As a missionary in Europe, I once knocked on a door at a nondescript housing development. Half a dozen hot Middle Eastern girls answered the door, dressed in skimpy Jasmine-like costumes, peeking around the door and giggling. I assumed that they were someone’s harem. They pled with me to come inside, relax, and spread the good word.
This cultural exchange was shocking, but then it struck me that my ancestors were polygamous. Polygamy played a major role in history of the church I was representing, and yet it was something I didn’t really understand. I have been conditioned by western society to be ashamed of this history. But is polygamy actually something to be proud of?
Libertarian Opposition To Federal Government
Various groups including Native Americans and Muslims practiced polygamy in America. Top-ranking leaders throughout history have endorsed polygamy, including Martin Luther. But it is Mormons that are so indelible in the media narrative, so I will investigate Mormon polygamy.
The media sensationalized Mormon polygamy because of political circumstances involving Christianity and the federal government. Soon after their founding, Mormons were fiercely persecuted by local Christian and political leaders. Their property was stolen, men were tortured and killed, and women were gang-raped.
The Mormons repeatedly appealed to the federal government for protection, but were denied. The federal government was much weaker in those days and didn’t get involved in state affairs. Still, Mormons resented the government’s failure, especially because the federal constitution is considered sacred in Mormon theology. What is the point of a federal government if it can’t keep its people safe?
Joseph Smith was so dismayed by these events that in 1844 he ran for President. He ran a decidedly Libertarian campaign, calling for the end to prisons, to the intrusion into Indian lands, and to the national debt. But it was Smith’s strong anti-slavery message that made the persecution worse. Anti-slavery activist Elijah Lovejoy had recently been murdered by a Missouri mob and Smith eventually was killed by a government-related mob as well.
After the Civil War, the federal government’s power grew greatly. The Morril Act of 1862 ushered in its next grab for power. According to a book by Sarah Gordon, the federal government used the polygamy issue to assume more control over territories:
…because the Reconstruction amendments were themselves designed to erase slavery and its incidents, the happy blending of anti-slavery and anti-slavery theory in political and cultural venues spilled over into the government’s strategy. (Gordon, p.129)
Politicians equated polygamy with slavery, and “patriarchal despotism” became the next fight. Newspapers printed lurid sex stories and political cartoons of women chained up in dungeons. Mainstream Christianity and political activists campaigned to free women from “white slavery” in Utah. In 1857, James Buchanan sent the largest body of troops in American history to quell the Utah “rebellion.”
The same government that had refused to protect Mormons was now arresting them because it didn’t like who they were marrying. This further incited resentment for the government. Joseph Smith had even gone so far as to marry women who were already married and a 14-year-old girl (these marriages were never consummated, as they were considered defunct until the afterlife, thus making them technically not bigamous).
As Mormons became more stubborn, federal politicians exploited the polygamy issue to an even greater degree. Religion and government were just beginning to understand the power of control over sexuality and family.
Spiritual meaning and this-worldly power converged most poignantly in marriage. In monogamy (as in polygamy), husbands and wives blended faith with governance, obedience with power, spiritual growth with human sexuality. (Gordon, p.5)
The government started taking broad, oppressive measures, and as a result, defiance toward government oppression became part of the polygamous family structure. Human relationships began to be considered a fundamental freedom in America.
President Arthur (1881-1885) required territories to file all marriage certificates with the Supreme Court. He made polygamy a felony, and forced wives to testify in court against their accused husbands. One Republican-leaning newspaper praised these laws as the ax that would chop down the tree of polygamy:
One woman who was detained was Lucy Kimball. The prosecutor interrogated her about her sexual history, and when she refused to answer, calling the question insulting, he publicly shamed her.
Your feelings were not so tender when in 1843 you married a man who at that time to your knowledge had four or five other wives, and imposed yourself upon his innocent wife, and deceived her, by joining that kind of an alliance with her husband,– that was not insulting,–but now when I ask you a question, which under the law I have the right to ask you, you say it is insulting. (p.374, Richard Hill)
The very government that claimed to be liberating the poor oppressed wives was now publicly shaming them. Mormons, and to some degree the general public, resented this abuse of power. Opposition to government oppression was no longer tied to slavery, but became grounded on more legitimate reasons.
Strengthening The Patriarchal Order
One of the goals of Communism is to “discredit the family as an institution” and create a “need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents.” To this end, Communists have sought to tear down the role of the “father whose will was law.” Communist feminist Alexandra Kollontai listed three strategies for making the family unnecessary “either to its members or to the nation as a whole”:
1.Put women in the workforce, to undermine the father as the “family’s sole breadwinner.”
2. Make the national economy less dependent on the family unit.
3. The state raises the child rather than the parents.
The polygamous family structure countered each of these three strategies. The wife’s role was cemented as a mother and home-keeper. The man became the keystone that held everything together, and his rule was necessarily unquestioned.
Now, this was not easy for women. There are plenty of books and diaries out there from polygamous wives detailing the discipline and work that it required. Many women were broken-hearted that they weren’t the only wife. Families were rife with jealousies and feelings of neglect, and the man had to work harder to manage all the women.
But rather than bring them down, Mormon men boasted that polygamy made them stronger and healthier as they got older.
I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes in plurality looks fresh, young, and spritely. (Heber C Kimball)
Men were less dependent on women. If one woman acted up, he could just go to the next one. The first wife would then either have to humble herself, or leave and take her chances in the world. The man did not have to sacrifice his convictions. Mormon leader Brigham Young advised men not to get too attached to their women:
Elders, never love your wives one hair’s breadth further than they adorn the gospel, never love them so but that you can leave them at a moment’s warning without shedding a tear.
This social structure put the man above the woman, and the religious convictions at the top. Women obeyed and honored their husband, and the men obeyed and honored God. As long as men had morals and conviction, this worked beautifully.
Not many families were actually polygamous. Most marriages in Utah were monogamous, but Mormon leaders were expected to take plural wives, especially the widowed and poor. There was a vast number of widows, and food stamps and welfare didn’t exist for women in those days. Marriage was an arrangement necessary for survival, and women were expected to give as much as they received: sex and raising children. Today, women typically wait out the 10 years of marriage until they can divorce and get half of the man’s assets, but in those days women had a great responsibility.
Children were noticeably stronger and more intelligent because they received so much attention from their mothers. The women devoted more time to the children because “children are very important to women for personal, religious and status reasons.” (Zeitzen, p.101)
The Mormon community was a vast assimilation of different backgrounds, mainly of immigrants from around the world. The immigrants were strongly pressured to adopt these values for breeding their offspring, regardless of where they came from. The killing of many Mormon men by mobs, and the exodus out into the Western wilderness created a great need for reproduction. Polygamous marriages were held up as an example of how society benefited in these circumstances, both in the Mormon community and the country at large.
As the poison of Communism encroached on western nations in the ensuing decades, the values that spread from polygamy brought resistance that other countries did not have. The family broke down at a slower rate in America. Social decay has only begun to accelerate in the last 50 years or so.
End To Victorian Suppression
European reformers like Martin Madan pointed out that polygamy is a natural alternative to prostitution. The Victorian age had made secret prostitution a norm for upper class gentlemen. Hypocritical displays of propriety and the lack of responsibility in this kind of relationship made polygamy favorable. Polygamous wives had a much more important role to play than prostitutes.
Socialists tell us that marriage subjected and oppressed women, but quite the opposite is true. It lifted them up from the gutter. They didn’t get a free ride, food stamps and welfare, but it did fulfill their instinctual role as mother and wife. Unfortunately today, Socialism has intruded on and negated such benefits of marriage in American society, and we have fallen back to Victorian-era suppression.
Christian thinkers of the day such as James Campbell declared honest monogamy is impossible. Strict monogamous guidelines were a pagan invention of the Greek and Romans. Only one in six ancient civilizations made monogamy the norm. Forcing a man to live in this kind of rigid decorum is not healthy, he said.
It is important to point out that the Mormon community strictly banned women having plural husbands. It is not healthy for women to have more than one lover at a time, indeed divine revelation declared that if an espoused woman has more than one man, she “shall be destroyed.” (D&C 132:63)
The polyamory that currently exists in liberal areas typically involve girls that regularly sleep with multiple men at a time. From what I have seen, these girls quickly turn rotten and the men they sleep with are dull-witted and weak.
We are in an age similar to the Victorian era. Social equality inquisitors demand rigid conformity to their ideas, which are based on old-fashioned Communism. Women are taught that their instinct as a mother and wife is sinful, and men frequently become repressed to the point of perversion.
I don’t think successful polygamy is possible in this environment. Things will really have to change for us to be able to go back to that. We must deal with the circumstances we are in. Every example of polygamy I have seen or heard of today has ended up in disaster.
But polygamy can still exist as a legacy that inspires us to audaciously stand up to government oppression, to demand our rightful role as patriarchal leaders in society and personal relationships, and to stop suppressing natural and positive instincts.
It is no accident that Mormons took a leading role in the fight against gay marriage. The media will tell you that “gay rights” is a liberating notion that takes church and government out of personal relationships. But the opposite is true. Gay marriage increases the federal government intrusion into state and personal affairs.
The federal government—not even voters or elected representatives but dictatorial judges—define what marriage is. Not the states, not churches, not the individual, but federal judges. Gay marriage is just one more detail in the federal government’s definition of whom you can or can’t have a relationship with, and it is a definition that is perverse. In their ruling on Proposition 8, the federal Supreme Court declared that private citizens have no right to compel their leaders to uphold laws:
We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to.
Think about that for a second, outside the context of gay marriage. Private citizens do not have the standing to defend constitutional statutes when political leaders refuse to? We are back to pre-Civil War times when the federal government refused to protect citizens from the machinations of local leaders. What other constitutional statutes will the federal government refuse to defend? Oh, but when it comes to tell you whom you can or cannot marry, they will send out an army!
The good news is many people are on the right side. People recognize that government intrusions like gay marriage are wrong, and that the government is failing to do what is right. We don’t put up with suppression in this new SJW-controlled Victorian era. We demand our rightful place as men, to lead our country, lead our communities, lead families, and lead our lives.
Read More: America Is Becoming A Homosexual Nation