In 1890, facing widespread opposition from the American government and the public at large, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally abandoned the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy.
In 1890, facing widespread opposition from the American government and the public at large, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally abandoned the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy. Most church members conformed to the announcement. And Utah, the church's headquarters then as now, became a state after the practice was officially ended. But some renegade polygamists decided they would continue the practice. Several thousand still practice polygamy to this day. Most belong to denominations that have broken off from the mainstream LDS Church. Some of the more public practitioners say they see it as a religious obligation, a commandment from God that cannot be cast aside by mere mortals. One such family is that of Kody Brown and his four wives, members of the Apostolic United Brethren and, since 2010, stars of the TLC Network reality series "Sister Wives." The Browns are former Utah residents. For years, the state has had something of a hand-off policy toward polygamists. But the Brown family became so well-known they came under investigation and possible prosecution for violating Utah's law against bigamy. The family moved to Nevada and filed a lawsuit challenging the law. Kody Brown says he is only legally married to one woman, and that his other three marriages are spiritual in nature. But Utah forbids "cohabitation" and defines bigamy as either actually marrying or purporting to marry more than one person. Or at least it did. On Friday, a federal judge struck down the cohabitation law and declared that just because someone "purports" to marry more than one individual, that does not constitute bigamy. The judge said the bigamy law only applies when someone actually gets more than one marriage license and enters into "legal" marriage with more than one person. The judge added there is no constitutional right to polygamy, but that living together under a "spiritual" marriage is protected under the First Amendment's guarantee of Freedom of Religion and does not constitute an attempt at multiple "legal" marriages. So for now, polygamists who only marry once legally are free to marry "spiritually" as often as they wish. At least in Utah. Such are the times we live in. It wasn't that long ago that just about everyone in the U.S. and the rest of the Western World knew definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman. It was accepted and agreed upon. It is even enshrined in law and the constitutions of many states. Now we are seeing more states and nations legalizing same-sex marriage. Proponents of such unions said over and over there was no slippery slope. That there was no comparison between gay marriage and polygamy. Obviously, that's not the case. What's next? Or, more importantly, is there anything that won't be next? It's not just gay marriage or polygamy. It's also the acceptance of out-of-wedlock births as normal, of abortion as just another form of birth control, of quick and easy divorce. It's the earlier and earlier sexualization of children and resulting actions such as sexting, sending nude photos of themselves over the Internet and worse. The shared moral code that has held our society together for so many years is broken. It seems there is no such thing as common decency anymore. We have replaced it with an attitude of "whatever feels good." And while we are sure some may see that as a positive thing, we do not. ___