An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

A can of worms

Lately the most frequently asked question sent to me in email (other than 1) what kind of dog is Chuck? SuperMutt, and 2) how do you pronounce Leta? Rhymes with pita) is: what is your take on “Big Love,” the new HBO series about a polygamist who lives in Utah? I have been reluctant to write about it here because my response to this show goes way beyond a cursory thumbs up or down. It is inextricably tied to how I feel about the Mormon church, and if I explain those feelings I am going to be crossing into some really uncomfortable territory for many members of my family who read this website.

After watching last night’s episode, however, and witnessing my own reaction unfold I think it might be time for me to be up front regardless of how certain people are going to react to what I have to say, particularly my mother and my father who are both devout Mormons. As this website has evolved I have had to take a hard look at my boundaries, at what I will and will not write about, and for at least a few years now I have stayed very far away from any serious talk of Mormonism, although I have frequently poked fun at my Mormon heritage and have on more than one occasion described the proper way to hit a Mormon with a moving vehicle.

That unwillingness to talk about Mormonism here grew out of an unspoken agreement among the members of my family, one that dictates we not ever talk about religion or politics if we are in the same room. It’s an agreement that has worked and has preserved our relationship because they don’t ever have to be confronted with how I really feel about their religion, their way of life. I have said it here before but it bears repeating: leaving Mormonism is tantamount to leaving your family. At first, that’s exactly how my family felt. They never came out and said that directly, but they didn’t have to. I had lived and breathed that religion for over 22 years and I knew exactly what they were thinking, that my rejection of Mormonism was in essence a rejection of them and all the work they had done.

Over time we learned how to navigate around those issues in our relationships with each other. They know that they should never preach to me or call me to repentance or send me a Book of Mormon in the mail. I never talk to them about why I left or why I’ll never go back. We’ve even developed a sense of humor about our political differences, and often my clumsiness or Leta’s unwillingness to cooperate in any situation is blamed on my being a Democrat. Which is fine. I blame their political party for the fact that they own furniture upholstered in acid-washed denim.

So here’s the thing about “Big Love,” a television show about a man named Bill who is married to three women. The producers of the show have made a point of saying that the members of this family are not practicing Mormons, and I am glad they did this. Mormons do not practice polygamy, haven’t since before 1900 when the United States government made it illegal. Certain fundamentalist sects of the Mormon faith practice polygamy, and they are represented in this show albeit with standard Hollywood exaggeration and dramatization. But it’s a television show and that’s what they’re supposed to do, so whatever.

I read an interview somewhere with Jeanne Tripplehorn about her role, the oldest of the three wives and the one who has been married to Bill the longest, and she said she had a really hard time deciding to take it on. In order for her to make her character seem convincing she would have to get to a place where she could see why this woman would willingly enter into a relationship with with these two other women, and for a while she didn’t think she could ever get there. I remember thinking when I read this that it didn’t make sense: she’s an actor, isn’t it her job to pretend? Couldn’t she play this character even if there wasn’t a single part of her that understood why a woman would do this?

But last night as I was watching the third episode my body started to recoil involuntarily as it had done during the first two episodes. For the entire one hour duration of the show I had to fight the urge to puke. The work that goes into maintaining a marriage to one person is hard enough, but three? THREE? When I watch the show I feel like I’m married to all three women and by the end of the night I want to divorce each one of them. I can barely watch the dynamics among all three women, how in God’s name are these actors even pretending that it’s okay?

Personally I can understand why a woman would want to marry another woman, or a man another man. That makes perfect sense to me, and if I had my way homosexuals would have the same rights as heterosexuals in this country when it comes to marriage. It’s barbaric that they don’t. At the same time, if we’re talking about civil rights, doesn’t it make sense that all consenting adults should have the right to marry whomever they want to marry including multiple people? Polygamy seems like a natural extension of civil and religious rights as long as all parties involved are adults and know what they are agreeing to.

But I do not get it. I cannot understand why a woman would consent to this arrangement, and the whole time I’m watching this show I can’t get one thought out of my head: if you have a choice, why would you do this to yourself? Why would you do this to your children?

Now we get to the part where my feelings about the Mormon church come in. Even though this show isn’t about the Mormon religion my family practices, it is indirectly about the religion in its infancy and what the religion might one day become. The founding prophet of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, started polygamy because he said it was a revelation from God. And so he and other elders in the church took dozens of wives, many of them in their early teens. That isn’t okay to me. Nor is it okay that the only reason the church stopped sanctioning polygamy was because the government told them they had to. So… God was wrong? God answers to the American government?

Mormons believe that polygamy will be practiced in the afterlife, and what I can’t help thinking is that when the civil right of marriage is ultimately extended to homosexuals and then to polygamists, why wouldn’t the Mormon Church start practicing it again? And when they do start practicing it again, how are the members of the church going to handle it? If Mormons truly believe their religion they have to believe that polygamy is their destiny, so why are they always trying to distance themselves from it? I think that many of them don’t want to ask themselves that question because they might be terrified of the answer: they aren’t okay with it.

It was this very issue that started me on my way out of the religion, this issue and that of the role of women in the church. I realized that I valued myself too much to ever be okay with sharing my partner with anyone else. I deserve all of him, and he deserves all of me, nothing less. I had a hard time reconciling the fact that my father (although he has a civil divorce from my mother) is married to both my mother and my step-mother in the Mormon temple, but my mother, unless she gets a temple divorce from my father, can never remarry another man in the temple. She doesn’t have the same rights as a man in the church. That isn’t okay to me.

  • melissafaye


    I became a fan and reader of your blog while struggling through the beginning stages of own exit from the Mormon faith. From some of the stories you have shared, our paths have had some similarities, and reading your experiences have served as a therapy of sorts for me through the rough patches. It feels so good to not feel so alone! And reading blogs is so much cheaper and accessible than actual professional treatment.

    So, while I read your reaction to Big Love I smile. I turned in for the first episode, and I haven’t been able to turn back since. It was painful. My body ached and recoiled with emotion and disgust. Entertaining for the friends who were present… but not so cool for me. Why?

    Because for me it was all too real. And scary as hell. Why? Because of the deceit of the Mormon Church. While, yes, Mormons do not PRACTICE polygamy, they do regard it as a Celestial Law. Meaning? (To me) *You* have to accept it to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. All the BS that I was feed as a child about it being a woman’s “choice” to partake in it was a joke. Yea, your choice my leg – I realized that I was going to be safe from having to make that choice only as long as the Mormon Church continues under its current policy of placing American Law above God’s Law (I can easily see this changing). And once legal, or once the Millennial Reign begins, and God’s Law is once again ‘established’, choosing not to will then again be one and the same as choosing the Natural Man, and buying your exit ticket from Heaven. (See treatment of those early Saints who rejected it to see where I am going here). What scared me, and still concerns me a great deal, is how little this was understood by most of my fellow member friends and family…. There was no way in HELL polygamy was ever going to be acceptable or plausible for my life… so this was yet another reason I knew I had to make my exit.

    I want to get more into the deceit, but it might be a little off-topic. Let’s just say the hypocrisy has scarred my life in more ways that one – so I have no doubt that if I was to remain a True Believer, my fears above would have been proven well founded.

    And just an aside – maybe some other Recovering Mormons can relate – A very small part of me still fears that it may all be true. What if those crazy Mormons have it right and I do need to be one of many wives to be accepted of God! The horror!
    Mormon Dogma is one tough bitch to flush from a brain. Am I right? Even when ridiculous, ludicrous, and absurd.

  • I’m so glad you shared your views. I’ve been curious about your journey out of LDS.

  • I really love the thoughtful was you composed this and I really understand your reasoning for leaving the Mormon faith. I also am very thankful for what you said about homosexual relationships.

    I went through something a little similar when I was 16 and I realised that I was gay and also in love with a wonderful caring person. It just did not make sense to me that a God that was supposed to be all loving would condemn me to hell for loving someone who was the same sex as me. So I made the choice to stop going to church. For my parents who are very strict Christians and the fact that my mom is a Pastor it is still something we can not talk about at all.

    You are wonderful Dooce, thank you.

    BTW- I know this is from your last entry, but Shosun = So fucking cute.

  • Cadbury

    Somewhere in this opus of comments there needs to be acknowledgement of this fact:

    multiple wives leads to many multiples of children

    Once you acknowledge this, you can kinda rationalize the polygamy thing… so long as you can answer this question: why do you need so many children?

    I’ve never studied LDS, so could only assume some sort of sarcastic answer; but I have studied enough anthropology to know that if you are a farmer, the more children you have, the more workers you have, the more food you have. In this context, polygamy is a good thing! and many the wife of the Traditional African farmer has been grateful for the help the extra wives provide for the upkeep of the “compound”.

    Now in the context of Western culture, could I rationalize having someone to share my chores?
    Given that I have yet been able to convince my partner (male, we are in an unmarried long-term committed relationship, so there really is no other word) to pack or unpack the dishwasher, make a shopping list, do the laundry (correctly), change a lightbulb, etc etc. another member of this relationship would be welcome; its my ongoing joke that WE need a “wife”.

    And *I* wouldn’t mind if this “wife” was a guy 😉

  • victoria

    I have been waiting to hear from you on this topic, Heather. Thank you for your post.

    My reaction to Big Love was totally different. I found myself thinking, “Wow, I can see why these people would choose this life.”

    For one thing, the husband takes his conjugal duties very seriously, and makes sure (or tries to make sure) that he gives each wife equal attention. Each one of Bill’s wives gets more attention from her husband than I do from mine.

    They all seem like upstanding, honest people who are committed to their family and their faith. I really like them — well, all except for Nickie and Roman.

    Plus, I really like having other women as friends, and I could see how wanting to have other adult women as life companions could affect a heterosexual woman’s desire to be in a polygamous arrangment. (One of the things that frustrates me as a straight, married woman is how my relationships with other women are always forced to take backseat to my marriage — even though women can give me a lot of things that my husband cannot.)

    But then, I still haven’t seen last night’s episode, so maybe that’ll totally change my feelings.

  • shopgirl75

    I am a newcomer to dooce and haven’t posted before, but just had to thank you, Heather, for your honest and thoughtful post today. I think the thing I love most about reading dooce is that I never know what I will find. I love it when it’s Chuck… love it when it’s a family story about Leta or Jon…. and love it when it makes me think.


  • MontanaJen

    I grew up with many Mormon friends (there just happened to be quite a presence in the small town I grew up in), and as an adult was surprised by the generally incorrect ideas that are harbored about the religion by those who have not had contact.

    I have had conversations with friends who grew up in DC or Louisiana explaining that no, all Mormons do not have to wear dresses, that some of the women do show their arms in public, that they don’t practice polygamy, etc.

    I was raised Lutheran, and am still practicing, but i found myself defending many of my Mormon friends. They were viewed as ‘freaks’ or something. Bothered me.

    My aunt lives in SLC, is not Mormon, and has seen the negative side first hand, though. I’ve seen a few comments about it in these comments, but most of the women in her neighborhood will not ask her over for tea because she’s indicated that she has no intention of converting. I feel badly for her.

    My point, I suppose, is that I agree with you, and worry a bit about the negative impact that Big Love will have upon some very good and kind people who practice Mormonism.

  • amy

    I think I represent a view completely opposite of yours.

    I joined the Church when I was 17. My family is not LDS. Nope, not any of them. And so I have been the target for many a brutal attack. They ask me to explain difficult subjects, such as polygamy, but they do not wish to hear my opinion. They use it to belittle me. And I thank you for not doing that. You truly sound like you want to hear opinions (why else would you allow comments?)

    I can state right now that I have never felt like I was less of a person because of my gender. My husband has never exercised any authority over me; in fact it may be the other way around. 😉 Could I share my husband??? No. I am repulsed by the thought. Would I leave my religion over it? No, I don’t think so. Because I didn’t join my religion cuz it puts me on the invite list of every block party. It goes a tad bit deeper than that.

    I got married in the temple a little less than a year ago, and none of my family was there. It hurt my family that I chose my religion over them, but it hurt me a lot too. But if I got married outside, then what? I’d be a Joe Mormon, which would only start another barrage of comments and snide remarks.

    I think to a degree that I am so devout, because if I slip up just a little, my family will work hard to pull me the rest of the way. Perhaps it goes both ways though, if any of them showed any interest in the Church, don’t think I wouldn’t go knocking on their door with the missionaries.

    All this novel of a post is really to say, I’m proud of you for sticking up for your beliefs, Heather. I wish I had the courage to do the same to my family.

  • Kate Xylophone

    I appreciate your perspective very much.

    I, too, have a Mormon family and a Mormon heritage, and I LIVE with my parents at the moment (let’s just say BAD TIME – unemployment, dissolution of marriage). They really are very respectful (and I try to be, as well), but I think somewhere in the back of their minds (especially my Father) I will someday “come back to the fold.” This is compounded by the fact that my name is still on Church records. I never cared one way or the other about my “name” on the records, but I finally had an LDS friend explain that it’s not just my “name” – that people take “stewardship” of any official member – “inactive” or no, very seriously.

    I had considered removing my name from the Church records (not to be acrimonious or bitter); I just finally came to the point where I just knew I was never going to go back. I didn’t think it would shock my Parents too much: I lived with my husband for seven years before we actually married (eloped – $10 in Colorado and you can conduct your very own wedding – so we were married in bed – GOOD STUFF), I’ve had a long-time association with the First Unitarian Church (downtown Salt Lake) and its choir until recently (mental health leave, I like to say) – we even had a belated wedding party there, complete with sumo wrestling in the “little chapel,” live music (with hidden booze for the bands that my brother was not supposed to find – alcoholic tendencies – but he did anyway and so did an old friend of mine who gets increasingly CRAZY as time passes and who hit on every man there (single or not) and a portion of the women), cotton candy, “favors” from Archie McPhee (you know – that OLD wedding tradition of Chinese food containers with rubber slugs or whatnot), the tables were covered with paper and crayons were available for all willing artistes. And I am an “Ordained Clergy Person” of the Church of Spiritual Humanism (I did that so I could officiate at one of my brother’s weddings – he’s the one with the nose for booze – we’re the only progeny out of five who aren’t avid Mormons).

    So now my husband and I have been “separated” for several years (though he’s “through”) and everything that could go wrong with the health of my family and friends and me pretty much has.

    Sorry. Garrulous disorder. No cure. The crux of the LAST paragraph is this: Now I feel hesitant to take my name off of the Church records because my Father has terminal cancer, and though I will not lie to him and pretend to become “newly faithful” or any garbage like that, I feel like it would be cruel to deny him the comfort of his personal beliefs that my inclusion on the Church records somehow protects our family in the “afterlife.” I don’t know.

    I have seen previews for “Big Love,” but my folks don’t have HBO, so I’ve not watched it. I would probably have a hard time with it. On the one hand, I like to maintain that ACTUAL adults (not TEENAGERS or GLORIFIED CHILDREN who’ve been indoctrinated and brainwashed all their lives) can do whatever they want with their sexual lives or their living arrangements. However, I know that the reality of polygamy is usually very much like what I just said parenthetically. I do have polygamist ancestors; at this point I don’t think I can criticize whatever they were asked to do when it was historically accepted. I WILL say that I SURE AS HELL COULD NEVER, EVER HANDLE IT. A one on one relationship is HARD ENOUGH. If it were not, I might, perhaps, be living in the house that my someday erstwhile husband is buying instead of in my parents’ basement.

    Embarrassing factoid: I found out this year that I have the very dubious honor of being related to that crazy son-of-a-bitch, Warren Jeffs. Technically, I think, his grandfather was my great-great uncle (perhaps another great?). Oh yes – and it was my parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary last fall (which we celebrated with much hoopla because the truth of it is they probably won’t get to have their 50th), and in attempting to locate the original wedding party, we discovered that my Mother’s maid of honor is now a polygamist living in the infamous Colorado City. My Mom said she’d have been much less surprised to hear that her maid of honor was now a lesbian. I certainly think that’s the far superior option.

  • dancingnancy

    Hey Heather! Thanks for the post, and for your honesty. Thank you also for allowing comments, as I’m sure this will get interesting. I admit I’m fairly new to your blog, but have really been enjoying it! I am LDS (Mormon) and am not afraid to express myself, and hope I do so as respectfully as you have done. I admit I don’t know the answers to all of the questions out there. There are some questions that don’t have answers yet, but I have the faith that all things will work out for the good of everyone. I for one, have a hard time with the subject of polygamy. I am grateful that “Big Love” has made it clear (I hope) that these are not the views of my church. While polygamy was practiced in Bible times ( Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon) and in the early days of the Mormon church, it is not today. We don’t know what is going to happen in the life after, it has never been said that polygamy will be forced upon anyone. As for your comments about equality in this church, I believe we ARE equals. The men may be the only people that can hold “higher” offices (I personally believe that every calling is as important as the other) women are the only people who have the wonderful opportunity to bear children. One might say that is the highest to God that you can get. Thank you for allowing us to express ourselves!

  • Apart from the polygamy issue, you’ve listed the same reasons I left the Catholic Church. It is hard to be an American woman, with all of these hard-won rights, only to see your church tell you that you don’t have the same rights as men.

    Thanks for sharing on such a personal subject.

  • Great post, and I see no reason why your family should be offended- in fact, I would think your mother at least would be proud of you.

    My point of view is that ANY religion that tries to take away rights of other people is not OK with me.

    Perhaps this is why I haven’t been to any religious ceremonies in a while, yet I will worship the chocolate bunny in a few weeks. Hypocritcal? Perhaps, but there’s chocolate involved at least.

    Thanks for your post.

  • That was eloquently put. You mentioned several reasons why I will probably never join a religion. I hope you didn’t offend your family. I also hope they, as well as people on the internet, read what I read which was a thoughtful expression of your opinions, not an attack on anyone. (I know anytime anyone mentions religion or politics, people take offense.)

  • ourfinestyear

    This was such a nicely-put post! I admire you for standing up for your beliefs to your family, the people who love you most. That can be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. That takes strength. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  • …still not sure what I think about the show. The hubs and I watch it like you would a train wreck…

    I thought you handled this subject with grace and dignity to all parties involved. Bravo!

  • So basically, from what you just said, the Mormon church does sanction polygamy. It does say that it is okay, and expected, of a man. The fact that the Mormon Church will allow a man to marry more than one time in the church without a divorce should be enough proof of that. Basically, to them, he is not divorced from your mother, yet he was allowed to marry again. God It is the polar opposite of the craziness of the Catholic church, where they wouldn’t marry my cousin and his now wife. They wouldm’t marry them because she had been married before but was beaten into oblivion by her then husband, and had to get a divorce. Because it wasn’t annulled, they would not allow her to marry my cousin in the church. I don’t know which is worse – the Catholic Church and their extreme word for word interpretation of the Bible or the Mormon Church and their fanciful, outrageous views, God-only-knows-where-they-got-their-ideas from – views that obviously came straight out of the ass of some perverted man a couple hundred years ago.

    I consider myself a religious person and a spiritual person, but I also consider myself to be someone who is understanding and loving of others. I may not agree 100 percent with someone’s lifestyle, but to shun them and to cast them away because of that is just not love of God. And to then turn around and sanction acts that are just as questionable, all the while using their skewed views and ideas and notions of the afterlife as an excuse for their hypocrisy? And to me, Mormons and Catholics and so many other religions that proclaim to hold so close to the Bible, they are totally missing the point. They are missing the point that we can love God and ourselves and each other at the same time. Instead, they are constantly holding one sector of society back. And like you said, Heather, that is just not okay.

  • Good for you. I was not raised Mormon myself, but one of my very best friends was, and she, for awhile anyway, attempted to leave the church. That didn’t last long. During her years of questioning I read a great deal about the LDS faith and often asked her these types of hard questions. I always received the same rehearsed replies.

    I know what you are doing is difficult for you, but it is important, and I think you are doing a fabulous job.

  • keagansmom

    Heather, you speak for many, including me, and you do it so eloquently. I just love reading you. Have you ever thought of running for any kind of political position? Women like you, like us, change the world. Thank you.

  • SurprisingWoman

    I live in Northern Utah so it is a bit more liberal here than in Happy Valley. I am not LDS, but my husband was on the High Council and his dad was a bishop three (3) times. My husband’s family is lovely and they accept me fully, even though they know I will never be LDS. My husband teases me that I am more Mormon than he is; I am always baking and taking people food. I figure they know that I am so hard headed there is no use trying to convert me, they will just wait until I die and do my Temple work later. I tease my husband and tell him that when we die if he ends up on the Celestial level and I am down in the Terrarium (mistake intentional) level that he had better not plan on coming down and having sex with me, I will be partying with the rest of the bad boys. We are able to tease about some of the very things that make the religion so unacceptable to me. My husband is a stronger Agnostic than I am but we just do not talk about it with his family.

    I have not watched the show. I have HBO and I need to record it to take to an LDS friend without cable. Maybe I will watch it when I record it. I don’t know, I feel so conflicted about it.

    There are so many contradictions in the church, like there are in every church. I am glad you have found a way to work things out with your family. I thought your thoughts on the show were very good and very well stated.

    Blessings to you and yours.


  • Nicely done. I had a boyfriend once who was the kind of guy who if he said “I just had a revelation from God that I should have many wives at the same time,” I’d have sucked it up and said, “yes, master,” so desperate was I for his approval.

    I know exactly what kind of self-loathing space a woman has to be in to have so little self respect that when a pompous jackass says something like that, she goes along with it.

    Good for you for saying that this is not okay with you.

  • Amy

    I also grew up Mormon and left it while in my 20’s. While my dad, step mom and brother are still devout mormons, my mom lead the way out of the mormon church. She was the one who took all the abuse from her family. To a sister who said “it would have been easier for me had you died” to cousins who uninvited her to family celebrations. Today things are better among my mom and her family, but I will forever be grateful and proud of her courage to stand up for what she believed. My departure from the Mormon church was much more silent, and like you Heather, it’s rarely talked about. Moving 2500 miles away hasn’t hurt things. But someday I’ll return to live in Utah with my daughter and it will again be a topic, of which we won’t discuss along with money and politics!

  • By the way – SHS was waaay better than Stretch Armstrong dammit!

  • OMG, The Girl Who, I remember The Palace, too, and The Ivy Tower! (I think that is what is was called).

    Another recovering Mormon here. It took me much longer than you to leave the Church, and I struggled with anger for MANY years. So, I too, admire the lack of anger in your tone here, and the respectful manner in which you have addressed this topic.

    I am not angry anymore, thank goodness. And my entire family and extended family are LDS and living in Zion– it’s part of my culture, my language, my past, my upbringing, and my frog eye salad. I realized that I couldn’t fully extract it, and I still enjoy joshing with the Elders and talking about dances at the Stake Center– but I can’t ever go back, either.

    My reasons for leaving really had nothing to do with polygamy– more to do with the Mormon Murders and why the church leaders feel they have to stuff so much about Joseph Smith into the closet if the church is actually true. It is or it isn’t, and if it is true, then your Prophets and counselors can’t be buying forgeries or hiding Joseph Smith’s odd habits of consulting with white salamanders for revelation.

    I was told not to sit on the fence, so I jumped.

  • Bravo for your courage twice-over: sharing your (thoughtfully written, well-composed) thoughts and opening comments, too.

    While I love the day-to-day, I really appreciate it when you use your platform to bring big, scary ideas to light. Thank you.

  • I was one of the many who emailed you about your opinion on the show.

    I too was raised in the Mormon church and left in my late teens/early 20s for the specific reasons that you stated. Namely:
    1) I realized my opinions were too liberal to belong to the Mormon church, and
    2) I couldn’t stand the way women in the church were relegated to second class citizens.

    My mother fell away from the church when she & my dad divorced (I was 14) and she was completely ostracized by our ward. Of course, Dad was never judged that way.

    My dad and my sister stayed in the church and had total faith that if my testimony were true I would one day return.

    I carried with me the church’s party line on things like polygamy for the longest time. (“God commanded it to help replenish the Mormon population; there were many more women than men b/c the men were all being persecuted and killed; the Mormon church no longer believes in that practice.”)

    It wasn’t until years later that I started reading some web sites that published truths behind Mormon philosophy. Like that the church leaders never gave up on the idea of polygamy and they DO belive that it will exist in the afterlife and they’re just marking time while the US govt. prevents it.

    It makes me sick. It appalls me that my parents fell for all that. I haven’t watched the show (don’t have HBO), but I can relate to how it made you feel ill. And yet I’m strangely attracted to news and information and stories about the church. I suppose it’s a curse those of us recovering from Mormonism are doomed to live with.

  • Kudos to you for expressing your point of view while updholding respect for your family.

    I have never been part of an organized religion… there are things about Mormonism that I cannot fathom, one of them being polygamy. Obviously as a woman I take issue with the role of women in that sect. However, I tend to agree: polygamy can be acceptable, providing that everyone involved is consenting. I have a major, major problem with how young girls are married off to men, often times to those that are old enough to be their grandfathers. This is utterly disturbing.

  • My sister converted to Moromonism before she married her husband. Although I gave her a few pot shots (as is my right as family) we all respected her decision. She has been married now for over five years and I have learned a few wonderful things about her religion, and a few not so wonderful things. One of my biggest complaints is that if you are not Mormon, you tend to get put on the back burner. Her church comes before her non Mormon family many times and that hurts. I didn’t get to see her get married because I wasn’t mormon, nor did other relatives that were because they were not at the level that allowed them into the temple. During the holidays, it’s always a fight for her to get to spend time with me, that hurts too. I guess in the end, I can’t condone a religion that puts it’s church before the blood family. Maybe it’s just my sister, but i’ve seen it with other people and I just can’t agree with it. We grew up believing blood came first, I still believe that…I just wish my sister did.

  • Word. I’m not much of an organized religion sort. Especially the ones that do not value the opinion of women based on the lack of penis factor.

    And nevermind Bill Paxton’s bare buttocks…what about that sack shot in episode 1 or 2? I did NOT need to see that!

  • kathrynaz

    My husband and I are both watching BigLove. The acting is good, and the whole polygamy angle is certainly provocative.

    HOWEVER, aside from the disturbing site of Bill Paxton’s buttocks (way too much exposure there) in almost every episode, there is also this disturbing element of the sheer submission involved in the characters’ fourway marriage. Maybe its the whole Hollywood drama thing, but these women are either:
    a) squabbling over who gets to have sex with this guy on what night of the week
    b) asking him for more material possessions, because the other wives’ have this or that (car, furniture, etc)
    c) ridiculously gushing over this man, who when they are having a bad day, offers to “bless” them

    Absent from this potrayal of polygamous marriage are the children and their relationships with their parents. Both the women and the husband seem more concerned with extricating themselves from the sexual pitfalls of the marriage, than they are about spending quality time with their like 10 or so kids!

    I totally agree with you that the particular dynamics of any marriage should be legal for consenting adults. But there is just something in the whole paternalistic arrangment that fundamentalist polygamy supports that really makes my teeth itch.

  • Yo Heather! I can’t tell you how much we have in common. I grew up near BYU, left the church and married a rock boy. Most importantly, I love Doritos and who doesn’t love Britney’s chest? As a recovering Mormon, I tune into Big Love, curious how they will portray the Mormon church and the fundamental Mormons.

    More than your opinion on Big Love, I appreciate your sharing how you deal with those members of your family who are still Mormon. Like you, any discussions about homosexuality and the like are off limits with my family.. or punches will likely be thrown. You can imagine my mother’s horror when an article in the S.L. City Weekly chronicled my abortion at 17. The first and only question she asked was “did you use my last name or your married name.” God forbid the neighbors know I had an abortion ten years ago. I escaped from behind the Zion Curtain last year and only recently discovered your site. Man, it’s crazy – I lived a few blocks from you and Jon and had to come all the way to Manhattan to discover you.

    P.S. I remember dancing at “The Palace” in Provo around the time Swim Herschel Swim was making the scene.

  • Dave Thomas

    Possibly interesting article on practical distinctions between homosexual marriage and polygamy:

    Upshot: The standard two-person relationship isn’t arbitrary; it’s based on human nature.

    Why? Jealousy, of course!

  • MissAngela

    I have been reading your site for a long time and have never posted before. After reading this post I just had to. I share much of the same background as you do and I left the church for this same reason (among others). I just wanted to say how much I admire your decision to speak so openly, it is not an easy thing to do. My family can not understand why I left and they are so worried I won’t be a part of their eternal family in the Celestial Kingdom. I am not worried, I am married to a wonderful man and we have two beautiful boys and that is all I really need. Thank you for being so honest.

  • DrKyla

    Speaking as a lesbian, who moved to Canada for love, and is now in a totally legal marriage: Equal rights rock!

    We’ve been married over 2 years now, and society has not crumbled. Our rights are protected and respected.

    Canada does a lot wrong, but they got this one right.

  • As non-mormon utahans and big HBO fans, as well as hippie liberals, we’ve been mulling over “Big Love” as well. I agree that polygamy should be legal as long as it is undertaken by consenting adults. The problem becomes, with the history of the fundamentalist LDS church and the long, long history of the cultural supression and objectification of women, consent becomes very difficult to define. I think if I saw more polygamist relationships where women were the center of the family and had multiple husbands, I would feel much more comfortable condoning polygamy as a practice in general. But it is the idea of possessing many wives, as if they were cattle, that makes polygamy so hard to understand as a woman. On the other hand, my thought watching “Big Love” last week was that it would be nice to have built in babysitters if you’re going to have to have ten children.

  • I’m the second (so far, when posting) Mormon commenting and in the past few moments have thought of all kinds of ways I could offer myself up as a sacrifice to all kinds of love and hatred by asking to open up the discussion to different sides–because there certainly aren’t just two.

    Heather, you don’t have to entertain any other opinion but your own–blogging gives anyone that power–and whoever listens or reads is bound to himself to reconcile the differences. But, you’ve opened comments on this one and I commend that. Here’s hoping many who respond feel safe enough in their skin to offer differing views.

    I’ll admit I don’t. Not quite yet.

  • SaraBylotas


    I have been reading your site for a few months now. I’m impressed and totally jealous of your successful blogging – the kind of jealousy in which I like you and wish I had the talent to imitate you. Fortunately, I am smart enough to recognize that I am not a writer and do not try to impose it on the general public (except of course for right now – forgive me).

    I was really moved by your post today. And, actually, by all of your writing regarding your decision to leave the Mormon church.

    About 5 years ago, I left a small church in Pennsylvania that based itself on Calvinism. The founding of the church that is now about 10 years old, their teachings, and how I got entangled in the whole thing is a long and miserable story. I will spare you. The event was traumatic and life changing. It has led me to a continuing battle with depression. I believe now that this church is a cult because of their actions against me and other family members of people who attend this church (my mother still attends). They have monitored telephone calls, harassed me and my husband, and forced me out of college (this was when I was still a member – they literally came to my house and packed up boxes while I was not there). The leader of this group/church/cult/sect is very Roman Grant-like and the images of Juniper Creek remind me so much of their gatherings. While they don’t have a commune, the Elders of the church often discussed it and planned one, discouraged anyone from moving out of the area (even if there was a church in the new locale that claimed to be Calvinistic), and a lot of the women dress in those hideous jumpers. Me? No – I am too JCrew for that kind of crap. Their actions, an analysis of their teachings, and the core underlying psychological impression of such teachings on their members have all lead me to the term “cult.” Okay, so it’s those items and the fact that on some level labeling it helps me to deal with its impact on my life.

    I admire your ability to maintain a relationship with your Mormon family. While our situations are not exactly alike, we both know what it is like to leave a religion that people in your close family are involved with. I wish I knew how you do it. I still feel anger and pain that counseling just can’t get rid of. I can’t talk to my mother without remembering what she put me through. She can’t talk to me without reminding me of what a “wretched sinner” I am, and how “sad” she is that I turned “pagan.” Because we do this to each other, I have had to make the unfortunate decision to limit contact with her. We have not spoken for almost a year, though before that it was only a few times a year. I came to the point in which I realized that if any progress were ever to be made, we were killing those chances with mean words and too much emotion. Maybe in time we can come to some sort of understanding.

    For the record, I am Catholic now, solely for the purpose of identification, though I truly believe that there is no exact fit for anyone in any religion. I am, as my mother says, “accepting of all religions, appreciative of all religions, and friendly to homosexuals and sinners, while ignoring the t-r-u-t-h of the gospel.” She doesn’t realize that I see that as a compliment! There are a lot of things that I disagree with the Catholic teachings on and also some things that seem to fit for me. I am skeptical of organized religion in general, but I also like having a place to get away and pray when the moment strikes. I’m probably the worst Catholic in terms of the traditional followers (a.k.a. my in-laws). But I’m happy. Sometimes, I feel compelled by Buddhist teachings, or by Catholicism, or by Protestant teachings, or by nothing at all. I have freedom and it is wonderful. Some might think that I am confused or indecisive, but the truth is quite the opposite. I am so confident that I know what works for me, and accept that something else might work for you and for everyone else.

    I think my mother just slammed into a wall somewhere.

    I hope that when my husband and I have children (we’re desperately trying!) that I can achieve the relationship with my mother that you have with your family. While it isn’t ideal, you seem to at least get along and respect each other. I know that is important to Leta. She may not be able to express it now, but, believe me, it is.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    This is probably a better email than it is a comment. That’s what you get for opening up comments.

    And now you’re probably kicking yourself. Or wanting to kick me. Or both.

  • OMW. I can’t imagine having more than one wife. I can hardly afford to go out on date after date after ever-lovin date – two wives – 3… maybe if they are supporting me, then I think I could make that work… now that I think of it, that sounds awesome!

  • shananegins

    Hopefully no one in your family has been offended by your opinions. I like your response and like many others, I found myself wondering what you thought of Big Love. The extreme way the compound has been portrayed so far is a bit surreal to me and makes me wonder if that is existing in your neck of the woods.

    I’m not married yet, but I can barely handle school, work, boyfriend and a cat … 2 other wives and a husband and all the kids… I think I would go crazy! And the “Big Lie” to the neighbours. That should be interesting!

  • JBRU

    As someone that actively practices a poly lifestyle, I validate your viewpoint. Being in a long-term relationship with more than one person is a lot of work and it isn’t for everyone. Also, the manner in which historical Mormon polygamy worked doesn’t seem at all equitable to the women involved. The one thing I will point out is that the “all of me” portion of your comments don’t make sense to me in the same way that being married to more than one person doesn’t make sense to you. My commitment and love for my partners is not finite; I do not love one of them less any more than you love Jon less since Leta was born. More people to love just means that there’s more love to go ’round.

    So keep on writing with your honest style. I really appreciate how open you are with the world, even when it can be difficult. We may never fully understand each other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get along.

  • Emily

    Religion in general seems very bizarre to me, so the Mormon Church is even harder for me to wrap my head around. That has a lot to do with the secular household in which I was raised. There is just something about that Mormon Mafia theme they got going that I couldn’t help but enjoy.

    While they definitely don’t shine a complimenting light on the religion, I can really see the some of the characters, the oldest wife in particular, as being people that I can relate to and feel for, despite the fact that I am not a Mormon or polygamist. It seems like they all choice to be a part of that marriage, so I don’t know why anyone whole feel offended by any couples decision, whether it be pertaining to homosexuality or polygamy.

    The same old scenes in which the three wives are sitting around the table debating over who gets to hump Bill Paxton that night just seem incredibly unrealistic to me, a real mans fantasy in which the women are tripping over themselves to get his attention and are ready to satisfy him at every opportunity.

    I still have to love HBO though for being the only network out there that seems to put anything remotely controversial or racy on TV. It will be interesting to see where the storyline goes.

  • Excellent post! My husband and I have been watching it as well and we are un-decided on how much we like it. There is no way in hell I’d ever try and keep three wives or husbands happy. One is hard enough.

  • jlf

    As a jew, this is all a bit foreign to me. I love my religion, so when people say ‘I don’t like religion, but I am spiritual’; I think, well, my religion is great…

    Just wanted to say- thanks, you’re a gutsy broad and we need more women and men like you in the world. And thanks for the short lesson in polygamy and mormons. I had some mormon friends in college- great folks. They knew I’d be burning in hell, but, hey, they were still great folks. I wonder if that blonde kid ever came out? Oh well.
    Warmest regards…

  • alh

    Here’s a totally unrelated thought: when will you have another kid? Won’t you?

  • Jen

    To Aubriane, who asked about the issue of consenting adults’ right to enter into an incestual marriage:
    I would argue that the mere fact that a potential marriage was between parent and child or grandparent and child vitiates consent. I think that due to the strong level of guidance and influence exerted by a parent or grandparent over a child, that child, no matter its age, would be unable to give independent consent to that type of marriage. Now, a marriage between generational peers, such as siblings or cousins, is a different story. The ban on marriage between cousins is a fairly new development – just read “Pride and Prejudice” to see how things used to be. The validity of these types of “incestual” marriage is a little murky, but I think the consent issue in parent/child marriages is fairly clear.

  • mrsb

    Thank you for this post. I am 24 and from a mormon family. I am in the process of leaving the church for the exact same reasons. I understand your reasons for not wanting to talk about it. Just like in my family, if you just ignore it you can pretend like it’s not happening (according to them). I have some major issues about women not being allowed to be remarried on the temple, and have even greater issues when members of my family state that you just have to trust that everything will work out like it is supposed to. I guess I just wanted to say that I truly appreciate your comments.

  • semisocial

    To lighten it up a bit in here, I personally can’t wait until the Team Margene/Team Nikki/Team Barbara shirts come out… Go Team Margene!!!!!

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. My partner and I have talked about these issues pretty extensively, and I agree that on a civil rights level, there’s no reason the polygamy should really be illegal. It’s SOOOOO not for me, but I guess it shouldn’t be illegal.

    My actual problems with polygamy are twofold. First, logistically, it’s a bookkeeping nightmare. How the hell do you figure out who has parental rights to who and who owns what property and who… ugh. I could give a bunch of examples, but I doubt anyone cares.

    The bigger problem is what you touched on a little, which is religiously sanctioned polygamy where men have the right to multiple spouses but women don’t have that same right. There’s no way to prevent that if polygamy is legalized, and I don’t see how legalized polygamy could lead to anything but some serious setbacks in some religious groups.

    Hm. I’m done now.

  • Tarin

    Gracefully and beautifully done, Heather. You may (or may not?) think you are simply putting your thoughts down on paper, but you are helping to change our world. Thank you for sharing your luminous gift; for using it to advocate for civil rights.

  • Karan

    The Mormon church doesn’t hold the monopoly on gender inequality…these very same issues are what keeps me from organized religions.

  • shalala

    A couple weeks before my temple marriage last year (I was 19) my brother said, “Oh yeah, and in heaven he’ll get to marry even more girls and you can all be sister-wives!”

    I think my jaw dropped right there and never made its way back up again.

    I am currently what they call a “ex-mormon” and have felt exactly what you have while watching big love…the overpowering urge to hurl. My stomach twists in this ugly knot watching those women see Billy go from house to house every morning.

    Thank you for your post, I really admire the fact that you can still have a healthy relationship with your family even after you’ve left the church. It is a rare and beautiful thing to see.

    It gives me hope that I might be able to have a relationship with my family again even though I don’t believe in the mormon church anymore.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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