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Friday, October 28, 2011

Philosophy and Polygamy: Ins and Outs, with Troy Bowles

  I'll be the first to admit I know very little about Polygamy and Fundy Mormons. Having a brother that graduated from Cornell in Philosophy, educated parents, and too lively conversations of politics, war, and religion in the 60's when I was a wee child and everyone else in the house was an adult -- probably turned me off of all things other than my own Christan religion. Until now. Heck, I just wanted to play Battling Tops!

  To understand WHY these folks, the "Sister Wives" crew, would be into polygamy, suffer constant jealousies and oppression to women, I have been trying to read and understand the AUB, Mormon, and all that follows. I am completely and utterly disturbed by WHAT I have learned so far. Throughout these pages are documentation of what they believe and why they must be polygamists to reach heaven. Feel free to browse through the past months posts if you haven't.

  I was lucky enough to meet so many great people on this journey. Through a new friend of a friend I have "met" Troy Bowles. He was raised in the AUB-and left, and has a vast amount of knowledge and understanding of the religious sect.  I think he reminds me of my brothers style of speaking and teaching. He is easy to comprehend and very interesting. Extremely fair-he is simply looking for the truth. You can almost tell he is weighing his words-so diplomatic in his style. We first printed his piece for the Salt Lake Tribune here.  http://sisterwivesblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/polygamy-and-religious-liberty.html

Troy was recently on the show, Polygamy, What Love Is This?This is an excellent place to learn about Polygamy. I really encourage you to watch the entire clip; however, if you are only interested in their thoughts on the "Sister Wives" show- start watching about 30 minutes into it. However, if you'd like to learn about this unsettling religion, watch this entire segment, and we will be posting more to discuss together.

Episode 4.35 Doris interviews Troy Bowles, formerly of the AUB fundamentalist group, about his story and the characteristics of modern polygamist groups.

He has graciously allowed us to reprint his recent post to learn from. Let's take a look.

The Basic Problem with Polygamy      By: Troy Bowles

 If a whole culture is operating under a belief system that mandates polygamy, it's safe to say a few things in general without making irrelevent stereotypes. By itself, marriage doesn't set up a situation for human rights abuses to proliferate. Religiously-mandated polygamy does. First of all, it is always patriarchal. Polyandry exists, but it is extremely rare. In the vast majority of cases, polygamy is polygyny. Also, in almost every case of religiously-mandated polygamy, the people who practice it isolate themselves into societies that are effectively closed to members moving in and out freely. In these societies, polygamy inevitably sets up a situation that throws human rights out of balance.

Women in polygamous societies are under no ordinary pressure to marry. Each of the men are trying to marry at least three wives in order to set up his "future kingdom," which is exaltation to godhood. The men compete intensely and the women are under implicit, but severe orders to provide themselves as means to the exaltation the men are striving to reach. As more men become polygamists, the available women become scarce and the pressures intensify. All Mormon fundamentalist societies show evidence of this imbalance with the problem of excess unmarried men too. Most of them are driven off while they're young, since they are competing with senior priesthood holders for the few available women left. Of course the polygamous men start marrying the women ever younger, since they are the only ones who are "available." Underage girls are under severe pressure and indeed, underage polygamous marriage is rampant in these societies. Excess men are cast off, even though all are commanded to practice polygamy, and women are held hostage since they are a means for the men to reach exaltation. The women are not ends unto themselves as they should be under a human rights conception.  In these societies, women are the means by which the men succeed.  If their goals don't align with this, it spells trouble for them.  They're not allowed to conceive their own goals.

It is the polygamists who are following a religious mandate who are trying to get polygamy legalized. We can't do it for their sake; not with the way it throws things out of balance as soon as men start taking extra wives. But for non-religious polygamy, many would argue that they are not putting anyone's human rights at risk. But we have to consider what we're trying to prohibit and weigh the odds with due concern to the pressure to legalize polygamy in the interest of maximizing people's liberties. But is this "liberty" to practice polygamy such a desirable thing? Since when is polygamy necessary for anyone? One may argue that "marriage" isn't perfectly necessary either, but if everyone just takes one spouse at a time, isn't that a reasonable thing to ask? It's quite reasonable and fair to limit everyone to just one spouse. Gender need not be any kind of deciding factor either. But monogamy is what human rights theory best supports and the risk of legalizing polygamy is too great to outweigh the potential added "liberties" we may receive by doing so. I don't care who sleeps with whom, but if it causes human rights abuses in some way, we can't allow it. That is a public matter.

So put your philosophical hats on and tell us what YOU think~!


  1. This is what we all feel, but don't really know how to verbalize it.
    Good job, Troy. You've enlighened me!

  2. I don't pretend to know the first thing about the rules governing the Browns' religion, but my theory is that maybe Kody added Robyn to the family because he was fearful that Meri was going to fly the coop when Mariah goes away to college? That way, he'd still have the 3 wives he needs. Also, he wanted to do it while he was still young enough to 'attract' a wife of child bearing years? Just a thought...

  3. I think Kody will take more, since he started up again....


    Polygamy is always patriarchal.

    In these societies, polygamy inevitably sets up a situation that throws human rights out of balance.

    As more men become polygamists, the available women become scarce and the pressures intensify. All Mormon fundamentalist societies show evidence of this imbalance with the problem of excess unmarried men too. Most of them are driven off

    Excess men are cast off.

    It's quite reasonable and fair to limit everyone to just one spouse.


    IF you folks think this polygamy is a ok-
    Maybe 2 out of all the Brown boys might make it in, the rest booted.
    so will they go to hell for not practicing something they were booted out of? Sad

  5. Oh so that is why Christine wanted to be the THIRD wife. That is the minimum # of wives the Mormon fundamentalist man is REQUIRED to attain in order to attain salvation and all it's "rewards."

    Christine was banking on Kody not finding the NEED to attain wife # 4, 5, 6, 7,8 ....

  6. Say Kody wanted to "divorce" a spiritual union (you know, one of those eternity blah blah blahs)

    Can he do it for no good reason?
    Or does he have to have a good reason?
    I'm sure with enough power-they do what they want. But I am curious.

  7. Yes anony, I just recently realized that too. Christine didn't want to be 3rd like she says because she didn't want the man all to himself or the drama of being the 2nd wife (those were the reasons she gave on the show). She wanted to be third so that she'd be guaranteeing her spot in the highest heaven as a goddess.
    And yeah I bet she did NOT think Kody would take another wife! He has "enough" to get into heaven!

  8. Excellent Post - I am walking away from it feeling like I understand more.

  9. Troy - If you come read these, I'd love to know how your parents took your leaving. And please tell us the rules of the AUB.

  10. I would REALLY like to know about the AUB, and how Kody got to marry Robyn.
    What are the AUB beliefs?

  11. I think the whole basis of the religion (both the mormons and the fundy mormons) is just so far fetched, its laughable! I find it really hard to believe that rational, educated humans believe this crap!! Even if you take the living polygamy in this life out of it like the LDS do, the whole thing was started by self serving men looking to further their own agendas and only reined in to suit more self serving men. The AUB are a bunch of nut job and the FLDS are a bunch of nut jobs but the scariest bunch of nutjobs are the Kingstons. They are all about keeping their blood line pure so brothers routinely marry their sisters and have babies who marry each other. SCARY!

  12. I KNOW!
    BUT, that's what Kody and crew's propaganda is, look at us, why, we're fine!

    They NEVER tell why they have to be polygamists. Like it's a lifestyle CHOICE. LIARS

  13. This is the thing - it IS a lifestyle choice. It's religiously based, and yes, I agree that the beliefs of their religion just don't make sense to me. However, that holds for a lot of other religions as well!

    This country allows freedom of religion and in most cases, freedom to choose the lifestyle that works for you. No, I absolutely DO NOT believe it is reasonable to ask everyone to only marry one other person. There are plenty of laws that target the crimes of the FLDS - statutory rape, welfare fraud, child abandonment, etc. Those are there crimes. While I don't agree with their religion or its tenets, I absolutely will fight for their right to practice it, because when you start drawing the line on that kind of thing, you get into big trouble.

    I also believe, based on my own experience, that polyamory of some type is an actual orientation in some cases and that some (fairly small percentage of) people are simply not happy living a monogamous lifestyle; I will be publishing a longer article about this on my site www.polygrrl.com.

  14. I do agree excellent piece and great points are brought up.

    Being Jewish I was amazed to find the parameters the Jewish religion places on polygamy. For example, if a husband is to have more than one wife, he can have no more than four, he must be able to financially support each household (no welfare, etc), and if a wife has a problem with the idea of plural marriage it is acceptable grounds for divorce. I was unaware of our Faith’s stance on polygamy when we made the decision.

    Surprisingly, I am a polygamist, but I also work in the family law field and I do not believe legalizing polygamy is a good idea. It opens the door for abuse of the system. For example a man or a woman for that matter could take one spouse, then go across town and marry another, not telling the spouses about each other, and it would be perfectly legal. There are many other issues I can see forthcoming.

    I do however believe if people decide polygamy is right for them (without outside influence such as religious demands etc), then I see no issue with it. These people who decide on polygamy but do not need a legal piece of paper to say they are married, is harming no one ( as long as they do not have a huge amount of children and depend on welfare to raise them). Therefore, I do not see the issue with their way of living their lives.

    I know odd, I can sit on the fence and see the pros and cons.

    Non Traditional Polygamist Wife

  15. polygrrl, we all know that this is a lifestyle change. But not all lifestyles are legitimate. It's never an excuse to dismiss someone's life of crime by calling it a mere 'lifestyle' instead. Any Mafioso could use that defense. There are legitimate lifestyles and illegitimate lifestyles. What goes on in the abusive groups is not a legitimate lifestyle.

    There are difference between polamory and what goes on in Mormon fundamentalism. You don't need to side with them. You have a very different situation.

    I'm sorry to say that polygamy isn't going to be legalized for the sake of religious polygamists. And the fact that some non-religious people want more than one spouse doesn't warrant legalizing polygamy. People who like to have multiple spouses don't have any kind of special claim to be able to practice that. This is a monogamous society and these pockets of polygamy are hives of abuse.

    Polyamorists need to figure out how to deal with their own situation, because the concern about their liberties being infringed weighs poorly against the unchecked human rights abuses we are continually discovering polygamous societies.

    I think you're going to have to accept that only two people can be legally married and work from there. Have an open relationship for all I care. The law won't even notice until they have evidence to charge someone with being purportedly bigamous. By keeping your situation casual, you could pull your method off legally, but Mormon fundamentalists are never going to be able to do that. They are, one and all, purportedly married if they held a religious ceremony and act as if they're married.

  16. Anonymous, what AUB rules would you like me to explain? If you get a bit more specific, I can go into detail.

  17. Tenets of a religion don't have to make sense or be rational. Religions deal with belief systems, not facts.

    Odd but a few days ago in the Daily Mail there was an article about a guy in India with 39 wives, over 100 kids, and grandchildren. None of the wives were underage when married.

    Another article about polyandry in India because so many girl babies had been killed because of the expense of marrying off a daughter. Now brothers share a wife.

    In China the one child policy also meant the killing of girls so that the sons would be there to care for parents in their old age. The tradition was for a son to care for you, not a daughter. Twenty years after the enforcement began, surprise, too many men with no women.

    If you legalize polygamy, to protect the "rights" of people to have multiple partners, you interfere with the natural law right of having available people for you to marry.

    You also narrow the gene pool of people within a religion. This happens in Non Traditional's example of non-religious choices as well. We are already experiencing the horror of excess sperm donors' children unknowingly reproducing.

    Non-traditional does not have the unintended consequences of brothers and sisters marrying, or the consequence of too many males. Legalizing polygamy is rife with possible, indeed probable, consequences that interfere with other people's rights. One simply can't say that all behavior is a ok, polygirl.

    Legally, I would like to see that any arrangement be all right in older years, for those wishing to have people to care for them and inherit. That can be done contractually with domestic partnerships.

  18. When I left the AUB, it created a lot of hostility with my father. He was furious that the family secret would be out. That was his very first concern. We had a blow-up and then I just dropped out of his life. I got a different job so that I could get away from the family business, where my dad could dominate me. He was unbearable to be around, however, and I had to go. I spent most of my time with friends after that, then I got married at age 20 and moved my stuff out of the house.

    Lots of teenage boys drop away and get involved with alcohol and drugs. They just write them off as "wild kids." Some are a bit quieter about it, like I was, but others, like my older brother, were a lot more openly rebellious. That came later for me. I just wanted to slip quietly out of there.

    The typical polygamist father expects for all of his sons to practice polygamy. As for the wild teenagers who break away, they just attribute it to Satan stealing them away. They refuse to consider the real problem, and usually by the time a young man breaks away it has something to do with breaking up after an illicit relationship. The typical fix is to send the boy away somewhere and marry the girl off immediately into a plural family.

  19. Calling Hunter a "monster" sounds like they are setting him up to be written off as a "wild child." And we are witnesses to Hunter's alienation.

  20. In Canada, there is the very real possibility that the Criminal Code prohibition against bigamy / polygamy will be struck down because it will be deemed to contradict the Canadian Human Rights Act, which guarantees freedom to practice religious freedom. Troy's is the first cogent argument I have read that explains how polygamy curtails, constricts, and can prohibit the exercise of human rights by a significant portion of society. One might say that polygamy can be considered to present a systemic barrier to human rights. I sure hope that the British Columbia Court of Appeal agrees with Mr. Bowles coherent arguments.

    If polygamy is legalized in Canada, can legalization in other western countries such as the U.S., U.K., Australia, etc. be far behind?

  21. The "freedom of religion" argument is one that is very misunderstood and has already been hashed out in the law courts. United States law guarantees freedom of belief in religion but not free reign in religious practices, when those practices hurt others. If the law were to do so, anyone could claim anything as part of their faith and expect it to be protected. I'm tired of hearing that polygamy 'doesn't hurt anyone." I have seen its effects first hand, and it does hurt - it hurts the women and children involved, emotionally and financially, and it hurts the young men who are denied a single partner because other men are hogging multiple women. If you want to go out and play sexual musical chairs with multiple partners go ahead, I don't care, but don't bring children into the equation, don't pretend that it is marriage, and don't ask for it to be legalized!

  22. Troy, I would like to understand how marriages work in the AUB.

    Kody was denied one, then approved for Robyn.
    How does that work?

    MANY are wondering if the AUB uses the undergarments.

    What are say, the basic theories that
    the believe, such as the afterlife, etc that vary from a Christian aspect?

  23. Already married men in AUB are supposed to check with the head of the group (currently LaMoine Jenson) before they start pursuing a woman. As Kody said in the very first episode of Sister Wives, they like to "reward good behavior," which means men can get more women pretty much as long as they are as they are paying tithing and supporting their leaders. I think Kody was experiencing some financial problems when he was turned down before, but that doesn't always prevent most men. (There's a lot of poverty involved in much polygamy) Men are encouraged not to stop at three. There's no such concept as having filled your quota! The doctrine goes that men will increase the number of their so called "wives" throughout eternity. They teach that God himself is still doing that and that he took Mary as another of his wives.

    Yes AUB married adults wear the long "garments" The Brown women would have to roll them up a little to wear some of their clothing styles.

  24. This might have been answered by someone on a previous post (and if it is please just direct me--there's a lot of material here and I have a hard time always remembering where info is or keep up with new comments) but I'm still wondering how divorce works. When Robyn divorced her husband then obviously all the legal "paperwork" aspects are probably pretty straight forward. But if men and women are sealed together how does the belief system justify this? Who will call Robyn to Heaven (in their minds--not mine)? Does she have two "secret names?" Does AUB do secret names?

  25. Interesting conversation and thank you Troy for your input, it provides a greater understanding.

    I can understand the concept of keeping a relationship which includes more than two people casual. Our families’ concept was to enter into contractual agreements to cover such things as each wife’s assets, what happens in the event of one spouse’s death and so forth.

    I have a living willing giving my husband the right to make medical decisions if I am unable to. (without a will he would not be permitted to do so since we are not legally married), I did a legal name change and so forth.

    Again I see a big issue with legalizing polygamy and the chances of abuse it can raise. I do believe in religious freedom, as long as it does not infringe on other’s rights, break the law and is truly a free choice made by a consenting adult. What I am hearing is FLDS and AUB really do not give people a choice. After all as children are raised they come to believe what they are told. For the most part they will follow similar paths of their parents because some are unaware there is a choice.

    If a child and young adult is kept in a secluded environment, they really have no idea of the outside world or the choices available. In my opinion weather religious or otherwise this cutting children off from other parts of the world, and bombarding them with religious beliefs take the choice away because they are not aware they have a choice.

    My question is how are the AUB and FLDS different? It does appear there are some differences such as arranged marriages, and underage brides, but beyond that I do not see much of a difference.

    I also wonder if the law in Utah on polygamy in which it is a crime to hold yourself out to be married to more than one was abolished (Not allowing for more than one legal marriage, but permitting people to live as they wish) would be enough for AUB and FLDS? Or do they truly want to be permitted to have legal marriages?


  26. There is a great documentary about another branch of polygamist Mormons, the Centennial Park group, being shown on the Oprah Winfrey Network. It was done by Lisa Ling and is in her series "Our America."

    The Centennial Park group seem to have an unusually humane and civilized system going. The contrasts to Kody & Co.'s way of life were astounding. First of all, the women do the pursuing--which makes a lot more sense, in my opinion. (Among other things, it's a natural--or more natural--way of determining which men will have to leave the community.) The families appear to live very comfortably without stealing from the state a.k.a. "bleeding the beast." Women have a lot of autonomy and there seems to be just a lot of civility and decency that is lacking in Kody's neck of the woods (even though Kody's family might in other ways appear to be more "modern.")

    I would highly recommend that readers of this blog check out the documentary. Again, it's done by Lisa Ling and can be found on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The title is "Modern Polygamy." I think it will be of interest to any Sister Wives fans or fanemies (like many of us!)

  27. In the AUB, if a man is interested in marrying a woman, he typically approaches her father first. If he gives his permission, they seek the prophet's permission. This is considered the proper order when looking for a new wife.

    If all goes well and they end up getting married, they take their vows in the endowment house in Bluffdale. It's not a full-fledged temple, but it will do for now.

    Extra wives are married to the man in a similar ceremony, and typically the first wife and subsequent wives give their permission, ceremoniously, for the woman to enter the family.

  28. Divorce is strongly forbidden, especially when living the "principle." But those marriages are no less volatile than average. My father married four women and only ended up staying with one of them. Polygamous marriages break up frequently but they don't use the tern "divorce." They call it a "release."

  29. So how is a "release" handled?
    How did Robyn get a divorce?

  30. Thanks, Troy. Great, smart comments. You are a man of principle and we all appreciate it. I wish more men of character would stand up, once they leave this "lifestyle."

  31. Troy, I have learned so much from you, from the SLS post, to this one, and all your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to teach us.

  32. I have gleaned so very much from your conversations, Troy, thank you.

  33. There was a statement of polygamy always being patriarchal, and I suppose a husband having more than one wife and hairs are split this is true. However, the Jewish religion is very matriarchal and yet polygamy is not disallowed within the faith. In fact there are parameters for engaging in polygamy and an out for any wife not in agreement with it.

  34. If a couple wants a "release," they have to ask LaMoine Jensen's approval. He's their "prophet." But Kody doesn't listen to his prophet very much. Jensen was not happy about the TV show and he didn't want the AUB mentioned at all.

    Typically, releases are granted, but usually with reluctance. They see it as a failure in their "divinely-ordained" work.

    Non-patriarchal polygamy is possible, but in reality it is virtually non-existent. Polygamy is something that males push for 99% of the time. It's a system that is slanted unfairly in favor of the elite men of a society.