I am reprinting this excellent article with the kind permission of the author, John. R. Llewellyn, who is a former AUB member and practicing polygamist.
SISTER WIVES, A REBUKE
By John R. Llewellyn
“Sister Wives” is a TLC cable television series, purporting to be a
“reality show” starring the flamboyant Kody Brown and his four plural
wives. The Browns live in a large house divided by three apartments
in the city of Lehi, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. The forth wife
has a residence of her own a few blocks away.
THE HISTORY BEHIND SISTER WIVES
The polygamous Brown family is what is known as Mormon
fundamentalists, a subculture of divisive Mormons who believe the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was out of order when it
discontinued the “sacred” practice of polygamy in 1890. According to
Brigham Young, Joseph Smith’s successor, plural marriage was the most
sacred principle of Jesus Christ’s “gospel” and the Mormons were
commanded to live it and “raise up a righteous seed.” Joseph Smith is
the martyred prophet who founded Mormonism by authoring and publishing
the Book of Mormon which he claimed to have translated from gold
plates. The Church, founded in 1830, grew rapidly in a climate of
religious agitation, but was unpopular with mainstream, Protestant
Christianity. As a result the Mormons, as they were called, were
driven from Ohio, Missouri and Nauvoo, Illinois (but not without
cause). Joseph was assassinated in 1844. Brigham Young assumed
control of the Church and herded the (Latter-day) Saints to the Great
Basin (Utah Territory) arriving in 1847.
Joseph and his inner circle of acolytes, while denying that polygamy
was a Church doctrine, were secretly seducing the young attractive
women, including married women, with the notion that polygamy was
Jesus Christ’s preferred form of marriage. This breach of Christian
custom was justified by an alleged revelation Joseph Smith received
from Jesus Christ which is currently Section 132 of the LDS law book,
Doctrine & Covenants. The revelation is inherently coercive for it
threatens to damn all who reject plural marriage, and destroy
monogamous wives if they interfere with their husband’s quest for
plural wives. (See verses 6, 54, 64 and 65) In 1854, Brigham Young,
thinking he was safe from persecution shocked the world by revealing
that plural marriage was indeed Mormon dogma – and until 1890 all of
Mormonism revolved around plural marriage.
In the 1920s a fella name Lorin Woolley who is in essence the Father
of Mormon Fundamentalism, spun a story about John Taylor, the third
president and prophet of the LDS Church, alleging Taylor was visited
in 1886 by Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. The two supernaturals
predicted the 1890 Manifesto, and commanded Taylor to keep plural
marriage alive until the Second Coming of Jesus. Taylor subsequently
held an eight hour meeting in which he set apart a group of Mormons
commanding them not to let a year go by without a child being born in
the New and Everlasting Covenant – i.e. Mormon polygamy. Strangely
enough, by 1920 which was the first time the 1886 yarn was heard,
Lorin Woolley was the only surviving member of the eight hour meeting.
In other words, all we have is Lorin Woolley’s word – but that was
good enough for a handful of frustrated, pious Mormons with vibrant
This first Mormon fundamentalist group concocted another incredible
tall-tale giving them priesthood authority so they could organize.
But as groups often do, as they grew they split over the question of
authority, and these splits eventually split – and the splits split
and more tall-tales were told until there are dozens of groups all
claiming to be the one and only group having authority and living all
of God’s laws. Kody Brown and company belong to the second largest of
these groups, Apostolic United Brethren, with alcoves in Old Mexico,
Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Montana.
REALITY OR ILLUSION
Sister Wives is supposed to be a reality show, but as is often the
case in Mormon fundamentalism what is purported to be reality is only
an illusion. The reality is that the run-of-the-mill polygamists are
not peacockish – they try to be as inconspicuous as possible, not
wanting to draw attention to themselves. Mormon plural marriage is a
sacred tenet, a principle you don’t flaunt. To do so is tantamount to
“casting pearls before swine.”
When Kody first announced that he and his wives were going to star in
a national televised realty show, we have it from reliable sources
that the leader of the group advised against it – which makes more
sense than the late claim they wanted to test the bigamy statute. The
history of Apostolic United Brethren, affectingly known as AUB, is
fraught with a history of key priesthood icons allegedly molesting
their children and key priesthood moguls involved in the theft of 1.5
million dollars. (See Hill vs Allred, Apostolic United Brethren, et.
al. AUB is currently paying off a 6 million dollar civil judgment)
Why take a chance of reopening that Pandora’s Box?
Mormon fundamentalists are stereotypical. Men with long hair are
frowned upon. Long hair generally symbolizes rebelliousness. If that
is the case with Kody, what is he rebelling against? Monogamy, the
law of the land, or the austerity of Mormon fundamentalism?
There have been other long-haired polygamists, Alex Joseph and Tom
Green for example, enticed by the intoxication of cameras, bright
lights and feigned loftiness, where narcissism shined through loud and
clear. Tom for example compared himself with some of Hollywood’s
notorious lovers. He was emboldened by the thought that he was
envied. Because media throughout the US, Europe and Japan sought him
out he thought he was a celebrity which gave him power. I am not
saying that Kody fits into this category, you decide. But Kody, his
wives and children obviously enjoy their singular, reality stardom.
Kody’s act is cleaner and more upbeat than Tom’s. Five of Tom’s
wives were adolescent girls when he took them as wives. Consequently
he was convicted not only of bigamy, but criminal non support and
child rape. What Kody and Tom have in common is long hair, a belief
in Mormon polygamy, and an apparent love of the lime light. I just
about forgot, when Tom was charged with bigamy he cut his hair so he
would look like just an ordinary nice guy.
WHAT MESSAGES DOES SITERWIVES SEND?
The Lehi Police built a bigamy case against Kody and have submitted
it to the Utah County Prosecutor. Kody has retained a lawyer who
according to newspaper accounts thinks it is unwise and unjust to
prosecute Kody for it would be singling him out among thousands of
Mormon polygamists. So far the prosecutor’s office hasn’t made a
decision. I suspect it’s going to be hard for the Utah County
Attorney to decline prosecution for lack of evidence. But then, he
may do what the Utah Attorney General has done, ignore the Utah
Constitution and bigamy statute.
The media is not going to let this issue slide between the cracks.
The Utah Constitution specifically forbids polygamy. The bigamy
statute has been upheld twice by the Utah Supreme Court in Utah vs.
Tom Green and Utah vs. Rodney Holmes. A couple of years ago a man
and two women attempted to get a Utah marriage license. It was a
backdoor attempt to overturn the bigamy statute but it too failed.
Some pundits fear that if one of these bigamy cases makes it to the
United States Supreme Court it will be overturned. Is that a valid
reason for not prosecuting?
Sister Wives did not address the abuse of women and children, or
neglect, welfare fraud, sense of entitlement, incest and dishonesty in
general that seems to be endemic to Mormon fundamentalism. It appears
TLC was only interested in sensationalism. The Brown family was
fodder used for ratings, nevertheless, willing and flamboyant fodder.
If the Utah County Attorney declines to prosecute what messages will
that send to the world?
The Utah County Attorney has vast discretionary powers. The
assumption is his decision will be based on legal polemics. But I can
just about guarantee that if he declines to prosecute there will be
moral interpretations. The Utah Attorney General has already
established that Utah is soft on polygamy. Polygamy is still a valid
LDS Church tenet, they just don’t think they should practice it now.
Utah County is bedrock Mormonism – the home of steadfast true
believers. It therefore stands to reason that Utah County Mormons
believe that Jesus Christ actually talked to Joseph Smith and Jesus
commanded all Mormon women to become plural wives. It is therefore a
safe prediction that if Kody is not prosecuted the world is apt to
deduce that it was due to religious influences.
The LDS Church is the most powerful and influential institution in
the State of Utah. The official position of the Church is to stay out
of politics and governmental matters except where morality such as
abortion and homosexuality is concerned, which brings to mind, is
polygamy a moral, religious or cultural issue?
The Church’s position concerning Mormon fundamentalist polygamy is
perplexing. All the leaders are willing to say is that the
polygamists do not belong to the Church. The Brethren are
conspicuously silent when it comes to the constitutional and moral
issues surrounding polygamy. I suspect that the Utah County Attorney
would appreciate a sign from South Temple Street, the location of
Church headquarters, a simple thumb up or thumb down would do.