Polygamous church dispute may head to Utah court

A war of secession in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints between church bishop William E. Jessop and jailed current leader Warren Jeffs may go to court.

Monday marks the deadline set by commerce officials for both parties to resolve the dispute or a legal showdown might be set in motion since, if no agreement is reached, the state says power will revert back to Jeffs.

“The last thing a judge wants to do in a nation committed to the separation of church and state is to become the arbiter of questions of faith,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said.

Regardless of who becomes the leaders (and Utah rightfully does not want to get involved) a split seems likely, with the two factions going their separate ways.

Here in southern Utah, polygamists tend to live way out in the country or in small towns like Hildale, where they are the mayor and police. You sometimes see polygamist women in Wal-Mart. They are easy to spot due to their full length old-timey dresses and hair in a bun. Polygamist communities tend to be highly suspicious of outsiders and are heavily armed. You don’t want to go hiking in areas around where they live. Seriously. Someone who drives a garbage truck here says when he goes way out in the country to a polygamist area, the men drag the trash out to the entrance and stand there with rifles when he picks it up to make sure he doesn’t enter.

The Mormon Church has zero tolerance for polygamy. Members who are found to be polygamist are excommunicated and members of polygamist sects are by definition not Mormon.

Cafe run by polygamist wifes, Hildale UT

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  • DJ

    While suspicion may be common among FLDS communities, you don’t have to go far afield to find independent polygamous families. I bought wheat for my preparedness supplies from one such family not far out of Cedar City; another lives in town nearby. They seem to get along with their more conventional Mormon neighbors (as do most non-Mormons also). Doctrinally, the LDS Church opposes polygamy. In practice, they have little tolerance for the fringe FLDS sect that is not only polygamous, but also (at least in some instances) forces children to marry – and gets a lot of bad press nationally. The independents, at least here in Southern Utah, seem to be rather more accepted.

  • Culturally, “Americans” practice serial monogamy. Not much difference.

  • I usually agree with Ten Bears but on this occasion, no. There is a vast difference between one man having several wives at the same time, and couples who break up and change partners several times throughout their lives. There is still a degree of equality in those relationships that is not there in polygamy. We never seem to see the one woman in the dominant role with several husbands. A polygamy society is male dominance over the female, how does that fit with equality for all.

    • Having been raised in matriarchal (native) society, I was trying to point out the hypocrisy of opposition to polygamy. Anthropologically, there are indeed still a couple of cultures in Africa where women practice polygamy, having several husbands who are basically farmhands. As a practice it makes a degree of sense in times of recovery from a massive loss of population, though necessarily male dominated – the male procreating numerous children simultaneously. Historically this would explain the usurpation ten thousand years ago of the matriarchal societies by the patriarchal – by the Cult of Male Domination.

      • DJ

        The Bible tells me that if my brother dies, I am required to marry his wife, despite the fact that I may already be married. Personally, I think I should have had a bit more input on who he chose!! Polygamy is prominently reflected in the bible. Greco-Roman tradition, which was firmly in place in Palestine when the Gospels and the Letters of Paul were written, demands monogamy – not Biblical Law.

        I agree with Ten Bears on this one: while I personally find one wife to be plenty, I have no objection to whatever arrangement people choose to have. I find it ironic that some who believe marriage should permit same-sex spouses also object to more than two people in a marriage.

        I know a non-Mormon polygamous family (all old hippies), and a woman who had two husbands (until they both divorced her). And I have met independent Mormon “pligs,” as people around here call them, who seem quite happy with the arrangement. So long as all parties are consenting adults, I don’t care one way or the other how many spouses are involved.

        However, people must choose it. Monogamous or polygamous, I strongly object to (and the law should protect against) marriages in which anyone is coerced. They exist in both monogamous and polygamous arrangements. In many monogamous cultures, the woman is allowed no choice of whom to marry, and has little or no freedom in the marriage. Cults certainly need not be polygamous to do so. Nor is a marriage even required – the sex industry in this country often treats women as having been sold into slavery. It’s not the number of spouses that removes a woman’s rights, but the culture in which the marriage exists.

        • FYI:

          United Nations general recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

          “Polygamous marriage contravenes a woman’s right to equality with men, and can have such serious emotional and financial consequences for her and her dependents that such marriages ought to be discouraged and prohibited. The Committee notes with concern that some States parties, whose constitutions guarantee equal rights, permit polygamous marriage in accordance with personal or customary law. This violates the constitutional rights of women, and breaches the provisions of article 5 (a) of the Convention.”

          • DJ

            If I saw that monogamy was better, I would agree. Yet hundreds of millions of women are married into monogamous relationships in which they enjoy no rights, had no say in the marriage, and in many places cannot own property apart from their husband. This is not to mention the tens of millions more who work as sex slaves in countries throughout the world (including ours) outside (and sometimes inside) the bonds of marriage.

            I met a girl in India who at 13 years old had been beaten and gang-raped, and had contracted AIDS as a result, because she refused to marry the 30-something man her father picked for her. Her legal recourse: none. She was dying in an AIDS hospice in Bangalore when I met her a few years after the event. I know another Indian woman who was married off at 12 years old to a man who beat her; she ran away and was taken in by an Indian Christian family where she worked as a maid for 20 years – they also taught her and her two daughters to read, which her husband had not permitted.

            OTOH, I know an American (non-LDS) woman who, after a decade of what sounds like courting, made the decision to marry into an existing marriage as the second wife. She’s now been in that marriage for some 15 years, and says it’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

            Rather than deciding what’s good for women in general, or for any woman in particular, maybe we ought instead to give them the same freedom of choice that men enjoy. I know for a fact that I’ve made decisions for my own life that the UN would not approve of, but I wouldn’t change them. To bar any form of consensual relationship is to impose a top-down view of what is good for others.

            “You have the freedom to do whatever you like, so long as we approve of it!”

          • I’m kinda’ with DJ on this, though from a bit different perspective: if we are (to be) the free and equal society we aspire and claim to be, then the bottom line is while a man may have the right to an opinion no man has the right to dictate what women choses to do. If we as men are protected from the dictates of other men then so too women.

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