Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm gonna talk about the polygamous thing again.

Playing on the iPod: William Eaton and Friends, "Far East Mid West"
Meters swum today: 1700

So skip this if it's boring. An Idaho TV Station is running a short but telling story about the four hundred plus kids seized from the ranch in Eldorado. In it, a guy calling himself "Rulan" says that "the sect members are reconsidering whether girls under 18 should be having sex with adult men." Um, how convenient. It's not like that's against the law in most states or anything. What's next, a divine revelation from "The Prophet" that "because his people have been unfaithful, God will no longer allow girls under 18 to marry"? Don't laugh. When Utah's statehood application was being held hostage by Congress back in the 1860s, "The Prophet" (I forget who it was then) conveniently had a "revelation" that God had ordered "his people" to abandon polygamy. Which they did, on the surface at least. In practice it continues to this day, and not just in isolated communities of multiple women and children. See this book by Deborah Laake. Mormon men can be divorced and remarried multiple times and not lose their status in the community. A divorced woman, on the other hand, is automatically suspect.

Look, I think the whole having more than one wife thing is just weirder than weird (I can barely keep up with one wife), but hey, if everyone's a consenting adult, I'm not gonna argue. A lot of good Muslims have more than one wife and as long as they are able to support them, it's not an issue. Gay couples live together around here in the States (gasp! I'm one of them!) and I actually know a couple that was once a group of four; her, her female sweetie, her female sweetie's husband and the husband's female slave. Weird? Yes, absolutely. But. We have split families and blended families and all types of families. Again, as long as everybody involved is a consenting adult, I don't have a problem with it.

In case anybody's wondering, polygamy in the history of the Mormon church actually started out as a thing of near-necessity. By the time the LDS got to Utah, they'd been burned out of their homes about five times by their good Christian neighbors in New York, Missouri, Illinois, and two other places that escape me at the moment. Lots of the men had been killed in the violence. The church members tended to have large families, and there were scads of widows and orphans around. Somebody had to support them and they weren't supposed to remarry outside the faith. The obvious solution? Marry somebody else's husband. A lot of tribal societies where men were frequently killed off in hunts, wars or other kinds of violence had similar practices (and some still do). The idea is to take care of your own. Unfortunately, in this case some of the men seemed to have gotten a taste for the multiple wife thing (Joseph Smith was said to be a bit of a pervert who preferred young girls, and some records show he had over a hundred wives; Brigham Young, another somewhat less than stellar historical figure, had twenty-four.) When everybody was farming and lots of bodies were needed just to get all the work done, having this many people in a single household made sense. It kind of doesn't anymore.

As economic necessity may have started polygamy, it may also end it. Many of the polygamous wives are on some kind of public assistance, as they're unwed mothers, legally speaking. Crack down on that and the church has lost much of its income. It's already lost the land it supposedly owned in the Short Creek community, which, under allegations of fraud, has been taken over by the state of Utah. If the men in these relationships had to actually generate enough income to support all those wives and kids, the polygamous lifestyle would probably die out all by itself.

DNA testing is underway out Eldorado way to find out what kids belong to what mom and dad. Can state actions to collect child support be far behind?

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