Sunday, April 29, 2012
As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), our church has taught us for the last century or so that the polygamy we formerly embraced has now been forbidden; indeed it is now considered adultery by the church and the church intolerates membership of one who practices polygamy.* When polygamy was renounced, a small percentage of Mormon leaders (apostles, et al) and believers who clung to the teachings of plural marriage--some still found in cannonized LDS scripture not to mention the Old Testament--broke off from the church. In modern day through the media I was aware of Warren Jeffs, and his group the Fundamental Mormons or FLDS. I suppose my critical feelings towards the compulsory marriages of Mr. Jeffs were applied to all polygamist groups, not realizing the distinctions among polygamist groups which turns out to be significant.
Although there do exist differences of doctrine between the Independent Fundamentalist groups of Mormons and the mainstream Mormons which is the church of Mitt Romney, myself, and the vast majority who call themselves Mormons, I found surprisingly these Independent Fundamentalists have a doctrine nearly identical to that of Mormons with the exception of polygamy (which may be better termed polygyny as only men have multiple wives, not the other way around).
The book the Dargers wrote Love Time Three takes the reader through the minds and major life events of each of the spouses. They practice polygamy of their own free choice not because Joe has this huge libido but rather because they feel it necessary to do so to honor God and their religion. They understand the difficulties of jealousy that arise and their struggles to work through the issues that come up with boundaries and raising a couple dozen children. It is clear they are practicing the "Principle" (meaning plural marriage) out of goodness and love each other and have much love to give to their children. They are a successful modern family by any measurement.
As each theme is developed in the book, each spouse writes their own feelings on the event. For example, when Joe had a healthy, established plural marriage with Vicki and Alina (who are cousins) he took on another marriage in the form of Val (Vicki's twin sister). In the book you will get to read the perspective on the new marriage partner not only from Joe and Val but Vicki and Alina as well. The patience and love in this marriage for one another is most admirable.
The purpose of the book is not only to promote understanding of what it is like to be a polygamist, but to rally support to decriminalize the act of plural marriage: an act where there are no victims. I have changed my views dramatically on this over the past few years. I used to selfishly believe that because I personally viewed polygamy as adultery it should be banned. Having understood Constitutional rights as I do now, I realize that not only is that view grossly incorrect, but that government has no constitutional right to prohibit contracts between consenting adults. Government should not be issuing marriage licenses; this is the purview of the church or of the individuals themselves. This means of course, same sex marriages too are allowed under the law and government should not interfere. That is, government is not to prohibit the free exercise of religion as stated in the first amendment and government at ANY LEVEL telling you who you as an adult can and can't marry is just plain evil and a gross abuse of power.
A substory within the book shows sadly how government additionally abused their authority by coming in and investigating the Dargers when a baby girl died of an unknown birth defect. I felt angry the state would--propelled by the family's polygamist choice--disrupt this beautiful family and the hard work in raising their children, and the unnecessary fear raised amid an innocent family practicing their religion, not to mention an utter waste of precious tax dollars.
I highly recommend the book; I've even taken some notes on how to better interact with my own wife and improve my own marriage. I never watched the HBO series "Big Love" but the book counters with a claim betimes of a more accurate depiction of fundamentalist Mormonism so it serves as an excellent starting place for understanding the motivation behind Mormon polygamy. Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage, released last fall is an easy read, just under 300 pages, and available through the Darger's blog/website LoveTimeThree.com
* There is good historical reason for the intolerance. Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862 which began a generation of legislation of unconstitutional federal persecution against the Church including imprisonment, removal of voter rights, withholding of statehood, and absconsion of property.