This interview was a discussion between myself and a monogamously-married Patriarch (whom I shall call 'Bill') who was planning the introduction of a second wife to his household. His wife (whom I shall call 'June') is enthusiastic and inititiated both an examination of Christian/Messianic polygyny as well as the search for another wife. Both are familiar with the articles at HEM. Bill and June live in Florida, USA.
Stan, I'm very grateful that you have given me the opportunity to ask you some more questions about the polygmous lifestyle. I've approached you and a couple of other families because it seems that you three have the most experience, and I am particularly anxious to get your view as you have experienced both success and failure. More important than that, for me at any rate, is the fact that you have managed to turn round what seemed like a disaster for your family and made it into a success. It's important for 'young' patriarchs like myself to see that there is hope even when things apparently go wrong, especially as the casualty rate seems so high amongst new polygamists.
I appreciate your remarks, Bill, and your reasons for seeking counsel here at HEM. I'll do my best, of course, to answer your questions as best I can. To begin with I do want to say a couple of things to balance out some of your statements. Firstly, it is not 'I' who have made a disaster into a success. I am part of a team and it's the team that works things out. So it would be wrong to say that 'I' am the one who has made a failed marriage work again. That team includes my ex-wife (now restored), my other wives who were supportative all along the way, and most importantly of all, the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Whilst it's true I did a lot of the initiating, it would be more accurate to say that the timetable was Yahweh's and that everyone played their part.
Secondly, I think it is a misperception to say that there is a high casualty rate amongst new practitioners of Christian/Messianic polygyny generally. As you will have read in the historical articles on this site the Christian/Messianic polygyny movement has two major wings - an autocratic, rule-by-force system, and a more open rule-by-love one. And whilst there are casualties on both sides of the dividing line, there is without a shadow of a doubt a high casualty rate on the autocratic side. Moreover, it would be a lot lower if many of the women living under that system had the courage to speak their minds and hearts.
I guess what you have in mind is the truth generally speaking in all kinds of marriage that the women tend to take quite a punishing before they finally break-out?
Yes. There are women who prefer to suffer violence in many monogamous marriages, for example, rather than experience the shame of having to admit that their marriage is a failure, or because of fear that their husbands will do them even greater violence if they resist. Women are by nature loyal, even to brutish husbands. So it is more than likely that there are a lot of women 'biting the bullet' in autocratic polygamous families just as there are in monogamous ones. My heart goes out to them and their misguided (even if sometimes sincere) husbands. There was recently a lot of bad publicity generated by a branch of the Mormon fundamentalist polygamous movement in your country because of women being forced into loveless relationships, much as they are in the arranged marriages of many Hindu and Moslem societies.
Yeah, some of the girls were under age too.
Yes, it's a tragedy and is a blot on polygamy, if not necessarily on Christian/Messianic polygamy, since this is a Mormon matter.
Why do you think many marriages fail on our side of the fence? Is it all the husbands' fault?
Definitely not. I know some truly wonderful, godly men who have sacrificed their whole souls in pure Christ-like love for selfish, scheming and wicked women. You know, it's a mistake for people to think that because it's polygamy the husband must put in a 'greater effort' at being righteous - that somehow the women don't need to have quite such a high standard of holiness because of what they're having to supposedly 'give up' in the numbers game. A woman who thinks that way is heading for serious spiritual trouble. Righteous Christian/Messianic Polygyny is not about numbers at all but about love, and nothing more or less. The responsibilities to be holy, just, pure, loving and righteous devolve equally upon husband and wives. The husband doesn't have to be 'extra holy" in order to justify living the principle, as though being 'less holy' was something to be left to monogamous husbands. It is vitally important to realise that the responsibility to be Christ-like is the same in both Christian/Messianic monogamous and polygamous marriage. The only real difference for the husband in the polygamous relationship is the increased work-load and the skills to handle women of different personalities.
Q. In the same way that a Pastor is not, because of his calling, supposed to be 'extra holy'?
Exactly. A Pastor is a Pastor not because he is living a more 'spiritual' gospel than the other members but because he has been called because of his giftedness and capacity to serve many people. There are many Christians/Messianics who foolishly believe that because they aren't Elders or Pastors that they have the 'right' to live a lower set of standards. That's nonsense, as I know you will agree. Yet it happens, all too commonly. So I want wives to be especially aware of the carnal tendency to suppose that they don't have to be as 'spiritual' as their polygamous husband because he is a kind of 'pastor' to them with bigger responsibilities. We must all stand before Yahweh as equals at the last day and give an account of our lives and one thing I'm sure about is that Yahweh will not be favourably disposed towards those who have, as they suppose, found an excuse to relax the moral and ethical demands required of them by the Gospel either because they were layfolk in the local church/assembly or because they were married polygamously. Yah forbid that any think such a way!
Since a Pastor is a kind of father to his local church (assembly), isn't it true that his children, like our own children, have a tendency to pass the buck when it comes to responsibiltity, work load, and the like? And wouldn't you agree that sometimes wives in a polygamous marriage look up to their husbands as father or patriarch figures?
I'm glad you asked that because you've raised a vitally important issue which, though I've spoken about it elsewhere in an interview I had with Kasia, I'd like to develop further here. Now in my view one of the faults of the autocracy-wing of the Patriarchal Christian Movement is that they mistakenly believe that polygamous husbands are supposed to rule over their wives like mediaeval potentates and that that's what the word 'patriarch' means. It's a much maligned word, actually because it is assumed that it means 'to rule forcefully'. And that's the image that most of the world have of patriarchy. It's hopelessly distorted. It's abuse has led to the feminist revolution and rejection of virtually all father relationships, to the terrible detriment of society. Yahweh wishes us to clearly understand that whilst the Patriarch is indeed to rule strictly according to Elohim's (God's) Word he is at the same time to rule in love and in such a generous and gentle manner that his children will want to call him 'abba' or 'daddy'. Our Heavenly Father is approachable -- and what's best, easily approachable if we come with child-like innocence and purity.
Many of the polygamous relationships in the autocratic wing are best described as father-daughter relationships. The patriarch's wives are more his daughters than his true wives, obediently cowtowing and following him at his heels like obedient puppies. Though such a system undoubtedly works it does not lead to a fullness of love and joy. It can't, because a father-daugher love is only a preparatory love, which is why the father must eventually release his daughter so she can marry and enjoy the fullness of a man-woman relationship.
Like a mother releasing her son?
Yes, in a way. There are many marriages, monogamous and polygamous (though more of the former) where women rule the roost and their husbands are but shadowy sons. It's a crippling relationship, quite destructive to both, and the woman who dominates in such a fashion can never know true love, because she has emasculated her husband and transformed him into a pale image of herself. Such does happen in polygamous marriages and I have come across one pitiful polygamous marriage where two wives ganged up on the husband and ruled him - what a hell, to have two domineering mothers!
[Laughs]. I guess I shouldn't laugh really though it does have its comical side.
Only feminists would possibly enjoy such a scenario, though one of the wives would eventually kick the other one out. But it really isn't funny at all because everybody loses. In trying to control their husband they cut off the very thing they crave the most - his love. They spiritually castrate him.
What should he do?
Be a Patriarch in the 'traditional' sense of the word. If loving them unconditionally by allowing them to walk all over him doesn't work then it is time for him to say: 'Enough is enough. You are out of order and behaving contrary to the Word.' Then he must show them by the Scriptures that they are walking in a Jezebel spirit and not allow them to deflect him from the truth. A Patriarch has as one of his responsibilities to preserve his masculinity and to promote his wives' femininity. When authority rôles are reversed, you are sowing the seeds of homosexuality and lesbianism. I know of at least one monogamous marriage where the husband neglected his leadership calling, allowed his wife to wear the trousers in the family, and experienced the heartbreak of seeing her experiment with lesbianism and fall away from the Gospel altogether.
In a way, then, a husband must be autocratic sometimes.
If it means preserving the order of his family, absolutely - authoritative rather than 'authoritarian'. Whilst love-not-force must be the guiding principle in godly Christian/Messianic polygamous marriage, there may be times when carefully applied and controlled force must be used to stop the forces of destruction from completely torpedoing a family and sinking it.
Have you experienced that?
Oh yes. And I believe every patriarch will experience that at some time. I don't take the view that a husband should take his wife's punches at the cost of his other wives' and children's happiness and welfare. There has to be a balance. Different patriarchs draw the line at different places and there is no hard-and-fast rule indicating where that line should be. A man must walk with Yahweh and know the Spirit in his life. He will make mistakes to be sure, just as godly women do. But I have such harmony in my family now (2000) that this has not happened for many years.
Can you give an example?
I will not tolerate a wife to defy my authority in the presence of children, guests, strangers or other wives. She may 'fight' a disagreement out with me privately, though I rarely deal with a contentious issue until she has calmed down and has control of herself. I will tell her plainly and to the point that she is out of order and that we can sort the matter out alone.
That must be quite humiliating for her?
Yes, to be sure, but it is better than having discipline in the family disintegrate. It is important to be gentle but firm. You must remember it is humiliating for the patriarch to be defied and disrespected too. It is a serious sin. There are some who might wish to dress her down in the presence of the others but I do not agree with that unless she has offended all the others too. We must follow the biblical rule of taking aside the brother by whom we are offended and dealing with the matter secretly so as not to unnecessarily humiliate him in the presence of others and possibly lose trust and love.
How do you deal with a contentious wife?
It is one of the most difficult pastoral exercises a man can face, especially if she is hysterical. It is always important to get to the root of an issue. The event which causes an outburst may be purely circumstantial, being the trigger of a more deep-seated problem. My second wife had many problems in our early marriage leading to jealosy, anger, tears, and the like, but the root was all insecurity caused by an unstable childhood. It is possible to miss the obvious solution to problems in a marriage by getting bogged down in the branches instead of getting to the roots. Immature patriarchs often opt for some sort of appeasement to calm their wives down but this has the opposite effect of that which is desired. Many modern patriarchs have been so feminised by our matriarchal society that they have few genuine male rôle models to look up to. I suspect that the behaviour of the autocratic patriatrchs is in part a reaction to modern effeminate man. One of the duties of the patriarchal movement is to teach men how to be men again without swinging to the opposite extreem.
What rôle does prayer have for you in settling marrital disputes?
There are many patriarchs I know who think that the purpose of prayer is to effect miraculous solutions to difficult problems and whilst this can indeed sometimes be the outcome of prayer, in my experience it is not. The purpose of prayer is, in my view, to show us the ministerial avenues down which we can walk so that we can fully understand a problem and teach our families all the pitfalls in taking wrong choices.
I am convinced that proper spiritual education is the greatest solution to most marital ills. When there is a problem I always sit with a wife and analyse it thoroughly so that she can understand exactly what she is doing, why she behaved in the way she did, and how to avoid that pitfall in the future. The Scriptures provide solutions to every problem because all difficulties stem ultimately from a small cluster of sinful tendencies like possessiveness, mistrust, fear, jealosy, and the like. But there is obviously far more to being an effective husband than pointing out the pitfalls. Understanding the source of posessiveness is one thing, but knowing how to walk in the perfect joy of sharing is quite another.
Marriage is an ongoing education and provided everyone is attentive and teachable every mistake becomes an important tool of understanding. Wives who have walked through particular problems and overcome them become superb teachers of those who have not. And as I've said many times before, my wives have a depth and knowledge of human relationships that often surprises those living in monogamous relationships because the latter don't necessarily confront many of the problems that beset them but find ways with their spouses to accommodate them
From what I've read on your site you believe that polygamy is, as one of its blessings, an intense training course in spirituality.
Without a shadow of a doubt, if it's a spiritually-minded family. I am frankly amazed at how wise my wives are when compared with contemporaries monogamously married at about the same time they were. They're streaks ahead. I must add that this blessing also has a downside too, namely, that they can sometimes grow so fast that they leave their peers far behind and this can sometimes have the effect of weakening a relationship.
How do you mean?
It's very embarassing for those who are so obviously immature to see those who were once their bosom buddies before marriage so far spiritually advanced. The humble, of course, are wise enough to try and learn but most feel stupid and tend to draw away. Plural wives are on the cutting edge of challenge, growth and discovery whereas most monogamous ones tend to be driving along in their lives one or two gears below. However, there is much difference between polygamous families too and there are many 'Christian' homes I know which I feel are rather worldly, more like the secular equivalents one sometimes finds where polygamy is lived more as a sort of an experiment than as a lifelong committment.
OK, I'd like to take some practical examples now, if I could? It seems that there's a constant battle against human nature. Can you tell me some of the battles you've had and how you've won them?
A big question. Many of the differences in the way polygamist families turn out hangs on their approach to the Gospel. As members of the Chavurat Bekorot we take the Johannine injunctives in the Book of Revelation to be overcomers very seriously indeed. There are some who just take each day as it comes with no special spiritual objectives in mind. For instance, we have looked very deeply into the traits of the seven churches/assemblies of Asia Minor - their strengths and weaknesss - and look at ourselves in their mirrors, as it were. There are challenges and promises associated with overcoming for each. Yah'shua (Jesus) calls us to perfection. There are many Christians/Messianics who believe that perfection is attained upon faith and is more a legal condition based on Yah'shua's perfection than our own. Understandably their approach is therefore very different to ours for whilst we believe our communion with the Father is based on the perfection which is Christ indwelling us, there is nevertheless the very real and urgent need to be perfected for our own sakes. We are, as Scripture teaches, a Priesthood in the making, and to be better ministers to others we must become more translucent through the purification of faith, repentance and good works.
Let's get even more specific. Christ tells the Philadelphian Church/Assembly in Revelation 3 that though the saints there have kept His Word and not denied His Name, they have little spiritual power. They're like a garrisson deep in enemy territory, surrounded and under siege, keeping alive but not really having much strength to do anything else. They are in need of power to break out of their encirclement, rejoin the main army, and become effective ministers in defeating the enemy and not just resisting him.
There are a lot of Christians/Messianics under intense siege who seem to have little strength for anything else than to keep their heads above water. I believe all Christians/Messianics face that situation at some time or another. Many polygamous families go through that stage, perhaps even most. Many patriarchs, as I have already pointed out, are too weak and so they spend almost all their energy just trying to keep their family together instead of being freed to minister the Gospel to the world with their wives as valuable help-meets. I went through that a few years ago, the only trouble being that I tried to do both and nearly had a break-down -- you can't be an effective minister if your family is at war. Painful experience has taught me that in order to be doing Yahweh's will it is absolutely necessary to get order at home. Polygamy does not, in the final analysis, just exist for itself but is a means to a greater work.
This is really interesting, Stan, because you know, there seem to be a lot of potential patriarchs out there who are shying away because they're afraid of all the potential conflicts, especially when they read what you've been through. What would you say to them?
That depends on how much support their first wives are giving them. You are in an extraordinarily blessed situation where it's your wife who got converted to polygamy first and is anxious for you to take the next step. Most first wives are the opposite: they're like a car with the brakes hard on whilst the husband is trying to rev up and go forwards.
I wish I could write a manual of polygamy for prospective patriarchs so that they can avoid the struggles and sufferings that are involved in getting polygamy underway. There isn't one. I map out certain parts of the terrain but the whole picture is shaped by the personalities of those involved, and they vary enormously, as we both know. Part of the problem is that walking by faith means that you can't see very far ahead. I am now a very cautious type - rightly or wrongly - and try to weigh things up very carefully before making any moves. In my first marriage I really botched things up on a number of fronts for in truth there were times I loved my wife more than Yahweh and didn't want to hurt her, as I knew polygamy would. So I dishonestly pretended I didn't believe it anymore and tried to bury it and make a good monogamous marriage. But I was denying what I was called into and Yahweh was not pleased.
Do you think the reason He said your first marriage would end after seven years was because you were disobedient in this matter?
[Sighs]. Yes. I sacrificed two women who wished to marry me because of my refusal to be obedient to the Spirit, and do you know what the real tragedy of it was? When I finally told my wife after a little over six years of fighting the call, she told me that had I taken another woman she would have accepted it even though it would have hurt her. The bottom line was that I didn't have enough faith in her in some respects. The result was that I sacrificed Anja, the woman who would have been my second wife - who was really enthusiastic - on the altar of Monogamy-Only. I lost not only Anja but my first wife Suszana also. All three ended up in either cults or false religions. It was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.
What actually happened to Anja?
Years later I tried to approach her and make amends. I went in deep contrition to her but the wounds were too deep and she was not willing to give me a second chance. We had also moved on in our spiritual growth so that we have quite different belief systems, making it all harder. In the end she found someone else and married. I can tell you that I went into many years of mourning because of what I did. Actually, I sacrificed three women for being disobedient, for Anja had already recruited another who was very interested. When Anja went, the other lady went too, understandably. My wife did a good job on her too, convincing her of the evils of polygamy!
I don't know what to say, Stan - you have introduced a whole new dimension of responsibility to the Lord first and foremost...
Yes, but be careful. There are many zealots who think they have been called into polygamy when they havn't and they storm ahead and destroy everything and everyone in their path. Just because a principle like polygamy is true doesn't mean you are called into it at that moment in time, or even ever. Not everyone is called to be a pastor! And you'll remember when Paul warned not to hastily lay hands on anyone by ordaining a new convert to a position of responsibility in a local church (assembly) - such a premature calling can go to their heads and not only destroy them but cause immeasurable damage to a congregation. Polygamy is fire and if you don't know how to handle it properly you will end up burning yourself and others. So I give this sober warning to everyone! You don't let a 5 year-old loose in a nuclear power station and allow them to press every button or pull every lever that takes their fancy. Polygamy exists for a divine purpose and under very tight restrictions because it is the reserve of those who are mature enough to handle it, be blessed by it, and bless others by it. It is the ultimate sacrificial lifestyle for men and women alike. I don't know how many times I have said this but I will say it again and again in order to save some hotheads from an unhappy ending to their spiritual lives.
What would you recommend in my situation?
I commend you, Bill, for the way you have handled it. You know, it's possible that, in spite of your wife's enthusiasm, that you're not called into this and that she is wrong. I'm not saying that she is but it's something you must seriously consider. I know that when a man has a wife who is as supportative as June is that it is natural to conclude that polygamy must be your calling because finding women of such spiritual callibre is so rare, so why would Yahweh set you up with all the right tools and open all the right doors?
Yeah, you've read my mind!
I can give you an example of one such woman who was as keen as your own wife though she was not as spiritually mature in other areas. Her husband absolutely did not want to be a polygamist. But she created such a positive atmosphere around the subject that in the end he took a second wife. But he is definitely not what I would call a true patriarch. He has two wives, they live in separate homes, but he sees very little of his first wife and children. He has settled in well with his second, so well that, to all intense and purposes, she has displaced his first. The second wants him to get rid of his first wife but he won't so they have a sort of uneasy truce. She wasn't a believer and now he isn't either. Do you see what I mean when I say how harmful it is to enter a principle when it is clearly wrong for that individual? [Ed. update (2003): he parted from the second wife and is now monogamously back with his first].
Yes. I do.
He lives what I call multiple monogamy. He isn't a polygamist in his heart at all and isn't remotely interested in either converting his second wife to Yah'shua (Jesus) or in trying to make a single household. If the brutal truth be known his second wife helped him solve some economic problems and he has now settled into a life of comparitive ease financially. All his priorities are mixed up. Worse, for polygamists in general, his first wife has been quite open to the media about her lifestyle and given the secular society a false picture of what polygamy is.
Well, there are many worse case histories I could mention but I thought an example such as this would be useful. Obedience to the Yahweh's will, in harmony with Yah'shua's (Jesus') prayer (the Lord's Prayer - "thy will be done") has to be the great moving principle behind this estate of marriage. Goodness, look what happened to me! I lost two wives, regained one (praise Yahweh), but lost two or three who might have been wives had I done the right thing. I could pull my hair out now thinking back but the harm has been done but I cannot roll back time. My sin? My sin was in not wanting to hurt or be hurt. I was not willing to sacrifice. By compromising my unmistakable call to polygamy I also compromised my patriarchy. I lost spiritual authority at home. Worse, I went behind my first wife's back and tried to enter the principle secretly, thinking I could 'obey' that way. Never do that! That's not true polygamy at all because you are guaranteed to lose your first wife if you follow that path. She forgave me (because I was required to abandon the secret marriage...thus sending my secret betrothed wife away and forcing her to commit adultery when she married again) but my authority and credibility were shot to pieces. From that day on our relationship was permanently damaged. Other problems were exacerbated, made worse by the fact that I was in ecclestastical transit with no church (assembly) membership anywhere. There is more I could tell of this tale but I don't think it would be helpful - I have made my point.
But why did you go behind your wife's back?
You have to understand that I was on my own. There were no other Evangelical Christian or Messianic polygamists that I'd heard about until some years later. I had no Mark Henkel, Steve Butt, John RoeBuck, or others to go to for counsel, because they weren't even into polygamy at that time. I was a pioneer with no-one to help me, with only Yahweh as my counsellor and my own fallen human nature as my adversary. This was in the early to mid-1980's before the Internet was even around.
So you were actually toying around with polygamy before 1988, then?
1988 was the time I entered into polygamy 'above board', in a serious way, having discovered the hard way that doing it secrely behind one's spouse's back was wrong. But, yes, I suppose you could say that I entered into the principle at least half a decade before that.
I guess that makes you the grand-daddy of polygamy!
Well, as I said, maybe there were other evangelicals or messianics living the principle. I don't know. I only know that until 1997, a decade later, I didn't even know about other Christian/Messianic polygamists in the West, though I had heard there were many in Africa who were tolerated by the Catholic and some Protestant churches.
You said that you had done wrong in entering polygamy secretly behind your first wife's back. But if I understand the Scriptures rightly you had that right, even though from the vantage point of the New Covenant it did not respect your first wife's feelings?
Yes, that is true. I certainly did not commit adultery from the point-of-view of the Word. But since I was in a technically monogamy-only situation and under a covenant (albeit it not scriptural) to love and cherish my first wife and none other but her, my conscience condemned me, and to lie to your conscience is to sin, not to mention the fact I was in violation of my wedding vows. So it was definitely a sin from two points-of-view. The Law justified me from one side, but condemned me from another, and the Spirit certainly did not, I have concluded. It is possible for me to rationalise what I did from a legalistic point-of-view and be justified - since I was in ignorance about Yahweh's statutes on vows, but the New Covenant of Christ calls us to higher moral ground. The fact of the matter is that my first wife felt betrayed, and rightly so, even though her theology was wrong and technically she had no scriptural ground to justify her hostile feelings. But anyway, you know what my beliefs are in this regard today.
So you would never marry someone secretly today?
Never. I have told my wives that I will always consult them and do my uttmost to get harmony on the admission of any new wife though they know the final decision is mine, and mine alone. They also know, and have accepted, that I have the right to take another wife without consulting them if the circumstances are extraodinary and demand quick action.
What sort of situation might that be?
We have not really speculated about that since it's impossible to know what such circumstances might be. But the point is that they trust me to make such a judgment in harmony with Yahweh's will if I feel it is absolutely necessary. I would not say they would have agreed to that sort of arrangement in the beginning but as their trust in me has grown and deepened they know that I would never do anything contrary to Yahweh's will now.
What if you made a mistake?
Nobody is infallible, to be sure, and I would never be so presumptuous as to assume that I was error-free. I only know I would never rush into a marriage unless Yahweh's will was very clearly manifested indeed.
You sound as though you're anticipating such situations in the future.
Not really. What I will say, though, is that I now know myself so much better, and women so much better, and hear the Spirit so much better, that I believe in the future the long waiting and careful weighing that characterised my early polygamy days may possibly give way to a more rapid decision-making process under extraordinary circumstances. (In actual fact, the opposite happened). I do most soberly advise young and immature polygamists and potential polygamists to walk with the greatest of care and circumspection, and to use as much time as they feel is necessary to be absolutely sure as well as to prepare their existing wives. It is never wise to rush into life-long investments when everything is at stake.
I believe I am right in saying that you don't believe in state-sanctioned marriage and that therefore you are, from the point-of-view of the law, 'single'. Yet you have indicated that you expect wives to come from many different countries. How will you manage to get them residence permits if you don't marry them? For instance, you've spoken of someone from Canada...
I guess I'll met that problem when I come to it. Within Europe these problems are disappearing in the European Union but as you know I did not marry within the EU. There will undoubtedly be solutions.
Would you take out a civil contract and then subsequently dissolve it?
That's one method that some polygamists use. But here in Europe you can't dissolve marriages overnight. There are no drive-in divorces. There are, in many countries, manadatory separation periods which may stretch for as long as two years, with interviews held with state authoritities to try and save it. Sometimes they manadate compulsory psychotherapy to try and rescue the relationship..
Seriously? There's nothing like that in the US, at least it's not compulsory.
It is in some countries here. So you see, what would I do if there was a prospective wife waiting for me in Canada and another in Russia? How would I bring them both over? I could marry one but the other would have to wait another two years. The best she could hope for is to come in as a tourist and keep traveling in and out of the country, which we couldn't possibly afford. The other would to become an illegal immigrant, but we wouldn't break the law as a matter of gospel principle.
What about dummy marriages to proxies?
Never. This is how a lot of illegal immigration takes place in our European countries, and I expect it's the same in America. I shall trust Yahweh to find other avenues. He is, after all, an Elohim (God) of miracles!
You certainly know how to go after complex problems - why not keep your wives from one country only?
I think you know the answer to that question, Bill. I believe in marriage by providence. I don't pick the wives, and they (if they're doing it the right way) shouldn't be picking me. Yahweh does the choosing and we either agree or don't. Or make other mistakes, as I have done in the past.
[Grins]. Well you knew I was leading you on!
There is potentially so much we could discuss and we don't have all night so maybe I can just fire off some questions from my mental list here. I know this may sound petty considering all the deep topics we've been discussing, but could you tell me what your attitude is to women's makeup?
[Laughs loudly]. I hate it! Always have! My basis is the apostle Peter who to my mind is quite clear about the subject - let's see, it's in First Peter:
Now all patriarchal Christians/Messianics know this passage but all too often parts of it are skimmed over. I don't force my wives to do anything but I make sure they know my displeasure when they start indulging in the Babylonian cravings to excessively adorn and supposedly "beautify" themselves. They know that I am not impressed by these things and that I will not love them more or be attracted to them more if they plaster themselves with makeup, perfume, do up their hair, or dress expensively. Indeed, I tell them - quite honestly - that it turns me off. If they continue to do this notwithstanding my objections then I give it to them directly - if they aren't making any impression on me, then the only reason they are doing it is to impress the world, which is a form of spiritual harlotry. None of my wives does these things although sometimes they may have a fling - my lack of interest or support is usually enough to get the message across.
"...you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behaviour. Let not yours be the outward adornment with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in Elohim's (God's) sight is very precious. So once the holy women who hoped in Elohim (God) used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord/master. And you are now her children if you do right and let nothing terrify you" (1 Timothy 3:1-6, RSV).
However, this scripture is not a licence for women to neglect their appearance. Not at all. Christian/Messianic women should be neat, clean and modest, but also presentable. I have no objection to a little light makeup on the eyelids, a little gloss on the fingernails, and maybe on special occasions a very light gloss on the lips, but painted nails, darkly coloured eyelids, eyelashes, powder, bright lipstick, and the like are very definitely out. If they wear lipstick they know I won't kiss them and if they wear anything but very mild perfume they know I won't come near them. Perfume should be strong enough to conceal body odours but not so strong as to kill all insect life within a radius of one mile.
[Roars with laughter]
No, I'm quite serious. I detest the way women tart themselves up. And now the men are doing just the same. It's disgusting. Ungodly. Most of these things were in any case invented originally for the wealthy, idle classes of the cities and not for working women. They are a distraction to spirituality. I don't believe in women dressing in black and looking like one of Dracula's brides as was the trend once a century or more ago - they should be light, neat, clean, and above all innocent. The idea behind makeup is to make someone sexually attractive. It's a seductive device to highlight, accentuate and spotlight a woman's features with a view to stimulating the passions. A Christian/Messianic man should be able to look at a Christian/Messianic woman and say in his heart: 'What a beautiful daughter of Christ! Praise the Lord' and not 'Wow, what a ravishing beauty! I wish she was mine!'
There is a spirit (called Cleon) behind the way we dress and make ourselves up. Our purpose is not to advertise our virtues but to reflect the holiness of Christ. Paul came out strongly against braided hair and fancy hair-do's as we have seen. So do I. Hours and hours spent each day doing up one's hair is bad stewardship of time and resources and serves no spiritual purpose. It is nothing short of vanity. If a woman is doing it to 'feel good', as many do, then her heart is in the wrong place - it's in the flesh instead of in Christ. She should feel good because her husband and lord/master is praising her virtues.
So the way a wife presents herself isn't important to you?
If my wife went around in dirty, smelly clothes, never brushed her hair but deliberately cultivated an image of being a hag, then I would wonder just where she was spiritually. As I said, we should be neat, clean and presentable, in light but not extravagent clothing. There are times to dress up such as at weddings, but these are exceptions rather than the rule. I know that not all patriarchs agree with me on this, but since you asked, I give you my plain view.
Do your wives wear jewellry?
Almost none. A wedding ring occasionally, sometimes small (non-piercing) earrings on the ear lobes only (but usually none), a simple necklace, but nothing more as a rule. They grow their hair long, usually tie it up nicely in a ribbon or do it up in a bun, or just let it flow naturally. They almost never go to a hairdresser - we cut each other's hair. We avoid, as much as possible, unisexual clothing, so that the genders are clearly distinguishable, as the Torah teaches. I prefer them to wear dresses. I make exceptions in cold winters and when we are doing rough work outside, of course. The teashirt and jeans syndrome we try to avoid as much as possible. We wish our women to be beautiful and elegant but in a simple way that does not show others up and which points to the ulterior motive of giving glory to Yahweh.
I know alot of patriarchs would say you are too strict...
I do not care for cultural norms one bit, and especially not today's which is descended from the rebellious hippie culture of the 1960's. I stand by 1 Timothy 3. I have discovered that compromise with the standard I adopt leads to compromise in other areas too. We dress the way we are inside. If we dress in denims and leather jackets we give a wrong image of who we are. Many Christians, I know, believe in dressing like the unbelievers in order to reach them. I can accept that up to a point...until they start dressing up like punks and then think it's alright to continue that way. That gives no glory to Yahweh and in my experience it doesn't earn them any respect from unbelievers. For if you dress like a punk (for example), why not immitate his mannerisms and language also?
Whether we like it or not, we are called to be separate - that is, holy - a peculiar - different - people. We are not to imiate the ways of the heathen which the scriptures say are vain. Compromise in any area of the gospel never led to any good. Now this does not mean that I advocate three piece suits for the men and black Victorian ankle-length dresses with veils for the women. Not at all. We don't believe in uniforms but in freedom, hard though that may at first appear given what I have said.
I know that this may be too personal, but what about bedroom appearance? Do your wives do themselves up?
Other than to present themselves clean and lightly perfumed and oiled, no, not at all.
It was the practice anciently for a woman to be prepared with perfumed oil. It's not something we do often because it's expensive but it's something we certainly do on wedding nights.
That sounds rather special...
The bedroom is a rather special place, Bill, as you ought to know [laughs]. But I don't propose to say more about that here.
You're right. Sorry.
No problem. But I just wanted you to know that in the matter of romance we are not Victorian prudes but rather give great attention to making it special.
What about music? There must be many different tastes.
Music is a spiritual art and is not neutral as some maintain. Music penetrates the soul and moulds the way we behave. We all had diverse tastes when we came together but as head of the house I set the standards for music. As we have drawn closer to the Spirit we have also become very selective in what we listen to. Two of my wives were into pop and rock at one time but that is banned in our home because it is most definitely not of the Spirit. As they have grown and matured in the Spirit they have come to positively hate it. The churches (assemblies) tend to stay out of controversial subjects like music and advise their members to consider the words only. But we do not compromise with the Word. See what the apostle Paul said:
Now if a Christian/Messianic is truly seeking to know the will of Yahweh, with what will he fill himself? He will fill himself with the Holy Spirit. And how will he do this? By singing psalms and spiritual songs, singing and making melody IN YAHWEH. Was this a reference just to Sabbath meetings? Of course not. This is counsel for the Christian/Messianic life which cannot be compartmentalised into the spiritual and the vulgar - our whole walk is supposed to be spiritual.
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men [and women] but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Master is...be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in the Master with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the Name of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) to Elohim (God, Yahweh) our Father" (Ephesians 5:15-20, RSV).
Are you saying that ALL of your music is spiritual?
We try to make it so - yes. Absolutely. If the music isn't giving glory to Christ, if it isn't something we would worship to at assembly or church, then it doesn't give glory to Christ and fails the scriptural test.
There are some patriarchs who would take great offence at this.
Sadly, yes, but as I said, I'm not in the compromise business. There are, as I have said, many polygamists who walk different ways. You asked my opinion, and I give you what I both believe the scriptures teach and what I have found from experience builds the spiritual life. I offer no credentials other than the fruits of my own and my wives' lives. Everything we do is part of a whole - there is no secular-spiritual divide. If you're interested in researching this subject of music further, then I recommend you take a look at our music page where you'll find some thought-provoking, heart-searching and spiritually-stimulating articles.
I must tell you in all frankness, Stan, that I wasn't expecting a lot of the answers you have given me. I see that you don't beat around the bush on a lot of issues.
I'm a Christian/Messianic polygamist, Bill, and I can't afford to be uncertain about where I'm going. I stress the word 'Christian/Messianic' also. There are potentially as many shades of polygamy as there are human personalities, and as many shades of Christian/Messianic polygamy as there are different theological paradigms. I have Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Independent, Messianic, and many other types of Christian polygamist friends but I am a Evangelical Messianic Polygamist. We all do things differently. I've looked at Christian/Messianic polygamy over the years from many denominational angles and believe I have found that which is both biblical as well as non-compromising with the heathen culture around us. My family and friends are building an alternative culture in which polygamy figures strongly and which in so many ways provides a model. I am, as a patriarch, according to the Bible, a child of Abraham; and we have already seen how Christian/Messianic women are supposed to be children of Sarah. If Yahweh looked upon this couple so highly that becoming the sons and daughters of Christ also meant becoming the offspring of Abraham and Sarah, then I guess there is something vitally important about this Patriarch which we'd better fast learn about.
Is that why you have all these secondary scriptures or books of Abraham?
Exactly. Let's remind ourselves of what Paul said:
That means that Abraham is our father - our Presiding Patriarch, if you like, the one whose righteousness and godliness we are to emulate in every way. Because we are so keen to honour him in the way Scripture says we should, we have gone to great efforts to know more about him and have been blessed with tremendous insights into the Abrahamic spirit.
"Understand, then, that those who believe are sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7, NIV)
Which I suppose parallels your committment to the Johannine teachings?
Oh, yes, absolutely. Whilst Christ is our Saviour, Abraham is our Old Testament mentor and John our New. But I will not discourse on them here as there is much that has been said elsewhere in our writings about these two great men of faith.
Well, Stan, it's been nice talking with you. Thanks for sharing your insights.
You're most welcome, Bill.
'Bill Sanders', a businessman from a United Church of God background, did end up taking a second wife and the three were enjoying a very happy and successful polygamous marriage the last I had contact with his family (2016)