An Open Letter to Polygamy

Dear Polygamy,

So, you’re kinda messed up. You know that?

I’ve tried to forget about your involvement with the Church and in particular the convoluted, intertwined relationship you had with Joseph Smith, but you keep coming up. The Church has tried to be more transparent about what went down, which is cool, but you’ve been all over the news. Everyone is talking about you.

Didn’t you already contribute to the destruction of Israel after messing with David and Solomon (Jacob 2:23-24)? Why’d you have to come back? It would have been so much better if you had just kept your distance as that funky thing that happened in the Old Testament when daughters slept with fathers, chosen people slaughtered entire cities, prophets pretended their wives were their sisters and God rained fire and brimstone down on the wicked. But I guess that wasn’t enough.

I get it. You crave attention and need human interaction in large amounts. Why can’t you be more self-reliant like your sister monogamy? Ok, that’s not fair. I shouldn’t compare you to your sister. Nobody likes that. But, really, couldn’t you at least try to be more like her?

I mean, if you’re so monstrously awful that it takes an angel with a FLAMING SWORD to persuade someone to accept you, maybe you should take a hint.

I would probably do what this guy asked me.
I would probably do what this guy asked me. (Image from here.)

I’ve tried to think about why you were good for us. I decided you brought us together as a people and branded us as ‘peculiar’ right from the get-go, so thanks, I guess.

But since then, you’ve been like an incessant, infectious itch, never leaving us alone. You’ve messed with people pretty hardcore. Most of us knew that you were a thing, but didn’t quite know what really went down (and maybe still don’t). You were so proud for a bit and even hung around years after you were supposed to peace out. And then, we stopped talking about what happened between you and Brother Joseph.

When I found out, I was shocked. Why had no one told me this side of you before? Probably because it’s ugly and messy and no one quite gets why in the world you did what you did. Why, Polygamy? Why?

As if what you did wasn’t bad enough, you’re like a specter hanging over us, threatening to come back in Heaven. Really? You haven’t perpetuated enough patriarchy in mortality, but need to continue that in the eternities? Please no. I don’t want anything to do with you.

And don’t give me any of that “women are so much more righteous than men that there will be oodles more of them needing husbands” poppycock. Come on, if that were true, God would be super twisted. I mean think about it. God creates one gender inherently more spiritual and better than the other, but decides it would be hilarious if the spiritually handicapped ones would be responsible for communicating with Him/Them and delivering His/Their will to all of humankind. That’d be like selecting only amputees for your Olympic soccer team or illiterate people to teach English.

Also, how are they supposed to equally support each other, if the dude’s got 3, 4, 5, plus wives? Sure, he’s spiritually stunted, but he can support and be an equal partner to 5 other women, no big deal.

Think of all those wedding receptions you'd have to go to...
Think of all those wedding receptions you’d have to go to… (Image from here.)

Anyway, I just hope you’re gone for good. Maybe some people really like you. And maybe some of those people aren’t sex-starved men. If that’s the case, I guess I’m not entirely opposed to your continued existence under the consent of ALL impacted by you.

But, man. You’ve had quite the few weeks, Polygamy. CNN, the New York Times, the BBC…everybody’s talking about you. And a bunch of Mormons are sick of it and don’t get it. The coverage has been incredibly fair—quoting from the materials that the Church itself produced, so if people have problems, then they should call the Church. And even if the Church has admitted to Joseph Smith being involved with you, the extent and actual reality of that relationship has never been openly discussed and was largely the realm of “anti-Mormon” materials.

You know, I don’t know why Brother Joseph brought you back. I kind of hope it was some big misunderstanding. I mean, he supposedly said as much to William Marks. Look at what he wrote that Joseph said about you:

Joseph, however, became convinced before his death that he had done wrong; for about three weeks before his death, I met him one morning in the street, and he said to me, Brother Marks, I have something to communicate to you, we retired to a by-place, and set [sat] down together, when he said: “We are a ruined people.” I asked how so? he said: “This doctrine of polygamy, or Spiritual-wife system, that has been taught and practiced among us, will prove our destruction and overthrow. I have been deceived,” said he, “in reference to its practice; it is wrong; it is a curse to mankind, and we shall have to leave the United States soon, unless it can be put down, and its practice stopped in the church. Now,” said he, “Brother Marks you have not received this doctrine, and how glad I am. I want you to go into the high council, and I will have charges preferred against all who practice this doctrine, and I want you to try them by the laws of the church, and cut them off, if they will not repent, and cease the practice of this doctrine; and” said he, “I will go into the stand, and preach against it, with all my might, and in this way we may rid the church of this damnable heresy.”

But before this plan could be put into execution, the mob began to gather, and our attention, necessarily, was directed to them.

(“Epistle of Wm. Marks,” June 15, 1853, Zion’s Harbinger, and Baneemy’s Organ 3, no. 7 (July 1853): 53, St. Louis.)

Wow. I hope that’s true.

Probably doesn’t make you feel too good. I mean, if Joseph really said that, then you’re a crazy-awful-abomination and a curse. That sucks.

Polygamy, you happened. And from the record it seems apparent that God tried to give comfort to all those involved in you. Were you necessary? I don’t know. Is it possible to find good in what you did? Yes. Have you destroyed us? Collectively no, but you have done immense damage on an individual level. Especially because people feel betrayed by you and who you really are, versus who they heard you were. I know that’s not really your fault, since others did the portraying, but it still hurts, Polygamy. It still hurts.

Maybe you’re just terribly misunderstood and are actually kind, loving and compassionate.

Maybe you were a necessary Abrahamic sacrifice.

Maybe you saved the Church from worldly corruption by driving us away and demanding cooperation and independence as we lived in violation of the law.

Maybe my post-modern, progressive, feminist, present-day perspective limits my ability to see your reality.

Maybe I need more faith.

Polygamy, I hope one day this all makes sense. Until then, try and keep a safe distance and stay out of trouble. Return with honor or something like that.

Best,

Conor

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