Reason #162: The Mental Gymnastics of Anticipating Polygamy
As a young Mormon woman I believed that I should prepare myself for plural marriage (the mainstream LDS church does not practice earthly polygamy of course but does command its practice after death.) I believed I might be able to enjoy the exclusive attentions of my husband while on earth but must be mentally ready for eternity as a plural wife. That produced a kind of dichotomy in my thinking. On the one hand I looked forward to the mysteries of sex and marriage, but saw these two things not as most women would consider them (the first inherently fading, and the second temporary.) Rather, I believed each would be prone to constant and eternal acceleration.
As I’ve conversed with other ex-Mormon women who like me once fervently yearned for an eternity of polygamy, we observed that such contemplation at the same time manifested some relief that “celestial marriage” in eternity would be preceded by a period of exclusivity here on earth. I didn’t believe it would bring me material advantage at all, but rather expected that if earthly polygamy were legalized it would mean the dividing of attentions and resources. (I believed the propaganda that unmarried and unattractive women would be integrated into families almost in the sense of an adoption. Since I was not unattractive, I always assumed I would be a first wife.)
I also think it’s important to understand the worldview of someone entrenched in such thinking. It’s something akin to knowing with certainty that you are born with a genetic disease like cancer that will “kick in” by the time you reach the age of 45. You make metal preparations for this eventual and inevitable state even as you enjoy perfect health. As I mentioned, I expected no earthly enrichment, and saw my submission to an eternity of polygamy as half trial and half triumph, hoping that by that time I’d be much purer in heart and able to fully enjoy it.
Or at least, to abide it.
In my novel, Latter-day Cipher, modern-day faithful Mormons struggle with this dichotomy. One of the characters, a man, says this to his wife:
How could you ever want to be the wife of another man? A plural wife?
I love you and only you. But if you believe in the eternal ordinances, the everlasting covenant of plural marriage, I’ll take another wife. I’ll do whatever you want.
For more information, see The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today(Zondervan, 2009). Also available as an audiobook and as an expanded-text E-book for Nook, Kindle and other reading devices.