My Memoir: Should Polygamy Be Legalized?

escaping-polygamy

 

MY EXPOSE ON POLYGAMY

Was It really a Divine Revelation from God to Joseph Smith that people had to live this so-called “principle” in order to attain the highest degree of glory in heaven?”*

The above question was on the Discussion Board of a mainstream LDS Mormon blog site I happened to run into on Facebook.

Get ready for a mouthful! I couldn’t resist giving these innocent people and true believers a piece of my mind, I, having had first-hand experience the first twenty-one years of my life living within this morbid, backward lifestyle.

But first, if you are not familiar with Mormon doctrine and history, do you know why LDS mainstream Mormons began living polygamy in the first place in the early history of their church? And do you know why many mainstream Mormons still believe it will be lived in heaven?

My intent right now is not to give you a history of this whole rancorous debate and bizarre belief. You can find plenty about it in such books as Todd Compton’s well-researched book, “In Sacred Loneliness,” and Fawn Brodie’s documentaryNo Man Knows My History.”

My intent in this blog is to simply present to you my response to a Mainstream Mormon online site, where members were discussing their feelings and beliefs about the idea of having to live polygamy in the hereafter.

In response to their questions and concerns, I dared to post on their Discussion Panel my very honest Ex-polyg perspective. You can imagine it went over really well with devout followers of Joseph Smith – I’m being facetious of course because the following is what I posted:

“It is common for cult leaders to use their power to sow their wild oats! And Joseph Smith, the so-called “Prophet,” was no exception. And it’s human nature for women to want to be married to the greatest and strongest male in the pack — common in the rest of nature, too.

So let’s not kid ourselves that Joseph Smith was “simply restoring a practice from the Bronze age in which the Bible was conceived!” That polygamy is a predatory, territorial, male dominance, and prestige practice is more like it — among other reasons FOR WHY many men, given the power to do so, love to “experience” and go from one woman to the next — like a bumblebee tasting each flower.

It’s a testosterone thing if nothing else — Nature’s way of propagating the human race and making sure it doesn’t die out. And it’s Nature’s way of also propagating a stronger, better human race when it comes to women wanting the most outstanding man on the totem pole. Take a look at how apes, et Al, and their alpha-male system works in Evolution’s procreation, for example. 

By the way, please note that my comments come from personal experience. And I am a writer/blogger presently writing my memoirs, my story of having been raised a fourth-generation Mormon Fundamentalist polygamist who then became a fifth-generation polygamist wife. 

Of note is that Carolyn Jessop, best-selling author of, “Escape,” is my cousin. Best-selling authors Irene LeBaron Spencer (“Shattered Dreams,” and “Cult Insanity”) and Susan Ray Schmidt (“His Favorite Wife”) are my Aunts. Anna LeBaron, Author of the memoir, “The Polygamist’s Daughter,” is my first cousin —  daughter of my Uncle Ervil LeBaron. And Ruth Wariner, best-selling Author of “The Sound Of Gravel,” is also my first cousin, daughter of my Uncle Joel LeBaron.

Also, the amazing Ex-Mormon Fundamentalist TV and YouTube Producer, Rebecca Kimbel, is my aunt through marriage. And the late “Evil Ervil” LeBaron,  the Mormon Manson, and Ex-Mormon mafioso leader of one of the LeBaron crime families is my mother’s brother. (See: Wikipedia, and my Website Menu for more information on Ervil LeBaron, and my extended family.)

To add to my Mormon lineage, my Great-great-grandfather Benjamin F. Johnson was one of Joseph Smith’s personal Scribes —and sealed to him as a son. That’s how far back my roots in Mormonism go. As a Mormon, I was part of the “Royal blood!”

When polygamy was done away with, in the mainstream Mormon church, devout but wayward, laws-unto-themselves Mormon followers, who believed this action was against the teachings and prophecies of Joseph Smith, broke away and formed Mormon Fundamentalist splinter groups.

Let me now segue into my own experience of having lived polygamy, by first stating that it’s a well-known fact that most Mormon Fundamentalists are strongly against homosexuality – at least in word. (I’m not so sure about some of them when it comes to actions. I don’t think “some of them” are sure either, LOL!)

But it’s not unusual, in my experience, to find that Mormon fundamentalists often preach one thing and do another “under cover” (Pun intended). No doubt God revealed to them that it was okay? My experience is that they justify everything with some kind of revelation.

Growing up in Mormon fundamentalism, I had no idea that homosexuality existed, let alone what the term meant, when I was given away in a prearranged marriage at age sixteen, to a man ten years my senior.

I only “knew” I was being married into “The Holy Matrimony of Plural Marriage,” in the name of the revelation given to Joseph Smith and recorded in the 132 Sec. of the Doctrine and Covenants (Mormon scriptures). Now hold on to your sandal straps, for I suspect this revelation was really revealed by his “small head,” not his large. (Sorry, all you devout Mormons.)

Anyway, it was many years later, after I escaped this cult in 1967 at age twenty-one, that I began to piece everything together. Only then did I realize the man I was married to for going on five years had been bisexual, as were his wives.

However, they went to great measures to make sure I never found this out. For they would be cut off “The Church,” (and maybe even beat up or killed) if word got out they were bisexuals. And involved in threesomes, and even orgies at times.

They had very subtly tried to bring me into “the family.” But when I did not respond to such things as the foot one of the wives laid on my foot (the night I was invited to spend with her in her bed) she and the other wife realized I would be getting “their” husband all to myself — on my nights.

This caused the first two wives lots of jealousy and resentment towards me. They felt threatened and “turned down,” among other things, I suspect. I just did not fit into their little love nest.

You can’t even imagine the rest of what I went through in that marriage because of this. They said I had ruined Bill’s “family”  — because I only wanted a one-on-one relationship with my/our husband!

It wouldn’t have been as bad had I not been so in love with my/our husband — and had I not been still a very trusting, overprotected, deprived, poorly educated girl with, at best, only an eighth-grade education. I was but an innocent and naïve sixteen-year-old child who had not been properly prepared for the realities of polygamy.

To make matters worse, one wife was fifteen years my senior. (When I was fifteen, she was thirty!) The other wife was six years my senior. Both were not only far older, but much more worldly-wise, experienced, and educated than I. And both had been married to “my husband” for numerous years before I came into “the family.”

So they knew what my/our husband liked and how to manipulate and run him. Plus the first wife was about five years older than my/our husband and held the purse strings. He had to rely on her for money to support his families! It only gets worse from there. I bring this out because it has to do with some of my outlook on polygamy — like who does it work for and who doesn’t it work for?

I am now an Ex-polygamist wife, Ex-plyg, Ex-FLDS, Ex-Mormon fundamentalist, an escapee from the LeBaron cult, and a recovering Mormon. My testimony is that Mormon polygamy continues to be sustained only under the umbrella of the almighty “Religious freedom’s rights”!! 

But there are no rights for the children born and raised in Polygamy — often a cesspool lifestyle if ever there was one. (Mormon fundamentalist sects are nothing but syndicated organized crime groups cloaked and protected under the guise of religion.) 

I mean, this lifestyle stinks — especially for the children born into polygamy. And for the innocent, uneducated, and naïve childbrides married off to older or aged men and their harems! ‘Tis a hell on earth for the majority of people in it!

But masochists get pleasure out of pain. They consider it wicked/worldly to have a nice, enjoyable life. So these foot-washing fundamentalists smear a fake smile on their face to “keep sweet.” And feel successful that this is at least one area they have some control over — one thing at which they may succeed.

And sure: There are good things in every bad. However, polygamy is mostly bad — especially for the children who did not ask to be born into this crazy, convoluted, depraved, abusive, unfair, bizarre, and secluded, cult lifestyle.

To begin with, it’s reminiscent of the old feudal-style systems of the Middle Ages … Except most people didn’t even live polygamy back then — and most churches had outlawed it!

It is a lifestyle forced upon Mormon fundamentalists through brainwashing — from the day they are born … because their own parents were brainwashed with these concepts, too, from the day they were born — unless of course, they were converts to this convoluted,  extremist, reprehensible lifestyle.

Put another way, most Mormon-Fundamentalist polygamists were born into the polygamist indoctrination. Or they joined it in the time of Joseph Smith’s leadership and teachings, in the early to mid-1800s — teachings that convinced Smith’s devout followers God commanded them to live polygamy or be damned to hell.

But other than the polygamist man, mostly only some lesbians may benefit at all from a man having plural wives. To be blunt, I’m referring to “Big Love” nests.

I have known a few lesbian women who swear by polygamy! But my experience is: If you want over-all bad, enter polygamy and find out for yourself, the hard way, what polygamy is all about.

Many inductees, as well as converts to plural marriage, have soon discovered for themselves what polygamy is all about. That is, they found out the hard way why polygamy should never be legalized!

More on this in my upcoming blogs. I recently published a Book Review on my Website called “It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass! Written by Joanne Hanks, it’s my first recommended and wonderful read if you want to get an insider’s first-hand view of life in polygyny. I hope you are able to either check it out at the library or buy it on Amazon.com or such. It is available in audiobook form also.

Check my other blogs on my Website, too, plus my Menu for more excellent Media on polygamy and the Mormon fundamentalist history and lifestyle. See listed there, for your edification, films about Mormon fundamentalists, as well as a host of other excellent and best-selling books written by Ex-polygamist wives and other experts on the subject.

Till then, tell me, are you of the persuasion polygamy should be legalized? Why or why not? I would love to read your comments concerning this controversial subject. Till then, cheers and have a wonderful life. And thanks for visiting my blog site at: https://StephanySpencer.com.

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Mormon Reformation DayLike Page

LDS Theses #52: It [the LDS Church] hypocritically claims that polygamy has no place in the contemporary LDS Church even though Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy (Doctrine & Covenants 132) is still canonized scripture and “Celestial Polygamy” (being eternally married to at least one more woman after being widowed or divorced) is practiced. Currently, three widowed Mormon Apostles (Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson) are Celestial Polygamists.
http://mormonreformationday2013.wordpress.com/…/the-95-lds…/#95LDSTheses

SUPPORTING EVIDENCE:
From “What is Celestial Polygamy?” by Bill McKeever:

‘Having more than one wife in the “here and now” is grounds for excommunication from the LDS Church; however, the possibility of having more than one wife in the “hereafter” is still very much a part of the Mormon culture. According to an article in the April 20, 2008 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune:

“Though the LDS Church had disavowed polygamy, it is still enshrined in Mormon scripture (Doctrine & Covenants 132) and some believe it will one day be re-established, if not on Earth, at least in heaven. In his quasi-official 1966 book Mormon Doctrine, which remains in print, the late LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote that `the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming and the ushering in of the millennium.’ And by policy, men can be `sealed’ for eternity in LDS temple rites to more than one wife, though women are permitted only a single sealing. Three of the church’s current apostles, for example, were widowed and remarried. Each will have two wives in the eternities.”
(“Modern-day Mormons disavow polygamy”; http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8989865 )

Note carefully the last sentence, “Three of the church’s current apostles, for example, were widowed and remarried. Each will have two wives in the eternities.”

The three Mormon Apostles referred to in this article are Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson. All three men are widowers, and all three men have been “sealed” to a second wife.

During a devotional address Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks gave at Brigham Young University on January 29, 2002, he confirmed that he fully anticipates spending eternity with Kristen M. McCain, whom he was sealed to in the Salt Lake Temple on August 25, 2000. Oaks’ first wife, June Dixon Oaks, was sealed to him in marriage on June 24, 1952. She died in 1998. In his BYU talk, Oaks said, “When I was 66, my wife June died of cancer. Two years later I married Kristen McMain, the eternal companion who now stands at my side.”
(see http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=229 )

What is the point of being “sealed” for eternity? Speaking in General Conference in 1994, Seventy Charles Didier stated:

“This [marriage] union is solemnized by the authority of the everlasting priesthood into a holy and sacred ordinance, the temple sealing. It is also called the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, and its purpose is to bind couples together on earth and bring them to a fulness of exaltation in the kingdom of God in the hereafter.”
(“Remember Your Covenants,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1994, p.42; http://www.josephsmith.net/ldsorg/v/index.jsp…).

In a January 28, 1999 City Weekly article titled “Only for Eternity,” author Andrea Moore Emmett quoted LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills who said, “We have to see sealing ordinances as a promise pending faithfulness and yes, some will live polygamy.”

Mormon women who find the teaching of celestial polygamy unsettling will probably not find comfort in a May 31, 2006 LDS Newsroom statement that reads:

“Question: Is polygamy gone forever from the Church?

We only know what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, that plural marriage has been stopped in the Church. Anything else is speculative and unwarranted.”
(see http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/…/polygamy-questions-and-answ… )

If it is really speculative and unwarranted, what is the point of Mormon widowers being sealed in Mormon temples? If temple sealings of this nature have significance in the hereafter, how can the LDS Church honestly say “plural marriage has been stopped”?’
(source http://www.mrm.org/celestial-polygamy )

2015 UPDATE: L. Tom Perry died on May 30, 2015 leaving Dallin H. Oaks and Russell M. Nelson as the only remaining living Mormon Celestial Polygamist Apostles.



 


Short Creek, Arizona (Credit: iStock)

The polygamous town facing genetic disaster

In a remote region of the US, a town is struggling with a chilling health crisis caused by a recessive gene. The reason? Here, polygamy is still practised.

“We are to gird up our loins and fulfil this, just as we would any other duty…” said Brigham Young, who led the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or Mormons, back in the mid-19th Century. It was a sweltering summer’s day in Provo City, Utah and as he spoke, high winds swirled dust around him.

The holy task Young was speaking of was, of course, polygyny, where one man takes many wives (also known by the gender neutral term polygamy). He was a passionate believer in the practice, which he announced as the official line of the church a few years earlier. Now he was set to work reassuring his flock that marrying multiple women was the right thing to do.

He liked to lead by example. Though Young began his adult life as a devoted spouse to a single wife, by the time he died his family had swelled to 55 wives and 59 children.

Salt Lake City (Credit: iStock)

Brigham Young founded Salt Lake City in Utah (Credit: iStock)

Fast-forward to 1990, a century after the LDS abandoned polygyny, and the upshot was only just beginning to emerge. In an office several hundred miles from where Young gave his speech, a 10-year-old boy was presented to Theodore Tarby, a doctor specialising in rare childhood diseases.

The boy had unusual facial features, including a prominent forehead, low-set ears, widely spaced eyes and a small jaw. He was also severely physically and mentally disabled.

In every case, the child had the same distinctive facial features, the same delayed development

After performing all the usual tests, Tarby was stumped. He had never seen a case like it. Eventually he sent a urine sample to a lab that specialises in detecting rare diseases. They diagnosed “fumarase deficiency”, an inherited disorder of the metabolism. With just 13 cases known to medical science (translating into odds of one in 400 million), it was rare indeed. It looked like a case of plain bad luck.

But there was a twist. It turned out his sister, whom the couple believed was suffering from cerebral palsy, had it too. In fact, together with colleagues from the Barrow Neurological Institute, soon Tarby had diagnosed a total of eight new cases, in children ranging from 20 months to 12 years old.

In every case, the child had the same distinctive facial features, the same delayed development – most couldn’t sit up, let alone walk – and, crucially, they were from the same region on the Arizona-Utah border, known as Short Creek.

Even more intriguingly, this region is polygynous. In this small, isolated community of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) – a group that split from the LDS in the early 20th Century – the likelihood of being born with fumarase deficiency is over a million times above the global average.

“When I moved to Arizona that’s when I realised that my colleagues here were probably the most familiar I’d ever met with this disease,” says Vinodh Narayanan, a neurologist at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Arizona, who has treated several patients with fumarase deficiency.

Sign for Colorado City (Credit: iStock)

Colorado City is one of the two towns where the remote community live (Credit: iStock)

What’s going on?

The disease is caused by a hiccup in the process that provides energy to our cells. In particular, it’s caused by low levels of an enzyme – fumarase – that helps to drive it. Since it was perfected billions of years ago, the enzyme has become a staple of every living thing on the planet. It’s so important, today the instructions for making it are remarkably similar across all species, from owls to orchids.

For those who inherit a faulty version, the consequences are tragic. Though our brains account for just 2% of the body’s total weight, they are ravenously hungry – using up around 20% of its energy supply. Consequently, metabolic disorders such a fumarase deficiency are particularly devastating to the organ. “It results in structural abnormalities and a syndrome including seizures and delayed development,” says Narayanan.

Faith Bistline has five cousins with the disease, who she used to look after until she left the FLDS in 2011. “They are completely physically and mentally disabled,” she says. The oldest started learning to walk when he was two years old, but stopped after a long bout of seizures. Now that cousin is in his 30s and not even able to crawl.

Fumarase deficiency is rare because it’s recessive – it only develops if a person inherits two faulty copies of the gene

In fact, only one of her cousins can walk. “She can also make some vocalisations and sometimes you can understand a little bit of what she’s saying, but I wouldn’t call it speaking,” she says. They all have feeding tubes and need care 24 hours a day.

Fumarase deficiency is rare because it’s recessive – it only develops if a person inherits two faulty copies of the gene, one from each parent. To get to grips with why it’s plaguing Short Creek, first we need to back to the mid-19th Century.

Brigham Young was a busy man. In addition to leading the Mormon church, he also founded a city – Salt Lake City, Utah – which flourished from a sparsely populated desert valley into a full-blown polygynous utopia in the space of a few short decades.

Alas, it didn’t last. By the 1930s, the practice had been abandoned by the church and banned by the state of Utah, making it punishable by imprisonment and a hefty fine (equivalent to around $10,000 (£7,675) in today’s money). Followers needed somewhere to go.

Monument valley road (Credit: iStock)

Followers of polygamy fled here after the practice was banned in Utah (Credit; iStock)

They settled on the remote ranching town of Short Creek, which formed part of the Arizona Strip. This was an area larger than Belgium (14,000 sq miles, or 36,000 sq km) with only a handful of inhabitants – the perfect place to hide from the prying eyes of federal marshals.

Today it’s home to the twin towns of Hildale and Colorado City – either side of the Utah-Arizona border – and some 7,700 people. It’s the headquarters of the FLDS, which is famous for its conservative way of life and polygyny. “Most families include at least three wives, because that’s the number you need to enter heaven,” says Bistline, who has three mothers and 27 siblings.

In the end, the link to fumarase deficiency is a numbers game. Take Brigham Young. In all, his children begat 204 grandchildren, who, in turn, begat 745 great-grandchildren. By 1982, it was reported that he had at least 5,000 direct descendants.

This sudden explosion is down to exponential growth. Even with just one wife and three children, if every subsequent generation follows suit a man can have 243 descendants after just five generations. In polygynous families this is supercharged. If every generation includes three wives and 30 children, a man can – theoretically – flood a community with over 24 million of his descendants in the space of five generations, or little over 100 years. Of course this isn’t what actually happens. Instead, lineages begin to fold in on themselves as distant (and in the FLDS, not so distant) cousins marry. In polygynous societies, it doesn’t take long before everyone is related.

In Short Creek, just two surnames dominate the local records – Jessop and Barlow

This is thought to be how one-in-200 men (one in 12.5 in Asia) are descended directly from super-fertile Mongol warrior Genghis Khan, who died nearly eight centuries ago. As Brigham Young said himself: “It is obvious that I could not have been blessed with such a family, if I had been restricted to one wife…”

In Short Creek, just two surnames dominate the local records – Jessop and Barlow. According to local historian Benjamin Bistline, who spoke to news agency Reuters back in 2007, 75 to 80% of people in Short Creek are blood relatives of the community’s founding patriarchs, Joseph Jessop and John Barlow.

This is all very well, but we now know that most people are walking around with at least one lethal recessive mutation (one that would kill us before we reach reproductive age) in their genome, around the same number as in fruit flies. Humans haven’t gone extinct because, being recessive, they’re only unmasked if we have children with someone who also just so happens to carry a copy of that exact same mutation too.

Statue of Gengis Khan (Credit: iStock)

Mongol warrior Genghis Khan took so many wives that one-in-200 men may be related to him (Credit: iStock)

This is where the system starts to become unstuck. “With polygyny you’re decreasing the overall genetic diversity because a few men are having a disproportionate impact on the next generation,” says Mark Stoneking, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany. “Random genetic mutations become more important.”

In isolated communities, the problem is compounded by basic arithmetic: if some men take multiple wives, others can’t have any. In the FLDS, a large proportion of men must be kicked out as teenagers, shrinking the gene pool even further.

“They are driven to the highway by their mothers in the middle of the night and dumped by the side of the road,” says Amos Guiora, a legal expert at the University of Utah who has written a book about religious extremism. Some estimate that there may be up to a thousand so-called “lost boys”. “Often they spend years trying to repent, hoping to get back into the religion,” says Bistline, who has three brothers who were discarded.

Conservationists have known for years that a population’s “mating system” – the fancy word for sexual behaviour – can have a profound impact on its genetics. In wild deer and sage grouse, as in Mormon cults, polygyny is associated with high levels of inbreeding, because it shrinks the number of males contributing to the gene pool and increases the relatedness of the entire community.

Today polygyny is more widespread in Africa than any other continent

The fumarase deficiency gene has been traced to Joseph Jessop and his first wife, Martha Yeates (14 children). One of their daughters went on to marry co-founder John Barlow – and the rest is history. Today the number of people carrying the fumarase gene in Short Creek is thought to be in the thousands.

The FLDS are not alone. Today polygyny is more widespread in Africa than any other continent. In March 2014, Kenya’s Parliament passed a bill allowing men to marry multiple wives, while in many West African countries it’s been practised for thousands of years.

Village in West Africa (Credit: iStock)

Polygamy has also been widely practised in West Africa – also leading to unusual clumps of diseases (Credit: iStock)

Intriguingly, it’s associated with rare disease here, too. In Cameroon, scientists recently reported a polygynous community with abnormally high levels of stuttering. By comparing local genomes with those from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and North African populations, the researchers identified “exceptionally rare” gene variants among this community, which appear to be responsible – though the authors do not speculate about whether this is a consequence of polygyny.

Which brings us to the good news. Since inbreeding tends to uncover “recessive” mutations that would normally remain in hiding, studying these communities has helped scientists to identify many disease-causing genes. That’s because genetic information is useless on its own. To be meaningful to medical research, it must be linked to information about disease. In fact, more human disease genes have been discovered in Utah – with its Mormon history – than any other place in the world.

It’s not the legacy Brigham Young expected, but in the end, it’s possible that the controversial practice might have some unintended positives.

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2 thoughts on “My Memoir: Should Polygamy Be Legalized?

  1. The only reason I can think of for legalizing polygamy is that if people insist on practicing polygamy, the children of such unions should be deemed legitimate and all wives should have the rights of a wife in the US of A.

    OF COURSE, if you make it okay for a man to have more than one wife, you must make it okay for a woman to have more than one husband.

    Then you could have group marriage — multiple wives and multiple husbands.

    What a mess!

    Liked by 1 person

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