Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sister Wives: What I respect and what inspires me about this polygamist family's life.

I find that blogging my thoughts is the backup to my discussions in real life.  Often times I have a discourse with a person and because I am not that prepared to explain myself, my thoughts and reasoning don't get across as I would like them to .  This next post is such a blog...

There is a reality television show that just started into its second season.  Sister wives has caught my attention.  It is aired on TLC Sunday night.  For those of you who haven't seen the show, I will give you a brief synopsis. 

Sister wives features the life of a fundamentalist Mormon family in Utah.

Kody Brown is the husband of four wives and the dad to sixteen children.  Three of his wives: Meri, Janelle and Christine have lived with him for 15-20 years.  Robyn just joined the family with her children last year.  Sister wives, like most reality TV shows brings cameras into their day to day lives. 

Kody is only legally married to his first wife Meri.  They were married in a civil union, where as his other "wives" were only married to him in a religious ceremony, not legally binding by the state of Utah.  They all live in on house split into three apartments:  one apartment for Meri, Janelle and Christine.  Robyn, the fourth addition to the family, lives in a house down the street for now. All women have their own private living quarters, but they share the family responsibilities and operate much like a whole more than a divided unit.

Before you continue with the blog... read this article that was published by the Karney Law Firm in October of 2010. 

"Sister Wives: Will reality show stars face prosecution for polygamy in Utah"

Polygamy was outlawed in the late 19th century across America.  Due to the immense persecution, the LDS church changed their doctrine, not allowing polygamy.  As a result, the persecution stopped and Utah was admitted into the American union as a state.  This seems all well and good to most people, but there were factions of the LDS church that wanted to maintain their fundamental beliefs.  To this day, (known as the Fundamental Latter Day Saints - FLDS ) there are many that still practice polygamy. 

Most don't realize the significance of doctrinal change.  Mormons belief in polygamy was not something established to create chaos while they lived on Earth.  It was to required because of their religious belief that they would continue their celestial marriages in the after life, after they have become gods and goddesses, and populate their own planet with spirit children. This is a fact that not many Mormons will fess up to right away.  This required them to start their journey to their celestial purpose with large families on earth.  In the late 1800's, because of the persecution, the LDS church was "forced" to change a very significant doctrine to "maintain the peace" and keep themselves from imprisonment. 

There is the overview.  I want to explain what I find so fascinating and inspirational about the Brown's story. 

1. They have chosen in the midst of persecution to stick to their beliefs.  For this, I have a great deal of  respect for them.

Okay... isn't this reminiscent of the early Christians.  They had their convictions and the state they lived in didn't condone their belief systems and opted to persecute them to death.  Many died because they wouldn't give up their faith.  Even today in many parts of the world, there are people who must endure inhumane torture because their faith and faith practices are illegal.  Daniel was thrown into the Lion's den for praying.  He knew that praying had it's consequence.  Yet he still prayed. 

I don't have much respect for the Mormon  belief system.  After researching their doctrine, I found that over the course of time, it changed often and significantly.  There seemed to be new revelations emerging every time they faced opposition from government or people.  Nothing seemed to be sacred. 

What I do respect is when I see people sticking to what they believe even when it will land them in prison and remove them from their family.  I am sure that is what I was taught about the fundamental belief system of Christianity. 

2.  There is a team mentality among the four women. I have respect for this. 

There are four women and sixteen children.  I am amazed at how little jealousy their is.  There is some and at times it creeps into the conversations. Especially since Robin came on board.  It was a tough adjustment for the other three women who had lived together for 16 years.  Still they embraced her like a sister coming into the family.  These women are best friends.  They value of each other in a way I can't understand .  I think that is why I watch the show.  It is not because of Kody and what he contributes to the mix.  I am enamoured by these women and the relationship they have for each other.  

 I am possessive of my husband's affections, and I am the only woman in his life.  I couldn't bear to imagine sharing him with another woman.  These women have the same emotions and feelings as I do. I wonder at times how they share their husband and live at peace with that decision. Then I realized something.  I am not so unlike them.  I have to share my husband with his work and with his music and with his other friends.  I must be at peace with that as well.  I have learned the value of my female friends and my family and work to maintain the closeness of those relationships.  It was easier to do as a single woman.  Now that I am married, I want to be with my husband.  But he is one man and has many responsibilities.  I am not the only woman that would understand this picture.   

3.  I respect their openness.  I respect their willingness to invite the world into their homes at great risk to that home.

I like watching some reality TV.  I enjoy Extreme Home Makeover, Dragon's Den and Fear Factor.  I watched American Idol, Trading Spaces and Survivor when I lived in Calgary with my former roommate.  I followed Miami Ink when it was running.  I don't have any tattoos, but the show and it's stories interested me. I have peeked in at other shows and enjoyed the banter that goes on.  My hubby likes watching Mike Holmes, Ice Road Truckers and Pawn Stars.  All these shows don't have much in common. Maybe an overwhelming percentage of the people on reality TV are in it for the exposure.  It seems that a quite a few "out of the limelight" superstars are inviting people into their homes as an attempt to gain some exposure for their fading careers. Gene Simmons, Tanya Tucker and David Hasselhoff  have all had the cameras in their homes.

Sister Wives is the first show that I have watched that poses a legal risk to the people on the show.  I wonder if the stars of Little People, Big World would be so eager to expose themselves on national television if there was a risk of persecution for being short.  I highly doubt there is.  Over and over, the five main characters have expressed that it is better to be open about who they are than to remain in hiding.  Hiding would do more damage to the identity of their children in the long run, than the risk of prosecution and imprisonment. 

Wow!  Most of us have been raised in a culture that encouraged us to hide our identity, if it didn't meet the approval of others around us.  There are many issues that have attached stigmas to them.  Nothing inherently dangerous, but shunned by the public none the less.  The Browns have chosen to not to hide.  This is something I admire and wish to pursue in my own life.  I want to be real.  I want to show people what really matters to Ruby Neumann.  Even if they don't agree with my thoughts and ideologies.  I want to be okay with being different.  I want to know that who I am and what I believe is important, too. 

4. They don't want to be judged.  Who wants to be judged.  I admire people who take a stand against judgement. 


  Judgment.  This seems inevitable in most circles.  I think it is part of our human nature to define people according to our standards.  No one is immune to it, everyone does it to some degree and everyone hates it when it done to them. I guess I could offend someone by being all inclusive.  It just appears that way.  Wasn't it Paul that wrote somewhere in his letters that "We have ALL fallen short..." 


What if it works for them... even if it doesn't work for me?  No one is getting hurt, except maybe my pride. 


Tolerance may just be the solution to this disease of judgement.  I remember the stories I would listen to when I watched Miami Ink.  At first I thought people crazy for permanently attaching body art to their skin.  As I watched the show, I saw stories unfold.  People grieving, people celebrating, people expressing themselves.  It wasn't my choice of expression, celebration or way of grieving; it was theirs.  Now instead of casting judgment on someone because of their tattoos... I find out their story.  What are they trying to express?  How difficult is that once we get past the judgement factor. 


Same thing applies to the members of the Brown family.  What if they are not hurting anyone by their lifestyle?  What if their choice offends only because of a lack of tolerance and a lack of understanding?  

There you have it.  I know that a lot of people are appalled at the show.  I would like to think that if I can watch Miami Ink without getting a tattoo or even wishing for one, I can watch Sister Wives and not support the idea of polygamy.  There is much wisdom to be gained in opening up your mind to discussions and conversations that you may not agree with.  There doesn't have to be a risk to self in such an adventure.  I am influenced by many things, but in the end, it is my decision and my freedom to choose who I am and what I believe.

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