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the inevitable polygamy post

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Sometimes I take a look at the Salt Lake Tribune, since, you know, it covers news from Mecca. Most recently for President Faust’s obituary. On my last visit I was a little surprised to find the polygamy blog.

I suppose I’m extra-sensitive about polygamy (or, more accurately, polygyny) since I’m married to someone for whom multiple wives is also a tradition. But it’s different for MoBob – polygamy is relatively rare among Berbers and in Morocco in general. In three years of visiting various villages I only saw two polygamous households, and both with very old people. I imagine it’s dying out in Morocco because young people consider it old-fashioned and it’s also economically untenable. I appreciate the way the Moroccan government handled polygamy: when the family code was reformed several years ago polygamy wasn’t outright outlawed (like in Tunisia and Turkey) but it was allowed only with permission from the first wife and with authorization from the local judge. In reality it’s practically impossible now (legally speaking) to have more than one wife in Morocco. Even before the legislative reforms there were ways around it - in our marriage contract for example MB gave up his right to polygamy.

When I lived in various parts of Africa, polygamy was a local tradition that was, in Muslim areas, overlaid by Islam. When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in predominately Christian southern Cameroon, everyone was polygamous. My school principal, who was a Catholic with a lurid color photo of the Virgin Mary hanging from his rear-view mirror, had three wives. It’s better when each wife has her own house, everyone told me. When polygamy is legally banned without sufficient community involvement/preparation there can be some serious unintended consequences – for example I was in Benin in 2004 shortly after the family law was revised, and there were a lot of cases of polygamous wives abruptly becoming female-headed households with few resources.

Which brings us to Mormondom. Everyone knows the stories of sister-wives harmoniously living together and pooling resources to send one of their own to med school. (This is one of the stories in the official CES manual “Church History in the Fullness of Time.”) Fewer people know the personal accounts of what truly a test it was. My understanding is that currently the practice is forbidden but the principle still stands. It’s just one of those topics that I relegate to the back burner. If polygamy returns as official policy I’ll deal with it then, because I’m preoccupied with, oh, trying to be a good person. I just can’t imagine it happening though given how much the Church distances itself from polygamous groups and “Big Love.” If it does happen I wonder if it will be under extremely limited circumstances, such as in areas where there are few priesthood holders. That would be quite a reversal in Africa – I heard that the missionaries are told not to baptize polygamous investigators and men are asked to choose one wife if they decide to join the Church. As for the afterlife – we’ll see. I’d rather think about what kind of eternal marriage MB and I might have.

And then there's this: a talk at a conference sponsored by the Utah Chapter of the National Organization for Women called Polygamy: the ultimate feminist lifestyle.
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On August 17th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC), clynne commented:
The one thing that chafes me about the two most common arguments I see for polygyny is that they're equally applicable to polyandry, and yet neither the women nor the men who speak in favor of polygyny seem to notice this. I mean, yes, they *say* "polygamy" when they talk, but it is clear they are talking about polyandry.

(Those two arguments being "I should be able to pick the best mate available regardless of marital status" and "I can split up all the responsibility and worry amongst multiple adults, thereby having both a career and a family.")
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On August 17th, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
You're right - and when I mention polyandry a lot of folks get all riled up! "It's not in women's nature," etc.
On August 17th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC), clynne replied:
OMG, the whole "it's not in women's nature" pisses me off so much! I've done *plenty* of things in my life that are supposedly "not in women's nature," including multiple partners TYVM, and yet I still have all my female bits!

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On August 17th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Yeah, I bristle too. But I guess some things are just too ingrained. It's hard enough convincing people men can wear skirts with a picture of Mel Gibson in Braveheart!
On August 18th, 2007 06:58 am (UTC), clynne replied:
Heh, I wonder how their heads would explode if they saw the Samoan men in their formal Lava-Lavas for special events at Holy Innocents! No one calls a Samoan dude girly!

P. S. The Samoan choir is *awesome.*
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On August 20th, 2007 01:19 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Yeah - the Maori men's choir in LOTR: FOTR was definitely one of the best parts of the soundtrack!
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On August 20th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
I didn't know that about BYU profs. Thanks for the insight!
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On August 18th, 2007 06:30 am (UTC), minimarie commented:
It's a very difficult concept to swallow. It's something that my husband and I struggled with a lot right before we were married in the temple. Luckily, I was told that the marriage between Hubby and I would be priority over any other wives in the next life. So we made the same decision you did. We will live our best in this life with this marriage to each other, and deal with anything else that God gives us in the next life.
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On August 20th, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Thanks for stopping by! We certainly have enough to worry about without speculating....
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On August 19th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC), jandjsalmon commented:
*waves* My very first comment reply... ;)

I just wanted to peek in here and say I think the gospel is a continuity of being converted to different principles throughout our lives. Polygay is one that while most people have not been converted to the 'principle' it's justone of those that I have. If President Hinckley brought it back, I'd live it and be fine with it - It's just one of those principles that doesn't bother me in the slightest. *ponders*

PS. On polyandry...can fictional characters be my second and third husbands? If so then I'll be happy with jay (and Draco and Edward). ;)
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On August 20th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Thanks for stopping by! I think if I were raised in the Church or joined at an earlier age I wouldn't have thought about it so much, but it was something I really struggled with during my first few years.

But I do like playing "Fantasy Plural Spouses." Draco is definitely a candidate! (Now, if we can only distract Tom Felton from those fish....)
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On August 20th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC), jandjsalmon replied:

Jessica's TO DO List
'Distract Tom from the fish' Check.

But seriously -- I can see why not being a member your whole life would influence this... though I find even people like me often have a hard time with it. I suppose I'm rather the exception to the rule... My very first year of marriage I wasn't cool with the idea. I remember crying while reading D&C132 and wailing about not wating to share my hubby with anyone... the girl who'd introduced us in particular (Don't ask me why I was thinking that she would be the one someday) - but then one day after reading one of the 'Work and the Glory' books it hit me that Our Father in Heaven is all about love and would never have us do something that we didn't feel peace about... and then I realized that not every woman will be as lucky as I am - to have a wonderful husband who adores her etc.

Plus it could be that I'm a kinky freak and I'd get to pick the other wife out. LOL! (Kidding Kidding)

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On August 20th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC), ticklethepear replied:
Yeah. If we could all be so lucky as to be a carp in Tom Felton's net.
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