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.

  • Very well said, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I watched it for the first time last night and was wuite taken aback. I am still not certain how I felt about it.

  • Thank you for your thoughts. Records like this are important so multiple views of a controversial subject can be seen.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • what a great post! I am always fascinated with the morman religion! I will have to watch “big love” next time it is on!

  • phxlibris

    A good primer and very interesting read on the history of Mormonism is “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer. I understand that the church told its members not to read it. It is a well-researched book. It makes me sad that the church leaders would tell members not to read it. I guess it’s the same with Catholics and The Da Vinci code, although the latter is a work of fiction. I think people should read everything and make up their own minds.

    I’m an ex-Mormon too, and although I have the utmost respect for the beliefs of my family members, it’s not for me. I guess that’s why there are so many religions in the world and I value that diversity.

    However, when you grow up saying in your testimony that “I know the church is true,” and then you come to realize maybe it isn’t true for you, it is a very difficult decision to leave.

  • Heather, thank you for that brave post. It’s the hardest thing in the world to rock the boat and bring up controversial things that your family will read.

    Actually, you’ve sort of helped give me courage to post something similar. My husband and I go to an extremely conservative Christian church, and we’ve recently decided to switch to a very liberal Episcopal church. It’s going to be difficult to post on my blog that the reason we are doing that is because I want to go to a church where women can serve and homosexuality isn’t a sin. My family is extremely conservative, and I know it won’t go over well. But sometimes you just have to say what you think is right, you know?

    For the record, I also have serious reservations about Mormonism. I’m sure you’ll have read “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer. According to Krakauer, polygamy only began because Joseph Smith was a lecherous old fart, and it miraculously became sanctioned by God when Smith really wanted his wife to quit griping about it. I just don’t know if I could put my faith in a prophet who conducted himself like that, no matter what else he said.

  • Angela

    I love the show!!! I took the classes to convert to Mormonism ( i was only 19 and confussed, very confussed) and the reason I walked away was because of the very thing you are talking about, I am a woman and so I am less worthy. I also walked away because I was raised that prejudice or racism is wrong. It is a little known fact that until 1979 African Americans couldn’t go to the temple or go to BYU (the mormon university). This changed in 1979 and immediatly they allowed African American students into their school. They were all basketball players, non mormons. They changed the rule strictly so they could have a better sports program at their university. I was sick to my stomach and after I gave some missionaries a history lesson I ran from the building. I can’t understand a religion that can practice such obvious hate.

  • Kaitlin Duck Sherwood

    I understand people’s desires to be fair, and how granting equal access to civil marriage to gay and lesbian people seems to be a step towards granting civil marriage rights to polygamous relationships. However, they really are distinct and different.

    Civil marriage is a contract. Two people enter into some legal obligations (e.g. financial responsibility for spousal debts) in exchange for some other legal rights (e.g. the right to make medical decisions).

    Some of the rights and responsibilities are reciprocal within the couple, and in some cases it’s with respect to the government: the government recognizes that there is one person who gets a “free pass” in certain situations. In the U.S., a foreign spouse gets a “free pass” on a visa to enter the country, there is no gift tax on money or property that is transferred between spouses, the spouse of a veteran can be buried in Arlington Cemetary, etc.

    It is dead-simple *procedurally* to change the laws to recognize same-sex couples. Strike “husband” and “wife” and insert “spouse” instead, and you’re done.

    (Digression: this was not the case not very long ago. Wives had dramatically fewer rights than husbands. For example married women couldn’t get credit in their own name until 1975.)

    It is much more complex to grant civil rights to polygamous relationships. It is *inherently* going to be unfair to somebody. For the reciprocal rights and responsibilities, how exactly do you divvy things up?

    This gets especially complex given that a polygamous relationship doesn’t have to be reciprocal. If Jane marries Bill, then can she marry Ted without Bill marrying Ted? You clearly set it up either way; if it is *not* reciprocal, then it gets very, very complicated very fast.

    If Jane marries Bill, then each are entitled to half of the other’s assets. If Jane then marries Ted and Tom without them marrying Bill, then Bill and Ted and Tom can’t all be entitled to half of Jane’s assets. In a divorce, would Bill get only one sixth of Jane’s assets while Jane got one half of Bill’s? That doesn’t seem fair.

    And what happens when there is disagreement among the rights holders? Bill and Ted want to disconnect the feeding tube, but Tom doesn’t? And oh my goodness, think of the child custody cases!

    Then what about the various free passes that the government gives to spouses? Sometimes you can divide the benefits, sometimes you can’t. If Jane marries seventeen foreigners, does each one get 1/17th of a visa? If she is a veteran and dies, do 1/17th of each husband’s bones get buried in Arlington Cemetary?

    If you give a free pass to all of the spouses, that sort of doesn’t feel fair either. Why does Frieda, with one husband, only rate two plots at Arlington for her service to the country when Jane gets eighteen?

    By far the easiest way to deal with this is to give all the rights and responsibilities to the first spouse and everybody who comes behind gets no legal recognition.

    Guess what? That’s what we have right now.

  • Excellent, thoughtful writing. Thank you for sharing it. You’re not alone.

  • The Bold Soul

    Brava to you, dear Heather, for your candor and honesty. Although I was raised in a moderate Protestant household, I also came to reject organized religion of any kind because of the various hypocrisies that almost always seemed to arise. For example, when I was 18 my first serious boyfriend was a born-again Christian, as was his mother. He was a sweet, loving, non-judgmental boy who in my opinion was a perfect example of Christianity at its best. His mother, on the other hand, seemed to find it hard to practice as she preached, and called me every filthy name in the book, despite the fact that she never took the time to get to know me as a person, simply because I was 18 and he was 16 and she suspected we were having sex (we were). More “sins” are committed in the name of “religious faith”, including the taking of human life, and yet people hide behind their religion to justify their behavior or point of view as the “right” one.

    But I think you can love God and be loved by God without having to be in a religion. I don’t think we need anyone to tell us what kind of relationship we should or shouldn’t have with God. And in the deepest part of my soul, I know that God is not this being who is sitting there in judgment of all of us or planning to send us to hell (which I also don’t believe in) or any of the bad, scary things many of us were taught to believe in as part of “religion”. God is love. And that is enough for me.

    My mother, on the other hand, has a very hard time with me saying “I don’t consider myself a Christian” and never wanting to go to church… yet she only goes to church herself about once or twice a month. Where’s the logic in that? We tip-toe around the differences in our beliefs so that we can peacefully co-exist but if I ever really let loose and told her the full extent of my opinions, chances are she’d have a hard time speaking to me again after that.

    So, I fully appreciate the delicate balance between expressing your opinions publicly because you feel the need to speak your truth… and not wanting to go out of your way to hurt your loved ones. I’m walking that tightrope myself more and more with my own blog, which thankfully my family members only read on rare occasions and so far they have never gotten into the posts where I talk about sex, or their heads might explode.

    Good for you, for saying what you felt you had to say. I learned long ago that my first obligation is to be authentic and express the truth as I perceive it, even if others don’t agree or take issue. As long as I am not going out of my way to be hurtful, then I am not responsible for how other people choose to hear or react to what I say or what I believe. You aren’t responsible for your family’s reaction, if in fact they react negatively to this post or anything else you might say or do about your beliefs. If they get upset, that’s their right and choice, but it’s not your fault.

    Well done!

  • TLCMama

    I enjoyed reading your view on the show. My fiance and I watch the show also. I, myself wonder how any woman would willing to share the man she loves with another woman let alone two other woman. I do not know much about the Mormonish practice so I can’t common in that aspect. However I do know that I agree that all people should have the same rights to marry whoever they choose, same sex or not. My best friend happens to be gay and I love and adore every moment I spend with him. He is the kindest, most loving person. I want him to be happy just like everyone else and if that means marrying another man so be it.
    Anyway I really enjoy reading your posts they are always very interesting. Your blog has inspired me and my fiance to start a blog for our new baby to share with family and friends. We have many family and friends all over so it is an easy way for us to share our daily experiences with them without having to pick up the phone dozens of times to inform them all.

  • liseuse

    Well, I have no insightful comments about polygamy or Mormonism, being a boring British Roman Catholic. Sort of. However, I would like to apologise to Leta for saying her name wrong. Or at least I think I have. Because to me if I rhyme it with pita it ends up sounding like litter. So I’m wondering if it’s some sort of transatlantic pronunciation trickery? Is my Leee-ta [not so stretched out, I’m making a point] actually more correct? Or is it actually Litter?

  • Unouroboros

    Hi Heather,

    This is going to be difficult because i’m tired and this’ll be short when it shouldn’t be…

    A little honesty: When I first read your blog (dooce), i thought you were a crude and somewhat bitter woman. But, I kept reading. I’ve learned to appreciate your sense of humour and ability to express (in writing) your love for those near you. I don’t think that completely cancels my initial impression though. But, the mccrappy beauty of the Internet is that for every topic there is never lacking a shade or hue of opinion… (so what’s one impression). And of course, this is another one of those topics.

    I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning, but Joseph Smith and Mormonism is not considered orthodox Christianity (and so it follows that the majority would consider important parts of Mormon belief skewed). But i think your post was more directed toward the idea of “what kind of belief/doctrine is a belief if it’s so easily influenced by culture”?
    What indeed? The charge is layed against the Mormon church because they try and delineate their beliefs -and when influenced, it’s easily pointed to. The charge is not layed against culture as a whole because the culture doesn’t claim to believe anything, even though the culture is much more wishy-washy. Case in point: Marriage. We are all pretty much agreed that legally, if Gay Marriage is acceptable, so is Polygamy (re: “consenting adults” in your post). The argument (put forward in some of these comments) that Polygamy is about inequality or whatever basically ignores that there is no rule on the numbers involved from both sexes. The reply that the majority of polygamy is polygyny (thus “subjugating to women”) ignores the presupposition that this involves choices from consenting adults. If it doesn’t then, yeah, welcome to slaveryville. The rationalization that polygamy is “unimaginable” or unacceptable on some moral grounds is exactly what was being said about Gay marriages 20 years ago. And arguments based on imagination only need one real argument to refute them. (ie: One person finds them “imaginable” – then where are you?). Legal Gay marriage and Legal Polygamous marriage doesn’t seem to be about “equality”, in my view, which is an overused/misunderstood word. rather, it’s about validating a behavior.

    This is a wonderfully difficult topic (which could be talked about a lot longer) in which you wrote a wonderful post, but I would not want to be in your shoes because family tensions tend to not be fun.

    I guess i’m probably leaning toward the stance that, if you hold a view, it needs to be based on something other than personal feelings/opinions (which can be compared with today’s use of nebulous words such as “rights” and “equality”). at least, this should be the case if you feel like you have to hold the view, otherwise why the frick should you care if the view changes, because then you’ll be trying to defend the new view?

    But that’s just my two “longer-than-tiredness-should-allow-and-i’m-sorry-if-i-upset-anyone-with-dozy-remarked” cents.


  • Sorry! -I just realized I shouldn’t try math when I’m all “passionated-up”. Those years should read “eight of them in Manhattan, three of them in Italy, and *sixteen* of them in Dubai”

    and thank you, Heather, for opening this can up.

  • nightingaleshiraz

    I didn’t think I’d ever get around to saying anything since you started commenting back up — I felt like there were always so many zillions of people that would come before and after — that surely what I’d have to say would be said at some point anyway.

    But this is different, and the strength with which your words strike some very deep chords in me, well — here I am.

    I’m a Pakistani Mulim woman who has lived outside of Pakistan for twenty-seven out of her twenty-nine years; eight of them in Manhattan, three of them in Italy, and eighteen of them in Dubai — with parents who were open and tolerant and not at all (as my brother and I like to say) “fundo”. Even so, there are a lot of things about my religion that I am now mature enough to say I have serious problems with, problems that I don’t see a real resolution to.

    Polygamy and the “four wives rule” is one of these problems. And while I have my stock dinner party discourse about why this *might* have made (cough) sense in the wartime era of early Islam (when many women — often of the opposing pagan tribes — were left widowed, and this was a way to make sure that families survived and that the religion spread); about how the Qur’an says in one place that a man can take another wife ONLY with the unforced (ha!) permission of his existing wife (or wives) and ONLY if he can treat each one ABSOLUTELE equally both in financial and human terms; about how it says in another place that treating them equally is tantamount to impossible (!) — I have all this worked out in my head, and it all sounds pretty intellectual and civilized over a glass of wine with friends.

    But, I also have childhood memories of watching my two best friends — a brother and sister with a father who’d taken a second wife so soon after his first marriage that there was a point when (in the tiny town that Dubai was then) they had to go to the same high-school as their “step-sisters” — I watched them live with a father who was only half theirs. I watched them celebrate their most important birthdays, religious festivals and school plays without their dad around, because those days would happen to fall between Sunday and Wednesday — when he was “at the other house” as we all called it. I watched their mother struggle to explain herself at dinner parties where people called her by the wrong first name, the “other woman’s” first name. I watched a family — and I knew there was another one just like it on the other side of town — with half a father and half a husband and a whole lot of bitterness and anger; not one of them — not even the halved father-and-husband — was happy about what their lives were like.

    I still don’t have an answer for why my religion allows and enables families to be like that.

  • Jen

    To Patatomic:

    Not to start an argument with you, but I just wanted to comment on the link that you posted to President Hinckley’s speech. I have a lot of LDS friends, and I have always kept the policy of not getting into deep religious discussions with them for the sake of preserving our friendships. But when I read that speech, all that I could think was that Heather was exactly right, and the fact that you would post that as evidence that she was wrong was very telling of the inherent attitude of Mormonism.

    His great respect for particular qualities in women is apparent and I have never felt that LDS members were not respectful of women. This is not the problem. The problem is that women are put into a rigid gender role. The fact that he speaks of his daughters as “kind and good and thoughtful” and his sons as “able and wise” exactly illustrates my point. Women are meant to be homemakers and home-keepers. Their own careers and self-actualization are put on the back burner. The men are the bread winners, the women are the bread bakers. That speech never refers to women as intelligent (it goes so far as to say they are “clever” which to me is connotatively a weaker term than intelligent.)

    In conclusion, I acknowledge based on your link and the conduct of my friends that members of the LDS faith and the faith itself do respect women, but I would argue that it respects them just as that, women, but not as people in general.

  • Kelly & Sam Pilgrim-Byrne

    Yes, it is barbaric that gays and lesbians can’t legally marry the same as heterosexuals.

    Being a lesbian, it brought tears to my eyes to see you place such significance on this fact and call it for what it truly is – barbaric. It’s no way to treat fellow human beings.

    I’ve been with my partner for over 12 years – would it hurt anyone to allow us to get married?

  • Great post! Thank you for addressing this!

  • tk

    Heather, thank you very much for your post. I commend you for your courage to post your thoughts and feelings on the subject even though there’s the possibility of family reprecusions. I hope there are none for you and that your family will respect your decision to speak about this. This is definitely a controversial subject and you are great to open up comments for it.

    I’ve been inadvertently saying “shoshun” instead of lotion for the last few days… damn that kid is cute!!


  • -Sorry…late night and forgot to spell check-

    Before I go on any further, I acknowledge that I am a man and have no clue what its like to be a woman. I am also an active member of the LDS faith and am in a leadership position in my local Ward.

    Having said that:

    1) I can’t argue with the past, but if you want to know what the head honcho of the Church teaches about women in the Church these days then read this:,5232,23-1-479-26,00.html
    Of course, if you prefer to hold on to your bias then go ahead, but don’t say I didn’t try to show you what is taught vs. what is executed.

    2) If you really want to remove your names from the Church then go ahead and do it. Write your Bishop a letter and follow up (you can find out who he is by looking it up on My time is precious to me and I’d rather spend it with my family than having awkward conversations with you on your doorstep.

    3) “Under the Banner of HEaven” is a good read, but I would suggest reading other books of like-matter in addition. IT IS NOT THE DEFINITIVE DISCOURSE OF LDS BELIEFS (kind of like saying that getting your news from Fox is the only source you need).

    4) I really really wish that women did hold more offices in the Church, that way I could sleep in on Sunday morning and have my Tuesday nights free again. It’s all yours for the taking as far as I’m concerned.

    5) I am not a product of brain washing. I chose this life and I love it. I have found more peace and solace than by any other means (and I tried more than a few).

    6) My great-great grandfather had four wives. I’ve read their journals (the wives) and they loved their lives. In fact, they marched on Washington in 1857 in an effort to preserve their life. Also, one of the most touching stories was how much the wives loved and respected each other to the point where one gave another a child to raise as her own as she wasn’t able to conceive.

    7) I don’t want another wife. One is plenty (if you know what I’m sayin’…and I think you do).

    8) I am not a Republican. Never have been. Never will be. My family and my wife’s family are also keen on the Donkey.

    9) If you are an ExMo, I am sorry. I really am. I empathize and know how hard it is to flush something like that out of your system as I almost left myself. Fortunately for me my family didn’t freak out. They were understanding and supportive and loving.

  • patatomic

    Before I go on any further, I acknowlege that I am a man and have no clue what its like to be a woman. I am also an active member of the LDS faith and am in a leadership position in my local Ward.

    Having said that:

    1) I can’t argue with the past, but if you want to know what the head honcho of the Church teaches about women in the Church these days then read this:,5232,23-1-479-26,00.html
    Of course, if you prefer to hold on to your bias then go ahead, but don’t say I didn’t try to show you what is taught vs. what is executed.

    2) If you really want to remove your names from the Church then go ahead and do it. Write your Bishop a letter and follow up (you can find out who he is by looking it up on My time is precious to me and I’d rather spend it with my family than having awkward converstions with you on your doorstep.

    3) “Under the Banner of HEaven” is a good read, but I would suggest reading other books of like-matter in addition. IT IS NOT THE DEFINITIVE DISCOURSE OF LDS BELIEFS (kind of like saying that getting your news from Fox is the only source you need).

    4) I really really wish that women did hold more offices in the Church, that way I could sleep in on Sunday morning and have my Tuesday nights free again. It’s all yours for the taking as far as I’m concerned.

    5) I am not a product of brain washing. I chose this life and I love it. I have found more peace and solice than by any other means (and I tried more than a few).

    6) My great-great grandfather had four wives. I’ve read their journals (the wives) and they loved their lives. In fact, they marched on Washington in 1857 in an effort to preserve their life. Also, one of the most touching stories was how much the wives loved and respected each other to the point where one gave another a child to raise as her own as she wasn’t able to concieve.

    7) I don’t want another wife. One is plenty (if you know what I’m sayin’…and I think you do).

    8) I am not a Republican. Never have been. Never will be. My family and my wife’s family are also keen on the Donkey.

    9) If you are an ExMo, I am sorry. I really am. I empathise and know how hard it is to flush something like that out of your system as I almost left myself. Fourtunately for me my family didn’t freak out. They were understanding and supportive and loving.

  • I thought your post was very smart and thoughtful.

    I am incredibly in support of gay marriage and I don’t believe that it is at all like polygamy. That equation makes me very uncomfortable because I believe that in gay marriages, partners are treated equally, while in polygynous relationships, women are treated as chattel and men are in charge.

    I think you’re absolurely right–that women aren’t treated equally in terms of organized religion. But I would take it in another direction and say that I don’t believe that gay marriage and polygyny have anything to do with one another, nor are they anything alike.

    Gay marriage seeks to equalize people, whereas polygyny seeks to subjugate women. If we could see societies or even obscure religious sects practicing polyandry with the same enthusiasm that we see certain groups practicing polygamy, maybe I’d get onboard. As it stands right now, like you said, the disparate treatment of men and women makes me very uncomfortable.

  • Thank you for opening this particular can of worms Heather, and for allowing others to dicuss and share their opinions and experiences on your site.

  • dscokween

    Yet another lost in the commentsphere thought…

    what about all those nuns married to Jesus? hasn’t religion santioned large scale poly relationships for centuries? (just playing devil’s advocate…literally apparently)

  • I’m agnostic and a woman. Although this is a fragile family issue for you, I admire your courage to tell it like it is. I agree that women have always been considered second rate in the eyes of (most?) religions and that has given reason to maintain and build on the the gender inequality, causing serious lapses in society. If more women were in decision making positions would we not think twice on sending our sons and daughters to wars?

    I agree with you that love between a man and a woman, or between a woman and a woman, or between a man and man, is love between TWO people. Why would you want to share your significant other HALF with a third or fourth party? In that case, we should free ourselves from any sort of commitment and just let loose. But, we’d be an awful lonely lot of creatures then.

  • Samantha Y.

    Thank you. I don’t think people talk about their real feelings about leaving organized religion nearly enough … too often, it ends up dismissed as a(n uninformed) phase or as being too lazy to go to church or, worst of all, an easy decision to make.

  • “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?”

    This has been a big topic on Muslim blogs too as polygyny is permissible in Islam, though it is very much the exception to the rule of monogomy.

    Some family members and friends of mine have had polygynous marriages…I wrote an entry on it, stating I could never do it for similar reasons to what you articulated – that my partner deserves all of me & I all of him – and most commenters agreed, but there were some women who said they would do it for a variety of reasons.

    Take a look if you like:

  • Kren

    Musing on religion and whether it’s ever for me, I’m always stopped cold by the one simple fact that I don’t know a single adult woman who has voluntarily switched her religion — that is, without wanting to/having to because of an impending marriage. I won’t single out one over another — they all treat women with varying degrees of contempt.

    Women, religion: They’re just not compatible. Leave it at that.

  • Thank you for letting us read about such a deep part of your life.

    Thank you also for taking the time to share knowledge and inform a few people about this religion and culture.

    Long time luvin’ fan from the Great White North,

  • heathero

    Heather from a fellow Heather you do us proud. How ironic that Big Love is advertised on your main page. I thought for a second it was a set up.

    You do a classy job and discuss things that people want to know. It’s not like you give their(family) address and emails out. They know by now this is your job and the paying “inquiring minds” want to know.

    xoxo Thanks for making me shoot diet cherry vanilla coke out my nose on a regular basis

  • doogan

    Choice – that’s the big word isn’t it.

    Do people believe they have a choice? If they do, how do they imagine their options might play out, and how do those scenarios sit with their own values?

    Works for both sides of the fence doesn’t it.

    Personally, I know I have a choice. I don’t have to imagine much about the polygamy thing, beyond some other bird shaggin my bloke, to know it’s not for me.

    Still, my satanic caffienated life is, I’m sure, intolerable to others – so be it. I hope they are happy with their choices. I’m happy with mine.

  • Think9924

    Hi Deuce,
    You have made an interesting point about polygamy having only been ruled out by law, rather than ‘divine inspiration’ ever having changed on the issue. I think, in truth, that it was never divine inspiration, and I think anyone with a modicum of awareness of LDS history knows how plausible it is that Joseph Smith was supect in bringing in ‘the principle’ to begin with; certainly his original wife -essentially- voiced exression that he was ‘full of it’.
    The funny thing is, I have seen a lot about polygamy in the media in last year, and I’m amazed the issue of basic ‘arithmetic’ seldom is addressed. What kind of divine plan espouses that men are in need of more than one wife? It only takes a few men having multiple wives to leave many men with no wives. The polygamy principle is suspect in a way that one would think even inbred indoctinated types from Colorado city would understand: If billy gets 3 wives, then Bobby and Dave do without.
    The principle never made sense even before it was outlawed- and it’s time for mainstream Mormons to say: “Yeah, that was Joesph Smith being inspired by something else other than God”. I know mainstream (law abiding) Mormons believe everything they are taught… but all this illustrates is that if they had been born in a fanatical muslim sect, they’d be offended by cartoons; if they were born in Colorado City (or if the law had not stopped them…) their beliefs would incorporate this crazy priciple today. Yuck, indeed!

  • You make some very good points here. I never thought about polygamy with respect to granting marriage rights (in any way shape or form) to everyone. It makes sense, though. I can see why it was outlawed, though, much the same way drugs are illegal, to protect those who can’t protect themselves.

    Still, it makes one wonder why you would be so against something by which your church is defined, and yet be so blindly for your church. This is one of the main problems I have with all organized religions: there’s always some sticking point that I just don’t agree with that raises a red flag. Why will I go to hell for doing X and Y but not Z? That makes no sense…

    Anyway, thanks for the insightful posts. I enjoy your writing a lot!

  • mayberry_blonde

    Being from the heavily populated Southern Baptist part of North Carolina (you know, that place on the map where you can easily throw a rock and take out at least 5 churches in one whack), I find myself steering clear of most political or religious discussions with my family for fear of sending Granny or Uncle Joe Bob to an early grave.

    So kudos to you for not conforming to the norm, and kudos to your family for loving you anyway.

    And thank you Lord Jesus for HBO, Amen.

  • For that matter, could you marry someone your spouse is already married to?

  • Hi Heather,

    You’re insightful, eloquent and brave.

    Having grown up in the Roman Catholic Church (you down wit RCC? Yeah, you know me!), I can relate to much of this. My family didn’t do very well with homo me; for a number of years Da couldn’t make eye contact with me. Things are much better now, but it’s conditional: we avoid the messy stuff. Getting on with my life has made a big difference–my life on my terms. I get the sense you’re doing the same.

    The RCC recently announced that the fire and brimstone version of hell didn’t exist: hell was being in the afterlife without the presence of Gawd. My immediate reaction was “so we can see everyone at the BBQ except Jesus? I can totally live with that!” I mean, without leveraging suffering eternal, what’s the big whoop?

    For me, the big whoop is making this world better for someone besides me and mine. You’re doing your part to in this regard. Thanks for that.

    PS same-sex marriage is just like any marriage. Why the fook didn’t anyone tell me that before I signed up?

  • I haven’t had the priviledge(?) of watching Big Love yet, however, i live here in SLC and sometimes find myself wondering what mormon lives are really like.. I am here because my husband’s civilian job reinstated him here….though now, thanks to the army he is in Iraq. My best friend is Mormon, and the reason she is my best friend is because she has NEVEr tried to push any sort of belief or religion on me. I grew up in a cult…. a very strict, ‘unwordly’, sexually ‘free’ cult and after i left, i am just about done with religion of any sort. I’m glad that someone out there understands what it’s like to be free of that sort of brainwashing.

  • Let’s say that polygamy becomes legal. Let’s say a man is allowed to have as many wives as he can.

    Let’s say this new law is challenged because a woman wants to have multiple husbands. Let’s say the Supreme Court agrees with the unconstitutional law. Let’s say a new law is passed – women are allowed to have multiple husbands.

    Let’s say that homosexuals are (finally) allowed to marry as well. They too are allowed to have multiple and simultaneous marriages – it would be unconsitutional otherwise.

    Taking all of that into consideration, where does it all end? If you’re someone’s fourth wife, are you allowed to procure a second husband? Can you take spouses of both genders? Is there a limit on how many people one person can be married to? Or how many children one marriage can produce? Are only men allowed to have multiple spouses? What about gay men? What about lesbians, for that matter?

    Where does it all end? Or begin?

  • On a much less serious note thanks for settling the ongoing debate between myself and my friend (also a reader) how Leta is pronounced. I won, and I like to win, so thank you for that!!

  • Good stuff. I find myself struggling with political parties because of these issues. I think I am a demopublican if there is such a thing.

  • i have left more than one church because they didn’t treat women as equals. i didn’t leave the whole religion, though, so it was probably an easier choice for me than yours was. it takes a lot of courage to do what you did heather. i hope bringing it up again doesn’t hurt your relationship with your family.

  • Amers22

    Thanks so much for being so open Heather! My Father’s side of the family is very Catholic and my Mother’s side is pretty much Wiccan. I grew up going to Catholic school my entire life, simply because it was the closest school to my house. My parents felt that my brother and I should at least get a sense of religion and make up our own minds. They were very liberal and extremely supportive with our viewpoints whenever we had questions.

    Even though I have participated in several of the sacraments of the Catholic faith, I do not, and never will consider myself to be Catholic. I too find that my feelings and viewpoints are far too liberal to be a part of something that I feel causes so much pain and intolerance in society. I even remember laughing out loud in religion class when I was six years old when my teacher read about Jesus walking on water.

    Even as a child, my feelings of the Catholic faith just weren’t right for me. I respect anyone and everyone who follows the faith that is right for them. Religion just isn’t right for me.

  • Heidi Dillon


    I’ve been an avid reader and viewer of your blog for a while now, and I’m pretty convinced we live really close to each other!

    I too was raised Mormon, but started recovering (I’m LOVING that term, BTW!) at around 15. I broke completely at 18, when I met my future husband. However, my family is still very much attached to it, in fact some of them are in the top leadership of the church, and it puts a very definite strain on our relationship.

    I’m not a Mormon-basher, I’d like to think I’m not an Anything-Basher! But, there are surely things about the LDS religion that I just don’t get. It’s nice to get opinions and views from someone who seems to be from a similar place.

    The thing I have been worried about with “Big Love” is that the way polygamy is currently practiced is not a good thing. It takes advantage of little girls, it seems to be a child-molestation factory of sorts, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to take that lifestyle and glorify it on TV. It seems to be even worse that they aren’t showing the “dirty” side of polygamy. The struggles that the little girls and outcast boys and demeaned women go through in those communities are almost cheapened by the laugh track that HBO is putting to its show about the Polygamy Lifestyle.

    I can’t express myself as clearly and eloquently as you, but my heart aches for those who are suffering because of this lifestyle. To have HBO create a comedy about it feels as heartless as making a sit-com about life in the ghetto.

    Thanks for opening comments. I’ve wanted to introduce myself for a while. Have a great night, thanks for posting!

  • Hannah

    Well, upon such a hot topic, I don’t expect my comment to be gotten to, and justly so, since I didn’t bother to read what anyone else said, because frankly I don’t care.

    What I would like to say comes in a few parts (as always, alas). Firstly, I do not bother myself with personal theories of who (or how many) should be allowed to sleep together, be married, make tuna casserole, etc. I feel that these these things are not to be decided by an uninvolved individual.

    And so I arrive at the fact that polygamy is an accepted practice only for males (I assume? perhaps I am mistaken? I think not), and logically this effectively nullifies it as a policy based in reason, and makes its own case as a policy which is designed solely to gratify the male ego.

    If the practice of polygamy were a straight-up “we as a people of common belief, regardless of gender, marry as many people as we’d like” policy, it would, at least, bear the strength of its conviction. But it does not.

    And so I have shaken my tiny fist at the endless sky. Carry on, world.

  • I am LDS, and happily so. Funny, though, I have many of the same opinions you do about polygamy (actually, so do the majority of my LDS friends, male and female alike)However, I think if you ask anyone from any religion if they agree with EVERYTHING that is taught, most thinking people would say no. There are enough good things about the LDS faith for me and my family that keep me here. It’s like a cookie with nuts AND chocolate chips, if you don’t like the nuts, just pick them out and enjoy the rest of the cookie. At least, this is how it works for me.

  • You know, I’d actually never thought about what would happen if civil rights were allowed for multiple marriages…but it’s incredibly interesting, and adds a whole new layer to the religion debate.

  • LisaG

    As yet another person who has left her family’s religion (evangelical Christianity in my case), I can contest to the difficulty of the relationship. My family no longer tries to convert me, but it is difficult to stomach that when they look at me they see a woman who is doomed to hell and is dragging precious grandchildren with her. My mother is always lamenting our lack of closeness with each other, but how can I be open with someone who has stopped being a person and is instead a walking agenda? I can have our conversations without her even being there since I still speak fluent Christianese. Heather, knowing that you really understand this is a big reason I read you regularly. That and also that you are funny as hell. Thanks for another great post.

  • Angela

    To Sara Bylotas, Thank you for what you wrote. You moved me to tears. I love the understanding and openess you are talking about and I wish more people could go to that place of peace and closeness with God that only they and God can define. That is how it should be. “Have Ideas, not Beliefs. Ideas are easier to change.” (quote from Chris Rock in Dogma, I know, I am an idiot, but it is relivent)I hope that at least one person had a light bulb go off above their head after reading that and relize they don’t have to push anything on anyone else and they don’t have to push anything on themselves, just let it be what it is. That is happines and understanding. Thank you so much.
    And Thank you Heather. You are amazing and we need more people like you in the world to talk about things like this in such an open and non hurtful way.

  • teri claude

    One of the things I love about HBO taking on this topic right now is the way it addresses issues related to the Bush presidency and his “war on Terror”. In this “war”, Muslims are equated with evil, and their fundamentalist religious views (which include polygamy) are blamed for many scary things happening in the world today.

    Big Love reminds us that we have plenty of christian fundamentalists in this country, and their religious views can make them do things that make us squirm too. Some of them may be mormon, but some of them are protestant fundamentalists like George Bush.

    The main issue the show highlights, in my opinion, is that blond haired, blue-eyed all-american people can do some pretty scary things in the name of religion, not only dark-haired, dark-skinned people from other countries.

  • Wow great thoughts. Your comments need to be heard by more than just the Mormon church. Traditional Christian churches need to face into their won shit too. My little sister still can’t figure out what I’m doing working for such an archaic institution as the “church”.

  • roxyroo

    Comment regarding comparison of Christians and Mormons. From my experience with the local mormons in my area, (which completely dominate the religious population in our town), I would say that the reason I personally don’t consider most mormons to be christians is because they do not act “Christ Like.” To be Christian is to follow in his steps, to be understanding, to love without boundaries, to be non judgemental. Unfortunately in my town, again, in my “personal” experience I find most LDS people to be extremely judgemental of me because I don’t follow their doctrine. If I choose to have a glass of wine in my community–I’m judged. If I choose to shop or play on Sunday–I’m judged. The people I’ve met in my life who were most “Christ like” didn’t judge me, didn’t try to pursuade me to join their particular religion, and were those people who lived an open life able to accept others. I don’t belong to any organized religion at this point, but I know I couldn’t become LDS for the ugliness I’ve seen in my community from its hard core followers. Again, just my experiencs, my opinions.

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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