What is intrinsically wrong with polygamy?

By: Andrew S
January 15, 2011

Polygamy

Joseph Smith said, “Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism.”

A few years ago, Mark Brown inaugurated (kinda) his posting stint at By Common Consent with an article that elaborated on such. He wrote about a deeply structural difference to the way Mormons go about their church experience than do other religious — or, for that matter, secular — communities:

In general, we have a lot of control over our associations and social interactions. If we dislike someone we can simply avoid him. But the church is unique among other organizations because it attempts to foster friendship among people who do not select one another. Think about home teaching or visiting teaching, for instance. These simple callings bring us into close contact with people whose 1) understanding of the gospel is incomprehensible, 2) personality is annoying, 3) political views are alarming, and 4) life is a mess. If you were my home teacher, you might go four for four, and I might think the same of you, too. It is only when we realize that we are stuck with each other that we can begin to make progress. Often we feel uncomfortable and out of place, but I’ve been surprised to learn how many others feel the same way. We are mostly a collection of square pegs, all wondering where we fit.

I’ve seen this message — a message of tension and working with the tension of conflicting personalities elsewhere — like in Eugene England’s “Why The Church Is As True As The Gospel” (or PDF). Therein, he turns the traditional singlet (I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it) that “The Gospel is True but the people are not” or even “The Church is True but the people are not” (whatever “the church” is without people) around by asserting that the church — through and because of flawed people, presents the environment whereby saints can be perfected.

…In the life of the true Church, as in a good marriage, there are constant opportunities for all to serve, especially to learn to serve people we would not normally choose to serve—or possibly even associate with—and thus there are opportunities to learn to love unconditionally (which, after all, is the most important thing to learn in the gospel). There is constant encouragement, even pressure, to be “active”: To have a “calling” and thus to have to grapple with relationships and management, with other people’s ideas and wishes, their feelings and failures. To attend classes and meetings and to have to listen to other people’s sometimes misinformed or prejudiced notions and to have to make some constructive response. To be subject to leaders and occasionally to be hurt by their weakness and blind­ness, even unrighteous dominion—and then to be called to a leadership position and find that we, too, with all the best inten­tions, can be weak and blind and unrighteous.

I found it interesting that England would compare the church to marriage, but at the same time I didn’t find it that weird at all. The New York Times recently had an article “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone,” and after some time, BCC had a discussion about it. Whether the article clued us in to it or not, I think a few people there recognized that the church is quite family- and marriage-centric — to the unfortunate extent of making certain others (gay, single, and divorced people [plus the permutations of the listed three {and these are not exhaustive}]) feel marginalized.

Modern Family

Well...some kinds of family are church ideal

What came out several times was the idea that well, marriage is the ideal. Family is the ideal. Even as we figure out ways to accommodate people outside of the ideal (whether they can have hope for achieving that ideal in mortality or not), within the church, we have a clarity of their separation from the ideal in a way that seems strangely disproportionate (all fall short of the glory of God, but it seems some fall shorter than others).

So, what is this thing about marriage?

I admittedly didn’t get far into my analysis of it, but Thinking in a Marrow Bone’s Joe O had a series devoted to thoughts about marriage. In the first part, Joe notes that difference is essential. Firstly in the body of Christ (you’re grateful that your lungs are different from your heart), but then, of course, in marriage. The second part notes that the married parents represent a model to children — a microcosm of the way that two different people certainly conflict, but yet (we hope!) remain united. The third is where things get juicier — to “know” one another in marriage is a ritual of difference, and through these differences, we recognize that difference is a mirror into the infinity of our partners. In the fourth, Joe ponders whether the Sin of Sodom was more of a failure to recognize that infinity — a failure of charity.

(All of this stuff about “infinity” makes more sense, I guess, if you are already familiar with Emmanuel Levinas, or if you read the article — also at TiaMB — that succinctly discusses two ways in which we can view things — as a totality [a box] or an infinity [that cannot be contained.])

But I digress…the fifth article — to wrap things up, argued that in a defense of marriage, we hope to preserve a view of difference. For Latter-day Saints, it is a preservation of eternal differences.

Now, what I wanted to do in my article series at my blog was raise the point that it seems to me that we could frame this question an entirely different way. Even recognizing the importance of difference (and recognizing the infinity of difference afforded to us as human beings, if not afforded to us as eternal spirits), it seemed to me that seeking difference primarily in a heterosexual marriage context is limiting and limited. Consider that other differences are even discouraged! I don’t know if this nearly four-decades-old quotation from the Aaronic Priesthood 3 manual’s lesson on choosing an eternal companion is still used, but I can still understand the logic (however perverse) behind a suggestion that same racial background is preferred, as well as social, economic, and educational background. And of course, one should not be unequally yoked spiritually.

Ye, it seemed to me that every man is not a carbon copy of every other man, and neither is every woman a carbon copy of every other woman, and so why couldn’t it be that a homosexual marriage could provide room for the ritual of difference as heterosexual marriage?

When viewing things in this context, I also thought: by the same reasoning, actually, polygamy isn’t intrinsically problematic. And that reminded me of one comment at the BCC article for Sister Hardy. A snippet:

…The thing is that there really are a lot more single women in that age range looking for a Mormon man than there are potential partners for them (unless you want to join a polygamist group)…

Chanson later said she was kidding about that polygamy part, but I don’t see why intrinsically the suggestion is a joke (other than a kneejerk reaction to the status quo of human relationships or polygamist groups). What seems wrong about polygamy are problems in fallen human nature that tend to make the resulting relationships inequitable. But as people seeking to be perfected, shouldn’t we be seeking to work through those deficiencies in the same way we try to work through human flaws that hinder relationships in every other dimension? In the same way we challenge ourselves to serve more people (to increase the size of our in-groups, not further cloister off), it seems the same should theoretically apply in marriage.

I guess this is why there are a few who note that polygamy isn’t necessarily a “debunked” concept in Mormonism. It might be a dream deferred, but perhaps one that won’t explode. It might be something that happens in the afterlife. But then I wonder…why do people resist the the idea of polygamy in heaven? Is there a fear that the relationships in heaven will mimic the certain failings or limitations of conventions in mortality? (and must those failings apply to all polygamous relationships in mortality or…?)

Is thinking in terms of heterosexual monogamy a limited convention? Is there something intrinsically wrong with polygamy — if only a broader, more open, more complete (perfect?) form — that renders the very idea a contradiction in terms?

Disclaimer: This post is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of any real-world polygamist groups, beliefs, practices, or communities. I do not claim to have knowledge of these communities or their practical workings, so if the conversation goes that way, I’ll probably say, “Huh wha?”

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124 Responses to What is intrinsically wrong with polygamy?

  1. Stephen Marsh on January 15, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    That is especially true if celestial marriage is about other things than sex, and if we are all linked together (the extended family model rather than the huge harem model).

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  2. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    ^Right on.

    This especially gets to be the case in discussions when people point out that intimacy (especially intimacy that people claim is found through marriage) isn’t found simply through sex (so people have various scenarios showing where someone non-married who has sex isn’t necessarily being “intimate” while someone married who doesn’t have sex may still be “intimate”).

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  3. [...] so I wondered why there was this connotation running throughout about polygamy. In chanson’s case, it is something that is “kidded about,” and well, Seth stirs [...]

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  4. Bruce on January 15, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    Andrew S,

    I have not ruled out the possibility that polyandry (multiple husbands) exists in heaven rather than polygyny. I have honestly asked myself “would I have a problem with it in heaven?”

    I found in my heart the answer is “no.”

    But I do not think we can generally imagine a perfect version of ourselves precisely because such a person would not be ourselves as we are today. They would effectively be as much a different person as we are today a different person from our baby selves.

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  5. Rock Waterman on January 15, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    As you know, Andrew, I’ve pretty well come to the conclusion that plural marriage was a false doctrine that crept in through the Cochranite converts at Nauvoo, and not the essential doctrine of salvation Brigham made it out to be.

    Having said that, I support anyone with the desire to live that lifestyle, as the freedom to live life as one wishes is the prime directive. Although I suspect it irks God that his name has been attached to the practice without his consent, I also don’t believe he cares one way or the other how people choose their mates, or how many.

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  6. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Bruce,

    For this same reason, I can’t imagine any kind of celestial society. Either we must be dramatically transformed or it just doesn’t look all that good. I guess that’s what eternal progression is for?

    Rock,

    I imagine there must be a great deal of religious practices and beliefs that would irk God to have his name attached. I suspect humans aren’t all that good at getting practices or beliefs right.

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  7. simplysarah on January 15, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    This morning I remembered (and noted at MSP) that I HAVE learned about a culture in which polygamy existed with a different dynamic than [I know of] in Mormon culture. It is a form of polygamy traditionally practiced in some African regions, characterized by independent women who support themselves as root farmers and whose husbands aren’t quite as obsessed with the fidelity of their wives as long as they have food to eat.

    An ideal? Not to me. But still, it points out that polygamy can take many forms – and need not always fall into the stifling, sexist, patriarchal category. Perhaps it could even be celestial – thinking outside the limited paradigm of our experience.

    Which reminds me of why I could be in favor of the arrangement (for those who choose it, not for ME, and not for young girls who are forced into it). Not everyone wants the same things out of an intimate relationship. It may even be enriching to those who enjoy “working with the tension” uniquely presented in a polygamous marriage – and is certainly more appropriate for many men, who may prefer multiple partners because they’ve evolved that way.

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  8. Rob Osborn on January 15, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    I find no real significance in polygamous relationships other than to raise up generations of people quickly. In the eternities I see no meaning in a polygamous relationship. At this time I do not see how a polygamous relationship is acceptable when practiced in the eternities. I favor the idea that intimacy is not only favorable but “essential” in the eternities. In order to be truly “one” in marriage I do not see how sharing this intimacy with others can lead to the type of oneness that would be required to progress into the eternities. Intamacy in marriage is wholesome and completely edifying. Our entire purpose of subject is pointed towards that one individual who completes us. In a multiple partner relationship I do not see how this could complete a person. One would always be only a “part” of making another complete. It would basically mean that a man with only one of his wives could not be complete. This to me lessens the divine rule of the woman as an equal partner. It also would place a shadow of doubt in filling fulfilled in intamacy meaning that only a part of the mans devotion is devoted to her.

    To me, sharing intimacy with another in marriage seems to be the purest form of union. It creates a sacred trust and love towards each other. Together, a wife and husband compliment and fulfill each other in complete union. But, when adding multiple partners I honestly feel that union breaks down and creates a myriad of problems. For instance- is it right for the husband to share only his deepest feelings towards one in private and not all? How does this make the woman feel, knowing that she is unable to fulfill the union required in marriage? How does it make her feel to know that her husband will go to someone besides her for advice?

    In the end, what would be the purpose for having multiple wives in eternity? I really can’t think of how this would work.

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  9. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    I read the New York Times essay and the thing that struck me the most was the series of males she dated who dumped her the moment it became clear she wasn’t going to spread her legs for them without a commitment.

    Seriously, what a bunch of literal dickheads.

    There’s something far more screwed up about those idiots and the entitled, selfish little culture that spawned them, than there is about the mere idea of polygamy.

    Face it, we live in a culture where it’s perfectly OK to screw a series of girls you frankly don’t give a damn about.

    But the moment you formalize your commitment to more than one – now you’re some sort of a freak.

    Polygamy in America?

    Hah.

    We’re already living the dream people. The only difference between the single dating scene guys in hip New York City and the polygamous guys in British Columbia, is that the former haven’t grown a pair yet, and manned up to what they are doing.

    But all you spineless male hipsters out there, take heart!

    Your iPod and your XBox 360 still accept you for who you really are – even if what you really are utterly sucks.

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  10. chanson on January 15, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    OK, OK, I was only half kidding.

    I just recently finished reading In Sacred Loneliness, so I’ve had the subject on my mind. I don’t want to dismiss polygamy out-of-hand as crazy and unworkable (even I I don’t want to have anything to do with it myself) — I just think that it really depends on what your marriage priorities are. As I said on MSP, what people want from marriage varies widely, and Mormon-style polygamy has points that appeal to some women.

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  11. chanson on January 15, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    Seth — I assume you’re deliberatively intending to be provocative. ;)

    Personally, I’m absolutely willing to admit that there exist non-crazy adult women would actively choose a life of polygamy, for various reasons.

    But seriously. The only difference between a guy who expects that a woman in a serious romantic relationship will want sex vs. a middle-aged guy with wives and kids taking on yet another 18-yr-old girl (and insisting that all of the women remain exclusive with him while he’s not exclusively with any of them) is that one’s more courageous (and it’s the polygamist)…? Dude, reality universe is calling to you….

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  12. Bruce on January 15, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    AndrewS,

    Can’t imagine? Or won’t imagine?

    I have no control over the self imposed limits of your imagination.

    :P

    Actually, I get your point. And I agree with you. The whole concept of ‘person’ is vague right now. A celestialized version of ourselves will have continuity with us now, but will not *be* us any more than I am the baby I once was. That is to say, there will be very little continuity across time, but there will be some.

    This is also why reincarnation seems like a rational non-starter for me. To be reincarnated without the information of your past life is really just to say that a different person that isn’t me was born.

    The only way I see around this rationally is if we buy into a concept of a ‘super-person’ whereby multiple people (in multiple lives?) come together to form a single person. But reincarnation religions don’t seem to allow for this doctrinally, so I’m confused what the point is.

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  13. Bruce on January 15, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    “Personally, I’m absolutely willing to admit that there exist non-crazy adult women would actively choose a life of polygamy, for various reasons.”

    It was studying the personal stories of the women that practiced polygamy (as opposed to historical interptetations that tend to lose such information) that made me realize that people find meaning in life through sacrfice and even self-imposed suffering.

    Once I realized that, I wasn’t quite sure how to look at polygamy any more. (At the time I was quite negative on it.)

    If someone chooses polygamy and does so for a life time, and then writes about how it’s worth it, they are not a victim. I’m sorry, but they are not. And it’s sexist to claim that they are.

    They are a human being that made a personal choice and came to find meaning in life through it, just like all of us must do.

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  14. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    simplysarah,

    I actually saw (or rather, got the email comment notification) of your differentiated scenario. At the same time, it seems as if you still have a reservation.

    (I guess the problem with this entire thought process is it assumes that everyone has the same goals. That something like “intimacy” means the same thing to everyone.)

    A question I have (that I think Rob’s comment at 8 really made me think about) is this:

    is intimacy a zero-sum game? Or are we thinking about it entirely incorrectly to think of it as a pie whereupon if one person gets one slice, then that removes the possibility of someone else having “full intimacy.”

    It seems to me that the reason we are supposed to be in a community (multiple people) is precisely to learn that some things (most definitely service and charity…but why not intimacy) aren’t zero-sum.

    re 9:

    Classic Seth. Or, as I said elsewhere:

    and well, Seth stirs the pot anyway, so anything that Seth says with a straight face reflects upon (or maybe condemns or ridicules) the world around

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  15. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    re 12:

    Bruce,

    Hey man, it was you first who suggested you don’t think we generally can imagine. Not that you don’t think we generally will imagine. :) It’s nice if you feel my imagination is far more capable in a broader, but related context, but I don’t deserve that.

    I am not an expert in reincarnation doctrines, but isn’t a “soul” a super-person? Why couldn’t a soul be planted in different forms (even with a veil of ignorance each time) so that 1) there is continuity and 2) each “person” (or reincarnated state) does not have knowledge of the others?

    I would imagine (or darn. There I go imagining) that “continuity” is only a problem if you don’t have a concept of a real, independent, personal center of gravity, or say, a “soul.” If you don’t, then you don’t have the “I” from which everything else (including physical states) may be stripped (e.g., ego death).

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  16. simplysarah on January 15, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    1. I think there are important differences between the human needs for sex, sexuality, and intimacy (though they all can and often do overlap).

    2. I highly doubt that all of these needs can be met in a relationship with ONE person.

    For example: For me, I best enjoy sex/sexuality within the constraints of a monogamous relationship that is also deeply, emotionally intimate.

    BUT, I *still* feel the need to be intimate with several girlfriends, and that intimacy does NOT include a sexual dynamic.

    So, regarding your question of whether intimacy is a zero-sum game or a finite pie?

    I would suggest that it *is* a finite pie, but that humans have not evolved to eat that pie in one piece. We need multiple relationships to meet our needs. This allows the possibility that different relationships will be competetive, but the competition is not inherent or requisite.

    That’s where individual differences come in. Some may want more of their pie devoted to one person, while others may derive the same satisfaction out of dividing it up into more pieces. Some find satisfaction in a comprehensive romantic relationship; others find meaning and satisfaction in different ways.

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  17. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Sarah,

    So, is marriage about sex/sexuality, or about intimacy? (I know, I know, you could easily say, “Both and more” — but if you had to pick one, which would it be?)

    My question might be: if you still feel the need to be intimate with several girlfriends, why wouldn’t you marry them? Just because that intimacy doesn’t include a sexual dynamic?

    Suppose if marriage is something more nuanced…about learning to grapple with another person’s personality as opposed to your own, etc., Then why wouldn’t it be appropriate for a polygamist marriage to help teach that. Especially since that would cover the idea that we need multiple relationships to meet our needs, even if we have to grapple with the possibility that different relationships will be competitive.

    I guess I’ll ask a bolder question about individual differences. So, individual differences mean people may have different *wants*. But do these individual differences also mean people have different *needs*, or *areas for growth*?

    I think that my introversion informs a lot about what I want and what I prefer, but I could see a point that *maybe* I should stick myself out in a crowd because I *need* to be stretched out a bit more. Maybe I *need* to learn how to derive satisfaction from multiple scenarios.

    I haven’t thought this all the way for any particular issue, but isn’t that possible?

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  18. simplysarah on January 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Oooo, good questions.

    1. I would say that, above all, marriage (or, in my case, relationship with my SO) is about emotional intimacy. If I had to, I could meet my needs for sex/sexuality elsewhere.

    But at the same time, that’s a false dichotomy. They are an essential aspect of the relationship. Probably for evolutionary and social reasons? Which helps me respond to question number 2.

    For (what I presume to be) social and evolutionary reasons, I don’t want to build a life with any of my girlfriends. They are important to me, but they are also temporary. They come and go. I don’t want to raise children with them.

    Not that I couldn’t imagine a life with a female life partner – I just ended up wanting a male one more (and finding one and falling in love).

    I think the area of “needs” is veeeeery subjective, and may hinge on belief in absolute truth? What I term to be my “needs” are probably really just “wants,” which is how I can be comfortable with the idea that other people want/need different things.

    Regarding the idea that you “should” stick yourself out because you “need” to be stretched…that sounds like living by an externally defined moral code. I’m more a fan of following an internal code in those issues (like who we associate with) falling outside the realm of the legal system.

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  19. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Chanson, there’s a reason I didn’t mention the FLDS, but rather mentioned the polygamists in BC – who I believe are a different species of polygamist entirely.

    Am I wrong?

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  20. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    ss:

    I guess it also points out to something people say about sexual orientation. Even though we call it “sexual” orientation, in some ways it represents more than that…like an orientation in emotionality too. This, I think, also gets brought up with discussions of intimacy so I think it’s a good point.

    I think it’s interesting that in a conversation I’m caught arguing on the side for an absolute truth or an externally defined moral code.

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  21. Mike S on January 15, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    I necessarily see the world through a traditional heterosexual monogamous lens due to upbringing, etc. At the same time, I have friends, etc. who are in completely non-”traditional” situations, and seem just as happy and fulfilled as I am. Given this, I think polygamy might work for some people, just like polyandry, same-sex marriage, cohabitation, etc.

    I think the most important thing in all of these situations is the right for consenting adults to choose their situation, and for mutual respect to be present. Intimacy can then develop and strong relationships can form.

    Perhaps my biggest beef with polygamy is not “polygamy” per se, but with how I have seen (or read about) it in practice. I have an issue with the “forced” nature in the accounts I have read about in the FLDS Church (although I’m sure these may be biased). I am completely baffled by Joseph Smith’s polygamous adventures – keeping things secret from Emma, pressuring young girls to marry him with threats of angels or their family’s eternal salvation, marrying other men’s wives when they were off on missions, marrying household help, etc. It doesn’t seem like any of these were done with respect, with intimacy, or with trying to build any type of lasting relationship.

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  22. simplysarah on January 15, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    Andrew: Re “I think it’s interesting that in a conversation I’m caught arguing on the side for an absolute truth or an externally defined moral code.” – lol! That’s because [I think] you and I both love to play devil’s advocate!

    Mike: Right on, esp 3rd paragraph. That’s one of the most ironic discoveries I’ve made to: realizing I’m fine with the practice of polygamy – between mature, consensual adults – just totally appalled by JS’s behavior and the LDS Church’s whitewashing/[feigned] ignorance.

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  23. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    I’m not necessarily appalled at it.

    How did guys usually court women back then?

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  24. Starfoxy on January 15, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    One thing I like about my husband is that I’m special to him. His relationship to me is unique. Of all the people in the world he chose me, and only me to marry. And vice versa.
    When everyone is married to everyone else then no one has a unique relationship to anyone else. If everyone is special then no one is.
    I also think that there is a certain sort of selfishness in wanting to have a little piece of everyone- not letting anything/anyone be off limits to you feels grasping and vain. It takes a certain selflessness to be happy for someone else to have something that you aren’t a part of.

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  25. simplysarah on January 15, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    Seth R. – what does appall you? :p

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  26. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    When it comes to history, I have a pretty high threshold sarah.

    I always assume there is more to the story than we are being told.

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  27. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    Going backwards

    re 25

    If I might channel Seth:

    “the complacency of much of the world, that dares not accept enough chaos into its soul to give birth to a dancing star.”

    :D

    re 24:

    Starfoxy, that’s an interesting way to put it: “If everyone is special then no one is.”

    But wouldn’t that seem to work just as well without even talking about marriage at all. We are supposed to gain value from being children of God, but if everyone is a child of God, then…what kind of value is that?

    Also interesting is the thoughts on selfishness. I’ve usually heard selfishness claims framed quite differently — that is, someone is considered selfish because they want to maintain special or unique relationships at the exclusion of others. (such as a clique) So, I guess I didn’t consider the selfishness in wanting to have a little piece of everyone, because instead I see and hear about the selfishness in *not* wanting to have a piece of everyone.

    I wonder: which is more “selfish”? Wanting to be special/have a unique relationship with respect to a person…or wanting to blur or eliminate the lines of specialness/unique relationships?

    re 22:

    simplysarah, guilty as charged.

    re 21:

    agreed, basically.

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  28. diane on January 15, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    So, I was waiting to post a reply. But, now I can’t anymore.

    I’m curious because I have to admit, I’ve watched the whole series of the TLC show Sister Wives. The whole series is about, you guessed it a Guy who lives the polygamous lifestyle in Utah. He makes it clear at the beginning that he is not part of the LDS faith. If I’m not mistaken, he already had four wives and was getting ready to make the big announcement to his kids that he was going to take on yet another wife. On a date night with his first wife Meri,( I think that what her name was) she was having a hard time accepting the fact that he wanted yet another wife. He was being completely selfish, arrogant ass with respect to his first wife’ feelings. He said it was her fault that she was upset because this is what they agreed to do. She then tried a different tract. What if she had five husbands. His reaction was priceless. His response was that he was thoroughly repulsed by the idea and it made him physically sick. But even with that he still made all the issues his wife was feeling her issue and not his.

    They showed this guy, whose name was Cody, just going out of town traveling across state line getting ready for dates, etc. He acted like an immature jackass. Completely oblivious to his first wife’s feeling. I also felt like he was being completely manipulative.
    My feeling what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and if its’ not keep your dam zipper zipped

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  29. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    Diane…

    You do realize that reality show producers deliberately seek out jerks for their shows, right?

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  30. Starfoxy on January 15, 2011 at 6:44 PM

    We are supposed to gain value from being children of God, but if everyone is a child of God, then…what kind of value is that?
    Andrew- Yes we’re all children of God, and that makes us special- compared to cats, and dogs, and trees and rocks. None of us is more special to God than anyone else. Except. Jesus. He’s special. More special than me. Should my relationship with God be just like Jesus’? It should be similar in important ways, but I can’t ever be the only begotton Son of the Father.
    So we all share in the love of being God’s children, while being happy that Jesus has a special place in God’s family- a place that the rest of us can’t have.
    And we all share in the love of being brothers and sisters in God’s family, while being happy that each of us has a special relationship with their own spouse- a relationship the rest of us just can’t have.

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  31. Bishop Rick on January 15, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Polygamy is nothing more than excused adultery.

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  32. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Starfoxy,

    We’re going to be having family prayer in about an hour. In the spirit of what you’ve said, I think I’m going to inform my three young children:

    “Daddy thinks you are ALL special – which really means that none of you are.”

    I think that should clarify things nicely.

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  33. diane on January 15, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    Seth

    You can rest assure that I am not completely clueless. I realize you have a tendency to try to stir the pot so, just don’t go there and respect my opinion for what it is, I as respect yours.

    This was not one of those kinds of shows. The whole point of the show was to celebrate the lifestyle. It was to show that polygamous living as a healthy alternative.

    From what I saw, there was nothing healthy about it. Yes, the children were taken care of, but they were taken care of by their respective mothers. I also found it interesting that none of the children want to live a polygamous lifestyle when they become of age. They all hated it.

    This guy was immature, and highly manipulative and really didn’t give a crap that his kids really at first did not want to have another wife as part of their family. He basically guilted them onto it and he reminded them that they were not to talk to any one else about it. Totally controlling

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  34. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    Right Bishop Rick.

    Just like monogamy is just an excuse to get in a girl’s pants.

    Totally with you there.

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  35. diane on January 15, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    And to add, I have no doubt in my mind the issues that were brought play out in polygamous marriage in Utah.

    So, Seth BE careful who you talk down to.

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  36. Starfoxy on January 15, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Seth R.
    And you love your wife just exactly the same way as you love your kids, I’m sure. No favorites for Seth. He loves everyone exactly the same way.
    That’s much better.

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  37. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    Diane,

    Is this family supposed to tell us something about all possible polygamous relationships?

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  38. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Starfoxy, I don’t think distinguishing between wife and children really makes any difference here.

    We’ve already established that it’s possible to love more than one person. But we still haven’t established that this does not apply to spousal relations as well.

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  39. diane on January 15, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Come on Seth please don’t tell me that you don’t seriously not know that that there are polygamous marriages still going on in utah and Arizona,.

    They were trying to portray themselves as a healthy All American family.

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  40. Bishop Rick on January 15, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Seth

    [34] “Just like monogamy is just an excuse to get in a girl’s pants.”

    Only in the LDS community.

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  41. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    Yeah Rick. See my first comment in this thread about that.

    Diane, I know there are a lot of polygamous families in America. From the FLDS on their compounds, to the Allred faction spread all over the Intermountain-west to “Big Love” style suburbanites doing their thing under the radar.

    Takes all kinds.

    I’m just curious whether you really think that all these “kinds” are really fairly represented by one jackass and his family that a reality show producer selected.

    Do you think that the Jerry Springer show is representative of overweight Americans too?

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  42. Starfoxy on January 15, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    Seth (38)

    So your quip about your kids was insightful how?

    All three of them are more special to you than, say, my kids. And yes you love all three of them, but you don’t have favorites among them (I hope).

    But wouldn’t you want them to find someone who, unlike you, is free to love them more than they love anyone else in the world? It’s a great feeling to be someone’s *best* friend. To be someone’s *favorite* person.

    If everyone can be paired off exclusively, then everyone gets a chance to be someone’s favorite.

    So yes, I’m sure that a perfect person could have several spouses, and love them all. But none of those loved spouses gets the chance to be loved *more,* to be loved differently, to be really special to at least one person.

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  43. diane on January 15, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Seth:

    You are so right. That should make you happy.

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  44. Andrew S on January 15, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    re 30:

    Starfoxy, I guess that’s a consolation prize. “You are special…in comparison with rocks and plants and stuff.”

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  45. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Starfoxy, as it so happens, most parents – being human – DO have favorites amongst their children.

    But that’s not really the point. The point is that love doesn’t just attach to one person. It can and does attach to more than one person. And just because it is shared amongst more than one person does not automatically mean it’s a fixed quantity such that more for one means less for the others.

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  46. Starfoxy on January 15, 2011 at 8:39 PM

    Seth (45) Yes, more for one doesn’t mean less for another. But reserving a particular type of love for just one person makes for a difference of quality, rather than quantity.

    Adding more people to that relationship may not change the quantity of love, but it does change the quality- it is no longer exclusive, it is no longer unique.

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  47. Seth R. on January 15, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    True, but does that mean that this “unique” quality is a requirement for everyone?

    Or is it something that some people enjoy, but not everyone needs?

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  48. Justin on January 15, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    I agree with Seth (47) — all I’ve gotten out of the comments so far is that Rick can only think about sex, diane hates that hypocritical polygynous guy on TLC, and Starfoxy has some needs that necessitate her demanding monogamy.

    Is there something intrinsically wrong with polygamy?

    Given the existence of a God that does not justify the forbiddance of marriage — if anything is intrinsically wrong, then it is our current practice of enforced monogamy [which really results in serial monogamy -- how that is inherently better than multihusband-multiwife tribes, I don't know].

    I see no intrinsic difference [in terms of rightness/wrongness] between plural-spousal systems and a couple who choose to enter vows whereby they promise to not love any other people. If emotional needs are met and consent is honored, then what’s the problem?

    Unless someone is willing to make an argument that God has hardwired human beings to be incapable of cleaving unto more than one spouse and loving more than one person with all the heart — I think the conclusion to the post’s title is — No, there’s not.

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  49. Bored in Vernal on January 15, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    #48 — well, THAT was a surprise. :) j/k, I’ve been waiting for Justin’s response all day, and it did not disappoint.

    Seriously, Andrew, I think this was a fabulous post and very timely considering the trial that is going on in Canada at the moment. IS polygamy intrinsically wrong? Does it tend to abuse of women, to devaluation of boys, to lessening of spousal or familial ties, or is it just one of perhaps several acceptable ways of structuring human relationships? You’ve asked some good questions and guided the conversation well. I don’t know that any of us will change our minds on the subject, but as Justin noted, our responses tell us a lot about ourselves, don’t they?

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  50. Bishop Rick on January 15, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    Not sure how stating the obvious makes me a sex addict.

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  51. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    Yes, there is something wrong with polygamy. It inevitably leads to bad things. I recommend this article by John Witte, Jr. The money part:

    The strongest argument against polygamy is the argument from moral repugnance. Polygamy is inherently wrong—”just gross” as my law students say, “malum in se” as we law professors put it. Many states legislate against a lot of activities—-slavery, indentured servitude, gambling, prostitution, obscenity, bestiality, incest, sex with minors, self-mutilation, organ-selling, and more—-just because those activities are wrong or they inevitably foster wrongdoing. That someone wants to engage in these activities voluntarily for reasons of religion, bravery, custom, or autonomy makes no difference. That other cultures past and present allow such activities also makes no difference. For nearly two millennia, the Western tradition has included polygamy among the crimes that are inherently wrong. Not just because polygamy is unbiblical, unusual, unsafe, or unsavory. But also because polygamy routinizes patriarchy, jeopardizes consent, fractures fidelity, divides loyalty, dilutes devotion, fosters inequity, promotes rivalry, foments lust, condones adultery, confuses children, and more. Not in every case, to be sure, but in enough cases to make the practice of polygamy too risky to condone.

    Furthermore, allowing religious polygamy as an exception to the rules is even more dangerous, because it will make some churches and mosques a law unto themselves. Again, some religious communities and their members might well thrive with the freedom to practice polygamy. But inevitably closed repressive regimes like the Texas ranch compound will also emerge—with under-aged girls duped or coerced into sex and marriages with older men, with women and children trapped in sectarian communities with no realistic access to help or protection from the state and no real legal recourse against a church or mosque that is just following its own rules. We prize liberty, equality, and consent in this country too highly to court such a risk. If you’re not sure, just ask some of those moms and kids on the Texas ranch.

    If you disagree with Witte’s assessment, then by all means, point me to some of these polygamous communities where women are permitted to have multiple husbands just as their spouses are permitted to have multiple wives, where they’re encouraged to seek out an education and a career if they desire, where child brides never happen and where teenage boys are never turned out of the community to keep the female population higher than the male. I’m dying to read about them.

    That said, I don’t buy Starfoxy’s exclusivity argument (sorry Starfoxy). Thanks to death and divorce, even monogamous relationships aren’t necessarily exclusive. I think people are capable of loving more than one person. I just think the actual practice of polygamy inevitably leads to too much crap to be tolerated. As Seth’s daddy likes to say, “If you have to dig through the poop to find the pearl . . . “

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  52. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 12:24 AM

    Jack, my dad said that once, and it was in reference to R-rated movies.

    Just thought I’d mention it.

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  53. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 12:28 AM

    And I should note that I consider the secrecy, isolation, and abusive culture of the FLDS to be largely the United States government’s own damn fault.

    If they hadn’t driven the practice underground like that, it never would have mutated into the monstrous culture of secrecy and abuse that it has.

    If blame is to be assigned for the abuses uncovered in the Texas raid – let the lion’s share fall on the US government and one of the most egregious cases of organized federal persecution of a religion in US history.

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  54. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    If they hadn’t driven the practice underground like that, it never would have mutated into the monstrous culture of secrecy and abuse that it has.

    With all due respect, Seth, I call bull[poop].

    Non-state Christianity in China is ten times more secretive and persecuted than polygamy in America ever was, yet somehow it hasn’t devolved into an abusive regime of perpetual patriarchy, domestic violence and child brides. Illegality isn’t stopping polygamous communities from living model lifestyles and showing the world that polygamy isn’t really oppressive towards women and not messed up.

    And it’s not like the Texas ranch was the first polygamous community to be guilty of the problems Witte listed.

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  55. LDS Anarchist on January 16, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    Ditto on #48.

    I wonder, are there any contract lawyers here? At what point does a contract between two people (which is what marriage is, is it not?) become intrinsically wrong? Surely there must be some legal definition we can resort to to clear up all the speculation. Rock #5, do you not have expertise in contract law?

    (Obviously, we are not talking about legally wrong, meaning illegality, as anything forbidden by law is illegal, or legally wrong. But surely there must be some standard to determine intrinsic wrongness in a contract between two adult, consenting persons.

    For example, the contract of indentured servitude was legal, but was it intrinsically wrong? If so, under what principle?)

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  56. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 1:13 AM

    re 51:

    Jack,

    just from the “money” part, I’m not entirely swayed. It seems to me that there are plenty of things that we consider morally repugnant that we ought to challenge. I think the “wisdom of repugnance” is more often a dress-up of a fundamental emotional appeal fallacy.

    I think we like to pretend that we as a society have always found what we currently do morally repugnant — making our emotional sense something deeper and more infallible than it is.

    I think that current institutions often harbor inequalities and “inevitably lead to bad things,” but it’s strange how with some institutions, we are willing to look past abuses (past or present) by pointing out that things can progress, that there are other ways to implement the institution without throwing the baby with the bathwater, etc.,

    “Digging through the poop to find the pearl”, I think describes much of many modern social institutions, including ones that people seem really enamored with. Yet, comparatively, not a lot of people are as excited about complete societal upheaval as they are about their pet “moral repugnances”.

    re 55:

    LDS Anarchist,

    It seems like the difference is, as pointed out in Jack’s link, between what is considered “malum in se” and “malum prohibitum.” Which, as far as I can tell from a money quote, means 1) scoping in on current or past abuses and 2) drumming up emotional appeals.

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  57. LDS Anarchist on January 16, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    Ms. Jack #51, surely polygamy cannot be intrinsically wrong for moral reasons. The law of Moses both allowed for the practice of polygyny and also commanded it at times. When John Witte, Jr. says it is unbiblical, he either doesn’t know his scriptures or is a liar. Mormons and Christians both believe the law of Moses to have been given by God, therefore, no part of it can be intrinsically wrong, otherwise we are faced with God teaching men to do evil. Now, this cannot be. The law of Moses was a good law, not an evil law, so the moral repugnance argument doesn’t hold up in light of the scriptures.

    So, again, what is intrinsically wrong with a polygamous marriage contract between consenting adults? The answer is, nothing. There is legal wrongness (illegality) and cultural wrongness (in our culture, at least), but no intrinsicality, nor any scriptural or moral wrongness.

    Now, I may be wrong on contract law. I’m no lawyer. Rock #5, care to give your opinion and explain what makes a contract intrinsically wrong?

    Lastly, Ms. Jack, if John Witte, Jr.’s stated strongest argument against polygamy is moral repugnance, then it just goes to show that there is no strong argument, because moral repugnance is a weak argument.

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  58. LDS Anarchist on January 16, 2011 at 1:28 AM

    Andrew #56, I was writing my #55 at the same time that Ms. Jack was writing her #51. She hit the Post Comment button before I did and so I got to read her comment only after I had posted mine, even though hers came numerically before mine did. Also, I like your assessments (numbers 1 and 2.)

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  59. LDS Anarchist on January 16, 2011 at 1:50 AM

    Ms. Jack,

    What about the American Indians (links to Peggy Fletcher Stack article)? “Many American Indian tribes allow polygamy.” Shouldn’t we be “scoping in” on their abuses? Why don’t we hear much about them? Surely being in a legal environment shouldn’t change the intrinsically evil nature of it, right? We should be hearing of abuses left and right. What’s up with that?

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  60. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    #56 Andrew S ~ It seems to me that there are plenty of things that we consider morally repugnant that we ought to challenge.

    Such as?

    I think the “wisdom of repugnance” is more often a dress-up of a fundamental emotional appeal fallacy.

    Emotional appeal isn’t always a fallacy though. For all practical intents and purposes, some things are in fact repugnant to the vast majority of the general population. The practice of marrying barely adolescent girls to much older men, which polygamy inevitably seems to foster, is arguably one of them.

    I think we like to pretend that we as a society have always found what we currently do morally repugnant — making our emotional sense something deeper and more infallible than it is.

    I don’t understand what you’re saying here.

    Feel free to list some examples of modern institutions that are being tolerated in spite of always leading to bad things. I’d like to know how they compare to the abject failure rate of polygamy.

    The thought also occurs to me how meaningless it is to separate something from its proven consequences and insist that, under controlled and ideal circumstances, the thing in itself isn’t bad. We could justify any number of practices under the exact same rationale–incest, for example.

    #57 LDS Anarchist ~ I think the Law of Moses provided guidelines for the practice of a lot of things which were, at the time, the lesser of two evils, and the New Testament claims as much; see Jesus’ teachings on why Moses permitted divorce.

    When John Witte, Jr. says it is unbiblical, he either doesn’t know his scriptures or is a liar.

    Or you’re just being entirely uncharitable and/or don’t know what “unbiblical” means. It doesn’t mean “not found in the Bible,” it means “not in accord with or sanctioned by biblical teaching,” and one can make a case that polygamy isn’t ultimately sanctioned by biblical teaching. Witte would probably take that position, and as the article was written by evangelicals for evangelicals, on that point he’s preaching to the choir.

    For the record, my own feelings on the biblical case against polygamy is that it’s a muddy one and not at all clear, but I think Witte’s point was relevant even with that bit of shooting from the hip.

    Mormons and Christians both believe the law of Moses to have been given by God, therefore, no part of it can be intrinsically wrong, otherwise we are faced with God teaching men to do evil. Now, this cannot be.

    Mmmhmm. So tell me, is it intrinsically wrong to divorce your wife for no reason? [ ] Yes [ ] No

    So, again, what is intrinsically wrong with a polygamous marriage contract between consenting adults?

    What is intrinsically wrong with an incestuous marriage between brother and sister?

    Lastly, Ms. Jack, if John Witte, Jr.’s stated strongest argument against polygamy is moral repugnance, then it just goes to show that there is no strong argument, because moral repugnance is a weak argument.

    You’re free to believe that. For my own part, I’ll have to meet some more people who don’t see a problem with modern-day child brides before I start to find this argument convincing.

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  61. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 3:31 AM

    BTW, I don’t think that Witte’s argument was just an “emotional appeal.” The first paragraph I quoted is largely an emotional appeal. But the second paragraph is an argument from the telos of polygamy, that polygamy leads to exploitation of young girls and repression of women with no recourse for help or protection from the law—I would add the abandonment of teenage boys and domestic violence to the list. These things are bad for reasons above and beyond moral repugnance.

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  62. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    re 60:

    Jack,

    Such as?

    People consider homosexuality “morally repugnant.” I think we ought to challenge that, for one. There are still holdouts against interracial relationships, for another.

    Emotional appeal isn’t always a fallacy though. For all practical intents and purposes, some things are in fact repugnant to the vast majority of the general population. The practice of marrying barely adolescent girls to much older men, which polygamy inevitably seems to foster, is arguably one of them.

    But that’s exactly the fallacy. You say, “Some things are in fact repugnant to the vast majority of the general population.” I say, “So what?” You haven’t shown how this reaction of the vast majority of the general population is relevant — or correct. You may have other ways to argue why you think past and present polygamy systems have caused harm, but these arguments are entirely separate arguments from saying, “Most people feel this is repugnant.” The fallacy isn’t, “Well, I don’t think most people feel that way.” It’s “Even if most people feel that way, that doesn’t prove much of anything.”

    I don’t understand what you’re saying here.

    Feel free to list some examples of modern institutions that are being tolerated in spite of always leading to bad things. I’d like to know how they compare to the abject failure rate of polygamy.

    For the wisdom of repugnance to work, people have to consistently find “bad” things repugnant. But most people haven’t considered racism repugnant. Most people haven’t considered sexism repugnant. Most people haven’t considered slavery — or even the indentured servitude that Witte mentions — repugnant. Does this mean that these things aren’t societal ills or that they don’t cause societal ills? Or does this mean instead that social emotional reactions are not as solid as we think? Furthermore, if in the past there were different emotional reactions, then why do we assume that our current reactions are more immune from cultural baggage?

    The thought also occurs to me how meaningless it is to separate something from its proven consequences and insist that, under controlled and ideal circumstances, the thing in itself isn’t bad. We could justify any number of practices under the exact same rationale–incest, for example.

    Well, that’s precisely what we are doing when we ask whether something is “intrinsically” bad. If something is intrinsically bad — if it is bad “in itself” — then there can’t be ideal and controlled circumstances because the badness cannot be factored out of the equation.

    If you can factor out all of your reasons against incest under “ideal and controlled” circumstances, then it is logical that incest isn’t intrinsically bad. Such a justification wouldn’t be problematic if incest weren’t intrinsically bad and we knew of such ideal and controlled circumstances.

    Consider: if we didn’t factor out proven consequences based on “ideal and controlled circumstances,” then we’d have to throw out our current system of marriage too. Because under “non-ideal and non-controlled” circumstances, there is spousal abuse, inequality, patriarchy, etc., Maybe we’d throw out the entirety of religion, as some people suggest we ought, because under “non-ideal and non-controlled” circumstances, you get (laundry list of abuses). Religious believers certainly rely on arguments that these abuses are not *intrinsic* to religion (neither are the abuses in our current system of marriage intrinsic to marriage)…but for polygamy…nope, nope, nope, unsalvageable!

    Consider secondly: our current system of marriage isn’t perfect. BUT it has been a lot less perfect in the past. It represents something that has evolved over thousands of years (a point often noted when people counter the idea of preserving “traditional” marriage.) What if polygamy had the same amount of cultural maturity? The thing is: it doesn’t. Yet somehow, we still want to compare apples to oranges.

    re 61:

    (BTW, I also don’t think Witte’s argument was *just* an emotional appeal. I just found it strange that he viewed the emotional appeal the strongest argument against polygamy. That suggests to me that the case against polygamy is in a sad shape, [and considering his secondary argument from the telos of polygamy, which he doesn't show that these purposes are intrinsic to polygamy, I guess he's right that the emotional appeal is stronger.])

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  63. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 4:59 AM

    (I fished a comment from LDS Anarchist out from the filter. That changes the numbering slightly)

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  64. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 6:16 AM

    #59 LDS Anarchist ~ I’m afraid “Many American Indian tribes allow polygamy” doesn’t tell us much. We hear about Mormon polygamy so much and its problems because people living in active polygamist families make up a whopping 1.4% of the state of Utah. Do polygamist Native Americans make up that much of the population of any state?

    #62 Andrew ~ Thanks for your specific examples.

    I agree that the argument that homosexuality and interracial marriages are repugnant in themselves should be challenged. I also agree that past societies have been wrong in what they saw as repugnant, so any argument that stems from repugnance alone is suspect.

    But in the case of Witte’s argument and polygamy, I think he effectively blended the arguments for telos and repugnance–he says in the first paragraph that polygamy is wrong in itself (repugnance) or inevitably fosters wrong-doing (telos). It’s possible that the two are not separable. I would speculate that we’ve likely internalized the horrible fruits of polygamy we’ve witnessed and converted it into repugnance.

    Concerning my incest example: as I see it, sheer repugnance for incest is, indeed, a weak argument against it. There’s theoretically nothing wrong with a brother and sister or father and daughter shacking up together since they aren’t really hurting anyone else. What goes on in their bedroom is their business.

    Except that they are hurting someone else, or at least potentially hurting someone else, because the chances for genetic birth defects rise dramatically when children are born from incestuous relationships. Incest should not be sanctioned by society because we should care about the quality of life for future generations, and if we legalized incest, the number of people born with birth defects would rise dramatically. We’ve probably internalized repugnance against it for this reason.

    I guess we can separate the telos of incest from the question of “but is it intrinsically wrong?” and then all the pro-incest people can cheer that we admitted that incest is fine so long as we ignore what it leads to. Maybe you would find value in such an exercise. I don’t. And saying that polygamy is “intrinsically” acceptable in the same way incest is “intrinsically” acceptable isn’t going to make me say “yay polygamy” any time soon.

    Consider: if we didn’t factor out proven consequences based on “ideal and controlled circumstances,” then we’d have to throw out our current system of marriage too.

    I disagree. Monogamy has not routinely led to patriarchy against the grain of modern developed society, nor has it led to child brides, domestic violence, and abandonment of children on anywhere near the same scale that polygamy has. There are internal reasons for this. The one-on-one system of monogamy lends itself more naturally to egalitarianism, the lack of a need for more women than men discourages people from seeking younger and younger brides from the population pool and eliminates the need to exile teenage boys, and egalitarianism is a proven deterrent to domestic violence. Plenty of monogamous marriages that are less than ideal still manage to avoid the extreme problems plaguing polygamy.

    Because under “non-ideal and non-controlled” circumstances, there is spousal abuse, inequality, patriarchy, etc., Maybe we’d throw out the entirety of religion, as some people suggest we ought, because under “non-ideal and non-controlled” circumstances, you get (laundry list of abuses). Religious believers certainly rely on arguments that these abuses are not *intrinsic* to religion (neither are the abuses in our current system of marriage intrinsic to marriage)…but for polygamy…nope, nope, nope, unsalvageable!

    I don’t think this comparison holds water. If anyone were silly enough to come to me with this argument against religion, I would immediately bombard them with examples of religion motivating people to do good. I could give them examples of religious people who were egalitarians, religious people who fought for racial justice, religious people who fought for homosexual rights, etc.

    But my first comment on this thread asked for positive examples of polygamous communities, and so far there’s been no takers. I’ve asked this question elsewhere with the same results. Polygamy is almost always abusive, oppressive, patriarchal, or all of the above, and people would rather make excuses for why it has stayed this way than try to prove that observation wrong.

    But I’m open to having my mind changed on this, so if someone wants to point me to some examples of ideal modern-day polygamous communities, the floor is theirs.

    I really don’t buy that polygamy will get better if only given time. There is nothing stopping modern-day polygamous societies from assimilating the egalitarian, progressive values of the society around them and translating those into fair and equal treatment of their women and children. Monogamy got better as the culture around it got better; polygamy consistently goes against the culture it’s submerged in. I find that very disturbing.

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  65. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Jack:

    But my first comment on this thread asked for positive examples of polygamous communities, and so far there’s been no takers.

    That’s b/c I was asleep.

    Among Native American tribes, polygamy was fairly widespread. There were plural marriages among the Dakota of Southern Minnesota, Ojibway of northern Wisconsin, Mesquakia of Iowa, and the Ho-chunk (formerly Winnebago). In the Intermountain West, plural marriage was common among the Shoshone and Paiute tribes; it was also practiced by the Utes and Navajos.
    In many American Indian tribes, polygamy was not a sign of subordinate position — It occurred where women stood on fairly equal footing with the men in their communities. Many tribes expected women to have responsibility, not only for her own children, but for those of her sisters as well. That could be one reason why the most common type of polygamy practiced by American Indians was sororal polygamy, or two sisters married to the same man. If a woman’s husband died, it was not uncommon for her to then marry her sister’s husband — for them it was a way of melding family units.

    The Amazonian Zoe has been practicing polygamy [largely just polyandry] without federal raids.

    The Australian TIwi tribes practiced polygamy until Catholic missionaries came along and stopped the practice — no federal raids though.

    Also, the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone organizes themselves polygamously [largely polygynously] without any federal raids.

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  66. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    Jack — I loved your statement (64):

    There is nothing stopping modern-day polygamous societies…

    You speak as though monogamy and polygamy are on equal footing for comparison — to both show what they have to offer people.

    Monogamy has been used as a means of controlling women in societies since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago and sedentary societies have greatly influenced the structure of human mating. Sadly, one of the legacies of agriculture and industrialization has been STDs, lower testosterone and sperm counts, and sexual repression. In fact, it was the high-grain, vegetarian diet pushers like Kellogg and Graham – whose diet-plan itself lowers libido – who were also advocates for strict sexual repression and genital mutilation.

    If you’d liberate people from the monogamous restrictions [laws of illegality, Church pressure] placed upon them — then it will be manifest what form of marriage mankind would naturally choose.

    The multihusband-multiwife system would quickly make monogamy obsolete. Monogamy’s “success” is a direct result of the state’s monopoly on marriage, its extreme prejudice against anything else [coercion], and churches submitting to and encouraging that monopoly -– just as communism’s success was a direct result of the state forcing the people to accept it.

    What you are failing to do as you point out the instances in which polygamy was done wrong is make sure and analyze monogamy in similar terms. Monogamy should be viewed in terms of the divorce, separation, and infidelity rates among monogamists. It is really serial monogamy that is the order of the day.

    The current narrative is that God has made humans to only be able to love one person [mono+gamy] with all the heart — and that adding another person thereby takes away from your love/cleaving to the first. This is not true.

    Multiple spousal systems are about expressing love to more than one person. In other words, human beings are capable of loving more than one person [poly+gamy] with all the heart and cleaving only to them. In fact, our Father in heaven prefers it to be that way because that is the society that exists among the perfected men and women — the Gods and Goddess — in heaven.

    Anthropology, behavioral biology, and physiology back-up Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy as the natural sexual order of humans — which is, a multihusband-multiwife system” –- it is neither Brigham Young’s polygyny nor is it monogamy.

    The male nature is so strong and aggressive that it has typically dominated in both monogamy and polygyny. One would think that a man having multiple wives would be outnumbered, that the women would have their way with him by outvoting him in everything -– but it doesn’t work that way [diane's (#28) reference to the TLC show].

    The unfair arrangement only works as long as the wives are totally submissive to him, otherwise, he won’t enter the union. So, patriarchy dominates polygyny. Plus, in monogamy, patriarchy also dominates –- typically ending in marital problems, separation, and divorce.

    Only polyandry evens the playing field and creates [when in conjunction with polygyny] egalitarianism, where women and men share their power thru their various councils. Simultaneous polyandry and polygyny [the tribal, multihusband-multiwife plural marriage system] brings women up to the level of men without reducing man’s own stature. It is the solution that Mormon feminists have been searching for, but haven’t found b/c of their fear of polygamy. Mormon male chauvinists likewise fear it because the thought of one’s wife being with another man is too scary. And so we are stuck with monogamy.

    But as long as the people are monogamous, men will continue to retain the power and women will continue to lament it, and serial monogamy will still continue to be the order of the day.

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  67. Bored in Vernal on January 16, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    I think you are falling into the trap I argued against in my Sustainable Polygamy post. It bothers me when we take the FLDS way of practicing polygamy and use it as an example of polygamy across the board. In this small, unrepresentative group, because of its closed nature and oppressive religious practices, there has been some occurrences of boys being cast out and girls being married at extremely young ages. (Note that these two problems can occur in other places as well. Inner cities also seem to foster this.) I don’t see this as being intrinsic to polygamy. There are plenty of other polygamous groups where this does not happen. The polyamorous community in Canada, for example. Or even the AUB in Utah. I think if you want to curb the abuses, you should concentrate on them first, to see if it is truly polygamy which fosters them. For example, the FLDS men in Texas who were married to young girls are now being prosecuted. The group has now publicly committed not to condone this practice any longer.

    I think that abuses are part of every society and I don’t see that polygamy fosters abuse any more than other forms of human attachments. Jack, do you know any polygamists personally? I think once you see an actual family living their chosen lifestyle successfully and happily your mind becomes more open to this system of marriage.

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  68. diane on January 16, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    So, Seth

    Does the New York Times article represent all males and or females in the dating scene. Or just the jerks she describes?

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  69. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    re 64:

    It’s possible that the two are not separable. I would speculate that we’ve likely internalized the horrible fruits of polygamy we’ve witnessed and converted it into repugnance.

    Responding to the second sentence first, I would say the problem here is that the “horrible fruits of polygamy we’ve witnessed” represent fruits of particular forms of polygamy. The former sentence (it’s possible that the two are not separable) thusly has that uncertainty.

    re: incest. I’d say that you have a better argument for an intrinsic ill in incest here. (e.g., no matter how you control [barring we don't have some kind of genetic technology], the heightened potential for genetic birth defects will be a risk). However, I think that the argument that “we’ve probably internalized repugnance against it for this reason” — while appealing — can be suspect. I’m not a huge fan of the just-so stories of evolutionary psychology, but maybe that’s because I’ve seen plenty of scientific racist arguments that try to “internalize” racism in terms of the benefits of groups “sticking to their own kind” kinship-wise or whatever.

    Anyway, the point of separating “telos” from a concept is not to “ignore” what a concept leads to. It’s to point out that a concept doesn’t necessarily lead to a certain end, because that end is not intrinsic in the concept. If incest is not intrinsically wrong, then it’s not because we “ignore” what incest leads to. It’s because we recognize what incest may lead to under certain circumstances, and then we separate, mitigate, eliminate, or control for those certain circumstances.

    And saying that polygamy is “intrinsically” acceptable in the same way incest is “intrinsically” acceptable isn’t going to make me say “yay polygamy” any time soon.

    fair enough. That case hasn’t been made. Rather, it’s something like this: a student says, “I’m just intrinsically not a math person.” Even if we show him that people aren’t intrinsically divided into “math people” and “non-math people,” the non-intrinsic factors haven’t yet been controlled for. So, the student could still struggle with math for other reasons.

    Re: monogamy,

    Umm…there are a few problems in your argumentation here. You want to argue that monogamy is better by comparing its performance on common metrics used with polygamy. This is apples to oranges first. If “mass murder” has not led to “child brides, domestic violence, and abandonment of children on anywhere near the same scale that polygamy has,” does that mean “mass murder” does not have other ills?

    The second apples to oranges characterization is…I sense you’re comparing monogamy *now* (e.g., “against the grain of modern developed society”) to polygamy *now*. Why is this a mismatch? Because monogamy *now* is monogamy (with years of development in a socially accepted context). But monogamy in the past has not been quite so fair. Does treating women like chattel to be bought not routinely lead to patriarchy? How long has the concept of spousal rape even EXISTED? The one-on-one system of monogamy didn’t really do much to help this.

    Modern society has progressed, for sure, but I don’t think it did so for any reason intrinsic to the nature of monogamy? Why? Because my point here (as with polygamy) is that many of these problems aren’t intrinsic to monogamy in the first place!

    I don’t think this comparison holds water. If anyone were silly enough to come to me with this argument against religion, I would immediately bombard them with examples of religion motivating people to do good. I could give them examples of religious people who were egalitarians, religious people who fought for racial justice, religious people who fought for homosexual rights, etc.

    The reason the comparison falls apart isn’t because of an intrinsic difference between religion or polygamy, though. Rather, it is a difference in exposure and the social development of the two institutions — as I’ve already pointed out.

    I really don’t buy that polygamy will get better if only given time. There is nothing stopping modern-day polygamous societies from assimilating the egalitarian, progressive values of the society around them and translating those into fair and equal treatment of their women and children. Monogamy got better as the culture around it got better; polygamy consistently goes against the culture it’s submerged in. I find that very disturbing.

    Except, maybe, their entrenchment *against* these societies around them as a historical and political point. You say, “Polygamy consistently goes against the culture it’s submerged in” — but more aptly, the culture it’s submerged in goes against polygamy first.

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  70. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Diane, it’s hardly a controversial point that shacking up noncommittally an having noncommittal sex with multiple people is pretty-much par for the course among 20 to 30-something single America.

    You can find plenty of studies and news reports on the point if you keep your eyes open.

    Jack, I think the only way your argument about polygamy inevitably leading to abuse works is if you take the FLDS as the ultimate and inevitable expression of what polygamy is.

    You have zero basis for doing this.

    The FLDS are a historical freak. They were forged under unique circumstances unlikely to be fully replicated again.

    They are the largest ORGANIZED faction of polygamists in America. But taken from the entire population of polygamists, they are a minority.

    You’re going to have a hard time arguing that polygamy is any more likely to lead to underage brides than monogamy.

    Especially considering monogamy’s sterling historical record on this count (sarcasm). I could just as easily declare monogamy to be likely to lead to abuse. As many modern liberal or radical sociologists have done – after viewing the broader sweep of matrimonial history.

    The only reason that polygamy has to lead to underage brides is:

    1. it involves marriage, and

    2. it involves females.

    But that’s about it.

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  71. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    #65 & #66Justin ~ Are there any sources you would recommend to learn more about the current practice of Native American polygamy?

    Your #66 contains a whole lot of conjecture and speculation that I don’t think you can possibly support. I haven’t gone into theological justifications for monogamy v. polygamy because I’m an evangelical Christian and my theology is fundamentally different from that of most people here, so I think monotheist justifications are going to be just as unconvincing to you as your polytheist justifications for polygamy are to me.

    And I certainly haven’t ignored monogamy’s problems. I simply don’t see how polygamy remedies those problems. If people can’t keep one marriage together, I don’t see how they’re suddenly supposed to do a better job with more than one. The polygamists I knew (yes, BiV, I have known polygamists) had seen their share of divorces. Polygamy often functioned as a thinly-veiled excuse for the husband to dally with a new woman who wasn’t his wife without a formal commitment to her. With monogamy, we can say right away that behavior is wrong, but polygamy legitimates it.

    Only polyandry evens the playing field and creates [when in conjunction with polygyny] egalitarianism, where women and men share their power thru their various councils.

    Would you agree that polyandry among polygamous groups has been extremely rare?

    Andrew ~ Modern society has progressed, for sure, but I don’t think it did so for any reason intrinsic to the nature of monogamy? Why?

    This is backwards, Andrew. I’m not arguing that society progressed because of monogamy; I’m arguing that society progressed and monogamy progressed with it, but for whatever reason, polygamy didn’t. Why?

    I’m just not buying that it’s because polygamy has been driven underground and if only we allowed it to be openly practiced, it would improve.

    And Seth, I appreciate a good pedantic lecture as much as the next person, but I’m talking about polygamy (and if you wish, monogamy) in the here and now, not the history of either system. Believe it or not, at some point in my history MA training, I have stopped to note that monogamy was as patriarchal as anything up until the last century or so.

    What I’m asking is why polygamy so often retains its patriarchal structure in Western society while monogamous marriages are often egalitarian. If “because we won’t stop picking on polygamists” is the answer you’re sticking with, then I’m guessing we don’t have much more to say to one another on this.

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  72. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Btw, Justin, I’m just now noticing that your #65 seems to be at least a partial copy-and-paste of other Web pages on polygamy (including the Peggy Fletcher Stack article LDS Anarchist linked to earlier), but you don’t put any quotes around your material or link to your source(s). I thought your quote sounded familiar, but still took it to be your own words.

    I would really appreciate it if you would give proper attribution next time.

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  73. S.Faux on January 16, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    What is intrinsically wrong with polygamy (polygyny)?

    1. Children see less of their father.

    2. Wives see less of their husband (but this could also be seen as a plus).

    3. Plural wives typically have reduced decision power, and one or more in the marriage potentially become dominant and potentially dictatorial.

    4. Men might take on additional wives without permission, but even if the wives are given a vote on the matter, plural wives have diluted voting power. Rarely are individual wives given veto power.

    5. Polygamy cannot be universalized because some men cannot find wives. For each extra wife a man takes, there is another man who cannot find a wife.

    6. As wives become scarce, the marital age of females drops, even into the low teens or potentially below.

    7. Plural marriage tends to be dominated by rich and powerful men. Poor men tend to be left out of marriage, power, and financial opportunity.

    There are many other negatives that could be listed, but, for now, I have given enough.

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  74. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    One more thing, Justin. You said:

    Anthropology, behavioral biology, and physiology back-up Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy as the natural sexual order of humans — which is, a multihusband-multiwife system” –- it is neither Brigham Young’s polygyny nor is it monogamy.

    When did Joseph Smith ever support polyandry in the truest sense of the word? What I mean is, where did he teach that it was acceptable for women to have multiple husbands in the same manner that men have multiple wives? Did he ever seal any women to more than one husband?

    I’m aware that he was sealed to 9-11 women who were already married to other men, but I’m not sure this means he was pro-polyandry so much as he was pro-having-other-men’s-wives.

    Thanks in advance.

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  75. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    Jack:

    Are there any sources you would recommend to learn more about the current practice of Native American polygamy?

    Lol — I don’t base my viewpoint on plural marriages on the current [or otherwise] practices of Native Americans, etc. I brought them up b/c you asked [51] and then asked again [64].

    BiV also noted that, “There are plenty of other polygamous groups where [horrible things] do not happen,” why no sarcastic remark for her?

    What I’m asking is why polygamy so often retains its patriarchal structure in Western society.

    At least for this conversation, I think it would be better if you would use the term “polygyny” when that’s what you mean.

    As I said in (66) the recent publication Sex at Dawn back-up Joseph Smith’s model of polygamy as the natural sexual order of humans — which is, a multihusband-multiwife system — it is neither Brigham Young’s polygyny nor is it monogamy. I agree that the male nature is so strong and aggressive that it has typically dominated in both monogamy and polygyny. Thus, we see a “patriarchal structure in Western society.”

    I’m an evangelical Christian and my theology is fundamentally different from that of most people here

    Oh, so in evangelical Christianity is someone who forbiddeth to marry ordained of God?

    LDSA commented on the Sustainable Polygamy post that,

    The tribal model just takes what we are already doing in our sealing ceremonies, and applies it to living people, instead of to just dead people. Nothing more, nothing less. What’s so radical about that?

    I mean, we baptize for the dead, but we also baptize for the living, right? The ordinances are equally valid and the covenants equally binding, right? One is not more valid than the other. What can be done for the dead can be done for the living and vice versa.


    Christians who don’t believe in the necessity of living baptisms and LDS “don’t have much to say to one another” on the subject of baptism for the dead. The one is linked to the other in our minds.

    Likewise, I can see how appeals to scripture given to the LDS would be unpersuasive to a Christian [who rejects such scripture] — which group [as far as I have learned] rejects the notion of eternal marriage from the start.

    If you take a look at marriage from an agency standpoint [given we can agree that it is the devil’s desire to destroy agency], then monogamy is the devil’s tool of choice b/c it limits the agency of both parties in respect to other people.

    This creates an environment of equality, both equally yoked in slavery, being slaves to each other. Polygyny and polyandry would come in second b/c it limits the agency of only one of the genders in respect to other people, while freeing-up the agency of the other gender. Plural marriage would be the worst thing the devil would want, as no one’s agency is limited. No one becomes the exclusive property of anyone else.

    In the end, I don’t think things are as black and white as to say that monogamy is holy matrimony and every other type of marriage is inspired of the devil. Which, I think, was Andrew’s point in the OP.

    There are a lot of extrinsic factors [e.g. consent, community, culture, the state, religions] that are more likely to determine “badness” of a human relationship than just relying on counting spouses.

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  76. Dan on January 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    I curse which ever human being introduced polygamy into Mormon theology.

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  77. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    (73) Thanks for clarifying that you meant polygyny only.

    (74) Well, the first plural marriage sealing Joseph Smith performed was himself to a woman who as already married. So Mormon polygamy began with one woman having two husbands and one man having two wives.

    Further, verse 41 of D&C 132 allows for polyandry within the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.

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  78. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    (74) or link to your source(s)

    Ha — that’s probably b/c of a traumatizing experience I had at a feminist site concerning my linking to relevant material to better source my comments.

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  79. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    ^ Oops — that’s should be (72).

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  80. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    S. Faux,

    1800s Utah did not seem to have any significant problems with shortages of eligible females.

    Part of the reason was the disproportionate percentage of European convert immigrants who were female (a pattern that remains in LDS missionary work to this day), and part of the reason was simply that the population was steadily growing and eligible men tended to marry girls a couple years younger.

    Obviously universal polygamy or even widespread polygamy has logistical problems and can only be practiced healthily in just the right demographic circumstances.

    But then, who here is arguing for universal polygamy anyway? I wasn’t. And I don’t see anyone else who was either.

    As long as the practice is limited and done in moderation, you don’t really have a demographic problem.

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  81. Starfoxy on January 16, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    But then, who here is arguing for universal polygamy anyway? I wasn’t. And I don’t see anyone else who was either.

    The trouble is that we believe in eternal marriage. If God intends us to live a law that logistically *requires* that some of his children (preferably the male ones) not be exalted then that seems problematic to me.

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  82. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    The trouble is that we believe in eternal marriage. If God intends us to live a law that logistically *requires* that some of his children (preferably the male ones) not be exalted then that seems problematic to me.

    How does a law that allows saints to pattern themselves after the Gods — who are equal in the bonds of all things [which would include martial bonds] — *require* preferably male children of God to not be exalted?

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  83. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I wasn’t aware we were necessarily covering the Celestial arrangement either.

    I figure that there will be plenty of flexibility in heaven to arrange things well.

    Besides, my take on Joseph Smith was that he was mainly interested in extending the sealing power to all members of the human race. He meant to seal not just multiple members of Zion to multiple members, but I believe he was hoping to potentially seal ALL members of Zion to each other.

    I think if he hadn’t died, the whole thing would have been much more radically inclusive than it eventually became.

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  84. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    re 71:

    Jack,

    I’m just not buying that it’s because polygamy has been driven underground and if only we allowed it to be openly practiced, it would improve.

    Well, that’s another thing. Now that it HAS been driven underground, the solution can’t just be to “allow it to be openly practiced.” You don’t erase years of subjugation by setting things “equal” at some arbitrary date and pretending no one had a headstart.

    This actually should not be a new concept to all sorts of rights movements. So I’m not surprised if you are not convinced.

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  85. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    re 73:

    S. Faux,

    Why when we say “polygamy” do you default to “polygyny”? (and then, why do we act like polyandry is the “either/or” as if you have one or the other, but not both?)

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  86. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    Quick question for Andrew, BiV, Seth, Justin, LDSAnarchist, and just about anyone else who would like to answer.

    It seems that most of the arguments here in favor of polygamy hinge on the requirement that polyandry must be allowed as well as polygyny.

    Are we in agreement, then, that a society that is polygynous—either because polyandry is prohibited or because women are generally uninterested in practicing it even when it’s permitted—is a bad idea?

    Assume that there is no surplus of adult women and sex ratios are about even.

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  87. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    re 86:

    Jack, I can’t speak for the others, but I’ll go ahead and say sure: why not?

    (I’d note that the phrase “because women are generally uninterested in practicing it even when it’s permitted” could have a lot more baggage behind it as well. I hear a lot of people say about interracial marriages, “I don’t have any problem with it, but I’m just not interested in one. I’m not racist; I just don’t like black chicks.” My question is: how is it that someone’s sexual preferences can just *happen* to mimic social constructions of race so well, even fetishizing certain races in certain ways that might mimic social fetishizations of race. In the same way, I find it suspect when people say, “Well, it turns out that women just are generally uninterested in being engineers/scientists/mathematicians after all. They want to fulfill traditional roles we have put for them even when they are liberated.”)

    I’d caveat as well that as an advocate for gay marriage and such, I’m probably really slippery sloping on the polygamy thing too lol.

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  88. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    [86]:

    Polygyny is not intrinsically wrong because so long as a woman gives consent to her husband to take additional wives, releasing him from any vows of fidelity he may have been under, and giving him permission to marry this or that woman — he is justified in taking on the additional wives, for it is marriage with consent and thus a marriage ordained of God.

    When taking on a second wife, the man needs the consent of the first wife. When taking on a third wife, the man needs the consent of the first two wives, and so on and so forth. As long as all give consent, there is no sin.
    Polygyny, whether practiced in the new and everlasting covenant, or practiced in a for-time, man-made covenant, is ordained of God as long as the wife or wives of the man give consent.

    Polyandry is not intrinsically wrong. In the new and everlasting covenant, there are two ways in which a woman get take an additional husband. One way is that she is simply sealed to a second [or third, etc.] husband.

    The second way is that her husband breaks his marriage vows and commits adultery, whereby she is taken and given [i.e. married] to another man. She remains married to the first husband [b/c the word “taken” doesn’t explicitly mean that she has received a divorce from the first].

    Outside of the new and everlasting covenant, a woman may obtain a second marriage thru consent of her current husband or husbands, in the same way as discussed above for polygyny. Like polygyny, polyandry is ordained of God, as long as all parties involved give consent.

    Monogamy is not intrinsically wrong. If one person [or both] has emotional needs such that he/she would require a spouse to commit to not loving any other people, then if the other spouse is willing to submit to that — they may take vows of exclusivity upon themselves. These vows are ordained of God, as long as both persons consent.

    Not giving consent to marry is intrinsically wrong. When a man wishes to take an additional wife and his current wife or wives do not give their consent [which are the keys of this power] then they sin because they are forbidding him from marrying, making them not ordained of God.

    Likewise, when a woman wishes to take an additional husband and her current husband or husbands do not give consent, then the husbands become sinners in forbidding her from marrying.

    This is the law of Sarah [in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage] and it is applicable to both men and women. “Wrongness” consists in forbidding to marry, which makes the person doing the forbidding not ordained of God — whether they are the state, the Church, parents, or a spouse.

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  89. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Justin ~ I didn’t ask if polygyny was “intrinsically wrong,” I asked if polygyny without polyandry was bad for society.

    If I want to take a dip naked in a swimming pool full of honey, that isn’t “intrinsically wrong.” I’m not hurting anyone, and the honey isn’t hurting me, so how could it be?

    But it might be extrinsically wrong, because expending large quantities of tasty food on lascivious sensual pleasures is generally a poor use of resources. Furthermore, while it might not be so bad if one person does it, what if my excesses incite a naked-honey-tubbing trend? Honey might become scarce altogether, and then what would we spread on our bread come tea cider time?

    This “intrinsically wrong” question just strikes me as less and less useful the longer this thread goes on, an attempt to divorce our choices from the very real consequences they have on others.

    So, if anyone else would like to answer my #86, I will wait before I reply further.

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  90. Bored in Vernal on January 16, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    Ms. Jack’s question is:
    Are we in agreement, then, that a society that is polygynous—either because polyandry is prohibited or because women are generally uninterested in practicing it even when it’s permitted—is a bad idea?

    No, I’m not in agreement with this. First of all, I agree with Seth’s #80 that universal polygyny is not likely. When practiced in a limited manner within an open community, there would not be a demographic problem. Also, I agree with Andrew that social constructions come into play here. I wonder how much of the distaste is innate. Polygyny is not a distasteful thought to me. While I don’t quite aspire to the “self-imposed suffering” that Bruce mentions in #13, I do see the potential for growth that such a situation offers, in light of certain temple covenants regarding consecration. And I think it would be cool to try it and see if I could do it. I think I would enjoy it, and I would be good at it, and I would just build me a little kingdom here on earth! :)

    Rob says, “To me, sharing intimacy with [one]other in marriage seems to be the purest form of union.” This seems to be true for Starfoxy, too — and that’s great, certainly a lot of people feel that way. But that’s not my picture of the purest form of union. I find the sharing and the community and the consecration aspects of polygamy — (even polygyny, which is what you asked about) to be a beautiful, pure and godlike concept in my mind.

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  91. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 6:34 PM

    re 89:

    You lost me there, Jack.

    Dipping naked into a pool of honey isn’t wrong for those extrinsic reasons.

    In fact, the only thought that comes to me about its wrongness is my strong impression (but I Am Not A Doctor) that sugary things will make you chafe in places you don’t want to chafe — so you might be hurting yourself. But furthermore, your argument about a “poor use of resources” is arguing about something intrinsic to the nature of honey — namely, that it is intrinsically a rival and excludable good, meaning that when one person (like you) uses it for one task (honey tubbing), then that necessarily leads to less of that good for someone else. So your calculation deals with economic optimization, where you feel honey-tubbing is economically suboptimal.

    But that’s the problem with economic optimization arguments: you have to show that something is a “a poor use of resources”. To do that, you have to argue whose vantage point establishes what the proper use of resources is (a problem in our mixed market economy that tends closer toward free market principles than central planning, for sure). In such an economy as ours, if people are (hypothetically) more willing to use a scarce resource like honey for honey-tubbing than for bread spread, then you’re going to make the case as to why it is “wrong” for people to choose how they will use scarce resources. Why is using honey for bread “right” and honey for tubbing “wrong” except that you FEEL honey tubbing is strange and maybe even repugnant? Well, one other reason might be that you have a different system of economic optimization (which is the case when people argue for wealth redistribution).

    …I guess in the same way that the intrinsically wrong question strikes you as less and less useful, it seems to me that your examples and comparisons seem to get further and further away from the mark.

    I am also interested in the varying answers to the question posed in 86, though. Already, we have difference!

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  92. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    This “intrinsically wrong” question just strikes me as less and less useful the longer this thread goes on…

    The title of this thread is “What is intrinsically wrong with polygamy?” — what did you think you were getting into?

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  93. Ms. Jack on January 16, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Sigh.

    Well, Andrew, apparently me and the five people responding to me just aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and in honesty I feel like I’m being pecked to death with tangential arguments and hyper-scrutinization of my analogies. I’ll take my case to my own blog. Best of luck to you all.

    I will say, BiV, that I believe it is absolutely, 100% intrinsically wrong to forbid women to have more than one husband when husbands are permitted to have more than one wife, which is what all fundamentalist LDS groups teach. So I guess we have a difference indeed.

    Justin ~ As in the example of incest, I thought that the natural consequences of something count on whether or not it’s “intrinsically wrong,” and that’s what I was interested in discussing.

    Apparently everyone disagrees. There is nothing wrong with polygamy, so long as we don’t have to consider its potential effects on society. Please forget I ever bothered to reply here.

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  94. LDS Anarchist on January 16, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Ms. Jack,

    Let me ask you this. Let’s suppose that you are living in a polygynous community in which “there is no surplus of adult women and sex ratios are about even” and the married men all have multiple wives, leaving a group of single men who have to vie for the attentions of a smaller number of single women. Now, let’s suppose that you are one of those eligible, single women and that you are attracted to one of the married men in the community who already have a few wives. You and he are romantically attached and you would like to marry him and not the others.

    My questions: do you think the community has a right to pass a law prohibiting you from marrying that already married man if both he and his wives (as well as yourself) all consent to the arrangement? Would such a law violate the rights of you and your chosen spouse? Or, contrariwise, do you believe that group “rights” ought to take precedence over individual rights? Would you be content to live out your life single and alone because you do not wish to marry any of the single men and it is against the law for the married man you love to take an additional spouse? Would you find such an arrangement fair and equitable for all parties involved?

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  95. Andrew S on January 16, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    re 93:

    :[

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  96. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    Jack, it’s just that I don’t see any particularly negative effects on society that we aren’t already dealing with under monogamy.

    Aside from general distaste – like Starfoxy expressed well.

    I do not see polygamy as something inherently any more likely to lead to abuse than any other relationship form.

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  97. Seth R. on January 16, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Responding to question #86, I don’t think polygyny is a bad idea per se. But I think the option of polyandry needs to be there as a general fairness matter. And because not all women are the same and have the same needs. Some will want to take advantage of it.

    But I do think the current impulse is more toward polygyny than polyandry – for both men and women. It seems to be what people prefer – which is, of course, not necessarily a compelling argument in polygyny’s favor.

    But this is just me observing the temporal mortal reality. In heaven, I would hope polyandry would be allowed as a general matter.

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  98. Bored in Vernal on January 16, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    awwww, Jack, don’t leave. I think the discussion is a good one, and it wouldn’t be a great discussion if both sides weren’t being well defended.

    You are doing a fantastic job at defending your p.o.v. But if you are feeling underrepresented, go and get some friends to join in!

    I must say I am very interested to see if you will respond to #94. Will you be able to suspend your distaste long enough to imagine yourself in that situation? And if you can, do you still think it would be wrong?

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  99. Bishop Rick on January 16, 2011 at 9:45 PM

    There are so many ridiculous comments here in support of polygamy that I wonder how the world hasn’t fallen into a state of total chaos…not because of polygamy, but because of the inordinate amount of stupidity that exists.

    Anarchist, find a scripture in the OT that states anyone was ever commended to practice any form of polygamy.

    Jack brought up an excellent point about society progressing and monogamy progressing along with it, but polygamy hasn’t. That is the single most telling statement made in this thread.

    I said it once and I will say it again:

    Polygamy is nothing more than excused adultery.

    Don’t leave Jack, I’ve got your back.

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  100. Bishop Rick on January 16, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    Justin

    [48] “all I’ve gotten out of the comments so far is that Rick can only think about sex”

    Says the guy that wants to bang your wife if you join his tribe.

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  101. Justin on January 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    Rick:

    Were you being ironic when you responded to a claim that you seem to only be able to focus your comments on sex by referring me as “the guy that wants to bang your wife if you join his tribe“?

    Or did you think of this one at some point today and realize it was better than your initial response yesterday [#50]?

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  102. Dan on January 17, 2011 at 4:46 AM

    I’m with Bishop Rick in #99,

    Polygamy is nothing more than excused adultery.

    There is no grander reason than this, no matter who says it.

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  103. Dan on January 17, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    And I fully back Ms. Jack’s point in #93,

    I will say, BiV, that I believe it is absolutely, 100% intrinsically wrong to forbid women to have more than one husband when husbands are permitted to have more than one wife, which is what all fundamentalist LDS groups teach. So I guess we have a difference indeed.

    Otherwise, once again, women are subservient to men’s sexual desires.

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  104. Matthew Chapman on January 17, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    The first polygynist I ever met was a Chinese Buddhist.

    The current President of the United States is the child of a polygamous family.

    (Technically, his father was a bigamist in Hawaii, and a polygamist in Kenya.)

    Polygyny is legal in many Muslim countries, and practiced without official sanction throughout other countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. (For example, in Turkey, polygamy has been illegal for almost a century, but is a common practice among the Kurdish minority.)

    Toussaint Charbonneau, the Canadian husband of the famous explorer Sacagawea, was also a polygamist, although nominally a Catholic.

    The practice of taking second (or more) “Indian wives” among was not uncommon among the European explorers of North America.

    I’m just saying there are models of polygyny outside of the FLDS and mid-19th century Utah, including modern instances.

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  105. diane on January 17, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    okay, I really wasn’t going to join in the conversation, but really I can’t stand it.

    Mind you I’m going to preface this by saying that I am Not married, and I don’t intend to be married, nor do I want to be married. And no, I’m not a lesbian.

    That being said, I would think being married to one man is hard enough. Its’ hard on a good day let alone on a bad day. Just the practicality of it bothers me. I don’t want to have to pick up dirty socks and underwear for five men. I don’t want to have to put down the toilet seat for men who seem not to remember there’s a woman in the house.

    Lets’ not even start with how men behave when they get sick. Compound that by five, where is the joy in that, What would be the advantage of having five husbands? I don’t see the value.

    Men make out far better than women when it comes to polygamy because every single need is taken care by one, or more women. He knows that if he can’t get what he wants(and I’m not necessarily talking about sex) he can get it from another.

    I don’t see that being the same as a woman being with five guys. I don’t think the reciprocity factor would be there..

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  106. cwc on January 17, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    hey- where has my comment gone?

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  107. Andrew S on January 17, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    re 106:

    cwc,

    I’m not seeing anything in the filter from you…so I don’t know.

    re 105:

    diane,

    Who says a wife’s purpose is to pick up dirty socks and underwear for men? Who says the purpose of a wife is to take care of every single need of a man?

    This system that attributes marital roles by sex seems to a indicative of a problem in our society — and not a problem of polygamy (or even monogamy).

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  108. Seth R. on January 17, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    As a practical matter though Andrew, this is admittedly the social context we actually live in.

    As such, I actually agree with diane’s observations. I think real life polygamy would run into these issues.

    Some people may handle them better than others. And many others probably shouldn’t even try.

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  109. Justin on January 17, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    According to D&C 83 — it is women who have claim on their husbands for their maintenance — not the other way around.

    Men make out far better than women when it comes to polygamy because every single need is taken care by one, or more women.

    However, a man with multiple wives has multiple women that he is responsible for the maintenance of — while a woman with multiple husbands has multiple men that are charged with providing for her maintenance.

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  110. Andrew S on January 17, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    re 108,

    Seth,

    Not saying I disagree. But then we ought to say “real life *everything* would run into these issues.”

    From here, we can choose to demonize everything that is tainted, or go to the source or the taint.

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  111. diane on January 17, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    @107)

    many of my friends claim to have egalitarian marriages, yet, its’ always my female friends doing the housework.

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  112. Seth R. on January 17, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    True.

    But usually that’s because the guy doesn’t really care if the house looks like a stye.

    But the woman often does.

    So the person who cares more ends up taking care of it.

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  113. Bored in Vernal on January 17, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Hey, if I ever get 5 guys bringing in an income and all contributing to my financial support you can bet I will hire a cleaning service to take care of all those teeny little details like socks and dishes. Out for dinner 5 nights a week with a different DH, and on weekends, pizza and Chinese takeout. And I might even insist on enough bathrooms so I can have my own, thus eliminating the toilet seat annoyance.

    See? Problems easily enough solved.

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  114. diane on January 17, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    @113)

    Okay I hear you, but hears’ my Feminist response.

    I don’t need 5 men to take me out to dinner five nights a week. I can take my self out if I so choose. If I so choose, I can also hire a house cleaner to clean my own house.

    I still don’t need a husband. and or a wife to have these things all on my own. I believe the church calls this self-reliance.

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  115. LDS Anarchist on January 17, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Is self-reliance a principle of the gospel?

    When I do a scripture search for the word rely and all its terminations, I only find that we are to rely upon the word of God, on God for strength, on the Redeemer, on the Lord, on the Lord thy God, upon the spirit of prophecy, (wholly or alone) upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and upon the mercies of the world and God (for missionaries.)

    I don’t find it taught anywhere in the scriptures that we are to be self-reliant. No. I am in error. Korihor the anti-Christ taught essential self-reliance:

    And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime. (Alma 30: 17)

    Also, when I look up the word depend and its terminations I find that depending upon oneself (one’s own strength, wisdom, judgment, etc) is considered wickedness, while depending on God is considered righteousness.

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  116. diane on January 17, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    18)

    I would most wholeheartedly concur with you, but I recently sat down with my bishop and had a talk with him because as I am on disability I needed some assistance. He told me that all I needed was a lesson on budgeting and self-reliance, and I politely refused him. But this is a threadjack and I apologize.

    Hence my refusal at present to go to any male to fulfill any obligation for me that I am capable of fulfilling on my own.

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  117. Rock Waterman on January 17, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    Re LDS Anarchist #55 & 57,

    The three criteria that must be met for any contract to be lawful are that the agreement must be entered into willingly, knowingly, and voluntarily by both parties. That’s why the parties to the marriage are asked specific questions to which they answer “I do.” If they don’t they’re not willing.

    Of course, both parties also must be competent to enter into a contract, which is why that scare tactic we sometimes hear about if we allow gays to marry, then what’s to prevent someone some day from marrying his dog is not a valid argument against gay marriage. A dog is not capable of entering into a contract willingly, knowingly and voluntarily. Homos are.

    (I’m referring to Homo Sapiens, of course.)

    Those three requirements must also be met if another party is to be part of the contract. Just as both partners must agree to bring a third party into a business, if a husband wants to bring another wife into a marriage, BOTH original parties to that contract must give consent, otherwise one is breaking the contract.

    By the way, there’s nothing at all wrong with indentured servitude. That was the way many poor Englishmen were able to pay passage to America. Someone already in America would agree to pay the passage to a person who would not otherwise not have the means to get here. In return, he contracted a certain amount of time and labor to his benefactor upon his arrival.

    An added benefit would be that the newcomer would usually be taught a trade that would be to his advantage when he was released from his contract, and he had time to make acquaintances so that he didn’t just arrive on our shores empty handed and unknown.

    Indentured servitude of a sort is still practiced by most of us today, except we are released after eight hours to return to our own homes. So technically it’s not indentured in the classical sense.

    Involuntary servitude, of course, was another matter. One of the parties was not a willing, knowing volunteer to that arrangement.

    Since 1913, our tax system has placed many Americans under involuntary servitude, there is no doubt.

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  118. J on January 17, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    Rock:

    Does tithing, as defined by the church (which definition may not be entirely scriptural), count as “involuntary servitude”? After all, your spiritual exaltation (and ordinances) is based on your ability to abide by the church’s own definition. I wonder how those people living in the 1800s reacted when their local leaders – who were receiving a portion of the local tithes – reacted to calls for increased tithing.

    As to self-reliance, if there’s any better indicator of just what we believe, we have no further to look than the contrast between “give us this day, our daily bread,” to “daily bread” – the 25-year food storage commercialization.

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  119. Bored in Vernal on January 17, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    Oh, boy, don’t even get me started on the “gospel” of self-reliance!

    On second thought, too late, I think I need to put up a post on the subject…

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  120. Bishop Rick on January 18, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Justin 101

    Caught me, but you have to admit, the second response was much better. I know it brought a smile to your face.

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  121. LDS Anarchist on January 19, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    Well, I finally got around to reading the “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone” article mentioned in the post.

    The one thing that jumped out at me was it appeared to be a promotion piece (propaganda) for Planned Parenthood. My understanding is that PP is tied to eugenics. I won’t link any articles nor elaborate. Just do an Ixquick.com search for “planned parenthood, eugenics” and read up on it.

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  122. Justin on March 3, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    Mods:

    That above link might require deletion.

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  123. The conditions of this law « LDS Anarchy on May 3, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    [...] all we know — the woman may have a reason for why she requires exclusivity [like Starfoxy in comments #24, 30, 42, and 46 found here], and the righteous husband may be moved with compassion for her and instead choose to submit [...]

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  124. [...] work out their relationships with the church and with family. People are still chatting about polygamy etc.. Other amusing topics include apologetics and — what is this topic? — Theological [...]

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