Despite the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has not practiced polygamy for over 122 years, when one mentions the topic of polygamy, one of the first things that springs to mind for most folks is “Mormons.” This is not helped by the recent spate of polygamist offerings from Hollywood, such as HBO’s “Big Love” and TLC’s “Sister Wives.” Nor is it helped when polygamist offshoots of the LDS Church, such as the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are referred to in the mainstream media as “Mormons.” In fact, polling data gathered in 2011 showed that 46% of the people surveyed wrongly believed that Mormons either “definitely” or “probably” practice polygamy.
Just for the record, we do not.
As of 31 Dec 2011, there were over 14.4 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world; with 6.1 million of those residing in the United States, the church now has more members outside the U.S. than within, making it truly a worldwide church.
Approximately 2% of the U.S. adult population self-identifies as Mormon, according to the 2012 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, and the LDS Church is the fourth largest religious body in the U.S. A statistical membership map, broken down to the county level, can be seen here. Mormons are not peanut butter spread equally across the country; the largest concentrations are found in the west and there are many counties within the U.S. that have no reported Mormons at all.
By contrast, membership in polygamous “Mormon” splinter groups is a much smaller number. The largest of them, the FLDS church and the Apostolic United Brethren (located primarily in Utah and Mexico), are estimated to have around 10,000 members each, with the total U.S. “Mormonite” polygamous population estimated at somewhere around 40,000 (estimates vary) spread among perhaps a dozen extended groups of polygamous “fundamentalists,” and as many as 15,000 isolated individuals with no organized church affiliation.
These groups have been here for quite some time now, and they haven’t really grown much. So what inspired this article and the title for it? Certainly not a desire to rehash Mormon church history, or the continued existence of polygamous offshoots of that church. No, what inspired this article is the advent of Gay Marriage, currently legal in multiple states, and within spitting distance of being the law of the land in all 50.
You might ask, what does Gay Marriage have to do with Plural Marriage? Proponents of Gay Marriage might well reply, nothing! One is a “civil rights” issue, while the other is simply deviant behavior. Perhaps.
Certainly polygamy, in this country, has historically been seen as deviant behavior. The practice of polygamy is one of the reasons why the church eventually fled the borders of the United States into the Salt Lake Valley. As the country expanded westward, the federal government went to great lengths to crush the Mormon Church over the issue, sending federal troops to Utah in 1857, making polygamy a felony punishable by a $500 fine and five years in jail in 1882 (Edmunds Act) and disincorporating the LDS Church and seizing all its assets in 1887 (Edmunds-Tucker Act).
Even prominent members of the Church who obeyed the commandment to live the principle were repelled by it. Brigham Young, the second president of the church, who himself was sealed to 55 women and had 56 children by 16 of his wives, said, when receiving the commandment to practice plural marriage in Nauvoo, “I was not desirous of shrinking from any duty, nor of failing in the least to do as I was commanded, but it was the first time in my life that I had desired the grave, and I could hardly get over it for a long time.”
Many within the church disliked the idea, but came to see it as God’s will, and believed that its practice was protected under the “freedom of religion” clause in the 1st Amendment – an idea that the rest of the country in general and the Supreme Court in specific, did not share. In Reynolds v. United States, the Supreme Court stated “"Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinion, they may with practices."
It is worth remembering that not too long ago, homosexuality was seen as a deviant behavior in the United States, much less gay marriage. Today, it is considered by many to be merely an “alternate lifestyle,” no less deserving of respect than being “straight.” And woe unto them who would say otherwise! Criticize the gay lifestyle and you are just asking to be sent to be sent to “sensitivity” training at best or convicted of a hate crime at worst.
I and others said at the time, when the whole gay marriage issue came up, that we were opening Pandora’s Box. There was no way that one could redefine marriage to include homosexual unions and not include other types of “marriage” as well. As long as marriage was defined as it had been since the dawn of recorded history as between a man and a woman, the lid was firmly shut. But once you made one exception, how could you logically and reasonably argue against others?
And indeed, other groups, citing chapter and verse the arguments for legalizing homosexual marriage, are clamoring for recognition of their own.
“Fundamentalist” Mormons, as the media likes to call them, are not the only ones in the country who are now seeking recognition for polygamous marriages. Nor are they the only ones in the country actually practicing polygamy today.
There are other folks in the U.S. who consider themselves “pro-polygamy” for whatever reasons of their own. In fact, they will be celebrating their 12th annual “Polygamy Day” on 19 Aug 2012 this year. Their website illustrates my point. As they say on their site, they are “freely consenting, adult, non-abusive, marriage-committed” and unaffiliated with any particular church or religious movement. And it is their contention that Polygamy is the next civil rights battle. They cite Lawrence v. Texas as the basis for their battle.
Of course, the polygamous movement, such as it is in the U.S. right now is very small, with very little political presence, sympathy, or general knowledge among the American public. And it doesn’t have the force and focus that the homosexual lobby has put together to get its legislation passed and its battles fought in the court systems.
But there is another group within the U.S. that practices polygamy. It is a group that is already large and growing fast. And it is doing so under the radar, because criticism of this particular group, unlike the others mentioned, is politically incorrect. This group has a strong lobby in Washington D.C., with “anti-defamation” groups that strike quickly if even a hint of disagreement with its precepts is voiced. That group is Muslims, practitioners of Islam, the “Religion of Peace.”
Most Americans don’t think about it much, but Muslims also practice polygamy. The Koran allows Muslim men up to 4 wives. Many Muslims have been immigrating to the U.S.; what do you suppose they have been doing with those extra wives? Leaving them at home? And do you suppose that once they get here, they abandon a fundamental tenant of their religion simply because polygamy is illegal in the U.S.?
Not likely, and not happening. According to a 2008 NPR report, there were, at that time, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Muslims here in the U.S. living in polygamous families. Have you heard about any of this?
And it’s not like it is being hidden. It is simply being ignored. We concern ourselves instead with Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. Child protective services raided their settlement in Texas (which of course, we called a “compound,”) and seized all their children based on what turned out to be a fraudulent telephone call made by someone out of state. No matter. We wanted a reason to go in and take those kids in part because they were being raised by polygamists.
Today Muslim men living here in the United States looking for an extra wife or two are advertising on the Internet. According to an article published in World Net Daily, a search of a popular Muslim “singles” dating site turned up more than 1,000 results for married Muslim men here in the United States openly seeking additional wives. There were active profiles in every state, with the exception of Alaska, and including Washington D.C. No idea why Alaska was excluded; perhaps it is simply too cold, or perhaps they were afraid that all women in Alaska were like Sarah Palin.
This is not just Muslim men from the Middle East and elsewhere that have immigrated here; this includes “home grown” Muslims too. In fact, the practice is growing among black Muslims as well.
So while it is OK to persecute white “Mormon fundamentalists” who practice polygamy, and raid their homes and settlements, doing the same in Muslim enclaves, such as Dearborn, Michigan is another story. The FLDS church has a bit of an image issue and no one to champion their side of the story. Muslims on the other hand have CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations to go to bat for them, as well as, ironically enough, the same federal government that finds FLDS polygamy anathema. You don’t see the federal gendarmes busting their way into Dearborn, do you? And you won’t, as long as no one makes an issue of it. It would be considered “persecuting” Muslims and not Politically Correct. Meanwhile the practice continues to grow.
We can pretend that Muslims are only taking wives who are 18 years of age or older. Of course, this flies in the face of evidence that Muslims in other parts of the world are marrying girls much younger. In Iran for instance, it is legal for a 9 year old girl to marry with her parents’ permission. The Taliban, who used to be in charge of Afghanistan before we forcibly removed them, encouraged families to marry off their daughters as young as 8 years old. Mohammed himself, at age 51, is said to have married a 6 or 7 year old (accounts vary). But at least he waited to consummate the marriage until she was 9; one account says she was 10 if that is any better.
In fact, age is no barrier to marriage in Islam; such things are as Allah wills. And, fair disclosure, there is a difference in Islam between marriage, which is a contract, and consummation which is the act of sex between the two. They do not have to occur at the same time. As is usual, the final authority on such things is Mohammed, whose life is used as a model in all things. (See paragraph above.)
Again, if you think that people from these areas who have immigrated here have left these traditions behind, think again. And if you think that the mere fact that polygamy is illegal in the U.S. is a deterrent keep in mind that there are still offshoots of the LDS church practicing polygamy 112 years after the church renounced the practice, and 120 years after it first became a federal offense. The fact that illegal immigration is illegal hasn’t stopped millions of illegal immigrants from being here, and the fact that polygamy is illegal doesn’t seem to be deterring Muslims either.
I’m not saying polygamy will be legalized this year. It may be another 20 or 30 years, who knows? But ultimately, like gay marriage, it will be. There will be enough people in a protected group practicing it, and the parallels to the already accepted gay marriage will be so plain as to demand its “tolerance” if not acceptance. Many today do not “accept” gay marriage but are forced to “tolerate” it. The same will ultimately be true of polygamy.
It is already happening in other parts of the world. Polygamy is illegal in Britain, but the state recognizes polygamous marriages to Muslim men and provides additional social welfare benefits to accommodate the extra wives and children. Polygamy is illegal in Norway, but an increasing number of men with multiple wives are immigrating there. Norway recognizes polygamous marriages that occur in nations where it is legal, as does Australia, where such, as in Britain, can also claim additional government benefits.
Polygamy has been illegal in France since 1993 however an estimated 150,000 to 400,000 people live in polygamous households there. In all cases, most of these households are Muslim. And, it should be noted, birth rates among Muslim households in Europe are much higher than in the countries in which they reside. What do you think is going to happen as the percentage of the population they represent increases?
In the Netherlands, like here, polygamy is illegal. However one can now have a “civil union” between multiple persons. That is how they register the polygamous marriages of Muslims with several wives. Isn’t that how gay marriage started here in the United States; with the concept of “civil unions?” And it isn’t just restricted to Muslims either. In 2005, Victor de Bruijn “married” two women in a civil union. “Why not?” he asked; “I love them both.” And the two women are both bisexual, so there is no jealously between them.
For the record, the Netherlands was the first nation to grant full marriage rights to homosexuals. Goes the Netherlands, goes the world?
I urge you to read this WND article. It is long, but very enlightening. Pandora’s Box is open. All sorts of things are going to jump out of it.