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I spent the early years of my life living in California with my parents, both of whom were devout followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I was a baby, my mom had a friend who left the LDS church because she practiced plural marriage. When my mom learned about this, it piqued her interest, and she began studying the principle as well. Soon after, she suggested to my dad that the family move to Utah. He didn’t know her religious reasons at the time, but he said sure, let’s move—though it took them four and a half more years of research and studying the principle before they actually did. We finally moved to Utah when I was five years old.
It was my mother who urged my father to take his first plural wife. He did, and she joined the family when I was only five, but I still have fond memories of her. Unfortunately, it was a short marriage with no children, and she left two years later. When I was ten, my mom and dad once again brought a new wife into the family. I didn’t think there was anything strange about it—in fact, I was excited. I was a shy kid and didn’t make friends easily. When I found out that the woman my father was courting was from a large polygamous family, I was thrilled to have the chance to get to know a whole new group of people and be able to make more friends. Our family grew quickly. Eventually, my father took four wives in addition to my mother. In total, I have twenty-seven siblings!
I was in a slightly easier position than many of my siblings who came from my father’s second, third, fourth, or fifth marriages. Since I was the child of my father’s first marriage, his “legal” one, it was simple and natural for my father to be my father in public. Since polygamy isn’t widely accepted, for the other kids, it could be more difficult to acknowledge their father publicly. To my father’s credit, he “owned,” that is, acted as a true father to, every one of my brothers and sisters.
Growing up, I always assumed I would live the polygamous lifestyle. It was the tradition in which I was raised. My biological parents and my mother’s sister wives all seemed happy for the most part. Of course there were the normal ups and downs that happen in any family. I loved being part of a large family; it felt normal and comfortable. My parents, however, never pushed me toward the principle. They wanted me to make my own decisions and come to plural marriage, if I chose, through my own route.
My parents’ only rule about religion was that I had to go to church, but this isn’t so different from millions of parents around the world. It was always made clear to me that whatever religion I embraced as an adult—whether our branch of fundamentalism, LDS, or something else—was entirely up to me.
Despite the fact that I was shy, I managed to make a number of friends outside our church group. I worked at a portrait studio and became friendly with many of my coworkers, which helped me to overcome my shyness. Perhaps because I interacted with so many people outside my faith when I was a teenager, for a time I really questioned whether or not I was going to live the principle of plural marriage. I was struggling to find my way and discover my own identity within our close-knit community and the requirements of our faith—and then I met Kody.
I was raised in the LDS faith. Both of my parents were devout Mormons. However, when I was fourteen years old, my mother pulled me aside and explained to me some of the doctrines of Mormonism that are a little more intense. One of these is that of celestial plural marriage. The moment my mother described the principle to me, I had a feeling that this was something I was going to follow. I had no idea how or when, I just knew.
Of course, being young and stubborn, I battled hard against this calling. In the LDS church there’s absolutely no opportunity to explore plural marriage. It’s simply not done. Plural marriage is one of the few things that sets the Mormon fundamentalist faith apart from followers of the LDS church. The religions are similar, but this one difference is astronomical. Embracing it meant leaving the faith of my childhood forever.
When I was nineteen, I was sent on my LDS mission to southern Texas. During the two years I spent proselytizing for the Mormon church, the doctrine of plural marriage was constantly on my mind. It spoke to me. It called to me. But I still had no idea what to do with this summons.
While I was away in the ministry in Texas, I got a letter from my mother telling me that my parents had been excommunicated from the LDS church and had joined a fundamentalist Mormon faith. I thought, Well, this is interesting. But I was still too hardheaded to see it as a sign that I should follow in their footsteps. My parents’ excommunication from the Mormon church broke my heart. I was deeply concerned about their spiritual welfare, but God spoke peace to me. I continued my service in the mission field and finished my two-year calling.
By the time I returned from my mission, my father had taken a second wife. My mother had written me dozens of letters about how wonderful her sister wife was, so although I had never met my new mom, I was ready to accept her completely. She deserved my respect and my love, simply because my father had married her.
When I returned to Utah from Texas, I immediately experienced the remarkable warmth of the principle of plural marriage as my mother had explained it to me years before. The warmth and love I imagined would go hand in hand with a polygamous lifestyle were no longer an unattainable ideal. They were real and concrete and precisely as I had imagined they would be. My mother was away, but here was another woman who loved my father and whom my father loved, and by extension, we grew to love each other as mother and son. It was an easy and wonderful evolution.
Even though my parents had converted to fundamentalism and I’d discovered for myself the warmth of the polygamous lifestyle, I was still uncertain about converting myself. I began associating with members of my parents’ new church and attending their gatherings. I thought I knew what I wanted, but it took me a while to make a commitment. Then I met a girl named Meri, and that changed everything.
I first noticed Kody at church. Our church group is quite close-knit and has been together a long time, so any new face really stands out. He caught my eye, and I believe I caught his. Someone introduced us, but beyond a brief hello, I don’t think we said a word to each other. I was eighteen, and I’d never been courted by a guy before. Shoot, I was so quiet that I’d probably never even been noticed by a guy before! So nothing of a romantic nature crossed my mind during that first meeting.
That summer I attended a camp for girls of our faith. One of my fellow campers, a girl named Christy, was here from out of state and had a photo of her brother who was attending our church in Utah. When she showed it to me, I immediately recognized Kody.
A few months after camp ended, Christy came back to Utah from her home in Wyoming to attend a wedding. She invited me over to the house where she was staying. I walked in the door and there was Kody, sitting on the couch! He said, “Hi, Meri! You’re the Meri my sister is always talking about.”
I was shocked that he knew my name. I was used to my friends getting all the guys while I went pretty much unnoticed. It was good to be seen for once and not to be overlooked for my shyness. I was a little taken with Kody right off the bat. He was definitely cute, and had a great attitude. He was talkative and engaged me in conversation, and made me feel comfortable around him. Neither courting nor dating were on my mind at that point. He was the brother of a good friend, and that was how we began our friendship.
The next day Kody and Christy came to meet me as I got off my shift at my job at a portrait studio in the mall. The three of us went to lunch and then to an evening get-together. I felt comfortable around them, as if I’d fallen into a new and safe friendship.
Over the next few days, I began discovering what a fun guy Kody was. He was always laughing and smiling. He had a good attitude and a positive outlook on life. He really was outgoing and positive. I was impressed with the strength of his convictions and the depth of his spirituality. After knowing him for just a few days, I found myself liking to be around him and spending time with him, and wondering what direction this new relationship would take. One night, while his sister was still in town, we went to the home of some friends of his family for a party. There were quite a few people there, but every once in a while I would catch Kody looking at me. When our eyes met, he’d give me a little smile. It made my heart race. Unfortunately, a few days later, Christy returned to Wyoming. Since she was the reason I’d been hanging out with Kody in the first place, I didn’t really think that he and I would see each other as much as we had been.
Thankfully, I was wrong. The next week, Kody and I continued running into each other at church events. Eventually he asked my dad if it would be okay if the two of us went out to grab a bite to eat. I know it seems pretty old-fashioned that a young man would need my father&...
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I watch the show Sister Wives on TLC but don't consider myself a starry eyed fan. I watch the show because I enjoy learning about other lifestyles and cultures. I don't have any issues with the family living however they want, I am a big fan of freedom of choice in how you live your life. Although I watch the show, I wanted to know more about why this family has chosen this life. The book doesn't really answer this fully. I understand there is a celestial principle that they believe in and also understand that taking plural wives is part of adhering to this principle. Although it doesn't really say this, the general impression I get is that they feel that in order to enter the highest kingdom of heaven, the celestial kingdom, they are required to live 'the principle' which requires plural marriage. This is how I understand it, but I could be wrong.
All that being said, that explanation above is about the only reason I can see these women agreeing to live in this lifestyle. Each woman's section and story is actually very sad. I was refreshingly surprised that each wive in their sections appeared to be writing very honestly about their struggles with plural marriage. I find both Janelle's and Christine's stories to be particularly heartbreaking. Both Janelle and Christine had such difficulty with being accepted and approved by Meri that they both in different ways ended up moving out of a shared house to separate houses, Christine to a cottage on the property and Janelle at one point, actually moved with the kids to a house near her mother. It seems that for both Christine and Janelle, they could never do anything right in Meri's eyes so there was a lot of friction.Read more ›
The Browns' book provides information on their lives and marriages leading up to and slightly past Robyn's son's birth in fall 2011. It is a little hard to navigate since the story is told from the perspectives of all five adults who basically retell the same stories, gradually moving the timeline from past to present. The book is very similar both in style and content to "Love Times Three," by the Dargers, though the Dargers is marginally better written.
They answer a lot of questions regarding the wives and their relationships with Kody and with each other, however, it seems that they stop giving information on a topic at the exact moment it becomes truly interesting. For instance, we know that Meri was pretty cruel to Janelle for the first few years of marriage, but we know very few details about the sorts of cruel things she did. Same thing with Christine and Robyn: what specific things did Christine do to Robyn? Furthermore, they definitely brush over uncomfortable topics such as Janelle moving out, Robyn's first husband, Meri's overbearing tendencies, and, of course, sex. I can see why these touchy topics would be brushed aside by the authors, but it leaves the reader somewhat unsatisfied and very curious.
My impression of the Browns has changed as a result of this book. From examining the Browns through the TLC lens, I assumed that the family's problems were minor and the jealousies were kept to a minimum because of their faith in God and in their lifestyle. The book leads me to believe though that the women are pretty darn unhappy and that the bad times out number the good times. The book made me feel sorry for them. If they really are happy, I hope they write a second book that shows how happy and satisfied they are.Read more ›
Let me start by saying that I'm a "fan" of the show. I find the psychology and sociology surrounding this family extremely fascinating. The show only gives us a surface view of the family and I wanted to delve a little deeper into their history.
This book is extremely repetitive, which can be fully blamed on the editors decision on the layout. One chapter goes over "his" version of events and the next chapter goes over "her" (whichever "her" it may be) version of events. Often times the information overlaps and is repeated verbatim. There is a set of chapters where the women talk about child rearing. It was really off putting to see one of the wives make a passive aggressive statements about the other wives' child rearing techniques, and in the very next chapter that wife defends her child rearing choices. For instance, Meri goes on and on and ON about how she's strict and doesn't let the kids jump on the couches but that's OK because her furniture is kept pristine for years, whereas Janelle and Christine's couches are disgusting and break quickly. Then Janelle pipes in and says she lets the kids do what they want and that's ok because they're getting to explore and she doesn't mind paying the price in short lived couches. It's so bizarre!
Christine mentions that she and Meri had a falling out about a year or more ago, because Christine thought that Meri was being way too hard on one of her kids and disciplining them. She said it got so bad that her children were afraid of Meri. Naturally in the next chapter, Meri goes on and on about the method behind her actions and why it's the superior way of child rearing. They say the same thing about their diet choices.Read more ›