Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Speaking of Monogamous Mormons...

In yesterday's blog, I mentioned the appealing aspect of Mitt Romney's campaign and how his religious views keep him from being fully embraced the evangelical vote within the Republican Party. Today, I want to blog about something latest guilty pleasure, which is the HBO show "Big Love". That's right...the one about polygamy.

I don't know if it's because of my 5th generation heritage within the Reorganized Church (Community of Christ), which has always been against the polygamy that was fully embraced by the Brigham Young wing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints...or if it's because I think the concept of a man having more than one wife when I still fail to find one (just one is all I ask the good Lord for...just one will do!) as plain greed. Not just greed and sexual possessiveness, but an in your face kind of taunt to those who still haven't found the right woman.

But this show is brilliant! They got me from the opening title sequence, first by using my second favorite Beach Boys song ("God Only Knows"; my favourite is "Don't Worry Baby"), then by having an interesting ice skating sequence and the not too thinly veiled sequence where the husband searches through the veils for his wives (supposedly part of the Eternal Wedding ceremony done in LDS temples all over the world), to selecting a most likeable actor in Bill Paxton to play the part of the husband. Brilliant, I say! Out of the three wives, I like Nicki the best in terms of looks and personality, and her too cute pout. I've never been a fan of Jeanne Tripplehorn since I first saw her in "Basic Instinct." Her look creeps me out, but other than that, it's nice to see her play the first wife and "boss lady" as Nicki loves to call her. The third wife is the barely legal Margene. She's all baby-faced innocent and naive. Cute, but not too bright.

What most intrigues me about the show is that they have made the family so likeable, that I find myself at odds with my belief...I'm actually rooting for these people to keep their secret safe from prying neighbours, nosy employees, and the unscrupulous prophet of the breakaway "United Effort Brotherhood" (who claims that it was the Mormons who betrayed the vision of Joseph Smith when he revealed the "New and Everlasting Covenant" of plural marriage). The prophet sees nothing wrong with marrying girls just reaching adolescence, which only makes Barb (Tripplehorn's character) furious. Barb still misses the LDS Church and seems to have only went along with her husband Bill's desire to "live the principle" (of plural marriage) so as to not lose him to another woman. Certainly if the choice were mine, it would be "Bye Bye Barb, Hello Nicki!" But Bill believes in polygamy as a duty and calling from God.

Anyhow, it's interesting how the show can make it seem okay, by showing the characters to be fully human and likeable. When I lived in Utah, occasionally, I'd see ladies in what I called "Little House on the Prairie dresses" and pretty much figured that they were from the various polygamous communes in Utah. I was sad to see young girls forced to live this lifestyle, lacking freedom and even being brainwashed into believing that's what God commanded of them. The show proves to me what I always believed about polygamy...that it was more about sexual power than religious principle. For one thing, the birth ratio around the world is close to 1:1 and that's no accident. For a man to take more than one wife means another man will be deprived of a wife. Of course, the number of homosexuals make it difficult to gauge whether this would hold true, but for argument's sake, I think it's greed. I also see how a man's ego can be boosted by having women compete for his love and attention. In an equal partnership marriage, women have the upper hand in that they can deny a man's sexual needs and he has to live with it (or commit adultery as so many Republican politicians are wont to do). But in a polygamous marriage, the man has the uppper hand. If one woman denies his sexual needs, another wife is more than willing to give him that attention. So, it's hard to deny that fact of polygamy and sexual power.

The issue of polygamy was one of the major reasons that kept me from "converting" to the LDS church as a younger man when I was most drawn to it (back in 1993-1994). The reason is simple...Joseph Smith supposedly claimed that polygamy was the "new and everlasting covenant" and that if the church were ever to get rid of it, it was a sign that the church was in apostasy. So, that put the LDS Church in a difficult spot. The RLDS Church never accepted that doctrine, and the FLDS Church continued it after 1890 when the Federal Government ordered the Utah governor to end the practice as condition for statehood. Polygamy is a touchy issue, I know. When I was at BYU, I was shocked by how many girls would accept it in their future husbands if commanded to by God, even if they disagree with it or feel that it isn't right. That's a scary thought to me. I've always been the one to know that if I heard a "voice" telling me to do something that went against the grain of what I believed in my heart to be right, the voice would not be from God. I would not have been like Nephi killing Laban for the Gold Plates because I was commanded to. Thou Shalt Not Murder. No black and white thinking there.

I love my Mormon friends, I love aspects of the Mormon church and history, but for me, polygamy is the issue that will never die. While "Big Love" does a great effort to humanize them and provide interesting, quality entertainment, I know that I would personally have a hard time accepting any polygamist into my circle of friends. I just can't be convinced that a woman benefits from having to share her husband with another woman. I certainly would not accept being in a marriage to a woman with other men and I don't know of any man who would. Our spouse deserves our complete love and affection. Even children aren't supposed to come in between the sacred relationship of a man and woman.

Someday, I'd love to travel with a Mormon friend to one of the FLDS communities in southern Utah/Northern Arizona just to see what that would be like. Three churches from the same founding heritage and the issue of polygamy which split the churches apart. It's a fascinating heritage, to say the least.


Christian said...

Those communities are more creepy than anything else. They're like mafia-run mid-west small towns. That's a weird combo.

I've always thought it would be fascinating if polygamy was un-outlawed as a religious practice in the US - what would the Mormon church do? You say a lot of young women would deal with the switch? That would be amazing, and I wonder how the church would justify either going back to polygamy or not. Great post!

Sansego said...

Well, the FLDS Church is hoping that society's growing tolerance for homosexual rights will spill over towards tolerance for all "alternative marriages" that might be one way of bringing polygamy back.

Mandalynn said...

A couple of things: 1) I'm glad you love your Mormon friends because I'm assuming I'm one of them. 2) I just cancelled my HBO last week and now I'm wishing I hadn't. 3) Nicki is my least favorite character on "Big Love." In fact, I wish they'd kill her off.

Sansego said...


Well...I don't know what's going on in Season 2...I'm just watching the show on DVD, so I'm almost finished watching Season 1. After that, I'll watch "Entourage". I've only seen the first season of that one.

I don't like Nicki's spending habits, but in terms of looks, she's the one out of the three that I find most attractive! :)