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    Email Discussions 13

    Child Brides in
    Fundamentalist Mormonism

    Dear Sir,

    I work with Utah-based group advocating for oppressed girls, women, and boys in polygamist societies. We are continually seeking to refine our statements and understanding about polygamy. I want to run a little logic by you. Tell me what you think.

    I think we can all agree on the premise that by upsetting natural gender ratios, obligatory polygamy in a community depletes the supply of peer wives, thereby putting marital pressure on junior women. By natural law, any community that strongly encourages polygamy as the marital norm across all times, places, and circumstances is bound to eventually find its females subject to forced marriages at minor ages and its males subject to marital deprivation. Based on that, I think we can set some less obvious conditions for polygamists who respect 'everyone's rights and don't make little girls marry old men and stuff'. These conditions can help us point out practices that are bound to lead to disaster.

    -"Good polygamists" don't use their church and government positions to advocate marital practices that upset the prevalent community gender ratios.
    -"Good polygamists" don't teach polygamy as a universal obligation.
    -"Good polygamists" don't resort to gender-focused recruiting efforts to meet their unnatural gender ratio requirements.
    -"Good polygamists" practice polygamy for socially responsible reasons and in socially resposible ways.

    I will appreciate hearing your thoughts or the thoughts of any of your colleagues.

    'Alias Buddy' (21.04.2003)

    For replies to your statements/questions please see the TCP Thread of our The Truth of Christian Polygamy Group.

    As for forced marriages of any kind, and below the age of consent and state law, we are resolutely opposed to these.

    Stanisław Królewiec (22.04.2003)

    Good polygamists don't use their church and government positions to advocate marital practices that upset the prevalent community gender ratios.

    Mitten says: I would think one should use a church position to advocate any practice that is permissable in the Bible. As far as upsetting the prevalent community gender ratios, that can only be upset if there are significant numbers of polygamists in that community. This one seems to have a lot of hidden agendas buried in it.

    -"Good polygamists" don't teach polygamy as a universal obligation.

    Mitten says: Agreed.

    -"Good polygamists" don't resort to gender-focused recruiting efforts to meet their unnatural gender ratio requirements.

    Mitten says: Sort of agree. There shouldn't be any 'recruiting' efforts but then to toss in the 'unnatural gender ratio requirements' as the reason is misleading. While a society as a whole wouldn't function well if a significant percentage practiced polygamy and the birth rate remained at roughly 50/50 boys and girls that does not imply that society can't deal with a certain number of polygamists so labelling it 'unnatural' is needlessly inflamatory. After all, the birth rate is not exactly 50/50, I seem to remember more like 51% girls, 49% boys or so, and I think boys have a greater tendency to die off before they can marry which implies that 'nature' has supplied an over-abundance of women perhaps just meeting the number of men who choose to and practice polygamy.

    -"Good polygamists" practice polygamy for socially responsible reasons and in socially resposible ways.

    Mitten says: I would certainly hope so, but it would depend on first agreeing on the definition of 'socially responsible'. If the first three definitions of a 'good polygamist' are an indication of 'socially responsible' then I would think we have a fundamental problem at the outset here.

    Mitten (22.04.2003)

    I am in complete agreement with your observations and responses, Mitten, and detect a possible hidden agenda here too. I would imagine that any public office, which of course is staffed by government officials paid and bound to uphold the law, including the anti-polygamous Edmunds-Tucker Act, would have an agenda that in the long term is not friendly or favourably-disposed towards polygamists of any stripe, whether the honourable and decent amongst us or the perverts and oppressors. Since the letters is framed within the context of a 'public office' and is not necessary the private opinion of the sender, I must admit I am inclined to wonder what it's purpose is. Is it an appeal to polygamists to make some public statement in support of a code? And if so, what moral authority would such bear given that legally speaking polygamy is considered to be immoral (whilst sodomy, swinging, gang-bangs and all the other depraved behaviour of our decaying Western culture is not similarly anathematised by secular law)?

    The writer told me that he would follow the thread here and asked permission to ask further questions. My answer is that he is welcome to ask questions - however, I am sure all of us would like to know what he, as a public official, himself believes regarding 'good polygamy' (i.e. would he support its legalisation?) and what is the 'official' (or 'unofficial') reason for contacting us (if any)? What does he actually intend to do with the information he gets from us? Create a polygamous lobby in support of a campaign against child brides (which implies some sort of recognition of our grouping of polygamists, which seems hardly likely given the way the law is currently structured in the USA - though I am sure such would [eventually] be welcomed once the anti-poly noose has been dismantled), or is this a covert way of obtaining information against felons (of the non-Edmunds-Tucker variety)?

    As far as child brides are concerned (I wrote to the sender and gave our position to ask further questions) viz:

    As for forced marriages of any kind, and below the age of consent and state law, we are resolutely opposed to these.

    Though I know laws vary from country to country, I am interpreting this to mean that no marriages (common law or otherwise) will be contracted, or sexual activity engaged in, below the age of 18 without the parents' permission, or below 16 with the parents' permission. This has always been our position. 15 is our barrier for engagement or betrothal with 16 the recommended minimum age. Because of the lack of spiritual maturity generally these days we favour 18 as a minimum age for both engagement, betrothal and full marriage. Though we believe that parents and pastors have a duty to guide their children in the selection of marriage companions, and that children should seriously consider their advice, the final choice has to be that of the prospective spouses themselves. This has always been our positions and it will continue to be so.

    I am sure that everyone in this Community would like to be a part of socially responsible civillian action in opposing child marriages, coerced/arranged marriages, and the like. However, if that is the reason for contacting us, then it is really rather obvious that some sort of reciprocal gesture is needed, at least from an official body ... like issuing public support for abolishing the Edmunds-Tucker Act, and paving the way for its actual repeal?

    The Utah Office of 'Help the Child Brides' would then, very quickly, get a lot of support from honourable polygamists like ourselves.


    Stanisław (23.04.2003)

    Dear Stanisław ,

    I wrote you previously running by you some ideas I was hammering out regarding social treatment of marriage. To refresh your memory, I am in Arizona working to end the child-marrying practices of some of the polygamists in northern Arizona and environs. I would like to stay in contact with you from time to time.

    Today I am concerned about a single feature of your public work. Namely, the assertion you are making that polygamy is normal. It appears that you are saying that polygamy is meant to be business as usual. I think that this inference is a reasonable distillation of your published writings. That is to say, it is reasonable to infer that you are advocating Christian plural marriage as a norm.

    Advocating Christian plural marriage as something that is theologically permissible may have merit. There are conceivably circumstances under which certain men might need to marry plural wives. But in our peaceful society, polygyny as the norm (normal polygyny), would immediately create a wife shortage. For a modern example, see Colorado City, Arizona. For an older example, see 1856 Utah, where 'All are trying to get wives until there is hardly a girl 14 years old in Utah but what is married or just going to be' (Mormon Polygamy: A History, Van Wagoner). In both these examples, the only thing wrong is that plural marriage is a duty -- a norm. Then how can advocating polygyny as normal be a responsible and Christian practice?

    Wouldn't a good and honest Christian steward avoid painting plural marriage as the normal course of events? Wouldn't he hedge his assertions about God's acceptance of plural marriage with equally strong assertions about the dangers of undisciplined polygyny?

    'Alias Buddy' (25.06.2003)

    Dear Alias

    I think you have misunderstood my usage of the word 'normal' which I mean in the sense of being 'natural' (as opposed to 'abnormal' or 'unnatural'). I have stated elsewhere on my site that it should always be a minority practice if for no other reason than no more that 20% of the world's population could ever sustain it. So I don't think we are in disagreement.

    As for your campaign against child marriages you have my complete support.


    Stanisław (25.06.2003)

    Thanks. I appreciate your time and consideration.

    Do you have any published writings that explain the guidelines under which plural marriage ought to be permitted/practiced? For example, what do you teach your children or the worshippers at your local church? Under what circumstances would a man be required to take a plural wife?

    Alias (25.06.2003)

    Dear Alias

    The only published works are the book I recently wrote and a short tract.

    Since plural marriage is officially discouraged in our congregations the exposure of members to the principle is mostly historical and spiritual. There are few circumstances in which a man would be 'required' to take a plural wife, such as if a married man commits fornication with a single woman or an estranged first wife wishes to return home after he has remarried. We have no doctrine such as obtains in Mormonism, for example, that a man must marry polygamously to obtain the highest glory, and no woman therefore feels bound to enter polygamy for the same reasons. So the principle is little mentioned in our local churches. Our children are taught that the principle exists and that they should follow the Spirit in their lives as to whom they should marry - they know it's a minority practice reserved mostly for those in leadership position who have the maturity to handle it. Those of mine who are now adults now have shown no interest in the principle and that that is respected by their parents.



    Don't forget your web publications

    It sounds like your expositions, then, are primarily theoretical, and aimed at dispelling some misconceptions of majority Christianity. They aren't really defending the practices of some group that 'believes' in plural marriage in the sense of practicing it as a norm?

    Alias (26.06.2003)

    Dear Alias

    Yes, I assumed you meant hardcopy materials.

    Again, correct. We defend those who wish to practice polygamy within the context of majority monogamy in the churches. We are absolutely not advocating 'polygamy-only' or 'polygamy-expected' churches and are definitely not one ourselves. Polygamy is for a small minority of leadership and occasionally others who feel especially called into it. We would consider any group or church which insisted that polygamy was the 'norm' [on earth] to therefore be deviant.



    Is there a place on the web where you present the laws governing plural marriage?

    Alias (26.06.2003)

    Dear Alias

    Not as a single document, no. All our materials are on our website. I suppose that if and when the need for this appears in the future, a compendium or list will be drawn up. As only a tiny minority of our congregations have polygamous families in them (all converts as pre-existent polygamists) there has been no need to date.


    Stanisław (28.06.2003)

    Author: SBSK et al

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    First created on 28 June 2003
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