The Thinking 

Polygamy in America

January 27, 2010



National Geographic

Imagine a community in America where children live without television and junk food, playing outside in their free time like almost all children once did. In Colorado City, Arizona, many children enjoy this wholesome life. There’s only one hitch: their fathers typically have many wives.

In its latest issue, National Geographic magazine explores the lives of polygamous Mormon fundamentalists, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) in Colorado City and Hildale, Utah. It’s a fascinating glimpse into an alternate universe, enviable in some ways, believe it or not, but clearly a world that is structurally unsound.

It’s not the women who have the most difficulty with this kind of plural marriage. It’s the men. There are no locks and bars to keep the women from fleeing in these towns on the Arizona-Utah border, but a number of the men have been expelled, forced to leave, or fled. As one former church member states, these departures are due “partly to a cold-blooded calculation by church leaders to limit male competition for the pool of marriageable young women.”  Dan Fischer states:

“If you have men marrying 20, 30, up to 80 or more women … then it comes down to biology and simple math that there will be a lot of other men who aren’t going to get wives. The church says it’s kicking these boys out for being disruptive influences, but if you’ll notice, they rarely kick out girls.”

It is often said that monogamy evolved to meet the interests and needs of women. This is true, but even more so, monogamy is the greatest pro-male marital tradition in the history of civilization.

                                    —- Comments —

Justin writes:

I agree with you, and you might enjoy a short piece I wrote on the subject a while back.  [Justin wrote:

Most guys tend to think of polygamy instinctively from the point of view of the man with many wives. By doing so, they fail to realize the basic fact that in the system of polygamy, the vast majority of men don’t get any wife at all, because a handful of men are taking multiple young women. In short, for every man with six wives, five men go without.]

The pretexts under which the boys are expelled from these Mormom communities are flimsy indeed. More than just harming boys, a polygamous society serves as an engine of aggression and violence. I think it is the practice of polygamy, more than the religion of Islam itself, that is responsible for the historical aggression of Muslim societies. You might be interested in my analysis here

Laura writes:

Fundamentalist Mormons are not the only Americans who are polygamous. The Mormons have many wives at the same time, but serial polygamy is common in the mainstream. It’s interesting to compare the two types of multiple marriage.

The polygamy of the Mormons is much more considerate of children, who enjoy relative stability. With the type of serial polygamy created by easy divorce, the child lives with both his mother and father only briefly.

Men who cannot find wives are losers with Mormon polygamy. Both men and women who have poor remarriage prospects are left in the cold with serial marriages, which overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, the powerful and the beautiful.

The polygamy of the Mormons is relatively inexpensive, with many people pooling resources and talents to live together in relatively few dwellings. Serial polygamy is the most expensive form of marriage of all, more so than monogamy. Multiple dwellings are needed to support the serial family, with duplicate furnishings, utilities, taxes, etc. Lawyers fees are also high and men are placed at an economic disadvantage in many divorce settlements, sometimes placed in the ludicrous position of actually paying for their former wives to live with new husbands or boyfriends.

All in all, it seems the polygamy of the Mormons is more civilized than the serial polygamy of mainstream America. 

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