Monday, October 22, 2007

Speaking of Prophethood - What's Next...Polygamy?

I was just watching a documentary on the Mormon history and they had a whole chapter on polygamy and what all happened there. That got me thinking about that topic - is it possible this idea will ever make it's way back into mainstream society?

To be honest, Joseph Smith percieved himself as a prophet who saw himself heralding in both the end times and a challenge for the church to change in America. He was the one that made this idea enter the dialogue of American history - and what did he base this on? You got it - his interpretation of some Tanakh writings and some supposed revelation from God. Was he wrong? Mainstream Mormonism thinks so - but the documentary said something that caught my ears (I will paraphrase) - 'even if Mormons don't believe this practice there has to be some burning thought in the back of their minds about it's legitimacy since it did come from Joseph Smith's own mouth?'.

Polygamy, the idea a man can have more than one wife (why I say man is because this is how it was always used and justified). This idea is not all that foreign actually, it happens all around us all the time. Men cheat on their wives with other women (sometimes multiple partners), the ideas of 'swinging' are in our midst, Hugh Hefner has 4 wives (one legally), we see people marry multiple partners during a lifetime (what Larry King have now - 5?), teenagers have mutiple sex partners before they leave high school, etc. Is this really that foreign an idea?

However, is it possible this will come back into mainstream society? It has been around apparently since the world began - and history is filled with stories of this practice (even to this day) - and it seems the sexual revolution of the late 60's may have an unseen impact yet - maybe this sexual revolution can usher in the idea of polygamy also?

What's so bad if someone does this and all parties agree to the unions? I mean, it's behind closed doors and whatever we can't see can't be that bad? Plus this idea is as old as humanity itself - doesn't that lend credibility to it? Also, it seems the bible - even if vague on it - does show many a person having concubines? So, hmmmm...will this make a comeback? If not, why?

***PS: I have one wife and I love her with all my heart. Would I support this idea - no.


SocietyVs said...

Sorry if this offends anyone - it's not meant to - it's merely a convo on an 'old idea' - of the which - as I said - I do not support. But I can see how this could be justified in a man's mind in an arena of choice.

dorsey said...

Heh heh, you'll have to do better than that to offend me, brutha.

I love my wife with all my heart, too. However, sometimes I think she might groove on the idea of concubines, just to take the pressure off. LOL.

Andrew said...

We have lots and lots of polygamy here in Utah. The locals never know how to address it because they hate that it is associated with their church, but they refuse to give it up as part of their doctrine.

I wrote about the topic on my blog, and a few of my neighbors wrote some push back. If you are interested:

Jim Jordan said...

One political writer wrote of Mitt Romney that he didn't question the Mormon candidate's faith in God. He questioned his faith in Joseph Smith and why he would have such a faith.

bruced said...

The thought of having more than one wife is terrifying! Don't tell my wife.

V said...

Wait...I think I did just hear from god and she said women should have at least three for play, one to nag, one for work. :-)
Obviously I'm kidding.

jim said...

As per some of the comments above it seems that polygamy is just naturally hard to take seriously today, hmmmm. Obviously it was taken seriously in days gone by but this ain't then.

I'm not going to say that it is just wrong. Perhaps (heavy on the perhaps) there are contexts (cultures) where it is ok and does not do harm. That's definitely not our context, my wife and I don't want to share :-) .

Jim Jordan said...

v said [three husbands] one for play, one to nag, one for work.

Hmmm. All the guys would apply to be the one for play, but wouldn't the probability be that they'd all end up being three to nag? Just kidding!

Zeke said...

Anybody man who thinks polygamy is a good idea has to have his head examined. And his Viagra prescription cut off.

startswithanearthquake said...

We (meaning in my superior way, you all...) have such a narrow world view. Polygamy is part of the social structure in many modern societies around the globe - think Africa, think the mid-east, think anywhere tribal cultures still exist. Historically polygamy has been part of virtually every human culture. Yeah, western european based societies developed a prohibition on it in relatively recent modern times. That's such a narrow slice of human culture. It's not a question of whether polygamy is going to come back - it never left.

I agree with you that there is an inverse relationship between formalized polygamy (actual marriage of multiple partners)and the loosening of social prohibitions on divorce, sex outside of marriage and adultery which allows non-formalized polygamous relationships. When you can achieve the effects of polygamy without the structure, you don't need the structure and then you are free to have prohibitions on the structure.

What's wrong with polygamy anyway? These days the word seems to be used as a euphemism for men having sex with underage girls, sometimes their own daughters and of course I understand what is wrong with that That's not what it really means though. Where true polygamous societies exist,its just an alternate social structure and it doesn't cause any unusual problems except for the classic stories (think the old testament, think all of chinese literature) about the jockeying of first wife and second wife for position and for privileges for their children.

SocietyVs said...

So earthquake has little problem with it - it's quite the norm, in some way, world-wide. Women, any women want to weigh in?

"What's wrong with polygamy anyway?" (Earthquake)

For which perspective - the man or the woman? If you think about it this is a man thing not really a woman thing?

"Where true polygamous societies exist, its just an alternate social structure and it doesn't cause any unusual problems" (earthquake)

I would raise dire questions with this - even the marrying of young women has to be seen as an undue problem for the girl involved.

That being said, is polygamy something societies outgrow? I know it existed in many cultures - but it has also disappeared from so many also. Maybe this is growth of the human consciousness - to end up rejecting polygamy for the sake of women?

startswithanearthquake said...

Brief responses

1. I am a woman

2. There are theories of both monogamy and polygamy as systems that are beneficial to women - assuming that what a woman seeks is protection and support from the father of her children. In polygamous societies, its usually the rich, powerful, high prestige guys who get more wives - they have the resources to support them.

3. Re young women, I am in agreement but like I said, the idea that polygamy means marrying 16 year olds, or younger, who may be your own daughters, is repugnant but also not the real meaning of polygamy. Most societies avoid incest, including animals that live in social groups. And is it any worse to marry a 16 year old in a polygamous marriage than in a monogamous relationship? Marrying girls that young is also part of human culture and history.

4. Arguably, one reason we have "evolved" away from it is that woman have gained more equality and our need to have our goal in life be to have a man protect and support us and our children has diminished in post-industrialist societies. The relationship between societies where polygamy continues to exist and the education, rights and mobility of women in those societies is pretty strong. I feel like you are suggesting we evolve away from polygamy morally. I don't think so (although we stamp it as immoral once we want to prohibit it) - I think we evolve away from it as social structure changes, particularly the status of women. The evolution of the status of women also relates to how society views sex out of marriage, single mothers and divorce (all of which used to be huge stigmas for women and now - not so much) and creates the opportunity to have the perks of polygamy without the structure (i.e. having new partners at will.) And at the same time we "evolve" away from polygamy, we evolve away from the need to get married at all so we also see more women who never marry, more divorce etc.

5. That wasn't that brief, was it? Probably proves I'm a woman...

Kevin Beck said...

A Mormon once asked Mark Twain to show him from the Bible that God disapproves of polygamy.

Without missing a beat, Mark Twain replied, "That's easy. No man can serve two masters."

SocietyVs said...

Interesting response startswithanearthquake (which I do believe is from REM's 'End of the World' song and it the first line?). I'll respond - but I think you make some intriguing points.

"I am a woman" (SWAE)

Sorry about that - I assumed you were a guy - that's my bad.

"There are theories of both monogamy and polygamy as systems that are beneficial to women" (SWAE)

Is it theoretically practical in Western society though? Should this practice actually make it back into the mainstream again?

"I feel like you are suggesting we evolve away from polygamy morally. I don't think so (although we stamp it as immoral once we want to prohibit it) - I think we evolve away from it as social structure changes" (SWAE)

The thing about ethics is it's personal and each has to decide their value systems - so in that sense - yes we can morally evolve away from polygamy. We make the choice based on the value we place on other people around us - and I think polygamy in Western societies demeans the authority of the woman.

Women have fought for freedom/equality in the West and to go back to polygamy would be a step in the direction of the middle ages. Structures changed - I agree - but they didn't change without a fight - so what pushed women in that direction to change the very fabric of society? Could it be 'values' or 'self-value'?

One can say this is not an ethical issue - but it is. Women wanted to be seen in the same light as men (equal) and have all the same priveleges/rights - how can this not be seen as anything but a call to 'ethics' for society? Unless equality is not something we deem as a value?

Now other societies may practice this but does that make it any better a practice? It might be the 'way it is' and 'the way it has to be for now' since women might be deemed not as equals - but that does not erase the idea women should be equals no matter what. But if polygamy makes women equals - then my point is moot.

My Garden said...

Ummm, if you work in the health field: HIV Aids, Chlamydia, Syphillis, Ovarian Cancer has been confirmed to be attributed to having multiple partners, other STD's...are a few things that come to mind, when thinking about why this is not a good you think that when our Creator had our health and well-being in mind, this and other basic things like having a "whole family"...mmm, can't say I see the bright side...

My Garden said...

BTW, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of the STD Chlamydia in Canada...just for health reasons alone...just not a positive...

My Garden said...

Cervical Cancer is also tied to multiple partners too...just more info...I know you don't support it...but to put the info out there....

startswithanearthquake said...

SocietyVs - I probably agree with a lot of what you said. In fact, I notice I said that modern polygamous societies correlate with societies where women do not have equal education, access, power or status and I certainly am not claiming that those societies are just as good models as ours. Although I would not say they are less ethical or moral and I'm not sure you would either.

But where's the fun in agreeing? So let me throw this out there. Monogamous marriage in our western culture was historically an institution based on the inequality of women. The woman was the property of the man. Marriages were arranged without the woman's consent for political and financial reasons. When a woman married all her personal wealth became her husbands property legally (this was under the British system - the Spanish system differed and is the basis of modern day community property law in places like California where I am sitting surrounded by smoke and a pretty sunset.) Until recently, and I mean like the last 20 years, in the United States there were jurisdictions in which the law said that it was not possible for a husband to rape his wife because she owed him sex, no matter how much he beat her and forced her against her will.

So. But you appear to support the idea of monogamous marriage and believe it is a system that does not currently require that women be treated unequally.

And if monogamy-based marriage can go from a structure based on inequality to one based in equality, why can't polygamy-based marriage? Is it impossible for there to be voluntary polygamous relationships between consenting adults in which both sexes participate as equals?

If you doubt it, check out

And I wonder, when a subculture has public web pages and even holds conferences: ( just how far out of the mainstream are they?

Jim Jordan said...

"It's the end of the world as we know it" said
Although I would not say they (polygamists) are less ethical or moral and I'm not sure you would either.

Polygamists are less moral.

And if monogamy-based marriage can go from a structure based on inequality to one based in equality, why can't polygamy-based marriage?

By definition, polygamy is unequal. You can hold as many conferences as you like. Polygamy is unhealthy (my-garden's absolutely right), unequal, and indefensible.

Did I also mention that Mormonism is a false religion?
Sorry about the smoke. Stay safe.

SocietyVs said...

So SWAE, I'll ask this question for the 3rd time - Is it theoretically practical in Western society though? Should this practice actually make it back into the mainstream again (as law)?

"And if monogamy-based marriage can go from a structure based on inequality to one based in equality, why can't polygamy-based marriage?" (SWAE)

I think polygamy in and of itself is a human idea we outgrow - and we leave in the past. Monogamy in and of itself is something that the majority of women want also - lest we forget - even when the system treated them unfairly (they just changed the system to one of equality - not to one of no marriage or polygamy or whatever else).

I have called this an ethical dilemma and I truly think it is. All I need to do is turn and ask my wife if I can have another wife and that's all the answer I need on it - the look alone speaks volumnes. I am thinking maybe women do not want polygamy in their country - that it is a step back?

But even if it became the norm - you think everyone would be like these polymorous societies? Utah would abuse the sh*t out of this - they do it already - and the law is against polygamy right now (imagine if they had free run on this idea).

But I can see where you're coming from about people that agree freely to this lifestyle - is there any problems inherently there? I can't say - but I can see this becoming an issue in the next 50 years. Who am I to say those people aren't happy in the polyamorous relationships? I can't - and what's even further - the bible doesn't even address this issue (and of it does - it's vague). So I know what you're saying - people can be happy in the marriages.

What I am saying is I cannot support it - I am married to one wife and I am happy there - it would be hypocritical of me to support an idea that would destroy my very marriage (ie: inclusion of more partners) and wrong my wife (which to me is actually 'sin' - intentionally causing relationahips to be hurt/damaged).

And that's a personal ethos and nothing more - if the law wants at polygamy and thinks this country can sustain it - well...that's democracy.

BrotherKen said...

Polygamy should not be supported by anyone claiming to Christian but secular society is only answerable to the legal system they live under. I will surely not protest anything that does not force me to go against that which I believe. Polygamy, if allowed here, would not force me into anything. It would not force women into anything. What is the big deal?

SocietyVs said...

Maybe polygamy is making a comeback - Oprah just did a show on it and some community that seems to support it.

shelly said...

Polygamists are less moral.

I don't recall God punishing Jacob or Solomon for practicing polygamy. ;) (Also, by our current definition of the word, they were fornicators. ;) (I stress "current definition" for a reason.))

Jim Jordan said...

Shelly, if women want to fight one or more women for their man then that's up to you guys, I mean, girls.

As far as God not punishing for polygamy, I do know that I too did a lot of things for which he didn't kick my butt, even though He should have.

It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve and Hillary and Gennifer and Monica and...:-) Current definitions are irrelevant. Cheers.