In her Words
Thoughts from a former Mormon
In the wake of the fundamentalist Yearning for Zion compound seizure, and as a former Mormon, I have been drawn to the Mormon church’s claimed refuting of polygamy and its practice during this controversial time. The Mormon church reminds mainstream America that none of its members are practicing polygamists and that those who choose that lifestyle will be excommunicated. The late prophet Gordon Hinckley stated that polygamy is “not doctrinal” and also that “this church has nothing whatsoever to do with practicing polygamy.”
Growing up Mormon, I was taught to revere the polygamists of the past and instructed that polygamy is the law of God and will continue after death. I was told that despite the fact faithful people cannot now practice it, I would most likely have to share my husband in the afterlife.
From a very young age, I was taught to revere my polygamist ancestors and their actions. I would proudly tell friends that I was a great-great-granddaughter of polygamists, from the second wife. I did not understand that polygamy meant two women illegally sharing the same husband, and as I grew older, I began to have questions. Why would an old man want to marry a 20-year-old girl and have sex with her? Were there no men, not even those in my own family that I could trust to be free from sexual perversion?
I felt that I could not trust God. This doctrine meant God condoned the unthinkable, and I began to loathe him. An undying fear grew stronger inside of me, and I was haunted by the constant idea that I, too, would someday be required to share a husband, perhaps marry someone I did not want to marry, and have sex with him. I would have to do it. You cannot tell God no. Indoctrinated with a concept called “free agency,” I was told to choose, but was reminded that church leaders were inspired by God, so telling them no was telling God no, which was unacceptable. I learned to fear marriage and my fate as a woman and a wife.
Unmarried Latter-day Saints women are taught that it is better to never marry than to marry outside of their faith and are assured that after death they will be assigned a spouse, thereby receiving “all blessings of this life, or a family.” In order to go to the highest kingdom of heaven, one must be married. It is taught that there are more righteous women than men who will go to this kingdom, so polygamy is unavoidable. Women will go through this life alone and unhappy, hoping to share a husband in the next life, for fear they may be denied eternal life if they stray on earth. By invoking feelings of inferiority and fear, women sacrifice their own happiness for eternal polygamy.
Ask an LDS woman if she believes in Joseph Smith and in the Doctrine and Covenants, and she will say yes. Ask her if her church believes in polygamy, and she will most likely tell you no. She will see no correlation to the fact that the Doctrine and Covenants is a canonized Mormon scripture that teaches the practice of polygamy in Section 132, and a current belief in polygamy. Ask her if men can have more than one wife in the next life, and she will say yes, again saying she does not believe in polygamy. What is polygamy if it is not a man who has more than one wife?
It is mind-boggling to me, mostly because I used to be that girl, the one who felt a sickness inside, even anger, each time polygamy was brought to my attention. I saw historical church leaders not as men of God but as sexual deviants, though I would never admit that to myself, or another person, because of the fear that I would anger God and be cut off from my family and his presence forever.