Have you ever said to yourself (if you're a man) "I could really use an extra wife around the house," or (if you're a woman), "I would love it if my husband had an extra wife around". Two wives? Four? How about more than 80 wives for one man? It's mind-boggling to me, but not for FLDS members in the US and Canada. FLDS members broke away from the LDS (aka Mormons) years ago because they wanted to practice polygamy. There's a fascinating piece on it in this month's National Geographic, and here's what I took away from it: It's a mess.
The article mentions former member Carolyn Jessop, who wrote a best-selling book called Escape. It is a memoir of her time as a mother of eight, and as one of her ex-husband's many wives. Naturally, memoirs are biased because they are recollections of events based on memories and flawed perspectives. But there isn't that much material on the FLDS, so take what you can.
The points that interest me:
-The Lost Boys. If one man has several wives, the math means there are going to be several unwed males. In a society where marriage is so important, don't you think that has some ramifications?
-The women who defend their situations. There is almost nothing holding these women back from leaving these FLDS towns. They have phones, drive SUVs, and have all your basic freedoms. Yet they do not leave. In fact, a lot of the women are stout defenders of their faith. It's easy to say they've been brainwashed, but the issue runs deeper than that. To abandon everything familiar, (home, family, friends, faith, daily life) and to leave for another town or city, well you might as well be entering completely alien territory. Come to think of it, that's a pretty powerful way of holding people back.
-Criminal behaviour. Some FLDS members have been jailed in recent years, including their prophet, Warren Jeffs. The sordid cause in many cases? Sex with a minor. In one example, a man had a 16-year-old as one of his wives, but the state's age of consent is 17, and since plural marriage is illegal... the girl was not considered his wife. Off to a cozy jail cell he went. Do not pass Go, and do not collect $200.
I wonder how much of the show Big Love is based on these real people. Anyway, I just find this interesting, because this is taking place in North America, and not in far-flung reaches of the world under backwards, patriarchal systems. (Note: While men are the key figures in the FLDS, women have equality, and they factor heavily in the social structure, making it a more matriarchal system than it seems at first glance.) This post wasn't intended to go on so long. I was actually going to write about science-fiction and its ability to make allegories for real life. Maybe next time. Maybe this is just as unsettling because it isn't fiction. Either way, thanks for your patience.
*Photo by Stephanie Sinclair