Best way to roast the broomstick. Must try. Five Stars.

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.

  • William Shunn

    Though I’m fascinated by Mormon history and polygamy, I have not managed to bring myself to watch Big Love. Friends who know I’m a recovering Mormon ask me my opinion of the show, and I have to confess I don’t have one. I remember how shocked I was, growing up as a kid, to learn that our church had once practiced “plural marriage,” and that being so I couldn’t really understand why I wasn’t allowed to play with the kid from the polygamist family up the block.

    Just the mention of polygamy brings back all the complicated feelings about the issue I ever had. I remember sitting in priesthood meetings as a young elder and hearing all the men talk about how much they looked forward to practicing polygamy in the next life—or maybe in this one, if conditions were such that the church ever brought it back. I remember doubting strongly that such eager conversations were taking place in Relief Society meeting.

    By the way, a lot of Mormons in good standing continued to practice polygamy well after the 1890 “Manifesto” against it. They practiced it with the winking approval of the First Presidency. This is why, after continuing skirmishes with the U.S. Congress, the church had to issue a Second Manifesto in 1904 to really *really* stop the practice. File *that* under “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

    I have also reached something of an accomodation with my family about discussing religion, though it helps that of eight children four of us have left the church in all. But I continue to write about Mormonism on the web, if at a much slower rate than I once did, and on occasion one side or the other breaks the truce and things get very ugly indeed for a while.

  • Heidi

    Heather for President!!!!!!

  • hehe. imagine that. a woman president. 🙂

  • >^..^<

    Since this is comment #243, I’m sure that you will never see it, Heather. Not only do I love your blog, I love how you think. I, too, graduated from BYU and finally got smart enough to leave the church (after getting married in the temple). I left for the same reasons you did, and also for some different ones. I found that the lifestyle I am happy with is not acceptable to the church, so “bye-bye”. I had a great time at BYU and learned a lot, and even continue to financially support BYU, but as far as the church goes …. I’m gone!!

    Thanks for your amazing blog, Heather. It is the first one I read, every day.


  • wardsboro123

    sorry, maybe i’ll take religions seriously again when they stop being reactionary: why not go help all of the hungry or homeless people that need help, instead of protesting “special rights for queers”. or taking seriously very dubious foundations of “Absolute Truth”. Would you like to talk about America’s disasterous track record of foreign policy, too?

    bye bye.

  • momisery

    i cant believe you left comments open.

  • amarilis

    In response to themuriels, et al,

    I am sorry that you have been verbally attacked by Christians, that is the last thing that a true Christian should do. Also, you are correct that God did create you and he loves and accepts you. However, you aren’t perfect like you are. None of us are perfect like we are.

    When someone says “there is no absolute truth,” is that statement absolute truth? Because if there is no absolute truth, then that very statement cannot be absolute, etc., etc.

    If there is no absolute truth then why do we have a justice system? I mean, why should people be punished for wrongs when there is no wrong? With no truth, justice doesn’t exist.

    Why should you be able to marry your girlfriend? Really, why?? Where does that right come from? If there is no truth, then we really have no rights.

    Also, think about this-if there is no absolute truth then the, oh let’s say, the World Trade Center bombings were perfectly fine because the hijackers really believed that they were doing the right thing! Their truth was that they should kill thousands of Americans. How can we say that they were wrong if absolute truth doesn’t exist?

    That is what I call living the comfortable lie. You say there is truth where you want it and say “oh there’s no real truth” in the areas of your life where you want to live however you want.

    There is Absolute Truth. It’s not the Christian truth, it’s God’s truth. No one has a corner on it except God Himself.

    One last question: Why is it that when we Christians say that we don’t agree with homosexuality we are called homophobic and haters?

    Can’t someone be opposed to something without being insulted?

  • I totally agree that polygamy should be legal. What I wonder is — how do we deal with that in practical terms. If one man has seventeen wives, all legally married to him, should his job’s insurance cover all of them? If he died and didn’t have a will, who gets his stuff? So many existing laws would have to be altered. Imagine the lawsuits.

  • annejumps

    That first part should be italicized. Doh.

  • wardsboro123

    our highest calling is the ability to bear children? there’s DOCTRINE stating the reasons a woman can’t have multiple partners, and a man can? ok, that’s like a scientologist admitting he’s into aliens, and a catholic believing in talking burning bushes… at the very least, this should all call into question the utter mess that is the myth of marriage as a godgiven covenant between a man and a woman. it’s a contract involving property and reimagined constitutional and civic rights: which does not mean i support the “mainstream” gay and lesbian communities push towards “equal” rights and marriage. i think it’s a desperate assimilationist landgrab

    just to clarify, i’m gay. allowing me to marry and/or debating my right to do so? thanks, but no thanks. rather, redefine all marriages — homosexual, heterosexual, polygamist — as civil unions. This would provide the legal protections that come with marriage, from health care to taxes to adoption, without the emotional and cultural freight. to underscore the polygamist question: the state’s authority to pronounceshould be stripped from the ministers, rabbis, imams and priests. religions want a homogenized, sexist culture, it’s the easiest way to be safe. (i’d lump all religions under this blanket statemnet). look through photos of the “gay marriages” in the past. There wasn’t a nose-pierced, pink-haired, breast-tattooed transgressive transgender queen to be seen. That’s a nightmare vision of what the future holds. Marriage as it’s now practiced, mormonism with it’s doctrinal sexism, and catholicism in general won’t change your world in any way. That’s the point, and it’s really sad.

    and ps. “As for polygamy, I have also thought that if gay marriage were legal (I think it should be) so should polygamy, even though I find it extremely distasteful….”

    someone PLEASE explain this line of thinking? or rather, don’t. it’s gross.

  • annejumps

    Why would a woman willingly submit to this lifestyle? It’s beyond my comprehension, yet I am curious to find answers.

    There are a lot of women who take pride in being anti-feminist; they think it makes them more feminine, or something. Since there are many stereotypes and caricatures of feminists (and misunderstanding of what feminism is), particularly in “red” areas, it’s pretty easy for someone to decide that they’re anti-feminist (even as they believe that women should be able to vote, wear pants, etc.). I think it becomes sort of a Stockholm syndrome — I can’t be a first-class citizen, but by God I’ll be the best of the second class, by denouncing those that want to get rid of the status quo (in this example, feminists and/or people who don’t like women having second-class status). It’s certainly not contradictory for a woman to be misogynist or to justify misogyny.

  • Ha! I love the show. I love most of all Bill Paxton’s butt. 😉

  • jen d.

    I’m another recovering Mormon, and I wish I could say that the reasons I left were as virtuous as Heather’s. My reasons included a divorce and re-marriage, and the fact that nobody in my family was Mormon made it a lot easier. I came from a liberal upbringing, and somehow in my head was able to reconcile the Mormon way of life and feminism or equal rights. In retrospect, however, I think I was somewhat brainwashed. If you are a devout Mormon, you believe that the roles of women are different but equal to that of men, and that if you husband is righteous, then there will be equality in the marriage. But the thing is, women in no way are encouraged to work outside the home, or even finish college, and how can that be equality? I personally thought that it was sheer insanity not to finish college even if I never worked, because what happened if my husband died and I had kids to support? I digress.

    As for polygamy, I have also thought that if gay marriage were legal (I think it should be) so should polygamy, even though I find it extremely distasteful. I hadn’t put much thought into the property rights and child custody issues some posters have discussed, and that certainly complicates things. On the upside of legalizing polygamy is that it would certainly get a lot of people off welfare. I am a bleeding heart liberal, and believe that children should not suffer because of their parent’s behavior, but most of the polygamists out there manage their lifestyle because the second, third, and fouth etc. wives and their kids are on welfare. Maybe there would be less abuse of the practice in regard to young girls if the lifestyle were not bankrolled partially by the state. On the downside of the legalization is the issue, as mentioned above, of whether many of the women in polygamous relationships really consented to the plural marriage. Something to think about.

    I have to agree with a couple of the posters above about the nagging thought that maybe the Mormon Church is true and I’ve totally screwed myself by leaving. I guess if Heaven means that I have to share my husband with some other woman and that my daughter would have to do the same, I want no part in it anyway.

  • Liz Cadorette

    Wowee, Heather — Fantastically written, and thoughtfully articulated. The longer I read your blog, the more I admire you and aspire to the same level of…Je ne sais quoi.

    I grew up with parents who divorced when I was seven. My parents married when my mother was eighteen, and because she died at 46, before I had the guts to ask, I have no idea why it was that she chose to marry him at such a young age. But in any case, my father was an untreated manic depressant, and both my mother and I suffered from his bouts in the black areas. It wasn’t until I was eighteen and living — I’d say on my own, but I moved out of my mom’s house and in with my boyfriend, which is fodder for a whole other discussion — but anyway, not living with either parent, before I was able to confront my dad, get past my anger and forgive the past enough to have a relationship.

    My point in all that TMI is that I had attributed a lot of what I went through as a child to exactly what all my friends thought it was about my father that made him the way he was, and that is that he was heavily involved in the church (pick a non-catholic christian church, and he’s probably played the organ or directed the choir for it, although I was baptized Lutheran). So, inevitably, any disinclination of mine to be rowdy or lewd as a pre-teen was written off because I was “the priest’s kid”, nevermind that my father was neither a priest nor Catholic! (And wouldn’t those little bastards be interested in all my current friends in the Kink and Poly communities…)

    Due for the most part to opression issues, I have never felt connected or comfortable with organized religions. My greatest comfort levels have been in the sort of amalgam-Pagan-Earth-centered self-serve spiritualities, wherein I can choose my own peace with the Divine, without having somebody tell me that my perceptions are wrong/horrid/divergent.

    However much I may want to, however, I don’t think I will ever be able to discuss my Pagan leanings with my Dad. So I can’t tell you how amazed and impressed I am with your post, on a subject that has caused so much angst and hurt for so many families over hundreds of years. BRAVO. Thank you, once again, for putting it all out there with honesty and (most of the time, LOL) class.

  • Nannergrrl

    Thanks for your comments on the show. I was certainly curious as to your viewpoint on it.

    I essentially have the same views when it comes to the fundemantalist Mormon sects which practice polygamy. The basis of it all seems to rest on a foundation on the subjugation of women and especially the sanctioned sexual abuse of adolescents. Blech – makes my skin crawl.

    Hope the post doesn’t play havoc with familial relations again. Good luck and a happy Shoshun to you. (I’ve taught the word to my dog, Fergus, and it means all things of happiness, i.e, chicken treats, walks, back scratches, etc.)

  • notaclue

    Okay, not sure how to start this. First of all, I am religious–Presbyterian. As far as I’ve seen they don’t have any hang-ups about women. Women are at all levels and are Pastors.
    As far as gay-marriage…., well, that’s harder. Some Presb. churches are supportive…., ours is not quite there yet, but I’m working (quietly) on it. I think it has more to do with the current Pastor (homophobic) than with our branch or the members. When my son came out publicly, sooooo many members were sooooo incredibly supportive. They’ve all known Paul all his life and know what a wonderful person he is. It was a relevation to them that gay people were not the freaks that so many like to portray them as. I like to think God was helping them grow by them knowing Paul so well and for so many years. This is a very small town and it was a very big deal–so much so that there were extra police in town when my son took his boyfriend to prom, and there was a great deal of concern that Fred Phelps would picket our Awards Night when my son was the first recipient of the Matthew Shepard Scholarship in Iowa. Thankfully he chose a different ceremony to spew his venom at (not very Christian of me, but man, oh, man, do I HATE that puke! I just know I’d wind up in jail for trying to rip his fucking face off. Ahem, sorry.)
    As for how I am quietly trying to change our church…, well, I am a Sunday School teacher and let’s just say I don’t allow that kind of hate in my classes. I teach honestly and am not afraid to answer the kids questions. If some of the more repressed members knew what I teach they probably wouldn’t be happy but so what. I feel strongly that God led me to teach and this is all part of his message of love and acceptance. I know he made Paul exactly how he wanted him and I think he did a fine job. I also know Paul was born this way and it wasn’t a choice—I hate that assumption, that it is a lifestyle choice. So stupid. He didn’t choose anything. He was born different from son #2 just as son #2 is different that son #3. And I love ’em all, the little shits!
    Anyway, the point that really bugs me is that I raise my children to believe in marriage and that society will not let my son do the one thing he really wants to…, marry his partner. It really pisses me off that I am not allowed to have a beautiful wedding for my child just because some people are ignorant. I’ve told him I will stand up with him for whatever type of ceremony he wants, wherever he wants, but you know, it’s just not the same. I never hear about other parents being upset about this, but it makes me mad as hell. It’s ironic too…, I come from a family of 7 siblings and none of the other siblings offspring care to marry and protect the children that they are producing (with multiple partners and with no thought to how this affects their children–okay, okay, this obviously is a rant I could go far with, but I think you get my point!)
    By raising this child of my heart to believe in love and marriage I have inadvertantly set him up for heartache. And it breaks my heart.

  • Thank you Jack for writing my feelings exactly. It also saddens me when people look for answers regarding our religion in every place EXCEPT our doctrine. I have never felt anything but equal in this church. I have also not been led blindly. I know what is out there, and have made the decision to be a member of this church willingly – not because I was forced to. I have never felt more free.

    Thanks Heather for your honesty. I am grateful to live in such a wonderfully free country where we can all express our opinions without fear. Whether you support our current President or not, we should all remember what a wonderful country we live in.

  • Lindsey

    I don’t think the portrayal to be accurate- do we really think that one husband could support the lifestyle of all those wives, and what a lifestyle. The show could have been about “communal living” hippie-yuppies exploring an alternative lifestyle, apparently the show is not about the religious aspect of the Church of LDS.
    If nothing else Big Love has offered us a chance to think and talk to each other, but who are we kidding, we’re preaching to the choir!

  • wardsboro123

    this is all great, but wondering why polygamy still hasn’t ever been defined or thought of as a wife with 2 or 3 husbands. i’m pretty sure there were no revelations as such… ? heh.

    also, heather, i think you swerved a little too close to the homosexuality leads to bestiality line of thinking, but generally well thought out.

  • Jack

    That was a long stroll through the comments to make sure I’m not duplicating what others have said. If I do, I’m sorry. And I’m not trying to start fights, just answer some of the questions which have been posited.

    I’m a Mormon man and a Wisconsin Democrat. I love this site. Heather is an incredible writer with a sharp wit, a great sense of humor, an insightful, enjoyable to read. Thank you for writing, Heather.

    I don’t want to marry any more women. My wife sometimes brings it up: “You know, if polygamy were legal, I really wouldn’t mind you having another wife or two . . . as long as the others understood that this is my kitchen.” I worry that if it ever were legalized she’d start matchmaking on me.

    I think I do understand how the Church’s position on polygamy changed. It has nothing to do with God changing his mind about what was okay. It’s that we also have a strong belief in supporting the nation in which we live. That doesn’t mean we have to accept GWB as appointed by God (whew! . . . and for your Mormon friends that do, ask them if that means Bill Clinton was too), but it means we strive to follow laws. If they’re unjust we work to change them within the system as we can, but we follow them. We respect them as Law. The Church has an official Article of Faith addressing that we respect laws, but the belief also has strong biblical support and is a tradition among most Christian faiths. It is important that the practices and actions of Christians not drive the non-believers away. Christ taught that, Peter, Paul, John all taught that. Too many Christians don’t “get” it.

    So when this nation passed a law banning polygamy it put the Church in the position of either stopping the practice they believed was decreed by God or rebelling against the nation’s laws – and they believed God wouldn’t approve of that either. In terms of not being a stumblingblock to the unbelievers, it makes sense that the Church would stop the practice of polygamy . . . whether you want to believe that came by revelation from God or by temporal concerns about the property that would be lost if we didn’t. As if the two were mutually exclusive, as if revelation from God can’t also make temporal sense.

    The members of the church are a subset of society. The hope is that by learning the Gospel and striving to live it, they become more morally upstanding, but they are still imperfect human beings. Women are not subservient to men in the church and ideally they would not be treated as such. The men are taught in their priesthood quorums (or should be if they are taught out of church manuals) that their priesthood does not make them superior to anyone. In fact, it makes them subservient. If men are not humble, loving, respectful in their relations, then they are not executing their priesthood offices correctly.

    “We have learned by sad experience,” Joseph Smith wrote, “that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” And “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

    Women are included in church councils where decisions are made about how to run the affairs of the church, they head organizations within the church with their own presidencies, budgets, decision making authority, etc. If their voices are ever not heard or are discounted as less worthy then it is a problem with the men in the church surrounding them and those men will be held accountable to God for their actions. Depending on their actions, they can be held accountable to wordly priesthood authorities, even removed from their offices.

    Women are by no means asked to be shut-in homemakers. They are encouraged to take active roles in society, get educated, participate in politics, in neighborhoods, in service organizations, clubs, social groups. The church does encourage specific roles for women and men, but not with any exclusionary walls between them. The man may specialize in the job outside the home and the woman at tasks in the home, but they support and assist each other in those roles. Men are encouraged to do housework and be active participants raising their children, women can get jobs and still be considered good, faithful members of the church.

    I’ve written more than I intended. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. It’s just that reading Heather’s entry and the several responses that expressed similar questions about “how can the church be like that”, I felt compelled to answer. The church abandoned polygamy with reasonable social justification that is not incompatible with the belief that God would support abandoning it. Women are not second class in the church. That they are ever treated as such is an unfortunate consequence of man’s imperfection.

  • Karen C.

    Hear hear!! NO ONE could have said it better than you. Thank you for your post and your thoughts.

  • novelle

    This was a very brave post. I know exactly what you mean about there being unspoken boundaries when your family members actively read and participate in what you write. And, as usual, I’m inspired by your determination to broach a sensitive subject, discuss it candidly, all the while keeping their feelings in mind. Well done and thank you.

  • Biscuit

    Many props on an eloquent post.

    In response to comment #216 about the “Big Love” ad on the homepage. I don’t know much about the technical side, but it’s pretty obvious that dooce uses an ad system that picks up words on the page and posts ads accordingly. So, in this case she mentioned “Big Love” and these smart ads threw an ad up there for “Big Love”. Therefore, the ads are effected by her content and not the other way around. Had to stick up for dooce + family for making money doing something they love. We should all be as lucky!

  • wow. nicely put. as someone who has left the mormon religion in my 20’s as well, it’s always a touchy subject with my parents.

    i, too, felt that my liberal views were too much for my religion. i, too, couldn’t understand why women weren’t given equal rights in the church. but, i squashed these feelings for many years because i just thought i wasn’t spiritual enough and wasn’t listening to “the still, small voice.”

    it wasn’t until i met my husband – a catholic (gasp!) – that i started to voice my opinions. how could god create a man that is perfect for you in every way, but tell you that you can’t marry him because he was brought up differently than you? how could god give us free agency, but then only give one TRUE religion for us to choose? how could god threaten to seperate families in the hereafter if we’re not sealed in a temple? the list goes on and on.

    anyway, thanks for such a well though-out post. enjoyed it!

  • dre

    As usual you know exactly how to express yourself eloquently and intelligently. Thank you for your honesty and your integrity. I’ve said it MANY times, as have others, but I LOVE your blog and – don’t get freaked out – YOU! 🙂 My husband and I are taking off on a 9 day road trip and frankly, I don’t know how I’ll survive without my daily dose of dooce! I’ll have to take an extra day off and dedicate it to catching up on your posts…

  • Bella

    Very good read Heather. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    This show has got me thinking. Knowing very little of Mormons and basically nothing of ploygamy, I have found myself asking some of the same questions you have asked.

    Why would a woman willingly submit to this lifestyle? It’s beyond my comprehension, yet I am curious to find answers. Also, what did Bill mean when he asked Nikki if she wanted him to give her a blessing? It has me googling info every Monday trying to find answers.

  • meringue57

    I know I’m late in the comment-game…but I just wanted to thank you for putting yourself out there and giving us all a peek into your world/your experiences with Mormonism.

  • When I first saw the ads for the show I remember thinking, hmmm…wonder what Heather has to say about this? and now I know (and kudos as usual girl).
    As a lesbian, a MONOGOMOUS partner in a relationship….. I think its about commitment.
    I know as a woman, its about commitment from my partner. I don’t want 3 partners, and I don’t want to be one of the many for the person I am committed to. How about “Desperate Bisexual Mormon Housewives and Their Fantasies About the Other Wives”? ok just joking.
    Seriously, when the church (or government) enters into adult role play, it just loses it’s erotic edge, don’t u think? eewww. Gimme a flippin break.

  • athena_d

    I wanted to respond to the posts that posed the question of how a Mormon would answer Heather’s questions. But as I begin to write my response I realise I could very well be exposing myself to criticism knowing full well from past discussions of the like that when I’ve attempted to clarify my beliefs in this way it has often been used as material to pick apart and throw back at me. It’s one thing to be courageous and make a stand for something you no longer believe in and quite another to make a stand for something that you do. Having said that, I don’t pretend to like or even fully understand the practice of polygamy. But most examples I’ve seen thrown at us by mass media have usually been implemented for so and so’s own agendas, ratings, fear mongering. And we think we’re being educated! Quite frankly none of this discussion surprises me. Being married to a “non-member” I’ve been given flack from both sides and I can tell you that it has made me a stronger person. If only most woman knew the power of their own influence in their family and on society. Second rate citizens my foot.

  • I already knew your view on gay marriage, i’m glad you put it out there again.
    I fully agree with self-respect and being one of several wives. No way could I do it. Hell, no way could Phil be a husband to me and another! (we are not married yet, but) I’m enough, thats for sure.

    I’ve never seen this show, we dont get that channel. I do think you put it out there very well, and very tactfully. I also hope and send good vibes for not getting hate email about it. If someone dosent like it, they can move on or post something on their site.
    Different POV do not have to be hate filled.

  • Dooce, your mama is likely proud. That was written with so much respect and love.

    Growing up where I did, where there are probably 5 mormons in a 200 mile radius, I really didn’t know much about the faith other than the Osmonds sang on TV and were called “mormons.”

    Thanks for all the education and kudos to you for having the self value you mentioned.

    And just a thought for everyone… Almost EVERY organized religion views men and women very differently, with men taking the steering wheel and women hopping into the back seat. Right, wrong, or indifferent, this seems to be a common deminator in every denomination. :o) So mormons aren’t alone there.

  • textimage


    disclaimer: im a HUGE fan of yours, i’m not even one of those miffed at the new “commercial aspect” of your site HOWEVER… As a graphic designer, a person with a visual critical eye, i do wonder about this post and it’s relation to the ad for HBO’s BIG LOVE airing on your site today. it is hard for me to fully apreciate your content today when the 215+ comments you are getting so brilliantly work for your advertiser. call me a cynic, if you must. but i think my inquiry is a way in which to address another hot topic your avid readers ponder. how will heather keep it real? hard to do with multiple interests sharing space on your site,no?

    posted with empathy and curiosity… not malice.

  • Not an apologist, but I have read every single comment, and I do know Mormon theology, so I will answer the question about why it is Mormon doctrine that men can be sealed to more than one woman, but women cannot be sealed to more than one man:

    Men and women complement each other. In order to reach the highest level of Heaven, called the Celestial Kingdom, men and women *both* have to be married, according to Mormon doctrine. Women must be married to a worthy priesthood holder. What does that mean? Through laying on of hands at various points of a young man’s life, he is endowed with the power to act with the authority of God– to perform blessings (healing, comfort), blessing the sacrament (communion), baptism, etc. Mormons can trace this authority back to Jesus Christ.

    However, there are considered to be *more* worthy women than men; therefore, if women need to be married to a worthy priesthood holder, then the principles of plural marriage protect the women from not being able to achieve the highest level of The Celestial Kingdom.

    That is the doctrinal explanation.

    With regard to the Christians who have been hurt by the discussion here equating Mormonism with Christianity– I understand your position. It has taken me years of studying Christianity to discover why the rest of the world doesn’t recognize my Mormon baptism, and why most Christians do not consider Mormons to be Christians.

    However, please understand that Mormons ardently *do* consider themselves Christians. Their theology, which they have been taught, just as you have been taught yours, is precious and true to them, and they love and believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even if it is offensive to you to have Mormons be called Christian– please understand that it is equally hurtful to Latter-Day Saints when you tell them that they are *not* Christian. It’s not their fault– especially those of us who were raised LDS and never learned anything different until we were so bruised by religion that even learning the truth doesn’t make us feel any closer to God.

  • You tackle an difficult topic with with grace and humor. Always amazing.

    Is Chuck a polygamist?

  • thewub

    I think your family should be proud that you are able to think for yourself and communicate your thoughts and feelings in such a “nice” manner. Anyone can voice distaste against something and use petty reasons or arguments but your reasons were well thought-out and non-threatning. No one even practicing Mormon’s can dispute that you bring to light some pretty fantastic questions and food for thought for us all about all of our beliefs.

  • I think your family should be proud that you are able to think for yourself and communicate your thoughts and feelings in such a “nice” manner. Anyone can voice distaste against something and use petty reasons or arguments but your reasons were well thought-out and non-threatning. No one even practicing Morman’s can dispute that you bring to light some pretty fantastic questions and food for thought for us all about all of our beliefs.

  • Very much agreed, but I didn’t see something in your article that I thought to be important.

    Why in the world would a man want to married to more than one woman?! That’s crazy!

    You weren’t joking about the effort required to keep a relationship healthy. seems like having more than one wife would put a man in his grave pretty damn quickly.

  • Mack’sMom


    I’m supposed to be working, and I find myself stuck reading all of the comments from this post. I’m sure my boss would totally understand if I said that I was having a “religious moment!”

    I’ve always enjoyed the in’s and out’s of theology. I don’t enjoy discussing the malfunctions of religion with extremely religious people; they tend to hide behind the bible. I truly enjoy reading your posts everyday, but today’s post was by far my favorite. Your thoughts are pure and provoke further thought.

    When my mother-in-law (a Pentecostal Preacher) learned that I was reading the DaVinci Code she became very flustered. I quote her remarks, “By questioning the relevance of the bible, you’re questioning God.”

    No, by questioning the relevance of the Bible is questioning the “interpretations” of the Gospel. I’m questioning what people are holding as fact!

    I truly believe that God (or whatever you call the HIGHER POWER) would rather you question your world than live a lie.

  • PK

    That has got to be the most thoughtful, kindest renunciation I’ve ever read. If we could all disagree with each other so clearly and reasonably–despite (and especially when) having strong emotional reactions to the subject–the world would be a lot less screwed up!

  • jezzy_girl

    Hi Heather:

    Thank you for tackling this subject – wondered if you would. I too have been glued to Big Love – curious because like you I was raised Mormon and graduated from BYU. I love to read the other posters – so much in common! Yes I danced at the Palace and at Ivy Tower! Yes, halfway through BYU I ‘took the blinders off,’ realized the whole thing was B.S. – and decided it was ok to be gay, black people weren’t second class citizens, and the biggie – women weren’t relegated to second class status either. It would drive me crazy to see so many smart, articulate women – drop out of college at age 20 to get married and start having babies without finishing their education!

    Now, I too – am a very liberal, atheist, democrat (do you think being raised Mormon does that to you?) and have questioned my beliefs about polygamy as well. On one hand you have the free choice, consenting adults view – but here’s what I’ve decided: logistically, and *legally* – marriage is a contract between two people. Legally – does the man’s insurance policy cover all THREE of his spouses and their kids, or just the first wife? When one woman dies, does her husband get her property, or does her two sister wives and her husband split up her property three ways? See the difficulties. Oh my gosh though – emotionally – that’s such another issue— watching the show is emotional for me, it really is. All three women have wants, needs and desires. (and yes, can you imagine dealing with the complexities of three women as one poster asked?)

    Here’s what really brought the wife thing home though for me: when I was at BYU I worked in the word processing center in the religion department on campus (biggest department on campus is religion as EVERYONE needs 14 religion credits to graduate!). I was helping a professor with a project where he was doing a project on Mormon pioneer women. I was helping transcribe the women’s journals. It made my heart ache to see what the women wrote! They sounded like us, like young vibrant, smart women – saddened when their husbands came to them and told them they got a ‘revelation’ that he was supposed to marry old farmer John’s 15 year old daughter! The women said the same things that we would – their words were filled with confusion, frustration, questioning, sarcasm, mostly they were bugged that they had to submiss and deal with it! They complained about the neighbor down the street who seemed to have it all together, even though they couldn’t sew right, couldn’t cook right, couldn’t keep track of all their kids! I was already on my way out of the religion and doing this project certainly didn’t help. Oh and my world religion class sealed the deal for me – wow if billions of people could believe one thing, how can 10 million have the *real truth?*

    Having a patriarchal, domineering ‘religious’ father creeped me out about receiving ‘revelations’ – they are from *GOD* and can’t be questioned. How ridiculous is that? You submit to authority because someone else got that revelation? How about if the other person didn’t?? And seriously let’s call polygamy what it is – a way for men to have sex with other women and call it god’s will! puh-leeeeeze!

    About Big Love – the writer or creator must have been raised Mormon, don’t you think? Love those references to Mia Maids, Beehives and Laurels! What about the laying on of hands blessings? And watching the show you realize about polygamy and any lifestyle – if it’s ‘ok,’ – why is it a secret, why hide it? like any other wrong behaviors – whether it be molesting, abusing drugs, physically abusing someone – you keep it secret because it’s wrong!

    ok back to work and off my soapbox—-

  • Mary MC

    Heather, Thank you! I am a recovering mormon and face the same issues with my family. I also do feel women and girls are disregarded as a second class members. After lurking on your site for sometime, You have finally inspired me to comment. You give me strength to overcome my past. Thanks for making me laugh on daily basis.

  • kimmellee

    Can I just say, coming from New Hampshire and being a convert to LDS… we look at the religion completely differently. And they explain polygamy differently out here. I guess there really is a difference between the ‘pure’ mormons in Utah and the mormons out in the rest of the USA.

  • roxyroo

    I too live in Idaho Falls around a ton of mormons. The one thing that bothers me most about my mormon friends is that many of them don’t know what their own religion is based or founded upon. When I asked a female friend why a woman couldn’t have more than one husband in the temple, yet a man can have more than one temple wife. She just said, “I don’t know, that is just the way it is.” I couldn’t follow a doctrine that is based upon, “that is just the way it is.” I can’t stand the self righteous mormon men in my area most of the time. One young man told my daughter that she would never be a “leader” because she wasn’t LDS. That is so hard on these kids who aren’t LDS in this small town. Just my two cents.

  • AnnSunny

    Wow! Your words are so thoughtful, Heather. It brought up a whole slew of isues for me. I dislike organized religion for those same reasons. I used to sttend church, even after getting out of the house during my college years, but made a choice not to go along with the hypocrisy that seemed to shrink my soul. The final straw was that a dear friend , married for 17 years, left her abusive husband. Many memebers of her church (which i also attended, when home) actually called her up to tell her that it was a sin to get a divorce! I understand that she chose not to tell many people that, but even the pastor, who knew her situation, told her so. This utter diregard for her as a person was the final straw for me, though other aspects of organized religion also bothered me.

    I have a concern about this show being aired, though i haven’t watched it, not having HBO. I fear it will legitimize polygamy, especially considering the growing strength of the religious right. If the show doesn’t show the abuses that seem to inevitably result, the results may be more open acceptance. I mean, by abuses, incest and forced marriage of young girls, as well as physical abuse of the wives themselves. Anything that marginalizes a group of people, tends to de-humanize them, making it much easier to justify abuse.


  • moxyoron

    I’m still sealed to my gay exhusband, who has a boyfriend that I really like. So- I’m hoping that in the here-after, I’ll get to be married to both of them… how’s that for a new spin on Mormon polygamy in the Celestial kingdom??

  • staceymay

    I posted earlier anc commended Heather for her openness and honesty. I still think that. As and LDS woman who has tried to read all of these posts, I have become quite saddened at the negativity that so many people have for a Church that they know seemingly little about. The LDS Church is greatly misunderstood and unfortunately those are what people care to remember. As a woman in the Church I have never felt second class or anything negative. I am college educated and have a place in the world. I may not be able to hold callings like my husband can, but is rearing and caring for a child any less than being able to be bishop? I think that women are blessed with a greater calling than the men, motherhood. I have been a member all my life and some may say that I know no different and that do not see the problems within the Church. But I do. I am sealed to my first husband while only being married civilly to my current husband. I am currently in the process of trying to have my sealing to my first husband “undone” so that I can be sealed to my current husband. I like many others have to have faith and understanding that it will all work out, even if it is not in this life. For those of you who are really interested in getting information about the Church’s history, it is sad that you would go to sources other than the Church itself to find information. There is a lot of misinformation out there and that is what people tend ot believe. Heather, I’m glad that you posted this, depsite the negativity you are inadvertently bringing to the Church. I think you worded your thoughts beautifully, even though I don’t understand where you are coming from or agree with them. It is your right to say it, and I commend you for having the courage to say it.

  • Anna-B

    Well said.

  • As some others have mentioned, well said. You’ve touched on a couple of the issues (inequity, and inconsistency) that lie at the root of my initial rejection of organized religion, which led to my ultimate rejection of any and all dogma (including atheism). Funny that I find myself reflected in your review of a TV show.

  • Lizzybeth

    I want to add to my comment that my “full person” hangups about marriage are heavily influenced by my religious upbringing and not by any actual married ladies I know, who are still independent and fierce many years on.

  • Heather,

    I applaud your handling of of this discussion. You have thought it out well and not taken pot-shots at your relatives.

    I can’t really comment on Big Love. I haven’t seen it since I don’t have cable or HBO. If given the choice to watch it, I wouldn’t, because at different times in my past, I’ve experienced something similar, when my ex-husband openly encouraged me to practice my bi-sexual tendencies (I am no longer married and no longer consider myself bi).

    For him it was totally an ego thing. The idea that he might get a threesome out of the deal. For me it was nothing but pure hell – having him point out the women he liked and thought I would like (they were all prettier and thinner than I was), ending up torn between two people I cared about very much (nothing worse than when your girlfriend and your hubby can’t stand each other) and finally ending up with low self esteem and deciding that I didn’t want to be married to this person and needing to get the hell out.

    It’s hard enough working on a single relationship with someone I care for. I will not, and do not understand, why someone would want to have multiple spouses.

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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