The Limits of Tolerance

July 2, 2007 | 101 comments
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I suppose that I can support the legalization of polygamy with certain specific limitations.

For example: the women need to be dowdy, lumpy. Braided hair, no make-up, homemade clothing, and, ideally, bad teeth. They must live in rural areas, in slightly dilapidated farmhouses, where they make all their food from scratch. You know.

What I cannot tolerate: polygamists who look like any other woman. Clothing that appears to have been purchased in major department stores within the last year. Driving SUVs. Cel phones. Shopping at Costco. Living in homes with leather couches. Corian countertops.

I’d like some distance between myself and the polygamists, please.

101 Responses to The Limits of Tolerance

  1. jaysedai6 on July 2, 2007 at 9:54 am

    When we first joined the Church, I was often asked about polygamy, my reply = she had to be 20 years older, 20lbs heavier and have warts.

  2. mfranti on July 2, 2007 at 11:24 am

    this IS satire?

  3. Julie M. Smith on July 2, 2007 at 11:31 am

    mfranti,

    Mostly, yes. I must admit that, while I’ve seen media depicting people practicing polygamy in 2007, this is the first time I’ve seen media depicting modern polygamists, and it is. . . definitely weird.

  4. mfranti on July 2, 2007 at 11:52 am

    spend some time watching the Big Love, it helps.

  5. Julie M. Smith on July 2, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    mfranti,

    No cable.

  6. Matt W. on July 2, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Isn’t that the same family from the PBS special?

  7. Mark IV on July 2, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I thought this (from the article Julie linked) was worth a good laugh:

    On Sundays, after services and brunch, Gary and his wives, day planners in hand, gather at a dining table to work through logistics of the coming week. Who needs which of their four vehicles? What is going on with the children? Plans for the weekend?
    They review the “Triple Honey-do List,” too.
    “Holy cow,” Gary said one Sunday as he looked at a sheet with eight items under yard, 10 under plumbing and 16 under miscellaneous.

  8. Tona on July 2, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Maybe if our family had 3 wives the kitchen would be that clean, too.

  9. Kevin Barney on July 2, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    So, where do we sign up?

  10. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    The family on this SLTrib photo essay is the very reason you don’t even know when most people are polygamists. Because they don’t stand out. Because the are normal in all appearances. Last week on Big Love one of the characters said something to the effect of how the media never shows a normal plural family, just hillbillies with bad teeth and mismatched clothing. She was spot on.

    I believe this was a different family than that focused on the PBS show. It *is* the same family that was featured on a recent HBO special. In the last six months WE and ABC Primetime have done shows on very normal polygamist families, different families than this one. The family shown this week is not unusual.

    Search YouTube for the Polygamist Youth Rally videos from last summer. You will see a dozen or so very normal looking, very attractive young men and young women, who look no different than your next door neighbors.

    In many ways, trying to guess who is a polygamist based on their appearances is about like trying to guess who might be gay, based on appearances. It’s just an ignorant and un-classy guessing game based on preconceived notions (prejudices) in which we tend to ascribe “different” traits to those who we are sure MUST be unlike us.

  11. Brian D. on July 2, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    If I ever have to enter into a polygamous marriage, my second wife needs to be equal to or better than the first.

  12. Margaret Young on July 2, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Julie, how do you deal with polygamy in Africa? Is there a conflict in the missionaries not being permitted to proselytize polygamy and the idea that we uphold the law of the land? Tough question. The irony is, the Community of Christ (RLDS) DOES proselytize them.

  13. Bob on July 2, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    It’s odd…how odd Mormons look at Polygamy. It’s like some strange animal walked into their backyard and all they can think to say is: “What is that?… and who does it belong to?”

  14. Margaret Young on July 2, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    Rephrase: LDS missionaries are not allowed to proselytize POLYGAMOUS men or women. (They probably shouldn’t proselytize polygamy either.)

  15. Jonovitch on July 2, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    You know, after reading that article, this brand of polygamy doesn’t sound that bad. The average of seven kids per wife is a bit much for me, but other than that, it seems to be a “normal” family. Based on the limitations that Julie set, it sounds as if she would agree. The bit about “we like our polygamists ugly and poor” seems to be a bit defensive — as if to say, “these ‘good’ polygamists are legitimizing a practice that I’ve already decided is abhorrent.”

    I’m not trying to put words in Julie’s mouth here, rather trying to vocalize the reaction I felt while reading the article, which also appears to be similar to Julie’s reaction. Am I the only one thinking this? Am I the only one willing to admit this family is doing a great job living in a “proper” polygamous relationship?

    Another question that I had while reading this: Would it ever be possible that the Church again condones and supports such relationships? To wit, this family appears to be doing what any other “normal” monogamous Mormon family would be doing, e.g., reading the scriptures and praying together, conducting FHE, attending church together (although I don’t know what bishop would accept their tithing!). I think I’m extrapolating a bit more than what was actually written, but the point remains. If the family is living the Mormon lifestyle (and then some), is their relationship really that awful?

    If governments and businesses decide that polygamous relationships are as legitimate as every other “civil union” (and these days, most do), what if the Church were to start endorsing such unions again, too? This is speculative, I know, and I also understand that God is the ultimate source of such endorsement, as laid out in Jacob 2, so we don’t need to re-hash that either.

    Another point: my grandpa was sealed to one woman (the grandma I’m related to), and when she died young, he was sealed to another woman (the grandma I know but am not genetically related to), and this was done in fairly modern times. As far as I know, this practice is still very much allowed in all 124 operating temples. In fact, didn’t Elder Oakes recently marry again? Wouldn’t that constitute a second sealing, i.e., a second wife? So it appears to me that in the kingdom of God on earth, monogamy is the rule, but in the kingdom of heaven, it’s still (and always has been?) just fine to be sealed to more than one wife.

    So I guess the big question I’m posing is, could what’s sealed in heaven again be allowed to be sealed on earth? And if so, would they be allowed to have Corian countertops, or would they have to wear frumpy dresses so the rest of us could feel better about ourselves? :)

    Jon

  16. Jonovitch on July 2, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Re: Margaret’s comments in 11/13 — I have a friend from Jordan (not the Utah version; the original) who has an uncle with more than one wife — they’re Muslim. His parents sent my friend to BYU because of its high moral standards, and he thought he’d be going to a place where he could talk about polygamy, a place where they’d understand it, but when he got there he found out it was a completely taboo subject.

    It reminds me a bit of the character of Harry Potter. He lived under the stairs and was kept out of sight most of the time, because the rest of the family, of which he was very much a part, didn’t want his strangeness to negatively affect their well-manicured appearance.

  17. Julie M. Smith on July 2, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Jon,

    I think part of the reason that I reacted to this article the way I did is that I don’t find what they are doing abhorrent (from a civic perspective; not a religious one). I’d have a hard time explaining why I think what they are doing should be illegal.

  18. ronito on July 2, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    RE: 15, Jon,
    To be fair, you don’t have to discuss polygamy to have such an experience from BYU.

  19. Ray on July 2, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Julie, I don’t think what they are doing should be illegal – at least not in a society that allows every other form of consenting adult sexual activity without legal constraint. Perhaps, the Church had it right in the 1800’s – not necessarily that polygamy was “right” or “wrong” but that the government had no business making such determinations for consenting adults in the first place.

    The Warren Jeffs type of polygamy should be illegal, IMO – not because of the polygamy itself, but rather because of specific practices that abridge consent and constitute statutory rape in our modern society. IMO, if polygamy is practiced in such a way that no “other” laws are being broken, then it should be just as legal as any other kind of “alternate” sexual relationship allowed by law. In terms of the law, I want consistency of application, pure and simple. Either outlaw all non-traditional-marriage relationships or none. Legally, I favor the latter.

  20. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    (15), (17)

    That’s funny you fellas feel that way. BYU was where I learned all the details about Joseph Smith Jr.’s polygyny and polyandry.

  21. Y Stephenson on July 2, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    My sister unknowingly dated a polygamist for a time. He used to want to take me along with them whenever they went out. It was really a strange feeling. Sometime later, after visits to isolated ranch areas in Nevada and Utah she learned about his polygamous bacground and intents. He was a security guard at an upscale mall in SLC. Who would have thought. He was a nice fellow. She liked him a lot. She liked his family too. But she didn’t want to live in a remote location and not be number one and have leathery looking skin. And, she didn’t like that he was always asking me to go along. It just made us both uncomfortable to one or two times that I actually did go somewhere with them.

  22. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Julie (16),

    The irony of it all is that what they are doing is only illegal, per se, in Utah and Arizona. I am not aware of any other states that have anti-cohabitation statutes, and in fact some states have a constitutional right to privacy in their state constitution that includes all personal relationships. While the second and subsequent marriages might not be “legal” as in “licensed”, neither are they illegal, anymore than “shacking up” heterosexually or living with a homosexual partner would be illegal.

    Mormon fundamentalist polygamists in other states don’t tend to fear prosecution. But for those in Utah and Arizona, many of their own parents were arrested just 54 years ago in the botched Short Creek raid, leaving a real impression on them of what could be possible if the next AG is not as friendly as the current AG.

    Also, entire communities of NON-FLDS (read: “modern”) polygamous Mormons exist in Montana and in Missouri, as well as Utah and Arizona, not to mention in Mexico where they have a temple.

    In addition to the debate here in the U.S., the issue is also being discussed north of the border, relevant to the Mormon fundamentalists in Bountiful, British Columbia, where two sizable polygamous wards exist (one somewhat “modern”; one FLDS). Debate there continues about whether the anti-polygamy statutes of Canada’s criminal code are actually illegal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Some day the church is going to have to deal with this issue in their very own backyard. Not if, but when.

  23. Jonovitch on July 2, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Julie, I agree with you completely. If “civil unions” are legal (and perhaps even if they weren’t), why should this type of personal relationship be illegal — especially if it is joined under the premise of religion?

    Of course, religious freedom is not absolute (the same way that speech or bearing arms are not absolute rights), and 14-year-olds marrying uncles three times their age is (and should always stay) justifiably against the law. But if mature, free adults decide together and of their own accord that this is how they want to raise a family (a family! of all the rotten ideas! and a good-looking one, too! gosh!), who am I to tell them they’re doing it wrong?

    By they way, please don’t tell my wife that I think this one polygamous family is kind of okay. I think she might strangle me. :)

  24. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Ray, (18)

    That’s a slippery slope.

  25. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Ben There:

    I have noticed that you are pro-plural marriage, so let me ask you this: What should polygamists do with all their excess males?

  26. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    please don’t tell my wife that I think this one polygamous family is kind of okay. I think she might strangle me.

    Your wife is not alone, in those feelings. Would she strangle you if you mentioned that a family with two gay parents “is kind of okay”? If not, what does that say about our prejudices? It is a mindset that the LDS must do everything possible to negate all connection with polygamy in the modern age, and even to think others who do it “are kind of okay” is almost a sinful feeling. It says a lot about our own hearts.

  27. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    “upscale mall in SLC”

    They have those in Utah?

  28. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    John:

    Interestingly, not all young men from these families decide to pursue plural marriage once they reach marriageable age. Those in these groups and the independents believe plural marriage is a sacred calling that each person receives for themselves. They do not push anyone into it, nor push anyone out. Not all men are cut out for plural marriage, nor are all women.

    For many men, committing to one wife and a few children is hard enough to fathom. Few men really feel they have what it takes to provide for a much larger family, so not all choose to practice plural marriage, and yet these men remain advocates of the practice for those who are called to it, and remain in fellowship with their groups and families.

    Many families may have one or two wives from within their church or other fundamentalist Mormon churches, and then maybe a wife from outside the Mormon tradition altogether. You may be surprised how many women outside the Mormon tradition are attracted to the practical benefits of plural marriage and marry into such families. If you’ve seen Big Love, the third wife, Margie, really is a based on a commonly occurring situation (no particular religious background, but attracted by the love and family of the Mormon fundamentalist belief system).

    To have an intelligent discussion about “mainstream” Mormon fundamentalist polygamy, the FLDS practices really have to be understood as being abnormal, and not only abnormal, but abhorrant to anyone else who calls themselves a Mormon fundamentalist.

    Unlike the FLDS (and the small, reclusive Kingston clan), the other groups and the independents do not chase off boys or marry off girls while young. And yet their groups grow, and the practice continues, with no discernible excess of males.

  29. Adam Greenwood on July 2, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    “Some day the church is going to have to deal with this issue in their very own backyard. Not if, but when.”

    Sinners of all stripes exist in the Church’s backyard. Some of them even claim ecclesiastical sanction for their sins. Why is polygamy any different?

  30. Ray on July 2, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    John Williams, it’s not a slippery slope if there isn’t a slope in the first place.

    I recognize the implications, and I am fine with them. What kills me is that the argument against polygamy is most vociferous from the religious right – the same ones who rail the most vocally against homosexuality but refuse to support legislation that would jail their own heterosexual dalliances. I’ll support the type of polygamists being discussed here (and committed, monogamous homosexuals) over Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker and serial heterosexual fornicators who don’t take responsibility for their illegitimate children – every day and twice on Sunday.

    Again, from a legal standpoint, I want consistency in the law. If you insist on banning non-traditional-marriage sexual activity, have at the attempt – but do it fully, rather than in a half-baked manner. I will support the alternative – at least in the legal arena.

  31. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Adam (28): I am referring to the issue of legalized plural marriage. Presently they deal with it in Africa by just not proselytizing (denying the gospel) to polygamous families, or requiring a man to send his subsequent wives and children packing before baptising him.

    When (not if) plural marriage becomes legal in the U.S. and Canada, the church will have to deal with it. The text of OD-1 will no longer sufficiently prohibit the practice; something more will need to be said of similar weight as the Manifesto to clarify the current position, since it rests so heavily on the “law of the land”.

  32. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    “When (not if) plural marriage becomes legal in the U.S.”

    Well, not if Mitt Romney has anything to say about it.

  33. Jonovitch on July 2, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    Ben There (25), I personally don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with the concept of polygamy, as far as it is practiced correctly. And we have plenty of ancient and modern examples of how to do it correctly and how to do it in a blatantly immoral and illegal way. I think it might be part of my built in (i.e., indoctrinated) fear and hatred of polygamy.

    The Church has done a very good job of distancing itself from polygamists of all kinds, but again, my grandpa and Elder Oaks could possibly be considered such, at least in the eternities. So there’s the rub.

    My reaction, and apparently Julie’s, is “hey, that’s not right, because that’s what we’ve been taught all along!” but really inside, we’re thinking, “they seem to be doing just fine, so why am I not okay with it?” Part of me says, “they’re breaking a commandment of God!” (Jacob 2, and the Manifesto), but the other part of me is thinking “but my grandpa and Elder Oaks are okay, so why are these people not okay?”

    Is it only this earth life that has this restriction? Is this really a higher ordinance that is reserved for only those who can handle it? In other words, is it not given to us in this life, in most cases anyway, but will it be given to us at a later time?

    As for homosexuality, that is something that has been consistently opposed by God in ancient and modern times, without any known exception, so that’s where I have to draw the line. I don’t have any feelings of inconsistency here, as I don’t know of any relatives or prophets who were allowed such an exception to the heterosexual rule.

    As far as the legality of both are concerned, the former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura once said “you can’t legislate morality.” In context, he was talking about how the village/community concept of raising good children is more effective than passing laws to do the same job, it appeared on the surface to be one of the more boneheaded things he said, because, quite simply, a heckuva lot of our laws, federal and state, have always been doing just that.

    In drafting laws, in order to sustain a viable community, religious values are, and justifiably should be, consulted. That doesn’t mean Sharia law (that’s an extreme), but there’s nothing inherently wrong with turning to a religious source for help when making the rules for a civilized society. So in that light, I’d say polygamy, practiced correctly, is in, but homosexual relationships are out.

    If that’s not good enough, we can look at it from a simple, cost/benefit perspective. Polygamous relationships (of the consenting kind, not the 14-year-old girl kind) produce children who are educated and grow up to be good tax-paying, contributing citizens. Thus, these families ought to have access to some state and federal benefits, because theses children are paying for our retirement and the good roads for our Cadillacs. Homosexual relationships cannot produce any children, and those non-existent children cannot contribute to the future society in a monetary or any other way, therefore, these families should not receive any state or federal benefits.

    The next argument is always about gay couples who want to adopt those poor, poor children in the orphanages. That’s just fine! I have no problem with benefits being given to the couples that are raising our future society, but those couples are the vast minority. A fraction of all gay couples.

    The point is that relationship-based benefits should be distributed according to whether that relationship will contribute to the state from which it derives said benefits. In other words, attach the rights and benefits to the kids, not to the adults.

    In this light, most homosexual relationships (and an increasing number of heterosexual relationships) seem to be selfish, in that they have no intention of giving back (producing children) to the good society from which they came, rather they’re only interested in getting what they feel they are entitled to.

    Wow, that took a little bit of a turn for the conservative there, didn’t it? And out West, you might have mistaken me for a flaming liberal!

    Jon

  34. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Jon: Wow. I loved your entire comment. What more can I say.

    As far as the religious aspect of it: these folks believe they were given a commission by John Taylor, who received a revelation telling him to continue the practice of plural marriage and to never let it die, irrespective of what the goverment may do. John Taylor is then believed to have set apart several men to continue the practice “underground”, which they did, and which they still do, through those priesthood lines.

    Wilford Woodruff himself took another wife after he issued the Manifesto. Joseph F. Smith allowed (or at least turned a blind eye toward) plural marriage sealings outside the U.S. as late as 1910, even despite the Second Manifesto of 1904. The belief in operation here is that while plural marriage may not be a law of the Church right now, it is still a law of the priesthood, which can operate independent of the Church (this is their belief, and when you consider the priesthood was restored before the church was organized, it seems plausible).

    Since I am not interested in legislating anyone’s religion (just as I do not want mine to be legislated), I cannot see how we can prosecute people for doing the same thing our ancestors–including all the prophets up to Heber J. Grant–were doing a hundred years ago, in complete defiance of federal laws.

    So whether or not we agree with the Mormon fundamentalist religious interpretation and priesthood lines, it cannot be denied that a sincere religious belief is at play and all they really want is to be left alone; therefore, what civic goals are accomplished by the practice being illegal?

    I would not want a heavily southern baptist state like Georgia to be able to legislate that LDS baptisms are not real baptisms, so why should a heavily LDS state like Utah be able to regulate another church’s religious ordinances?

  35. Y Stephenson on July 2, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Yes, there is at least one upscale mall in Utah, maybe even two. Now they aren’t as upscale as Washington DC or New York City or the one in Costa Mesa, Orange Co., CA. But hey, I know people who take an extra suitcase every time they visit Utah and buy all their clothes there.

    I haven’t heard about the federal laws prohibiting cohabitation or marrying more than one person being repealed. A person can probably marry and live with as many women or men as they like in any state east of the Mississippi. And, not because it is not illegal. It is because no one is looking for it there. Everyone once in a while one hears about bigamists being prosecuted. What is bigamy if not polygamy on a smaller scale?

  36. Jonovitch on July 2, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Ben (30), thanks for pointing that out — I just re-read the Manifesto and noticed for the first time how it rests so much on the law of the land, rather than an outright ban, and how much of it was a reaction to the pressure put on by the federal government (of only one country, by the way — this is also something to consider).

    I then quickly re-read the 1995 Proclamation on the family and noticed it does not include language, that I could see anyway, that would necessarily exclude polygamous relations. Pres. Hinckley’s October 1998 talk doesn’t leave so much room for wiggling, though.

    Anyway, regarding the polygamous families in Africa, and also those in the Middle East and other parts of the world, I’m wondering if this is the same kind of thing that happened with blacks in the priesthood in the ’60s and ’70s. We know that Pres. McKay (from his recent biography) questioned the Lord regarding the matter and was told not to ask again, and that he would not get the answer he was looking for in his lifetime. Part of the policy change (and the Church leadership’s prayers) in 1978 had to have been influenced by the increasing numbers of black American and African men joining the Church.

    I wonder if a similar thing might happen 20 or 30 or 40 years from now, in that if polygamy becomes legal across more of the (Western) world and increasing numbers of families in Africa and the Middle East, for example, are denied membership based on such relationships. Will the Church leadership again find themselves praying for advice on how they should proceed, similar to 1890 and to 1978? And will President Hinckley still be alive then to make that OD-3? (I think he’s got plenty of time left in front of him.)

  37. a spectator on July 2, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    I do not know the Church’s reasoning behind not allowing polygamous families to join the Church in places where it is legal to be polygamous, like Africa, but I would guess that it has something to do with perception. All of the other major Christian religions in Africa do not sanction polygamy (not saying it doesn’t happen, just saying it is not sanctioned)–it is, for them, a marker of Christianity as being different (and more civilized) than pre-Christian cultures.

    Also, there is the perception here. For 100 years missionaries and members have been able to resolve concerns about polygamy by saying “we don’t do that anymore; haven’t for a LONG time,” but if the investigators said: “well you do it in Ghana and what about Madagascar” who would want to keep talking to the missionaries?

  38. Bob on July 2, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    “When not “If’? I yield to Ben There, who seems more enlighten on this than I am. But I see, (based on the last 50 years), less “marriage’ of ANY kind and more ‘open’ relationships, be it Gay, Polygamy, or just living together. Kind of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” arrangements. At least that is the pattern to date.

  39. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Spectator:

    I think you are right about the issue of how the LDS church is perceived. So much is said to distance themselves from the polygamy issue, almost a matter of “thou doth protest too much, methinks.” While living polygamy is not sanctioned, two apostles are sealed to two women, and many thousands (if not tens of thousands) of Mormon laymen are sealed to multiple spouses in the temple, as Jon has pointed out above. And, the reverse does not apply for women. Clearly, polygyny (male sealed to more than one female) must be allowed in the eternities, I don’t think this is a fluke, otherwise the church would change the policy to remove this loophole if they didn’t think plural marriage is to be practiced in the eternities. I see no other conclusion.

    I question the motives of anyone who thinks perception and the acclaim of the world is so important that we would deny saving ordinances and the message of Jesus Christ’s love and redemption to portions of an entire continent, just because the laws of the land in the U.S. are not favorable to plural marriage. And yet I think you are right, Spectator, that this is largely the reason why the current policy is what it is.

    Remember, Saints were sent to Canada and Mexico after the Manifesto, to live plural marriage, because the Manifesto was considered to apply literally: Pres. Woodruff’s “advice” was to not contract marriages in opposition to the “law of the land”; nothing more, nothing less. So, send some people out of “the land”, to where there was no legal opposition, and voila! More plural marriages continued, after the Manifesto. Today, the intent of the Manifesto as it is taught barely relies on the actual meaning of the written words in it.

    I have heard that some evangelical Protestant Christian churches in Africa have begun (slowly) to tolerate polygamy, though they certainly do not endorse it. I have heard the Seventh-Day Adventists, the RLDS, and the Assemblies of God have no problems admitting polygamous families into their fellowships. The head of the Anglican church in Kenya is reported to have said that polygamy is a more Christian practice than divorcing wives and sending them and their children out of the household. I think most reasonable people would find that very hard to argue with!

  40. Nate S. on July 2, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    Jon #32. I agree with you somewhat, and it’s a similar argument that my mom always makes to me when we go the rounds on the gay marriage issue. If the ability to provide for the future by producing children is the yardstick, though, what do we do about sterile couples? Do we disallow marriage rights to them because they are unable to produce children?

    Also, even though it appears we legislate morality based on some religious underpinnings, you could make an equally strong claim that instead of legislating morality our laws are created to legislate against harm. There are many things that are perfectly legal that are immoral, but there are fewer things that cause harm that are legal. In that case, polygamy, gay marriages, unions with goats would all fly.

    I guess my problem is that I don\’t buy into the base message that “gay marriage weakens the family.” I just don’t see the harm to my marriage if some guys down the street get married.

  41. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    34 Y:

    I haven’t heard about the federal laws prohibiting cohabitation or marrying more than one person being repealed

    1. The Morril Anti-Bigamy Act, Ch. 126, 12 Stat. 501 (1862), applied only to U.S. territories, not states. It was repealed in 1910, some say perhaps in relation to American Samoa which had become a U.S. territory a few years earlier, and which allowed the practice of polygamy.

    2. The Edmunds Act, ch. 47, §§ 5, 8–9, 22 Stat. 30, 31–32 (1882) was repealed in 1983.

    3. The Edmunds-Tucker Act, ch. 397, § 24, 24 Stat. 635, 639–40 (1887), was repealed in 1978.

    Did I miss any?

  42. Ben There on July 2, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    Nate and Jon:

    I think the question of gay marriage is a bit different than plural marriage. I do not know of any plural marriage advocates who want “legalization”; i.e., a marriage license and state recognition of their plural marriages. Most plural marriage advocates want decriminilzation. The same cannot be said for gay couples, for whom their practices have already been decriminalized in most if not all states, but not “legalized” by state sanction with a license. The difference is subtle, but real.

  43. Ray on July 2, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    FWIW, I do think that gay marriage weakens traditional marriage – but I think a 50% divorce rate among traditional marriages weakens traditional marriage more than gay marriage does. I agree that every child “deserves” a mother and father – but only if neither parent is abusive to the child. I agree that children who are BIC have an advantage – but only if the parents live the principles of the Gospel more fully than those whose children are not BIC.

    I wasn’t dealing primarily with a moral question; I was dealing with a legal question. My non-slippery-slope point is that, in America, our legal system is supposed to be about equality under the law. If the moral foundation for anti-polygamy and anti-homosexual-activity laws is Biblical moral standards, then that standard should be applied – in its entirety. The command is NOT “Thou shalt not commit homosexual acts or enter into polygamous relationships,” but rather “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” By extension, fornication is included for those who are unmarried, but adultery always has been considered more egregious than fornication. Why? Because of the covenant breaking involved in adultery.

    As I see it, heterosexual adultery, therefore, is “worse” than homosexual fornication – if we are assigning levels of seriousness to these activities. All I am saying is that, if we are going to legislate against the breaking of the Law of Chastity, then we should do so fully – and not as we have in the past by punishing a form of fornication while refusing to punish the foundation action of adultery. That’s not “equal under the law” in any sense that I can accept. Therefore, I want all or nothing in this arena. Enforce the Biblical code or stay out of the sexual practices of consenting adults. I just hate legislated hypocrisy.

    All cost-benefit justifications aside, I can’t ignore the simple fact that punishing some and not punishing others (and blaming one group for the failure of another group) is a self-serving rationalization – and that cost-benefit justifications tend to sound like the pre-1978 justifications for the Priesthood ban. Why can’t we say, “Don’t know. Exact reason ain’t been revealed. Simply is for now, and will be unless changed by a Prophet,” instead of creating reasons of our own?

  44. Tatiana on July 2, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with polygamy, but to me polygyny seems much less workable than polyandry. It seems like guys often want more time off from family responsibilities than women do. This may be a stereotype, or caused by cultural pressures, or conditioning, but it seems true to me that many dads and one mom would work much better than the reverse. Some of the dads could be out shooting baskets with their friends while one does duty at the kid birthday party or school play or whatever. It would totally work!

    I would never do it unless and until it was sanctioned by the church, for which I’m sure I will wait a long long time, but I totally see it being a great way of life. It’s the perfect answer to China’s sex imbalance, too.

  45. Tatiana on July 3, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Just think, instead of a honey-do list x 3, he could have a honey-do list x 1/3. =)

  46. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 9:52 am

    “The text of OD-1 will no longer sufficiently prohibit the practice”

    So the Church will issue a letter stating that the practice of polygamy is prohibited and grounds for excommunication. Big deal.

  47. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Two or three years ago, traditional marriage advocates said that pushing gay marriage and civil unions would normalize polygamy.

  48. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Polygamy can probably function without too much pathology as a fringe phenomenon. But I’m not sure why people are so indifferent to normalizing the practice. Its ridiculous that I’m having to make this argument to a Mormon audience (although I expect that Ben There isn’t Mormon in the sense of being a member in good standing of the Church). Social drift is not our God.

    (1) Western civilization has been monogamous for a long, long time. Unless you believe that marriage is a relatively unimportant form of social organization, you should not be indifferent to drastically altering the institution in the name of letting consenting adults do whatever they want.

    (2) The only models for societies where polygamy is prevalent aren’t good ones. One is Africa, where polygamy produces loose family ties and distant, deadbeat fathers who rely on their wives to support their families. The other is the Middle East, where polygamy is associated with aberrant patriarchalism and frustrated, violent young men.* If polygamy ever became accepted and relatively widespread, the result would be to push our culture towards one of these two models (or perhaps towards both, with different subcultures going different directions). In my view polygamy was possible in Deseret as long as we were pretty isolated and largely agricultural, but that when we became more capitalist and more integrated with the national and global economy, it had to go. *Coincidentally* this happens to be precisely when it did go. You may think that polygamy could not become relatively widespread, but you are wrong. For a variety of reasons, we have an excess of quality women as compared to quality men, so polygamy would be the compassionate thing to do and there would be a “market” demand from the female side of things; there would probably also be a market demand from the male side of things, since men seem to be more interested in sex per se and less with the quality of the relationship than women are. Polygamy would probably become a somewhat trendy and progressive thing to do, given its frisson of being traditionally abhorred. Polygamy would help resolve some of the conflicts between work and children occasioned by our modern pressure to have two incomes (for reasons of both ideology and to keep up with the Joneses). For this reason, polygamy would probably be a feminist thing to do–also because it was and is conceptualized as a kind of sisterhood. Revulsion to polygamy is not as inherent as you think–its partly cultural and partly based on the perception that polygamists are dowdy hicks.

    3) Normalizing polygamy would strengthen the idea that marriage and, indeed, adult relations in general, are about nothing more than consent and personal satisfaction. This is an evil idea, far too prevalent already. We should do everything we can to avoid sanctioning it. (Note: I am not claiming that everyone who currently practices polygamy believes this. But I believe that this belief would be and is the basis for normalizing polygamy).

    4) Normalizing polygamy would normalize group marriage, which is a terribly unstable practice and awful for children.

    * If you want to frighten yourself thoroughly some time, consider sometime how frighteningly easy it is to come up with a plausible justification for terrorism, even suicide terrorism, using Christian and/or Mormon resources.

  49. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Ray, your arguments don’t hold water. I’m all in favor of criminalizing adultery, if it could. But there’s just no sense to your conclusion that if we can’t put a social conservative program into practice 100% then we have to accept the libertine program 100%.

    For one thing, it makes just as much sense to argue that if we can’t put the libertine program into practice 100%, then we have to accept the social conservative program 100%.

    For another, your argument has really extreme consequences: if we have to accept gay marriage and polygamy and group marriage because we can’t treat sexual preferences differently on the basis of traditional morality and the protection of children, then we have to accept at least some forms of pedophilia, at least ephebophilia, for instance.

    For another, you don’t understand what hypocrisy means. Hypocrisy means not practicing what you preach (i.e., preaching against adultery while committing it). Hypocrisy does not mean applying your rationale in one situation in every other situation where it would be possible to apply it.

    For another, you don’t get politics. Politics is incremental, moving step by step. It never is 100% one thing or another. For another, politics is always formed by coalitions with lots of different motives and its OK for social conservatives to do those things they can get a coalition to support while not doing those things they can’t get a coalition to support.

  50. bbell on July 3, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I think we should stick with the church program…

    1. Pre-marital sex is wrong
    2. Adultery is wrong. There is currently no effort underway by the church to criminalize adultery
    3. Polygamy is currently wrong and in my view will be going forward. There is no church support for a legalization of polygamy.
    4. Homosexual acts are wrong see #1
    5. We should support efforts to legislate against SSM. AKA CA Prop 22

  51. Julie M. Smith on July 3, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Adam,

    I think the existence of “laws on the books that we choose not to enforce” is a bad phenomenon in itself. I can’t think of good, fair, or reasonable ways to enforce laws against polygamy (think about Short Creek and shack-ups). Therefore, I think we are better off decriminalizing or legalizing it. As for your specific arguments:

    Re your (1): you speak of “marriage” as though it has been a static entity across western civilization. The institution as now practiced has so little in common with the historic practice that I daresay the polygamists in the piece I linked to have more in common with my gggparents’ marriages than my own does.

    (2) Except of course for the OT. . .

    (3) Everything I read in the interview with the polygamists was that their marriage wasn’t about personal satisfaction but about providing the best environment for the children and family as a whole, sometimes at the great expense of personal satisfaction.

    (4) Adam, current monogamous heterosexual marriages in the country are “a terribly unstable practice.”

    (I’m getting a little queasy defending polygamy here, so I probably won’t continue this conversation, but I am surprised at your arguments. Polygamy gives me the heebie-jeebies and I would think we should be able to make a better case against it.)

  52. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Julie S., I don’t have time right now, but your objections almost completely miss the point.

  53. Jonovitch on July 3, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Nate (40), sociologists increasingly admit that the best model for raising a family is to have a father and a mother. Gay couples can mimic that, but it is not the same. And again, the numbers of gay couples that actually want to raise children (Rosie aside, and heaven help her kids!) is minuscule.

    If a heterosexual couple marries and finds out they are sterile, they can always adopt, too, and still receive government *child* benefits. But even if they don’t/can’t have children, they’re relationship reinforces the best model for raising children, and therefore should be eligible for *marriage* benefits.

    Gay “marriages” reinforce a concept that produces no benefit (i.e., children) to the future society, and in this light might even be construed as harming (future) society. Heterosexual sterile couples, at the very least, do no harm, and even provide a benefit in reinforcing the best model for raising a good family.

  54. bbell on July 3, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Here is my case against polygamy.

    1. OD1
    2. 1904 2nd Manifesto
    3. Release of 2 apostles who would not cease and desist new plural marriages in 1906
    4. Excommunications starting about the same time for couples who entered into new plural marriage and continuing today including Elder Lyman in 1943
    5. Repeated official statements from presidents of the church, Church spokespeople, and text on LDS.org condemning the current practice of polygamy
    6. Refusing baptism to men in Africa (on my mission this was a policy) who are currently practicing polygamy.

  55. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Adam:

    although I expect that Ben There isn’t Mormon in the sense of being a member in good standing of the Church

    You expect wrong. I am a TR-carrying, temple-attending, leadership-calling-holding, fast-offering-w/a-deacon-collecting, baptisms-for-the-dead-performing, camping-with-the-scouts-going, full-tithe-paying member of the Church in good standing.

    Believe it or not, you can hold feelings as I do and still be in the Church. I do not and have never taught in Church that anyone should do anything other than practice the teachings of the Church as they presently stand. But I can advocate that we be charitable toward others who may believe differently, and understand them, given they are not in a much different spot than were our very own ancestors just three generations ago.

  56. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Adam 46:

    So the Church will issue a letter stating that the practice of polygamy is prohibited and grounds for excommunication. Big deal.

    It will not go away that easy, anymore than the homosexual issue can be swept under the rug with a letter. You know that. Don’t be silly, Adam.

    The fact that half the blogs in Mormondom discuss the issue of plural marriage on at least a weekly basis is a pretty good indicator that this issue is bigger than something that will go “poof” with the issuance of some piddly letter.

  57. Jonovitch on July 3, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Julie (51), I think you got the point exactly. We ought to be able to formulate a better argument against polygamy, but we don’t seem to be able to. The fact that it has been practiced with some success by a few of God’s chosen servants certainly doesn’t help our case.

    Adam makes a good point, though, in pointing out that it has been practiced in parts of the world with terrible results, and therefore we ought to avoid it where possible. But I’m afraid the accelerating dissolution of traditional sexual mores will lead to the inevitable result of polygamy’s decriminalization and legalization in the USA.

    Both of these arguments lead me to believe that it is (1) an acceptable practice in God’s eyes (2) for the people, places, and times who are able to practice it correctly. Since we are not currently among those people, in that place, or at that time, I believe the Church will continue its course of defending the traditional non-polygamous marriage (at least regarding this life), and rightly so. But that doesn’t mean there won’t come a time when the practice won’t be opposed so vigorously.

    It was apparently never meant to be given to all, as not all are able to practice it appropriately (as seen in Africa, the Middle East, and in our own backyard). Because of that, I wonder if it won’t just be left for the eternities. I do think we ought to be careful about protesting too much, based on the fact that the practice obviously will be accepted in the next life.

    Pres. Hinckley never struck me as an ultra-conservative, so after reviewing the 1890 Manifesto, the 1995 Family Proclamation, and the 1998 Q&A talk, his hardline stance confused me a bit — it seemed to go too far in opposing a practice that was a major help to the early Church. But in light of the current misuse of polygamous relationships around the world, I think he is right in drawing a clear line that ought not to be crossed (in this life anyway). I’m sure he prayed for guidance before his talk, and who knows (this is purely speculative) maybe he has received similar inspiration to that of Pres. McKay regarding blacks and the priesthood, namely: “not in your lifetime.”

    However, I still don’t see polygamy being shunned legally for much longer. And that of course will lead to more misuse by people who are not capable of doing it right, which will to a further degrading of traditional families, which will cause us all to get even more heartburn and headaches as we scream to ourselves “they’re not doing it right!,” which is essentially the same argument against gay “marriage,” against the increasing levels of divorce, and against the burgeoning phenomenon of cohabitation. All of these derivations of true marriage try to mimic the basic societal unit and draw the benefits therefrom (failing on the former; unfortunately succeeding on the latter), but they’re usually contributing mostly to their own selfish desires.

    Polygamy might have been okay in the past for some people, and it might be okay in the next life for some people, but not here and not now and certainly not for everyone. Some families, as with the one highlighted in this article, can pull it off just fine, but most won’t be able to, as we’ve seen too many times.

    So I feel more comfortable now with the seemingly ultra-conservative position that the Church currently espouses regarding polygamy in this life, and I’ve decided (over the course of the last couple paragraphs) that it really isn’t necessarily protesting too much to speak out against it, in that context. It’s the right decision for the right place and the right time. We need to protect the traditional family unit now (against all forms of “not doing it right”), if for no other reason than our society as we know it depends on it.

    Jon

  58. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Jon:

    Some families, as with the one highlighted in this article, can pull it off just fine, but most won’t be able to, as we’ve seen too many times.

    In my line of work I see that monogamous marriage is barely able to be pulled off fine by a very large segment of society. Consider that 50% of married couples divorce. How many of the remaining 50% are truly function and happy unions? Half, perhaps? So maybe only 25% of monogamous couples are able to pull off a successful union.

    Perhaps monogamy out to be outlawed because almost everyone is bad at it.

  59. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Bob (38):

    “When not “If’? I yield to Ben There, who seems more enlighten on this than I am. But I see, (based on the last 50 years), less “marriage’ of ANY kind and more ‘open’ relationships, be it Gay, Polygamy, or just living together. Kind of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” arrangements. At least that is the pattern to date.

    You are so right, Bob. In my office, there are more people who are in “living together” situations than there are married couples. And these are all highly-paid professional people, not just 20-something kids not ready to enter adulthood.

    So much has changed. Used to be that I didn’t know anyone who was living together outside of marriage. Now I know just as many of each. And many are long-term monogamous “shack-up” situations: 10, 20 years or more.

    Doesn’t make it right, but it is the reality these days. And what’s more is that most folks I know are not among the “don’t ask, don’t tell”, but rather they don’t hide it at all that they live together, and they refer to their “partners” (in the heterosexual context).

    It is an interesting phenomenon.

  60. mfranti on July 3, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    ” Its ridiculous that I’m having to make this argument to a Mormon audience (although I expect that Ben There isn’t Mormon in the sense of being a member in good standing of the Church). Social drift is not our God.”

    can you explain to me why you said that about ben?

  61. bbell on July 3, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Cohabitation rates are about 8%

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohabitation#North_America

    Divorce rates are somewhere between 31-41%

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce

    LDS Temple divorce rates are really low. Look at the data. I find the data to be to low but its what is out there.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/lds_divo.htm

    http://www.adherents.com/largecom/lds_dem.html

    http://fhss.byu.edu/adm/hickman_lecture.htm

  62. Jonovitch on July 3, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Ben (58), touche! But I think (I hope) your numbers are high. Sometimes a second marriage turns out to be happy and functional. Of course, I’m not the professional in this area, but I would be interested in more solid numbers. Also, in general, I believe a stubbornly faithful, if not ideal, family unit is better than none at all, so some of those monogamous relationships that you’re guessing are not “functional” still provide a societal benefit by simply existing.

    Either way, rather than giving up, as you suggested (I’m assuming only for the sake of argument), we ought to reinforce the sociologically accepted best practice and discourage the copycat practices. I don’t think abandoning the tried-and-true family unit would be the healthiest approach for a sustained society.

    Yes, not everyone is going to get it right, but that doesn’t mean the answer is to scuttle the ship. On the contrary, we should try to patch the holes that are already there, to keep us from sinking altogether. The practices to consider throwing overboard are polygamy (in this life), gay civil unions, cohabitation, divorce, and anything else that mimics/mocks traditional marriage, but are ultimately cheap forgeries of the real thing. If your sail rips down the middle, you don’t chop off the mast.

    Trying to legitimize lesser forms (civil unions, cohabitation) or more difficult forms (polygamy) of the family will only lead to more problems, not less. Facilitating “no fault” divorces was possibly the greatest destructive force the family unit has ever been hit with. It hurts me, sometimes physically, to think of how many of my friends, small children at the time, have been so terribly traumatized by selfish divorce. It is a horrid epidemic, and it was a wrong choice for our country. Now, in the direct path of an imminent storm of “anything goes” living, we need to toss a line to the mom-and-dad family, not cut the rope.

    Jon

  63. ronito on July 3, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Before we go on a demonizing rampage. It is worth pointing out that the divorce rate just hit a 30 year low.

  64. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Ronito (62): Do you suppose this is because fewer people are marrying, and instead choosing cohabitation living arrangements?

  65. bbell on July 3, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Look at my wikipedia link on Divorce. The rates have been declining since the 1980’s for a host of reasons.

  66. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    It will not go away that easy, anymore than the homosexual issue can be swept under the rug with a letter. You know that. Don’t be silly, Adam.

    The fact that half the blogs in Mormondom discuss the issue of plural marriage on at least a weekly basis is a pretty good indicator that this issue is bigger than something that will go “poof” with the issuance of some piddly letter.

    Huh? Maybe “a piddly letter” isn’t enough to stop you flirting with polygamy, but its enough for me and every other Mormon I know. Of course polygamy isn’t going to “go away.” Most sins don’t.

  67. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for the link, bbell. I will check it out.

  68. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    “But I can advocate that we be charitable toward others who may believe differently, and understand them”

    Your polygamy advocacy on this blog has gone far beyond urging tolerance.

  69. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    So I feel more comfortable now with the seemingly ultra-conservative position that the Church currently espouses regarding polygamy in this life

    I don’t think we need to marginalize disallowing polygamy as “ultra-conservative.”

  70. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Consider that 50% of married couples divorce. How many of the remaining 50% are truly function and happy unions? Half, perhaps? So maybe only 25% of monogamous couples are able to pull off a successful union.

    Your figures are wrong. But more to the point, the kind of attitude that says that people should be able to have whatever kind of relationship they want, be it polygamy or whatever, is largely responsible for the real problems with marriage in this country. Polygamy advocacy solves nothing.

  71. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Adam:

    Your bio says you enjoy discussing things such as “ecumenicism and alliances among socially conservative faiths”, “protecting the traditional family”, “traditional sexual mores”, and “traditional sex roles”. Do you only enjoy discussing these with people who agree with you? Because that would sure seem boring.

    Your figures are wrong.

    And I’m rubber, you’re glue :). Adam, I didn’t do a comprehensive research project on divorce stats and the number of happy marriages. For the love of mike, I was tossing out round figures that are generally and commonly used in these discussions, and that is, approximately half of marriages end in divorce. Yes, it goes up and down from location to location, from year to year, and with all sorts of other variables. Any reasonable person knows this.

    Do you want to argue raw numbers? If so, I’m outta here. That is a bit too dry for my tastes.

    Methinks you are getting a bit perturbed by those who don’t agree with you, of which I am only one.

  72. bbell on July 3, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Current church position on polygamy is well within in the mainstream. See here.

    http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=27757&pg=1

    Based on this I see little chance of a legalization of polygamy anytime soon.

  73. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Adam:

    Huh? Maybe “a piddly letter” isn’t enough to stop you flirting with polygamy, but its enough for me and every other Mormon I know. Of course polygamy isn’t going to “go away.” Most sins don’t.

    Just like the letters and such are adequate to deal with the “gay problem” and magically cure all Mormons of flirting with homosexuality. Uh huh. Sure. What Fairy Tale land does “every Mormon [you] know” live in?

  74. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Julie S.,

    A lot of your points seem like cheap, debating points to me, but I’m going to assume your bona fides.

    (1) Western civilization has been monogamous for a long, long time. Unless you believe that marriage is a relatively unimportant form of social organization, you should not be indifferent to drastically altering the institution in the name of letting consenting adults do whatever they want.

    You speak of “marriage” as though it has been a static entity across western civilization. The institution as now practiced has so little in common with the historic practice that I daresay the polygamists in the piece I linked to have more in common with my gggparents’ marriages than my own does.

    Monogamy has been static across western civilization for at least the last 1,000 years. Also, I don’t understand where you get the idea that “polygamy in the piece I linked to” is going to be the standard form of polygamy if the practice is normalized and becomes more widespread. My whole point is that we can expect polygamy as a normal, accepted phenomenon to have different effects than polygamy as a fringe phenomenon.

    (2) The only models for societies where polygamy is prevalent aren’t good ones. One is Africa, where polygamy produces loose family ties and distant, deadbeat fathers who rely on their wives to support their families. The other is the Middle East, where polygamy is associated with aberrant patriarchalism and frustrated, violent young men.* If polygamy ever became accepted and relatively widespread, the result would be to push our culture towards one of these two models (or perhaps towards both, with different subcultures going different directions). In my view polygamy was possible in Deseret as long as we were pretty isolated and largely agricultural, but that when we became more capitalist and more integrated with the national and global economy, it had to go. *Coincidentally* this happens to be precisely when it did go. You may think that polygamy could not become relatively widespread, but you are wrong. For a variety of reasons, we have an excess of quality women as compared to quality men, so polygamy would be the compassionate thing to do and there would be a “market” demand from the female side of things; there would probably also be a market demand from the male side of things, since men seem to be more interested in sex per se and less with the quality of the relationship than women are. Polygamy would probably become a somewhat trendy and progressive thing to do, given its frisson of being traditionally abhorred. Polygamy would help resolve some of the conflicts between work and children occasioned by our modern pressure to have two incomes (for reasons of both ideology and to keep up with the Joneses). For this reason, polygamy would probably be a feminist thing to do–also because it was and is conceptualized as a kind of sisterhood. Revulsion to polygamy is not as inherent as you think–its partly cultural and partly based on the perception that polygamists are dowdy hicks.

    Except of course for the OT. . .

    Its hard to tell what your argument is here. I assume you’re arguing that OT polygamy did not lead to abberant amounts of patriarchy and frustrated, violent young men. I wonder if you’re reading the same Old Testament that I am? Anyway, I don’t see why you think OT society is a better comparison to ours than the modern Middle East or Africa.

    3) Normalizing polygamy would strengthen the idea that marriage and, indeed, adult relations in general, are about nothing more than consent and personal satisfaction. This is an evil idea, far too prevalent already. We should do everything we can to avoid sanctioning it. (Note: I am not claiming that everyone who currently practices polygamy believes this. But I believe that this belief would be and is the basis for normalizing polygamy).

    Everything I read in the interview with the polygamists was that their marriage wasn’t about personal satisfaction but about providing the best environment for the children and family as a whole, sometimes at the great expense of personal satisfaction.

    Let me requote myself, with an added word or two fro extra clarity: “I am not claiming that everyone who currently practices polygamy believes this. But I believe that this belief would be and is the basis for mainstream willingness to normalize polygamy.” I notice that in this thread the normalization advocates are using the same sort of non-discrimination, consenting-adults, who’s-really-harmed talk that we use to justify cohabitation, gay marriage, and every other weakening of the marriage fabric.

    4) Normalizing polygamy would normalize group marriage, which is a terribly unstable practice and awful for children.

    Adam, current monogamous heterosexual marriages in the country are “a terribly unstable practice.”

    No. The typical group marriage lasts less than a year. The dissolution rates are astronomical. Get real.

  75. Bob on July 3, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    #61: My boat too is one man/one woman/some kids. And I recommend it as the best ‘model’. But, I also agree, the ‘problem’, in any of the ‘models’, is the lack of love.selfishness,disfunction. They should be the target of our attack.

  76. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    For the love of mike, I was tossing out round figures that are generally and commonly used in these discussions, and that is, approximately half of marriages end in divorce.

    Yeah, and that figure also happens to be flat wrong. 40% is the real number, not just some temporary aberration. Its not a great figure, but its millions of marriages less than your figure. If you don’t to talk numbers if numbers get in the way of your polygamy advocacy, I’m happy to break off the conversation.

  77. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    bbell: if we are going to govern this country by public opinion polls, I am sure you know that a sizeable number of Americans don’t trust Mormons to be in leadership positions, especially as President.

    At the time interracial marriages were legalized, that was highly unpopular in some regions.

    Polls are interesting at most, but are a distraction from the real issue more often than not.

  78. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Just like the letters and such are adequate to deal with the “gay problem” and magically cure all Mormons of flirting with homosexuality. Uh huh. Sure. What Fairy Tale land does “every Mormon [you] know” live in?

    Are you claiming that there is a strong biological basis for polygamy, like there is for homosexuality? Bunk.

    Are you claiming that there’s any real uncertainty about the current morality of polygamy? Bunk.

    Are you claiming that Church commandments need to change if a small minority of Mormons are uncomfortable with them? Bunk.

  79. mfranti on July 3, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    “says that people should be able to have whatever kind of relationship they want, be it polygamy or whatever, is largely responsible for the real problems with marriage in this country”

    sorry adam, but attitudes like yours that drive me insane.

    essentially what _i hear_ you saying is “my god says so…”

    remember this country was, allegedly, founded on freedoms. that includes the freedom to believe in something or NOT to believe.

    why must you insult those who don’t share your exact views of god and religion.

    you are down right mean about this topic.

  80. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Ben There,

    BBell wasn’t using polls as a basis for what we should do. He’s using them as a way to predict what will happen in the near future. They don’t answer that question definitively but they do have a lot of relevance.

  81. Jonovitch on July 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Wow, Adam, you’re doing a great job at alienating the people who are, for the most part, on your side. I’m done with this thread.

    Jon

  82. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Believe what you want, MFranti. Knock yourself out. And what you “hear” has little connection to what I “say.” Look at comments #48 and #74 for example. You may disagree with my argument, but you have to admit that my argument isn’t “God said so.”

  83. Julie M. Smith on July 3, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    mfranti and Jon said exactly what I would have said to Adam.

    Except I like the occasional uppercase letter. :)

  84. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    You must suit yourself, Jonovitch. I didn’t realize that polygamy was another one of those issues where its advocates were excused for calling Church guidance “piddly letters” and acceptance of Church guidance “fairy-tale land” but defenders of the right position were not supposed to respond in kind. I’ll turn myself in to the sensitivity police.

  85. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    If you think my argument is nothing more than “God said so,” Julie S., than you’re not much of a reader or you are so committed to being open and accepting of God-condemned relationships of all kinds that you refuse to acknowledge any arguments against them. I am willing to make arguments defending the Church’s position, but only to those who are in principle willing to accept that the Church may be right.

  86. mfranti on July 3, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    I am very sorry, Julie.

  87. mfranti on July 3, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    “God-condemned relationships”

    hmmm….

  88. Julie M. Smith on July 3, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    {mfranti, I hope you know that was just a joke}

  89. mfranti on July 3, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    of course!

    I’m in the habit of using lower case. I blame it on my spouse.

  90. Ben There on July 3, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Adam: You are awfully hung up on numbers. You need to define “divorce rate” before getting so smug. The Census Bureau in 2002 predicted that around 50% of persons now married will divorce, Natl Center for Health Statistics believes 43%. There are all sorts of ways to wor the numbers, Adam. And you know that. I think we can agree that 40% or 50% or 43% or even 38.72% are too many divorces.

    You may be interested to know that the divorce rate for plurally married families is significantly lower than that of monogamously married couples. Or more likely, you won’t care because your mind is made up.

  91. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I accept the prophets as inspired and the only ones with the keys, Ben There, so when they say polygamy is forbidden, yes, my mind is made up. If you’re talking sociology my mind isn’t made up there but I don’t think that the divorce rate in a fringe subculture, a subculture that almost by-definition requires an abnormally high amount of commitment to live, is very representative of how polygamy would look like if it became normalized and spread into the general culture. I don’t think that normalizing polygamy would solve our divorce problems at all. In fact, I believe the arguments that would be used to normalize polygamy would exactly the sort of arguments that have hurt monogamy so bad in the first place.

  92. Sam B on July 3, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    BT,
    FWIW, of course the divorce rate for plurally-married families is a lot lower than monogomously-married. There may be other reasons—it is said that FLDS don’t have much choice—but the simplest reason is because the men are not married, or at least are not married to more than one of their wives. Ergo, they can’t get divorced. (Of course, the marriage rate would have to be a lot lower than the general public’s, too.)

    Also FWIW, I generally agree with what Adam’s said here (other than maybe toward the end when he starts getting snarky, but then it’s mostly tone I disagree with).

    Polygamy won’t come back. I would add to Adam’s reasons that God wouldn’t do that to His beloved daughters without a compelling reason, which I assume He had in the 1800s. The Church has unequivocably distanced itself from the practice, even where it is legal (so the idea that the Proclamation and subsequent statements won’t apply when/if it becomes legal in the U.S. are wrong in their analysis).

  93. mfranti on July 3, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    here’s where i get hung up on your position, adam.

    how come you can make all of those fine points against Polygamy in #48

    but then be of the opinion that when the Prophet (big P) speak, your mind is made up.

    do you know for sure that our (or future) Prophet will not lift the ban (for lack of better word) on the practice?

    and if so, how would those arguments look then?

  94. Rob on July 3, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Adam,
    You seem to be mistaking current Church policy for Eternal Gospel Truth. There are other positions on this held by good and faithful members of the Church. Some, while supporting the current policy, see polygamy as something sacred in the history of their families or in the Church. Some of us were raised to believe that this holy practice would someday be restored within the Church. I’ve heard a General Authority claim that Spencer W. Kimball was seeking to have this restored before he died. So while you can argue all you want about how bad polygamy is, remember that you are attacking something that many may consider a sacred practice. Its fine to defend a current Church policy–and I haven’t read anything here that really attacks the Church’s current policy. On the other hand, you might want to think twice about shouting down those who hold polygamy, or at least its memory, with more respect.

  95. Rob on July 3, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Sam B, what about God’s beloved daughters in the Church who reach the age of 30 and can’t find a decent husband in the Church? What about his beloved daughters who are born in countries where men are even less viable as eternal marriage partners than those in the U.S.? I think you’re making too many assumptions about what is good for his beloved daughters, as Orson Pratt and others made lots of good arguments for plural marriage based on what was better for women.

  96. Kaimi Wenger on July 3, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Adam,

    1. Isn’t there a way you can discuss this without being mean?

    2. Your generalization about “God-condemned” relationships is overbroad and misleading. Polygamy is only God-condemned at present because of a specific revelation. We have numerous church talks from early church leaders talking about the virtues of polygamy.

    Church doctrine is that adultery is never okay. However, polygamy often is okay — it’s not okay now, because of positive mandate, but it’s been okay in the past, and may well be okay in the future.

    Wrapping them in to the same overarching description as merely sins is misleading. One is viewed as malum in se, and the other merely malum prohibitum, and the difference is important. If you go farther than that in your condemnation, you’re in direct opposition to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so on.

  97. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    We live in the present, Kaimi. In any case, unlike monogamy, polygamy is a grievous sin always and everywhere except where expressly sanctioned by God. I think Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would agree. Unless they thought that was too mean.

  98. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    MFranti, Rob,

    I’m not real big on discounting the current prophet based on predictions about what future prophets may do. And I don’t see that I’ve said anything that disrespects the memory of Mormon polygamists.

  99. Margaret Young on July 3, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    I don’t think Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Jesus would favor meanness regardless of the excuse.

  100. Adam Greenwood on July 3, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    I’ll probably be excommunicated, Margaret Young, and justly so. Or at minimum I won’t be allowed to take a second wife.

  101. Julie M. Smith on July 3, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    OK, I’ve now reached the limits of my tolerance for this post.