What’s Wrong With Polygamy

For the first time ever we are about to have a Mormon nominated for president by a major political party. By a strange coincidence, we also are beginning to see a flurry of posts on liberal blogs telling us what a  bizarre and deplorable religion Mormonism is. Mormons don’t smoke, or drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, and they oppose sex before marriage and marital infidelity. What a bunch of boobs!

On one liberal blog a woman who formerly belonged to the Mormon Church complained bitterly because church officials have persisted in their attempts to bring her back into the fold. No matter how many times she tells them to buzz off (I am using a phrase suitable for use in the presence of Mormons), they keep buzzing back.

I happen to have witnessed this phenomenon first-hand. It is true that the Mormons don’t like to take no for an answer when a lapsed member of their church insists on staying lapsed. They do make return visits to the lapsed person’s home, unbidden. Furthermore, they are extremely intimidating in their methods. They send out pairs of decrepit, white-haired old men to make their case. These guys arrive on foot, gasping for breath, and if the lapsed Mormon chose he could blow them over even if he has weak, wasted lungs from breaking the Mormon rule against smoking.

Imagine how bitterly the female blogger would complain if she were garroted, or burned at the stake, or stretched on the rack, or buried up to her neck in sand and stoned.  Lapsed Mormons really have it rather easy by comparison.

I thought that after the election of John F. Kennedy, our first Roman Catholic president, religious attacks had become passé in presidential campaigns. Despite the fears of many, JFK did not bring the Pope over to run the executive branch, although I will concede that we don’t know what his plans might have been for a second term.

By 2000, when an Orthodox Jew ran for vice president on the Democratic ticket, there was scarcely a murmur. I almost never heard people speculating that Joe Lieberman planned blood sacrifices of Russian children to help him bake matzoh for Passover. But again, I have to concede that we will never know for sure, because Joe (and running mate Al Gore) lost.

But with Romney in the field, religion is back as a political issue.

Some liberals are trying to tar Romney with the specter of polygamy, even though polygamy was outlawed by his church in 1890, and the last polygamous marriage ended nearly sixty years ago with the death of one of the wives. The Democratic governor of Montana, for example, recently made a fuss because the parents of Romney’s late father, George, fled to Mexico more than a century ago in protest against U.S. anti-polygamy laws. They did this even though they themselves were in a monogamous marriage. It was strictly on principle. Those wacky Mormons!

I am here to tell you that I don’t care whether Romney himself is a polygamist, although it appears that he is not. If he were, the Democrats would be ungallantly besmirching more than just the one wife, Ann.
But really, what is wrong with polygamy? Does it strike you as any stranger than gay marriage? And let me interject here that gay marriage is absolutely the most wonderful idea ever conceived by mankind, and gays are, and should be, treated as sacred cows.

Polygamy can be an excellent idea under the right circumstances. Suppose you marry a woman who is a hot babe, but she can’t cook. Why shouldn’t you be allowed to also marry a dull, homely woman who cooks like a master chef?  I don’t see this as selfish on the man’s part. Quite the contrary. How else would the second woman find a husband? If she were only entitled to a monogamous marriage, she would be pretty much limited to blind gourmets.
I do see some practical problems. In a community-property state, for example, how would one divide the assets if any of the wives decided to bow out? (I am limiting the discussion to marriages involving  multiple wives, because even in the heyday of polygamy marriages involving multiple husbands were extremely rare.) In a community-property state, divorcing couples are supposed to split the legally eligible assets evenly, but in a marriage with, say, two wives, it seems unfair to let the departing wife walk off with half the assets. It’s a problem, but probably not insuperable.

Legalizing polygamy would simply institutionalize relationships that already exist off the books, just as has  been the case with gay marriages.  Come on, tell me that you have never heard of threesomes that are living together indefinitely. Why shouldn’t such relationships be sanctified by the law? So please, liberals, drop the religious bigotry. Let’s see some of that famous tolerance for aberrant behavior that characterizes so many of your flock. You can learn to live with polygamy, in case a Romney presidency brings it back.

Author Bio:

Arthur Louis spent more than forty years as a print journalist, with the Philadelphia Inquirer, McGraw-Hill, Fortune magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle, but he is not asking for sympathy. He is the author of two non-fiction books: The Tycoons, and Journalism and Other Atrocities, as well as a novel, The Little Champ. In retirement, he has decided unilaterally that he is a profound political pundit.
Author website: http://bernardgoldberg.com
  • Ru18vote

    O.K., let’s bypass religion for science for a moment, Okeeedokee?
    For example, in a Bee Hive, there is the Queen Bee and many Male worker bees.
    Now, we know from genetically modified foods that genes can “jump” so that
    you can get honey bee dna in your stomach and out to your blood stream,
    so your daughter’s daughter will have an urge to keep a couple hundred men
    around.
    Look at Pig dna, we are very related to pigs, and look at Rat dna, likewise, related.
    So, now, look at the entire animal kingdom,
    now do DNA analysis of the entire peoples of the Mormon Church, but only
    the ones   who are directly related to the original Mormons, and
    then cross check their dna with Ants and any other animal or insect
    species that Functions Best in a Group.
    Stop criticizing people who function best in a group,
    regardless of their choice of group model,
    because all of this activity
    is in the DNA,
    and therefore it is “normal”. 
    God pulled a Rib out of Adam and created Eve,
    and that is what you call genetic modification and cloning.
    Nothing new on this planet.

  • Psmithphd

    Der Bernie

    I admire much of what you write. I am sorry, though, if any of my fellow Mormons are unkind and intimidating in their desire to help lapsed members return to Church activity. The Parable of the Lost Sheep given by Jesus Christ is or should be our model. It is a laudable activity, helping individuals move toward salvation.

    Keep up the good work about media bias. It is a serious problem.

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.

  • Oceanlover01

    Lousy article, misplaced and distracting.  Doctrinal veracity would make a far better discussion, as it seems those core beliefs do not apply to leadership in this case.  Seems Thou shall lie and pander is the new Journal Discourse.

  • Guest

    Even if women “consent” to a polygamous marriage, Good Lord, people. The primary issue is female dependency on men, which the Mormon faith promotes in spades. When females are totally dependent on men for survival, they may say they want or will tolerate all kinds of irrational things, including “sister wives.” The Mormon church was founded at a time when female dependency was more the norm than it is today. But the Mormon church still institutionally oppresses women into wanting, planning for, and tolerating dependent relationships. And BTW: last I heard, polygamy is still the divine plan in the afterlife. May be it’s banned on earth for now, but look out you celestial kingdom bound boys and girls… heaven ain’t looking monogamous.

    • johnfromil

      You obviously do not know many LDS women. Oppressed is not even in the lexicon I would use to describe them. They are generally well educated independent and very self assured. Many could have had promising careers, but instead chose to be housewifes and mothers. Some actually do both.

      • Guest

        I know MANY LDS women. Just to be clear.

        • johnfromil

          I doubt it, otherwise you would not denigrate them so much as oppressed etc.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ROJ6VBV7N3RLNWKLBYV3SNJBAQ George

    Hey dummy!  Do you have a problem with God also, since He allowed polygamy as recorded in the the Bible?!?  Dis you ever try to use your narrow minded little brain to think that perhaps, since God is unchangeable, the at there are times that are suitable for it as well as times that are not?!?

  • Jamesbhorne

    And it was against the law in Illinois at the time as well as bigamy.  

  • Jamesbhorne

    Historically polygamy has rarely been a
    free choice by one or even any of the individuals involved.
    Please don’t equate the two because they there is s large difference between choice. Though true free association polyamory can exist with it is very rate and did not happen in any sectof Mormonism ever

    • http://www.facebook.com/mike.hathaway.37 Mike Hathaway

      It is important to recognize that the people practicing polygamy today who are referred to as “Mormons” are NOT members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  There are various splinter groups, long ago broken off from the church who use the Book of Mormon as scripture, practice polygamy, and call themselves “Mormons” – either by choice or confusion.

      I think you’d have a pretty hard time finding any actual example of anyone being married in a polygamous relationship, as practiced and sanctioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, that was not being married of their own free will.  It just didn’t happen like that.

      • Jamesbhorne

        They are mormons just not the brighamite branch. While the list would be large of forced or arranged marriages Eliza snow or Fanny algers marriages to Joseph Smith is enough. And there are endless records of wives not wanting their husband to take on more wives but again left with no choice or even men not desiring more than one wife being told to reasons as varied as All throughout history, especially when women are viewed as little more than child factory property

        • sarakei

          Jamesbhorne, you must be refering to the apostate mormons who practice polagamy.  Under the law when Mormons practiced it, women were given every choice.  Divorce was easily obtained.  And very few practiced it.  Your view of the treatment of women is true, outside of the church, but is not and has never been the doctrine of the Mormon church.  In fact, the opposite it true. There is much evidence that supports this…but perhaps you might want to read the debate in the state legislature when Utah had to give up the right to vote to women to become a state  as one example.

          • Jamesbhorne

            No I am referring to Smith the founder that practiced it illegally in navuoo. Also to his wife Emma that was against it yet had to share her husband anyway. Also you may want to
            check your definition of apostate that you throw around so easily. I’m glad your experience of female equality is good but does tend to beg why women could not have multiple husband s which makes more sense anyway economically;)

          • johnfromil

            It was not against the law in Illinois in the 1830s or 1840s.

        • bytebear

          Fanny Alger’s supposed love child with Smith has been proven not to be his through genetic testing.  Sorry, Alger was just a wayward child who got preggers when she lived with the Smith’s and Joseph was blamed as the father.

          Eliza Snow was an old maid, who was sealed to Smith, and then later sealed to Brigham Young. In fact, studies showed a strong correlation to polygamous wives being women who had no other male protector in the “Wild West”.

          • Jamesbhorne

            There are no studies that prove that. Moreover navoou was not the wild west. and your justification makes little sense when metered against the totally of the wild west and frontier in which women survived without needing polygamy and in many cases men at all.

          • bytebear

            Nauvoo most certainly was. It was the “midwest” and unsettled. There were still skirmishes with Native Americans, and frontier lawlessness was very much the norm. Remember, Smith was killed by a mob and no one was prosecuted for their crimes. Women did not have the vote, and they did not have property rights. Therefore if they had no male counterpart (father, husband, brother) they had virtually no rights whatsoever.

            But, you are correct to say that polygamy was not adopted as a practical measure, although it had practical implications. The fact is, all historical evidence points that it was strictly a religious practice. But of course, that deflates your “sex crazed horny old men” theory.

          • Jamesbhorne

            I never made a sex crazed old man argument. For whatever reason I will try one more time to explain. Even if the new bride and husband were consenting they are not the only people in a polygamous marriage. Polygamy as practiced by mormons and most cultures recognized the objections of existing wives so it h.appens without free consent. Emma is just the easiest and glaring example

      • johnfromil

        And in the days of polygamy in the church, it was always supposed to be with the consent of the previous wife and it was always between adults.

        • Jamesbhorne

          Neither of those facts are true or even contended by church historians

          • johnfromil

            Generally, in order to take a second wife, the husband and the first wife were ASKED by the church authorities to take an additional wife. Both had to agree. In my family, one of my female ancestors nixed an additional wife and it stood.
            There was a study done several years ago on LDS polygamy. The majority of second and third wives were widows or divorcees from previous marriages, therefore adults.

    • dhrogers

      James,

      Actually, your statement that Joseph smith coerced women to marry him is counter to what all the credible historians have said based on research of first hand accounts. For instance, in his Book “Rough Stone Rolling,” acclaimed author and researcher Richard L. Bushman notes that his marriage arrangements (other than with Emma) were devoid of passion and seem to be a cold and calculated effort to obey God’s command rather than done out of any passion on his part. Bushman points out that in some cases Joseph actually assigns others to go and propose in his behalf and make the arrangements. Often Joseph goes through the parents or a brother and get’s their permission first. Joseph’s typical approach was to explain the principle, and then when the individual was reluctant or doubtful, Joseph would wait, sometimes for months, until the person approached him stating that she had now been convinced of God that it was correct and that the marriage could proceed. In no cases was there coercion.

      Here are a few examples of persons who describe Joseph Smith’s non-coercive process as described in historic records such as diary entries:

      Zina Huntington
      Sarah Leavitt
      Emily Partridge
      Mary Elizabeth Rollins
      Lucy Walker
      Elizabeth and Newel K. Whitney
      Heber and Vilate Kimball
      Helen Mar Kimball
      Sarah Leavitt
      Emily Partridge
      Mary Elizabeth Rollins
      Lucy Walker
      Benjamin Johnson

      • Jamesbhorne

        14 year olds cannot choose nor can you honestly say Emma agreed freely as they were done in secret without her consent and she is a party to the marriage.which was one of my points. Arranging marriages or marrying still married wives of other men also supports my assertion that true free consent of one or more parties of the marriage rarely happened

        • bytebear

           Arranged marriages are common in most non-western cultures. In fact marriage for “love” is a relatively modern phemonenon.  Regardless, Smith’s “marriage” to 14 year olds was not for love or sex.  The one example people use, Helen Mar Kimball, was done at the behest of her father, and historians have called it a “dynastic” joining of the Kimball family to Smith.  In fact, sealings (which include marriage) were done quite often to Smith as a symbolic joining to smith.  Men were sealed to Smith as brothers or sons.  And many women married to other men were sealed to Smith for eternity, but not for time (i.e. not on Earth).   So, in short, I reject your assertion.

          • Jamesbhorne

            You reject my assertion that these marriages were performed with the complete consent of all the parties involved by agreeing that the consent of all parties was not given but it’s okay cause sex wasn’t the only reason. I’m not discussing the unethical actions of Smith just that comparing the union of two consenting same sex adults is vastely different from polygamy as practiced by mormons and most other cultures so the article is silly

          • bytebear

            Yes, I do reject your assertion, because as was pointed out, the historical record contradicts your assertion. Quoting from a poster above:

            “Bushman points out that in some cases Joseph actually assigns others to go and propose in his behalf and make the arrangements. Often Joseph goes through the parents or a brother and get’s their permission first. Joseph’s typical approach was to explain the principle, and then when the individual was reluctant or doubtful, Joseph would wait, sometimes for months, until the person approached him stating that she had now been convinced of God that it was correct and that the marriage could proceed. In no cases was there coercion.”

          • johnfromil

            So how many children does same sex marriage produce naturally?
            The purpose of marriage is create a home and a family that is stable and a place to raise up children in righteousness.

          • Jamesbhorne

            The purpose of marriage is not children. Sex makes children. Marriage it’s a legal contract in which parties take on legal responsibility of each other and property.

        • johnfromil

          And if you reseach your own genology in the 1600’s, 1700’s and 1800’s, I’ll bet you find a number of teen age brides, including some as young as 14 or 15.
          Don’t judge people in the 1800’s by standards of the 2000’s

          • Jamesbhorne

            I judge them by the standard of their time. It was uncommon for girls to marry at that age at the time it was done. I am unwilling to let the exception be the standard for 1840s. Otherwise what good is a standard? At any rate my point is not that mormons or S mith had abysmal sense of ethics our morality, just that true consent of all parties in polygamous marriages is rate and unlike the comparison to gay marriage.

          • johnfromil

            Huh. How many female teenage married ancestors do you have.

        • dhrogers

          The age of consent under English common law was TEN. United States law did not raise the age of consent until the late nineteenth century. In Joseph Smith’s day, most states still had the declared age of consent to be TEN! Some had raised it to TWELVE, and Delaware had lowered it to SEVEN! (See Melina McTigue, “Statutory Rape Law Reform in Nineteenth Century Maryland: An Analysis of Theory and Practical Change,” (2002), accessed 5 Feb 2005)

          God, through the prophet Nathan, took wives married to Saul and gave them to David. (2 Samual 12:8). At this time David already had at least two wives (1 Sam. 18:27; 1 Sam. 25:40-43). Yet, because God approved of David, God gave him the wives of Saul

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W22FCJYGLJAAXNTTPNGECJVOVI MKR

    Nicely said Mr. Louis. I have often wondered why gay activists aren’t also advocates for polygamists who simply want the right to love and marry whomever they want (consenting adults of course). I’m not saying I agree with the practice because well, I doubt I would be able to be married to someone who slept with other women, even if they were his wives. But to me if two consenting adult men or two consenting adult women have the right to marry and that is a “civil right”. Then three, four, 10 or 20 men and women should have the same right. Civil rights shouldn’t just be for pairs, right?
    And, as for the harassment some have said they received when trying to leave the church or if they were inactive. I was inactive for many years and while occasionally a home teacher or visiting teacher  would call to request a visit, or a pair of missionaries would stop by if they were in the neighborhood. But it was never more than a call or two in a year (if that).  I never felt harassed and at one point verbally requested to be left alone and I was for several years. 
    Just my humble opinion….

    • Artlouis

      Thanks for the comment, MKR. I agree that the visits from church members seem tolerable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.hathaway.37 Mike Hathaway

    Having read some of the histories of my own ancestors, I think polygamy was tenuous at best.  It wasn’t practiced wantonly, as depicted in today’s popular culture, but much more altruistically.  Nonetheless, it was fraught with jealousies and other problems.  

    From time to time the myth of restoring the practice comes up in casual conversation among members, and in my experience the irony is that it is usually the women who express that they would approve – their argument being that they would have someone they could trust to leave the kids with so they could finally get some quality time with their husband, even if it meant sharing him.

    Most of the men cringe at the thought – it’s hard enough with just one!  My usual answer when asked about polygamy is that “we gave it up when we found that scripture that says that ‘no man can serve two masters…'”.

    • Artlouis

      Amusing, Mike. It is difficult to deal with even one.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FYVERNVVEL7KWT6UKIKYNCEMLM Douglas

    As a missionary in the Netherlands in the mid 1980s, I saw two or three people have their names removed from the roles of the LDS church. Assisting a home teacher, I saw that he simply asked them if they wanted anything more to do with the church. When they said No, he thanked them and we left. A form was filled out and we both signed our name to it. This form presumably would be sent to the membership records department and the name would be removed. In Holland they called this the “Scoon Skip” policy.

    • Artlouis

      Thanks for your inside look, Douglas.

  • SandeeM

    Thank you for the article, Arthur Lewis :)  
    (As an aside – any member who would like to have their names removed from the records of the church, can request that in writing at any time, and all visits and contacts will stop.  The LDS church and its members have no more desire to be a nuisance than I would imagine any one else would have.  On the other hand, many people who are not active at church still seem to really enjoy the friendliness and the support of monthly visits to offer assistance and check that all is well.  It’s not pushy.)

    • Artlouis

      Thanks, Sandee

  • OftenLate

    Polygamy and bigamy are felonies, in all 50 US States, and under federal law. Also it took UT 3 tries to get Statehood because of polygamy, and even then they lied. Pretty much LDS claims to have stopped the practice only what, some 50ish yearsago. UT does not prosecute polygamy nor the sexual assault of underaged girls, nor tossing out their mail children on the side of the road, or much of any other criminal acts  by their polygamists. 

    • SandeeM

      Wow!  Lies and lies again!  The LDS church is known for honesty and integrity and certainly never lied to the government or anybody else.  Whatever was ever testified to would have been true of the doctrine and policy of the church – which cannot then control the actions of every member.  However, anybody who did contravene the policy of the church would have been excommunicated.
      As for your outrageous lies about polygamy and such today – the LDS church is NOT the LAW in Utah – and anybody with any sense would realize that!  What the LDS church does do, is excommunicate anybody who involves themselves in polygamy, or anything as heinous as sexual assault!  – Which is as much as they possibly can do.    There are NO LDS members involved in polygamy, full stop.  
      Your extreme bias and desire to denigrate Mormonism is blinding you to reason and simple truth.

      • Jamesbhorne

        It is not known for honesty or integrity just the opposite. However many members are known for it. The church is known for power secrecy missionaries and polygamy.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FYVERNVVEL7KWT6UKIKYNCEMLM Douglas

      Utah has one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf
      They are more strict on enforcement of statutory rape laws than most states. The age of consent is 18. Bigamy may be a crime in all 50 states, but unlawful cohabitation is not and there is no law specifically against “polygamy” in any state. Usually you have to be legally married to at least one person to be found guilty of bigamy. Many polygamists are not legally married to anybody.
      As a foster parent I learned that about 60% of girls who get pregnant before 16 are impregnated by men over 21. These are national statistics. About 43% of American females are sexually active before their 17th birthday. Sexually active minor couples of the same age are the exception rather than the rule. The typical example involves a male 18 years old or older and a minor female.

      • FeralFemme

        That’s because everything gets swept under the rug in Mormon communities, few cases are ever reported. For example, I met a guy in SLC who molested his three little sisters. His mother caught him in the act and called the police. The policeman who arrived was a Mormon, and he suggested calling the Mormon Bishop, which they did. The Mormon Bishop arrived and convinced the mother not to file a police report. Then the Bishop put the molester in counseling. And guess what? No counseling for the three female victims.

        Did you know that Utah watches 11% more pornography than other states in the union? And did you know that Utah State Prison houses 80% sex-offenders. No other prison in the US comes even close!

        There are hundreds of polygamous cults in Mormon controlled states where polygamy crimes are simply swept under the rug. If the American public knew how big the polygamy problem is in Utah, and how severely abused women and children are in  these cults, it would be a scandal like no other! 

        If you don’t believe me, watch the doc film “Banking On Heaven” and become enlightened!

    • dhrogers

       The LDS church stopped new plural marriages over 100 years ago, not 50ish years ago.

    • bytebear

      Polygamy is pseudo legal today.  There are no cohabitation prosecutions.  That’s also the difference between interracial marriage and gay marriage.  If gays were actually prosecuted for living together, have their voting rights taken away, be imprisoned, and not be allowed to hold public office even if they just believed in the concept, then they would be treated as the Mormons were.

      • Jamesbhorne

        Cohabitation is legal, polygamy it’s not. Governmental recognition of a civil union gives many rights and legal protections that are not available for cohabitation. Hence the desire for legal recognition of gay marriage. If you’re looking to compare persecution the gay community would win easily just on numbers and time. Mormons make up less than 5% of us population today the gay population generally is 10% of the world and had been tortured killed and belittled for thousands poof years

  • http://shawmut.blogspot.com/ Dave O’Connor

    I assume we understand polygamy was practiced by the current president’s father more recently than any forebears of his opponent.

    • Artlouis

      I didn’t know that, Dave.  I definitely would have included it.

    • sarakei

      His father did not practice polygamy.

    • Bot

      Neither Mitt’s father nor his grandfather participated in polygamy.  The same cannot be said of Barack Obama’s father and grandfather, both of whom were polygamous.  Furthermore, Barack, Sr. abandoned and did not support his Hawaiian wife and son.

  • GlenFS

    Ha, ha! Arthur… showing those liberals for the intolerant bigots they are.  Seriously, the Bible does not forbid multiple wives as a moral sin… so it’s a cultural standard, and we know that those seem to be in flux.

    • Artlouis

      Glen, maybe the ban was introduced by guys who had trouble getting dates.

      • SandeeM

        That’s true.   If you are going to take the Christian view, then the Bible is supportive of polygamy, with it being the practice of the early Patriarchs such as Moses, Israel, Isaac, etc.  

    • OftenLate

      No Glen, it’s the law. Federal, and all 50 US States. Felony.

      • Tom

        #OftenLate, Glen didn’t claim polygamy is legal in the U.S., he said the Bible itself doesn’t forbid it. Efforts to oppose polygamy (through laws or otherwise) reflect cultural standards, not biblical ones.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FYVERNVVEL7KWT6UKIKYNCEMLM Douglas

        Yes that is correct. US law denies women the right to choose who they will live with or have babies with. Fascists such as yourself seem to be proud of this when you should be ashamed.

      • bytebear

         And when has it been enforced?   It’s funny, you can have hundreds of mistresses but actually pay the bills and raise the kids of two women and they want to arrest you?  So, yeah, polygamy is technically illegal, but since we don’t throw people in jail for being whores, it’s unenforceable.