixed term (say 10 years), same sex or multiple spouses. It's simply a formalization of the casual relationships that the participating individuals engage in. The real problem with this view is that it is ultimately self-centered and, as is the case with polygamy, it fosters abuse and dysfunctional relationships. Women and children consistently come out worse off in these arrangements. Ultimately, I don't think human beings are designed to function in this environment, but that's what sin is all about.

    The social entity means that there is something greater than the coinciding of the individual's internal impulses into a common enterprise. It says that husband and wife are answerable to the whole community for their marriage and they, in turn, are supported by the community in their union. It's worked for several thousand years already to protect the interests of not just husband and wife, but also children and grandparents and the unmarried. I don't think I need to persuade the people on this forum that strong families make a strong, viable, enjoyable community. Protecting marriage is actually about protecting individuals within the context of the wider community.

    Theologically speaking, the notion that there is some "thing" greater than the individual is ingrained in this worldview, and the greatest "thing" there is is God Himself. If there is a sin in polygamy and same-sex marriage, then perhaps it is the claim that there is nothing greater than my own interests to answer to.

    Another theological footnote comes from the words of the Anglican Wedding Service, which talks about the union between husband and wife being like the "mystical union between Christ and His Church". It sounds very religious, but it's got a point – there is one husband and one wife and they are bound for life in an exclusive, publicly sanctioned relationship. It works because they are undivided in their devotion to each other "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health". Marriage therefore models the devotion Christ has for us, His Church, and we respond by giving ourselves to Him in undivided devotion…

    …which is hard to do when he says, "sorry Darling, I've got to look after spouse number 34 tonight".

  5. Ethan says:

    But then you are underestimating the power and depth of the human heart to love more than one person. Does a widow love her 2nd husband less than her 1st? Not really. If knowledge and intelligence and spirituality can increase exponentially into the eternities, then why can't love? An I am a Mormon who believes that perhaps marriage relations in the hereafter will not be limited to on man and many wives. Why couldn't it go both ways? I have no problem with that in the context of the unifying and exponentially more efficient, stable and productive Law of Consecration. ____That's all Mormon polygamists were doing is applying the Law of Consecration to their families. Something that required superior emotional intelligence and a selfless approah to jealousies and fears. Something alien in this me-first generation.

  6. f_melo says:

    Martin, GREAT POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Too bad i can´t give more thumbs up!!!!

  7. f_melo says:

    "But then you are underestimating the power and depth of the human heart to love more than one person. Does a widow love her 2nd husband less than her 1st?"

    Sure, but like Martin said, what about wife #34? Can you love all 34 wives the same way you can love 1? Would all those wives get the love they deserve and expect for a healthy relationship? Of course not. It´s difficult enough to divide attention between 3 or 4 children, how can a single man manage all of that? The human heart might be big, but it´s still human – it has big, big limitations as well.

    "If knowledge and intelligence and spirituality can increase exponentially into the eternities, then why can't love? "

    That´s your world view – there´s no such a thing as eternal progression in Biblical Christianity.

    "An I am a Mormon who believes that perhaps marriage relations in the hereafter will not be limited to on man and many wives. Why couldn't it go both ways?"

    Well, do a little study on how were the lives of the wives of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other polygamist mormon leaders and then come here and tell us that polygamy in this life is a good thing. It isn´t.
    And it isn´t ordained of God in the Old Testament even though many people practiced it. It was never a commandment, and in your way of thinking even if i don´t want to practice, i would be a cursed apostate for not complying with it, and in a mormon theocracy i would probably have to shed my blood to atone for that…

    "I have no problem with that in the context of the unifying and exponentially more efficient, stable and productive Law of Consecration. "

    Seriously? more efficient? why has it never worked then? Productive? Why would i want to work my best if i knew i was forced to give everything to the church and then the church would decide what to give me back? That´s a perversion of Christ´s teachings – giving should come from the heart and not by a law that forces you.

    "That's all Mormon polygamists were doing is applying the Law of Consecration to their families. Something that required superior emotional intelligence and a selfless approah to jealousies and fears. Something alien in this me-first generation."

    Again you´re showing the mormon self-delusion that this is something that "required superior emotional intelligence" – which, by the way, your leaders didn´t have and i doubt anyone has…, but when we actually study how that stuff worked in the beginning of the mormon church we see that it failed miserably, and just brought hurt and suffering to the women and children…

    It´s just another utopia. No utopia will ever come true while we are imperfect sinful creatures…

  8. Martin_from_Brisbane says:

    Ethan,

    You should check where you get your presuppositions from.

    f_melo has done a good job of pointing out a couple of the things that I was going to mention (eternal progression, Joseph Smith's polygamy (not polyandry) and the fact that it's not commanded in the OT contra the claims of D&C132).

    One thing I will add is that you're doing what many Mormons do; which is to look at yourself and say "God must be like me". That is,

    * I have a father, so God must have a father.
    * I have a mother, so God must have a mother.
    * I have a wife, so God must have a wife.
    * I have many wives, so God must have many wives.

    But what you're not doing is looking to the Bible, the Word of God (according to 8AoF) to see what God is like. For example, there's absolutely no way you can reconcile the doctrines of the Father of God and Mother of God with Isaiah 43:10b

    before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

    . Frankly, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the rest of them got it horribly wrong.

    Think about it.

    By the same logic, Jesus drove a Toyota. Why? Because I drive a Toyota.

  9. wyomingwilly says:

    cont.

    " …..the ironic attempts of the modern LDS church to distance itself from the doctrine of plurality
    by vilifying those who continue the practice, using the same tactics their religion's enemies
    exploited in the 1880"s . Such Houdini-like efforts to escape the practice's historical and
    doctrinal significance and divert the eyes of modern believers from the subject will inevitably
    fail. "

    The precious Mormon people in their striving to serve God , have had their attention diverted into
    following a prophet whose claims to be a guide in revealing God's will , has proven to be very
    unreliable Matt 24:24 Gal.1:8-9

    ww

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  11. f_melo says:

    wyomingwilly said:

    "The precious Mormon people in their striving to serve God , have had their attention diverted into
    following a prophet whose claims to be a guide in revealing God's will , has proven to be very
    unreliable"

    AMEN!

    About that – take a look at this lame attempt to explain away the "blacks and the priesthood issue" i found on the FAIR LDS website:

    "GRAY: I'll give you an answer to that. I need to give you a disclaimer first. That which I am about to share should not be considered as doctrine and that it does not appear in the Standard Works of the Church. It is, however, consistent with the scriptures, and permission has been granted by the brethren for me to teach this. Are we clear? Okay." (…)

    "Brothers and sisters, the priesthood restriction was not imposed by God. It was allowed by God as a test to see how we would respond to one another. Imagine this, my brother Scott here, at some point in the pre-existence Father coming to you and saying, 'Scott I want you to go down during a period of time when you will have occasion to learn of the gospel. Will you be able to go down and accept that? And you said, 'Yes.' And He said, 'Now you're going to be assigned to a group that at times will be more prominent and have position. Can you go down and not become arrogant, puffed up, somehow thinking yourself better than others?' And you foolishly said, 'Yes.' (Laughter)

    Then imagine this conversation, Father coming to me and saying, 'Darius, I'm going to send you down during a period of time when you too will have occasion to embrace the gospel. Will you do that?' And I foolishly said, 'Yes.' And He said, 'Now you're going to be assigned to a group that at times people will consider 'less than' and there might be opposition for you there. Can you go down and not become hardened in your heart. Can you go down and not become embittered? Can you go down, you and Scott, and both of you live to the same standard to have love in your heart one for another?' And we said, 'Yes.'

    Brothers and sisters our assignments are just that: assignments. They're not an indication of worthiness or lack of worthiness in the pre-existence. One is not greater than the other. The priesthood restriction was as a threshing floor, it was to see what we would do. It was like Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery. How are we treating one another? That restriction was to see if people would become embittered or if they would hold to the gospel; it was not imposed by the Father."

    (source: http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2005_Blac

    "Maybe this time Mormon leaders will admit that their predecessors in "the restoration of the gospel ", did'nt actually hear from God on this doctrine, but that it was their own convictions instead."

    After reading that "explanation", yes, you hit the bull´s eye on that one!

  12. wyomingwilly says:

    f-melo,____The Mormon leaders' attempt to find alibi's for their inaccurate interpretations of the scriptures are opening the eyes of many Mormons. the following testimony is one example : ____" The final decisive moment was when I realized that the prophets routinely contradict themselves__through their doctrines and that it is impossible to discern what is doctrine versus opinion. No amount of praying and good works could resolve the extensive contradictions. we all know why. I found myself required to accept fact, truth, and the light of Christ. " [S.L.C. Messanger #114 p20 ]

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  14. grcluff says:

    I found this article interesting, because I am a descendant of Mormon polygamists and I caught a few minutes of the TLC show. My great grandfather did 10 years in the Utah state pen for polygamy, while his large family struggled I am sure. I have often wondered why it is still illegal in today's more liberal society.

    My co-workers were asking me about the show, but I found it hard to stay interested. I told them I don't believe in polygamy, mostly because I don't believe God expects it today. I don't need to second guess His purposes, just learn to hear the still small voice that makes his will know for me TODAY. That is what it is all about in my world.

    Those who watch the show attentively, wondering what that life is all about, are much closer to being polgamist than me. Don't try to pin that label on me.

  15. Ethan says:

    Isaiah 43 is referring to other Semitic cultures who had false Gods that some Israelites were turning to. It is an Earth-bound teaching. It is no way addresses anything beyond the context of that chapter, which is other ancient cultures on Earth and their idols. You're taking it out of context.

    Genesis is clear in its teaching of a Mother in Heaven. When it declares that "The Elohim" (Plural for Gods) formed "man in OUR image, MALE and FEMALE…" Both plural and gender specific. What do you think is happening here? There is no break in that sentence there. Not even a period to seperate those concepts. The "likeness and image of God" is BOTH male and female. Why are you claiming that women are second class citizens in the eternal dynamic. God is both yin and yang, perfectly united as GOD. This is archaic theology 101, the divine sacred feminine that was ripped out by the Deuteronomists with Josiah after the exile demolished the first temple cult. Mormons brought it back and women have a place in the cosmis pitcure (and in heaven where gender will exist for NO reason in yuor religion, an absurd androgenous fallacy.

  16. Ethan says:

    I have spent some time browsing various blogs of all types that discuss this show. It looks like polygamy is coming across surprisingly well. Most people are expressing feelings of support for the Browns. Interesting.

  17. wyomingwilly says:

    Ethan, I also would call that interesting. I think it's a safe bet though that there's a group
    of 15 men in Salt Lake City who are not part of that support.

    ww

  18. wyomingwilly says:

    Ethan, I appreciate your appeal to God's Word to substantiate your beliefs. While I
    agree that belief in a heavenly Mother is offical Mormon doctrine, I think your attempt
    to squeeze it out of the Bible is futile. I think it is abit more objective to notice that your
    leaders would see the "us " in Gen.1:26,27, as where God the Father is talking with
    the Son concerning man's creation. I understand the Mormon concept of the Godhead
    to consist of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, thus " God " here in Gen.1 consists of
    three Gods ,( a Mother God would make four Gods ). This fundamental Mormon
    doctrine can't be said to be a "clear" teaching of the Bible. Some Mormon leaders
    have said that it is only infered. Fundamental doctrines can't be that hazy .

  19. wyomingwilly says:

    cont.
    f-melo, this article you referenced misses the point on several key areas. Mr. Gray has long been
    frustrated with the attitude in his church on this issue.( he even has said that B.Y, had racist views ).
    This doctrine that some spirits in heaven were cursed with a black skin when sent to earth, was
    taught by Mormon leaders, and these leaders never had to get permission from anyone else as
    they were the ones who created it. Faithful LDS accepted it because of their confidence in these
    leaders' promise to never lead them astray in doctrine .

    ww

  20. Alessandrina says:

    This is insane, and why in polygamist marriages is it always the male with many wives, what about a wife with many husbands?????????????????????????????????????

  21. enki says:

    Martin,
    "…before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." Isn't that just a pet phrase, like "I am the same yesterday, today and forever"? I don't quite get that, because the law of moses was changed.

    Speaking of which, why is it that christians choose some elements and ignore other parts of it?

    On the topic of plural marriage, how do you explain Biblical examples of it, especially given that David was not corrected for participation?

    I watched part of the program, and found the whole family set up a bit strange. I thought at first that the guy was incredibly arrogant. But on closer inspection he just 'was'. I have a difficult time accepting plural marriage in the current era. The family seemed happy and healthy, with no apparent problems that any other family wouldn't have. They also seemed so happy. I turned it off, wishing them all the best, and wishing I could be so happy and know what I want like they do.

  22. Greg says:

    either way you look at it, it is a choice made by consenting adults not children so therefore they have the right to chose how they live. As an outsider looking in it appears to be a bacis split of responsibilities, (wish i had spell check), which from any womans brain is a good thing. Guys such as myself, do not realize ALL the work a single wife/Mom does on a daily basis. They work there tails off w/o to much help from there counterparts. So i will continue to watch but so far i am giving this a thumbs up in my opion. From a guys thought process, rock on, this is awesome. You will never get bored with the fringe benefits..

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