This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Thanks to the FLDS mess, America is wondering how anyone could possibly be a polygamist. Not me. I wonder if I'd be up to the job.
It's a fair question. I'm a Mormon descended on both sides from staunch the-federal-government-can-go-to-hell polygamists. Had I been born 100 years ago, I may have been one myself.
Given similar circumstances, you might have been one as well. Holler "never!" all you want, but human beings are creatures of social conditioning. We generally do what we're told and taught.
Over the years, I've let my church talk me into doing lots of stuff I should have thought harder about. Anyone who says she hasn't had similar problems with friends, family, the government, employers, or even the Home Shopping Network, is a liar.
Anyway, I probably would have been a polygamist. Not a very good one, though. I don't remain compliant for long. Four days is a personal record. I get bored easily.
Had I been born 100 years ago, I would have hit Mormon polygamy at the top of its game. Some church official would have come along and "called" me to take multiple wives.
HIM: "The prophet commands it."
ME: "The same one who dragged us here over 1,000 miles of bad road?"
HIM: "He wants you to cleave unto Sister Slotterhodge."
ME: "Let me guess. She looks like 1,000 miles of bad road, right?"
I could have held my own with two wives. It's possible to play two wives - two of anything - against each other. Three's a different story.
Three's the start of a mob.
My great-great-grandfather Nathaniel married three women. Wife No. 1 was OK. However, I have a copy of the letter Wife No. 2 wrote to Brigham Young begging him to let her divorce Nathaniel because Wife No. 1 was so mean. See?
Wife No. 3 - my great-great-grandmother and one of Salt Lake's first female doctors - didn't bother with the letter. She threw Nathaniel out and became Wife No. 6 to some other guy a few blocks away.
The same thing would have happened to me. I say this because of Wife No. 1. You have to have one of those if you want to be a polygamist. It's a rule or something.
Thanks to religious and social pressures, my wife might also have gone along with polygamy 100 years ago. But she would have wanted some say in the arrangement. I would have ended up married to an ox and a badger.
Fortunately, there was an acceptable antidote to polygamy in the old church. In a word: "missions." One of my grandfathers served a three-year bit in Great Britain.
It's probably a lot easier to be married to eight women if they're all 4,000 miles away.