Monday, November 10, 2008

No more girls allowed!

It's not often I find the courage to bring up controversial subjects.

No, really.

I'm not entirely sure I have brought up "controversial" subjects yet. Yes, the gay marriage thing. Whatever. I'm over it. It's something people are angry over, targeting the church over (after all, we were vocal. what? we can exercise our freedom of speech in the democratic process but dissenters can't? as long as the protests at the temple are peaceful, i say they deserve at least our respect to their feelings to allow them to have their say)

Anyway. This one does make me nervous, but I think it deserves some discussion. We'll see what other people think, yeah?

A comment string a few entries back brought up the P word. I don't really know how, but I know I'm the one who brought it up.

C'mon. You know what I'm talking about. It's like Peanut Butter and Jelly. Mormons and...

Polygamy, right.

This is kinda a "hush hush" topic. Some consider it "sacred." Some, I think most, don't know how to talk about it.

I mean, how do you talk about this?

"God commanded it."

Yeah, you know...truth or not, that just doesn't cut it for outsiders. It doesn't really cut it for some insiders to be honest. It might work for the zealous, passionate new member, but if something were to happen - say, hubby cheated or something - she might feel differently about sharing her husband, even if God commanded it.

I've been around some women who joke it off. "I'd love to have more wives. I could delegate some of the stuff I have to do."

Some rationalize it. "I'd have to give permission, right?"

"Abraham was asked to do something unthinkable as a test of his faith. This is no different."

Uhm, if we're going by history...I don't know about permission. It's nice to think so, but Emma didn't give permission; she wasn't even aware of many of Joseph's wives.

And yeah it kinda is different from Abraham.

First, I would never ever question Abraham's faith. That said, I can't believe he was like "Kill my kid for you? Can I do it now?"

Unless God caught him on one of "those" days. Any parent knows what I mean. It's like after the morning I had. My four year old son gets up before we do anymore. Generally he just watches cartoons and might make breakfast for the other two (he's surprisingly clean about it), but this morning he decided to clean out the fireplace, still hot with embers.

Or the time I found him dipping a paper cup into a toilet bowl full of crap.

If God caught Abraham on one of these days, perhaps Abraham would've jumped at the idea. "I was hoping you'd say I could! Do I have to get him on an altar, or would the tent do?"

But seriously now. If Abraham was human and loved his child, his only son - and I think that's a safe assumption - and if this is supposed to allude to the difficulty and the emotional turmoil and yes, utter importance, with regarding Heavenly Father and Christ, than...yeah. I imagine he fought and cried and anguished over this.

But he went to the altar. We can assume the resignation was sincere. Despite everything he'd been told, he was going to kill his kid for God. That's not faith. That's knowledge.

But here's where the parallel ends, I think: God stopped him.

God never stopped Joseph Smith from taking on other wives. And as far as Emma goes, when she was able to reconcile herself to the idea, it was only temporary. She couldn't handle it and kicked those women out. Joseph had to practice this in hiding for the most part. Emma never taught her and Joseph's sons about it. To this day, the RLDS Church (which her sons founded) denies Joseph ever practiced polygamy.

Any woman...scratch that. There are people who willingly practice this. I don't imagine there are many, if any, LDS women who could and feel good about it. I couldn't. That would very well be the straw that breaks this girl's back. It's weak as it is.

I know, I know, I know. I've read D&C 132. Often. I know this is a Celestial doctrine. I know if I can't accept it I'm unworthy to be in His presence. At least that's what I've heard, and it really rubs my fur the wrong way. Really? Everything could hinge on that? Eh.

I know God knows my heart. He can't possibly...I just couldn't. I empathize so much with some of our more feminist sisters. For God to come and command my husband to take on another wife, sleep with her, have babies with her...

No wonder some women feel like nothing in this Church, like second-class. I totally get it. You might say "well, we don't practice it now," but we do. Spiritually. When my mom came with our family to the Sacramento, California temple open house, the tour guide brought up the subject. I'll never forget my mom turning to me and saying, "So, if you died, Eric could get married here and still be married to you?"

My heart plummeted. I didn't want to lie, so I didn't, but I did at least give voice to my disapproval. I wouldn't want it.

(just as a quick side note: yes, I know. I've found the most chivalrous men in this church. My husband treats me like a queen and I'm unbelievably blessed for it.)

I have great difficulty understanding and accepting doctrine that I can only see serving to beat down women, and don't you dare try to tell me this wouldn't beat down women. You'd better have some serious backup if you're going to do that. Even if I had faith enough to follow, I would be among the most unhappy people ever. It's breaking my heart now to even think of ever having to live such a doctrine, let alone accept it. I'd want to know why. I think I'd deserve and have some right to know why. If that's prideful, so be it. I'd want to know. I'd even be as bold as to demand it. I think a lot of you would, too, and if our God is as loving as we teach, He'd understand.

I dare any one of you women to honestly and sincerely imagine the situation and then tell me you would have the faith. Maybe some of you would. I doubt it, though. I love my husband. We have some crazy outofthisworld connection. Some might find the story of how we met and how we "knew" unbelievable. The fact is I love him, and I'm okay with being selfish about him. Even after I die, I wouldn't want him taking anyone else on.

He's mine, and I'm his. It's the most exclusive of relationships. If my relationship, if my marriage is as sacred as we've been screaming and waving signs around for, then, I'm sorry: no more girls allowed. You can say that nullifies my testimony. I say it's ridiculous to assume Joseph had to be right on absolutely everything in order for the entire gospel to be true. That's a lot to put on one man. There have been, from what I understand, a few things we've changed through the years. As a reader of mine cited in his entry today,

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

8 ...but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.


Yes, I know this is "different," but one cannot shoot me down because I struggle with such a touchy doctrine. It's trickier than people want to make it. We want to not think about it. It's easier to not think about it. It's easier to say it happened because the ratio of men to women was less than desirable. It's easier to say it happened because older women needed care for, or that God wanted to "raise seed unto him."

The fact is we don't really know. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we don't know. We can guess to make ourselves feel better about it (because, really, is there anyone in the Church who would welcome this with open, unflinching arms? I hope not), but we don't know.

And I hatehatehate that it is so central to our doctrine. Central enough that the heighth of my salvation depends upon my "acceptance" of it. Well, accepting the doctrine means that you would do it if asked. Even if you really believe you could do it, how would you feel? About your husband, about your wife, about God...about yourself?

There's really no other way to put it. I know exactly how I'd feel.

I'd feel like shit.



Katie said...

I know that it is not the answer that you probably want, or that garners conversation, but I typically try not to think about polygamy. I figure my hubby is just trying to make it to the celestial kingdom with 1 wife, let alone two. Or more.

And I made him promise he would only marry for time if he ever remarried after I die. And he can only remarry if I left him behind young children that need a mother. (I know, I am an awful Mormon wife).

Lisa said...

Oh no, Katie. No worries. If you're awful, so am I :)

That is the conclusion Eric and I have come to as well. Honestly, and it's not the best idea and we should do it, we don't like talking about "what if one of us dies." I trust him to do what is right, but heck no - I don't want another woman sticking her nose in my business, here or in the afterlife. Nononono.

Thanks for the input. Good to know I'm not alone here.

Chedner said...

This post made me wonder why a man who so publicly and unapologetically declared that he spoke to God face-to-face (and that he found golden plates in the ground which plates where written with Egyptian/Hebrew hieroglyphics which he translated with a couple of stones) kept his practice of polygamy in the shadows for so long.

(Of course, if it was right, I'm sure there was a godly explanation.)

As for me, personally... I have a difficult enough time buying that my eternal happiness is dependent on heterosexual marriage -- let alone polygyny.

Lisa said...

I like to think it's because it's...well, it goes against our nature. He had to know society would shun him, that most people would shun him.

He had to know Emma would hate it. I hope he hated it, too.

Rough Stone Rolling says he waited a while before marrying the first girl after getting the revelation - odd given he usually jumped at following God's commands.

But uhm, yeah.

It's not something I'm jumping to accept. Just goes against everything inherent in me. Everything I've ever been taught. Everything that's being taught now

I have to believe that he hated it if this was for real.

laura said...

I love how honest you are in your posts. All LDS women have thought about this, and if they say they haven't they are lying!

I have approached this topic many times with my husband, but he usually always ends the conversation saying something like, "Let's just worry about getting there first." (Somehow, I don't think it would be so easy to brush off if the situation were reversed and it were me who had to take on more spouses.) Anywho - he served his mission in Mexico and always mentions how so many women went to church w/o their husbands. He seems to think it will be necessary b/c more women will make it than men, and we know that we have to be married for exaltation. Since I tend to think females are the superior sex, this explanation is easier to believe. =)

However, I haven't read anywhere that it was actually a requirement for the celestial kingdom. Maybe we'll all show up in equal pairs. If not,then hopefully I won't have earthly tendencies like jealousy. Oh well - I am actually going to do some research on this topic this week, so I'll let ya know if I find out anything new.

Natalie said...

Um... my answer to this is usually, "Thank heavens I don't have to deal with it today!" at which point I cease thinking about it at all.

But when I really stop to think about it.....

To think about him looking into someone else's eyes the way he looks into mine. For him to talk to another person the way he talks to me. For him to think of someone the way he thinks of me. :( Whew. Hard. And, I'd like to think, impossible (yes, I'm pretty arrogant, I know).

Before I met and fell in love with my husband, I used to think I could accept this if it was required of me. But I had no idea. I cannot imagine how Emma must have felt.

I think it's important to realize that at the time, only 20% of Mormon men had a plural wife, and of those, 60% had only two.

It's also interesting that polygamy is, in fact, the most common marriage system throughout the world. It's amazing what different notions of love and commitment your upbringing puts into your head.

So in sum.... I DON'T KNOW!!! But I don't think you are unfaithful, and I think God would is so happy about the love that you and your husband share. Maybe this is one of those principles where we are supposed to love God first, even before our families and spouses.

Easy enough to say.

As a sidenote: How on earth did the church get so many converts when this was going on?! It's hard enough to sell the notion of living revelation and an ancient record to people.... but a co-wife? Yikes.

Katie said...

It sounds like we all think this is something that is easier for men to live with than women (as my husband observed while reading the comments), but I don't think it really is. Yeah, the men "get" to have multiple wives - to provide (financially, emotionally, spiritually) for, to empathize with, to try to understand, to serve and meet the needs of... My husband and I have what I feel is the best relationship in the world, but he says that he just can't imagine having to deal with two wives.

Its also interesting to me that society by and large ignores things like "open marriages" mentioned below - where someone is married but has a mistress or two on the side - but polygamy is considered evil. I think part of it is that polygamy has come to be associated with underage marriages, in addition to multiple marriages. It makes me wonder, if polygamy were that important for our eternal salvation, couldn't the church just do something where 2nd, 3rd, 4th wives were "sealed" spiritually but not legally "married," married in God's eyes but not the world's? The husband would then basically just have multiple mistresses, and (most) people in the world would probably think that they had a weird, open marriage.

Chrissy Renae said...

i just stumbled across your blog, and i absolutely love it! i hope you dont mind if i link to it from my page...

i feel VERY similar to you in everything you have talked about. being a liberal mormon can be rough! but im glad there are people out there like you that can relate :)

Lisa said...

Katie -

Well. I would hope most men wouldn't be cool with this. I imagine most wouldn't. I don't like the sentiment "couldn't deal with more than one wife." I'd much rather hear "I couldn't imagine being with another woman."

But. Shrug.

I'm pretty sure that people would not be kosher with multiple marriages even in a spiritual way, member or not. Especially, especially if it involved sex.

I dunno. That's a disturbing thought (gee thanks lol). For the record, I'm not cool with open marriages. Couldn't do it. Same reasons.

Eeek. I wouldn't be okay with that.

Chrissy: Yay! Why would I mind? Thank you.

Katie said...

Well, no, of course not... I wouldn't want to have an open marriage, either. I was just throwing it out there for discussion :P

As for the "dealing with" multiple wives, I meant it in sort of a being-100%-there-for-multiple-people sort of way. Just like I don't think I could be an adequate wife for more than one husband, my husband doesn't think there is "enough" of him that he could give 100% of himself to multiple wives. And the 10 quiver-fulls of children that come with the territory...

Gwenny said...

I thought I would weigh in on this. I'm probably your only EX Mormon viewer. :D I find your column refreshing and you make it harder for me to ridicule Mormons in other venues.

I have to say the Church's stance on polygamy is one of the reasons I lost faith. God gave a commandment and mere obstacles like secular law should not stand in the way of obedience. IMO Reading the Doctrine and Covenants and understanding how the Church has watered down or totally changed commandments to make them more palatable always bothered me.

After leaving the Church I went pagan for a while and am now an apatheist. (An atheist who doesn't care.) I firmly, deeply support polygamy. I was involved in a non religious plural "marriage" for five years and would do it again without hesitation!

Seriously, I know all the arguments . .women fighting over the man, not enough man to go around, blah blah blah. But let me tell you, having woman who is there for you and who you trust . . . .who shares your burdens . . . who will go to the fabric store without whining . .KICKS BUTT! Add to this the advantages of multiple income providers and it's unbelievable.

There a huge non-LDS subculture that is experimenting with multiple marriage in fascinating ways. Just thought ya'll might like to know.

Natalie said...

Gwenny's comments touch on what I was getting at in my post about how what we have learned about love and marriage drastically change our views of them.

I think many faithful LDS women have a revulsion to polygamy because we have been taught a very romantic notion of love, commitment, and passion. We are taught that marriage is about being hopelessly in love, is about sincerely losing interest in other people, and about choosing to be dedicated to that one single person for your whole life. The current LDS teachings about marriage are actually not at all complementary with polygamy.

In different times and cultures, marriage and love have been about responsibility, success, and effectively raising a family. Not saying those things aren't important in all cultures, but the "love" part is definitely preeminent in Mormon culture (even if not in Mormon doctrine). But if love isn't seen as the most important element of marriage (which I sometimes think is a pretty rational, wise mindset) polygamy isn't so hard to stomach. It's about building a unit. If more wives create a stronger unit, then that's a good thing.

If that was my value system, I might be okay with some co-wives. But since my husband and I both have this different conception of what marriage would be, it would be very hurtful to go against that.

Does that make sense?

I'm saying "Ick, polygamy would be the most awful thing in the world for ME." But also, "I see why other people can accept it with no problems."

Like I mentioned before, it is the most common marriage system on the planet.

Lisa said...

I'm going to try to make sense here. This was a hard entry for me to write, and for some reason I'm struggling with my comments here. I have a harder time than most, I think, at organizing my thoughts on stressful subjects, and the kids won't leave me alone, so please bear with me.

Gwenny: Thank you for the compliment and for commenting (and following my blog. knowing you're a former member and following means tons). You and your perspective are more than welcome here.

I can understand where you are coming from, what you're saying. Yes, it does seem like the church often bows to secular law. People have the same beef with blacks and the priesthood. I can see how that would bother anyone. I always wondered, too, why we would...I don't know. I see what you're saying.

And I agree with even what Natalie says. I know others practice it, others have no issues at all with it. But for me, I'm entirely too selfish to even want to consider it. It makes me want to cry even writing about it too much, to be honest with you.

To make something so...sensitive and personal a matter of salvation, though, *really* grates on me the wrong way. If this is a matter of me being angry with God, then so be it. Either way, it's a major wedge.

I get that we need to "become one" with God's will and be willing to sacrifice everything, but to damn us for not being able to accept what the scriptures teach, what we're being taught...To throw in a "oh, but God said we have to now" just throws a wrench into my system. There's a disconnect there, especially after all this Prop 8 crap.

It just goes against everything in me. Everything. I'd have to know why, and I'm positive I'd be in a deep pit of depression even if I had a face-to-face with God Himself. I can't imagine a loving God condeming some of his sons and daughters to such a horrible life (for them). It feels like force, it feels wrong. I hate that I can't definitively say that it's not wrong, though, that God wouldn't test our faith this way, that he wouldn't have a reason beyond my comprehension. Then again, He did stop Abraham. And it was that realization that confused me further and caused me to really get angry.

I'm rambling, but do you see it? Am I making any sense? It's just not even right.

Thank you both. Natalie, yes, I agree. I could never do it either. Personally. Not with any shred of self dignity left. I'm entirely too attached to my husband and entirely too selfish of him (and he me).

The looming threat of God's rejection or my potential to be wrong here does hold and yeah, I just can never say for sure. I just know I'd be miserable, to put it lightly. And Gwenny, I do understand, it's just for me and for so many others who hide under the "well we don't practice it now" would be an issue. And a lot of people are glad it's gone - dare I say it's one less roadblock in the way of conversion. It made it tons easier for me.

Gwenny said...

Yes, dear, I do understand where you are coming from and I may have mangled my own message. I do NOT believe that polygamy is for everyone. You are well within your rights to say it doesn't work for you. Marriage of any sort doesn't work for some people, and the Church kind of throws them out, too, making exaltation contingent on being married if you had the chance.

I feel so deeply what you are saying, and some of the questions, the problems you have, were what got me moving away from God. I, also, cannot understand a loving deity that would eternally torment (although that does mean something different for Mormons than for Fundamentalist Christians) for things that were mostly out of their control.

My intent was not to introduce contention here. I respect you very much. Just to interject a slightly different point of view . . to spice stuff up.


Lisa said...

oh no, I don't want you to think I was offended. I'm sorry if it came off that way. Not my intention at all!

Thank you, though. I hear you. A lot of things are just difficult, to say the least, to reconcile.

ακιεгεγ said...

I hopped to your blog from and while I am not Mormon, I enjoy the perspective of this blog. It makes "Mormon" seem more normal to me, someone whose contact with that culture has pretty much been limited to a couple closed-mouth friends in high school, door-to-door, and that one South Park episode. So, thank you.

I just wanted to offer my opinion on polygamy. It's difficult to put concisely, and for that I apologize.

Polygamy, as you've described it, seems very one-sided to me. It seems like something created by men who may have wanted "condoned" multiple sexual relationships. From that perspective, it is completely understandable that wives with polygamy hanging over their heads (even in a spiritual sense) would despise the idea. I am sure men, if told that their wives were to take more than one husband, would feel at least the same way, if not more strongly against it than women are now.

However, I do agree with one of your commentators, Gwenny, in that polygamy can be right for some people. Only I would use the word polyamory, and I would make a point of copy/pasting the definition: "participation in multiple and simultaneous loving or sexual relationships."

Although, a multiple-partner relationship is not necessarily limited to only one man and multiple women. And ideally, the jealousy would be reduced because the people in the relationship would have the mindset of treating that relationship like a marriage partnership. And, in this ideal example, all existing partners must agree on the entrance of a new partner. This type of scenario could create, simply, a larger, more supportive, more financially secure marriage, more able to handle things like child care, economic upheaval, weathering tragedy, and even celebrating love.

And while it may be considered selfish for someone to want her husband to only have eyes for her, in all ways--not just the sexual ones, it sort of makes sense to me for a loving God to condone/command/however-you-want-to-put-it such a thing a polyamory (literally, many-loves) in the face of that "selfishness."

All of the above said, I have two things left. I will try to make it short.

1. Even with my views on polyamory, I would have to have a lot of long and deep talks with my husband before agreeing to embark on that sort of lifestyle.

2. I sincerely hope I didn't offend anyone with my long comment. I almost decided not to post, but instead, I will simply hope I did not offend.

Lisa said...

Akierey: "And while it may be considered selfish for someone to want her husband to only have eyes for her, in all ways--not just the sexual ones, it sort of makes sense to me for a loving God to condone/command/however-you-want-to-put-it such a thing a polyamory (literally, many-loves) in the face of that "selfishness."

I've thought of that too.

I just don't care :)

But really, don't worry about offending here. I've offended, I'm almost positive of that. I'm just grateful for conversation. I don't really get that at home (my hometown, friends/family) these days.

Thank you, and Gwenny too, for rational points and arguments. They make sense to me, and I can understand why some women could handle it. I guess I can see why God might institute it, but I'd still be one angry, depressed woman.


Thanks for stopping by!

Alesia Wilson said...

I'm divorced and one time I told my dad that my biggest fear was that I'd get to Celestial Kingdom and God would say..."Oh, yeah..Alesia. You can take that guy *and point to some guy with 13 women standing next to him*" My dad asked me if I thought that God loved me. I said yes. He asked if he would ask me to do something that would make me unhappy for eternity. I said 'I hope not.' He assured me (and I trust my dad) that we won't be asked to do something that will make us unhappy for eternity. Period. I'm sure he's right. I mean, he's my dad! :)