11 April 2008

What's the Deal with Polygamy? (or: Take my Wives, Please!)

On Wednesday BGSU held this "health fair" on campus. I went hoping to mounge some free food, but left with tons of free condoms instead- which I see as a totally fair trade. Anyways, most of said condoms were left in my tote bag and promptly forgotten. Until this morning. After my first class (Social Psychology) I was talking with my presentation group and our prof, when one of said condoms fell out of my bag and onto the floor. Mortifying! I think only one girl noticed it, but it was still funny*.

On a more serious note, have you heard about this polygamist ranch in Texas?
I first read about it on Monday, but it grows increasingly disturbing as details continue to develop. Last weekend, authorities raided a ranch in Texas inhabited by members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Apparently, a sixteen year old girl called the police with reports of abuse be her much older husband. The girl has not yet been identified, but over four hundred children and one hundred and thirty-nine women were rescued from the ranch. This fundamentalist church broke away from Mormonism over a hundred years ago, apparently because they disagreed over polygamy. The Mormon Church wanted to ban polygamist practices; the Latter Day Saints disagreed.

After reading about this creepy ranch, I am filled with tons of questions. First of all, how could anyone accept such an unbalanced, misogynistic religion? As far as I can tell, women were treated like chattel. Can sixteen year old girls legally consent to marry in Texas? Did they give consent? Is consent valid if you’ve been brain-washed by a creepy, cultish religion? How many
men were there for one hundred and thirty nine women (or, what was the average number of wives per husband)? How did so many people fly under the radar for so long?

Maybe I have a harder time comprehending such an event because I am not a religious person. But I really think this is more of a cult than a religion. I know lots of Christians (and Mormons, for that matter) who would have similarly revolted feelings regarding middle-aged men sleeping with teen girls. Statutory rape is still rape, even if the rapist is invoking the name of God.

*I actually don't think incidents like the one (ie: getting caught with contraception) above should be anything to get embarrassed about. Healthy practices should be commended, right? Even if it is a sociology professor who catches you.

**Photo taken from the HBO series Big Love, in which Bull Paxton plays a man- with three wives.


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Anonymous said...

Some of the questions you asked are addressed in the excellent book Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer. It's about fundamentalist Mormonism and goes into a little detail about how fundamentalist sects flee to different parts of the country to avoid the law. Another book you might be interested in is Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer. Spencer grew up a fundamentalist Mormon and was in a plural marriage. I haven't read it but it does have a pretty high rating on amazon.com