In this post I respond to Caroline's questions at Exponent2 blog regarding how I have come to terms with polygamy.
I have several different thoughts. First, I believe that the Church continues to practice polygamy today. Because sealings to multiple wives continue to be practiced in the Temple, and because we believe in an afterlife, polygyny is something we must come to terms with as Latter-day Saints.
In the early days of the Church many leaders declared that polygyny was necessary in order to be exalted. However, Melvin J. Ballard refuted this idea in (I think) 1912 when he said that a man sealed to one wife could be exalted. Thus, my thinking is that polygamy is not necessary. (You just have to convince your husband not to be sealed to another wife after you die!) There are many women who are repulsed by the doctrine (how much of this is cultural conditioning we do not know), and imo they will not be forced to live it. Other families have been sealed into the principle. There is no evidence to suggest that these sealings will be dissolved. My opinion is that they will continue in the next life. Whether or not we personally contract into a polygamous union, it remains so much a part of our doctrine that I doubt any of us will not be personally affected in some way.
I'm not against polygamy myself. But I've had different experiences than many of you. My parents were involved in polygyny from the time I was age 12. It had nothing to do with Mormonism or religion, it was a lifestyle choice. I did not agree with my parents' choice to bring another wife into the family. The choice had many negative repercussions regarding the four children's relationships with our mom and dad. Nonetheless, I saw that it was a viable lifestyle. There was little, if any jealousy. The three adults usually acted as a cohesive unit (much to our dismay as children!) Living closely as a family made it impossible to hide any problems or tensions. I must admit that they were very few and usually solved with patience, tolerance, and love. Both women lived in our home and had separate bedrooms. (I have No Idea what the sexual arrangements were--and I don't want to think about it! Please! They're my parents!) Both women were employed full-time (the youngest child was already school age). Both women had feminist inclinations. Both women as well as my dad shared household responsibilities. All three were very happy with the arrangements, and seemed close and emotionally connected. Thus my personal experience has convinced me that polygyny is a lifestyle that can be lived in love and satisfaction for all parties.
In addition, I have always had very close female relationships. Always. Until I came to Vernal I always had female friends I could rely on emotionally. A woman will listen to you hash the same experience out umpteen million times. A man will (usually) listen to it once. Then he will want you to solve it or get over it. (Yes, I know I'm generalizing a bit!) But there are many reasons that I find a woman to be better "best friend" material than a man.
I can imagine retaining my feminist sensibilities in a polygynist relationship. In fact, I can picture myself in a coterie of chattering females, discussing a book we've read until 3 in the morning, while polygamist hubby waits alone and cold in the upstairs bedroom!
The last point I wish to make is the "obedience" issue. I read two posts at FMH dealing with this issue (See #1 and #2). It interests me that Mormon women who are traditional in every way state that they would rather give up their exaltation than live polygamy. I wonder at statements that if polygamy was reinstated they would "flatly refuse" to obey prophetic counsel. I am often taken to task on this blog for some of the stances I take. Conventional believers would have me adhere more closely to prophetic counsel. Yet it seems acceptable, on the blogs and in wards in which I've lived, to rebel against this one principle.
As I wrote this post, I asked my husband if he would ever want to live polygamy, and he was emphatically negative. He doesn't feel up to dealing with multiple females. I guess most of that is my fault! I think he finds me emotionally taxing. So perhaps I will never have to face this issue head on. I'm not like my parents; I don't believe polygamy is something to be entered into without the specific instructions of the living Prophet of God. But I like to think that if "The Principle" was required of us once again, I would see it as a fascinating and fulfilling adventure.
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