Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Q and A with a Texas Native

Q- Are men assigned wives younger than 17?
I've noticed that though this question gets asked a lot, there is always a significant amount of dancing around it without any real answers.Yes or no?

A-The reason the question is danced around is because it is a rather insulting question. Not the age part as much as the "assigned" part. The answer to a question like: "Do girls get married under 17?" The answer is: "Sometimes" If the question is "Are girls forced to marry under age 100?" The answer is "No".

Q- Pligchild,Thank you for answering my question about marriage. I didn't mean to phrase it in an insulting way, but when the women and men aren't necessarily choosing one another (rather, the leader chooses them), the word "assign" seems to fit.I realize it's a rather academic word for an emotional topic, but to me it doesn't imply force but rather a lack of involvement in the selection.Thanks for addressing it.

A- I completely understand that you would feel that way. "Assigned" does fit academically, but it is often used to imply that those who engage in what we call "inspired" marriage are getting married against their will. When you are of marriageable age and are praying every night for Heavenly Father to "inspire the Prophet in my behalf" and he chooses, it is a choice we made to us.

Q- Pligchild,There seems to be two versions of how marital relations come about and I can't reconcile them.One version is that the prophet chooses the couples and it has little to do with attraction or love. Loves results from working together to achieve the mutual goal of reaching the higher level in the celestial kingdom. This version removes emotion and individual will in the selection process. It seems that this side of the story comes up when there is talk of underage marriage. Few deny that ya'll marry a little younger in your group, but the party line is that it's not because the men are attracted to the young girls, it's because the prophet chose them and they trust the prophet. To me this looks like an effort to excuse any perceived sexual ills.

Then there's your version of the story, which makes a little more sense to me. You imply a love relationship and choice. That being said, it's rather difficult to believe that a married couple would wait "years" before consummating their relationship. If the other sister wives are intimate, having children, and through that growing in their relationship with the husband, it would be difficult for the new wife to be on the outside. In most of these situations (statistically speaking), the woman must enter into their marriage as a sister-wife, not as the first or only wife. Isn't she eager to jump in and be a part of the family? Doesn't having children with her husband insure a more viable role within the family and create identity for the wife? I thought having children was considered an honor and the highest calling for a woman. Why would a woman ever prolong receiving that blessing?

Choosing to put trust in God and the prophet is a viable and real choice. The love that is required in any marriage is not created before the love that begins marriage. Love for God, and love for the gospel, and love for your family makes it feel like a great privilege and blessing when you have the opportunity to be married. Girls do not get married unless they want to be and they must make the effort to get married. Most fathers and mothers do not give their treasured angel daughters away easily. Seeing my sisters get married was even tough on me. The girl herself has to make the first step, and the second step. FLDS girls want to marry a man who is virtuous, and loyal to the gospel more than to her, and often she does not find this out for herself, but places her heart and hand into those she does trust; first God, and second Priesthood. She does not begin to cultivate the love that is required before intimacy until after the ceremony. The ceremony is performed out of the love and trust that she has in her God.

The Hymn "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" may help you understand. For although man can make mistakes, and God can test us through any man. If you put your trust in God, and He inspires you to walk up to a homeless man and ask him if it is right to marry so and so, God can speak through that man to you. Faith in God is why we trust a man.

"Isn't she eager to jump in and be a part of the family?"

Every person in the FLDS is as different as you are from your neighbor. I am sure that a few would want to jump in quick, and some wouldn't. In my opinion many girls old and young inside the FLDS and out do not realize the power they have, and the power that good men inside the FLDS and out give them. The time of intimacy is the ladies domain most of all. Had I married an underage girl (I didn't really know until after the ceremony) I would not have gone to sleep in her bed until she was of legal age. ["Ya, right", says the little pitchfork guy on my shoulder, "you can't say that without experiencing it"] I don't think fathers should let their daughters get married under 16, except under very special circumstances. But that is my own opinion.

"Doesn't having children with her husband insure a more viable role within the family and create identity for the wife?"

I cannot answer from a woman’s prospective about identity, but from mine the answer is no. She is a viable family member when she gets married. If there are already wives and children she is their family member too. There are many family roles outside of pregnancy. Her options become much greater than before, not less than before.

This may sound masculist (my new word for sexist opposite of feminist) but for a man who does not choose his wife, to get a wife is the same as a mother who gets a brand new child, especially the angels like my father and father in law raised. That is how I felt when I married my wife. Like a sweet treasure that would last eternally if treated well.

"I thought having children was considered an honor and the highest calling for a woman. Why would a woman ever prolong receiving that blessing?"

Becoming a goddess in heaven is the highest calling for a woman, but there are a lot of steps to get there. In the FLDS faith, the marriage ceremony is the beginning of a courtship. One that can last forever.


Anonymous said...

"Doesn't having children with her husband insure a more viable role within the family and create identity for the wife?"

From a woman’s prospective,

No. Every person is unique. Every person has his or her own talents. This is what makes anyone viable. Not the mere fact that they have children or not.
Yes we love children, but not having any doesn't make anyone different than the other. She can claim all the children as hers as well.
I saw a beautiful thing happen. When a man died, all the family members where having group pictures, the mothers with her own boys by the open casket of their spouse/father. He had one wife that had no children. She stood up to get her picture, ALL the boys/men in the family from other mothers, gathered around her. "We are your boys.," they said. She is loved by all and is all the children's mother.

Pligchild said...

Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story, It brings tears to my eyes.