Someone who hasn’t lived polygamy might be deceived by this book, and its misleading title. Although it gives an unusual insight into the life of a Mormon polygamous family, from my experience as a plural wife, I do not believe their style of polygamy multiplies love.
Women in polygamy learn to be respectful of one another because they want the same respect in return. They also learn to give in order to be rewarded, or so they aren’t the odd wife out.
Although it seems loving for Joe’s wives to take turns sitting next to her husband and though it may seem selfless for wives trading nights with another needier wife; the concept behind polygamy is multiplying a man’s family kingdom.
The man-kingdom is set up so the wives look charitable, heavenly and divine. How can good women rebel against that godly stereotype?
While each wife tries to get their scarce needs met they are also trying to serve their children with their husband’s attention divided by three. If this book is really a story about “love times three” these wives would gladly be giving their seats and nights up without expecting anything in return.
In the book it is obvious that Joe Darger does not reciprocate to the same extent as his wives. At times, he may feel guilty; however, logically he can’t possibly be in several places at the same time. No matter how hard he tries to do what is right he must flex his man power at the expense of those he loves.
It is not Joe Darger or this family that is necessarily wrong–it is the institution of polygamy. Polygyny is a patriarchal system built to elevate the man and diminish a woman’s worth; it runs contrary to an equitable relationship which occurs in healthy relationships when the power is shared between a couple, and when parenting is a joint responsibility.
It was painful to read about obedient wives denying their natural feelings for their husband, or a husband guarding himself from lusting over his own wife (or fiancé) because it was not her night. Hidden feelings that exist between a husband and wife because other wives are around is unnatural, like not holding hands or kissing each other.
For a woman, the phase of warming up during the day with her partner working by her side is part of the fun–not repressing emotions because at the end of the evening her husband is going to bed with a sister-wife. To me, this is a form of emotional neglect–and sexual abuse. The heartfelt emotions the Darger wives expressed in their book were justifiably real.
No matter how much Joe Darger and his family want to prove that their marital love has multiplied with three, the only ones they may be convincing are themselves. It is human nature when our belief system is attacked or in question to rationalize or justify our actions so we can maintain a positive self-image.
With all the searching for truth that Joe and his fiancés did, I read nowhere of going outside their family for answers. This left their story lacking substance and the reader in disbelief.
Joe Darger invested his faith in Joseph Smith’s revelation. In the Doctrine Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith was promised a multiplicity of blessings–a thousand fold–if he lived polygamy. His wife Emma was told she would be destroyed if she didn’t follow her husband. This is what the Darger family is promoting to have legalized within our country.To admit error would mean courage and humility, stepping out of the in-group.
Joe Darger believes polygamy brings a greater fullness than monogamy, or than serving one’s community. To me, that was the overriding theme in this book– misguided superiority. People can’t live so far above the law that they aren’t noticed. All criminals committing a crime, especially going public with it, have the potential of being investigated and charged, no matter how “human,” nice, or charming they are. This is not a new concept.
Joe Darger and his wives want polygamy decriminalized arguing, “Critics often claim that polygamy is inherently abusive. A more true statement is to say that monogamy inherently breeds abuse.” After a year of extensive study–hearing both sides of the argument–Chief Justice Bauman, who presided over the Supreme Court of British Columbia, ruled to uphold the law against polygamy because “. . . the harms associated with the practice are endemic; they are inherent.”
Decriminalizing polygamy would be a mistake. It would open the floodgates to Muslims, Hmongs, Africans, and thousands/millions of worthy immigrants, who would bring or recruit a “multiplicity” of wives. This issue is not just about Joe Darger and his family.
I give the family credit; they seem to live polygamy far better than most. Joe wasn’t sloppy in choosing his wives, they seem compatible. They certainly seem to function well, and they are courageous enough to go public. However, laws do not revolve around this family, so being shocked about going public and having negative consequences because of committing a crime, should not come as a shock.
Although the book tries to make a case for polygamy, it also underscores the dangers; arranged marriages, forced marriage, child-brides, trafficking girls for sex, cast out boys/men from polygamy groups, non-support of multiple families, incest and other depraved crimes, etc..
I applaud the Dargers for making their voices known, and give them one star for trying. I would have given them 2 stars, but took one of their stars away for collaborating with Brooke Adams, who was a biased pro-polygamy reporter for the SL Tribune.
Last of all, I wouldn’t buy the book to support polygamy–pass yours or someone else’s forward.

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