Is there a head wife?
There is not a head wife in our family. There’s no ‘Boss Lady’ here! Each wife has unique strengths she brings to the family. Before Big Love we had actually never heard the term in our culture. In some families the “first” wife wields influence as the senior in a family, but she is never referred to as the “head wife.”
Who is the first wife? How did you come to be a family?
Ours is a very intriguing story, even in our culture. We don’t have a first wife. Alina and Vicki were married at the same time, Valerie joined the family ten years later. Each of them have an unique love story which is chronicled in Love Times Three. We write the story from all four voices, each telling our perspective of the making of our family.
Would you consider adding a fourth wife to the family?
Joe always jokes that we are not ready to write the sequel-Love Times Four. But seriously, we are all open to the possibility of another wife. It is, after all, a deep part of our faith. It is not just Joe’s choice. We would all have to come together and agree whether it was the best decision for the family.
How do you divide up chores/responsibilities between adults around the home?
Love Times Three, Chapter 10, page 229: “Vicki, Val, and I share other duties, such as cooking for the family. Each mom is in charge of meals two days a week; on Sunday, we each take a meal. We divide up the rest of the home labor, with each of us taking responsibility for certain tasks. Vicki handles the mail and bills . Val keeps us supplied in homemade bread. I do the weekly grocery shopping.” It takes a lot of coordination and communication. Contrary to what many people think we get jealous about, it is this coordination and sharing that is often the most difficult.
Why not multiple husbands?
Our faith is about polygyny, one man married to multiple women as in biblical times, rather than polyandry, one woman with multiple husbands. According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. There were 453 that had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and only 4 had polyandry. Polygyny is probably most common because it best fits our biological make up.
The practice of polygyny, even within those cultures where it is accepted, is actually rare in most cases. This is the same in our culture. While we would allow for any family to structure their family as they see best, we feel our structure works best for us in the tradition of our faith.
How are major decisions made in the family?
For small issues we all have the ability to use our brains and make decisions. When it comes to big decisions that affect everyone, like where to go on family vacations or remodeling the house, we all discuss it and come to an agreement before moving forward. Some other major decisions would be in parenting and teen issues. We have had disagreements at times and truly make an effort to understand and respect each person’s position.
Do you think/hope your children will choose to adopt this lifestyle?
It would be unrealistic to expect that all of our children will live plural marriage. In our families not all our siblings chose to live this lifestyle, though many have that faith. We love and accept them either way.
We hope that IF they choose it, they will find the same fulfillment and love that we have found in living plural marriage and that the choice will be available to them without fear of prosecution.
LAURA (daughter) : “I’ve embraced my fundamentalist faith. Some of my other siblings don’t share the same belief in it. People often ask me whether I expect to live plural marriage. I can’t answer that question. I’m still changing and developing.” Love Times Three, Chapter 11, page 248
Do you consider yourselves to be of the Mormon faith?
We are Independent Fundamentalist Mormons, and by that we consider ourselves Mormon in doctrine and in faith, plural marriage is an essential tenet of our faith. However, we are not part of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which banned polygamy over 100 years ago.
How does it affect the children now that the family has become so public?
The children have had their share of worries about how this would affect their social life, especially the teenagers. They each come to a level of comfort with their family being “different” at their own pace. It has helped our children be more compassionate and empathetic towards others. The response at school and in their social groups has been mixed for them-some positive, some negative. A pleasant result of us articulating our cause so publicly is that our children, for the most part, have understood our reasons for speaking out and have been supportive.
Is the relationship between the husband and each wife unique?
Well, to quote from Joe’s chapter in Love Times Three: ”[Vicki] is adventurous and athletic, likes creative dates, and needs plenty of quality one-on-one time with me.” “[Alina] enjoys trying new restaurants, attending cultural events, and spending the day being pampered at a spa.” ”Val wants affirmation of my love through physical touch-holding hands, hugs, and kisses.” Chapter 8, pages 190 & 191. We are all individuals, and while we remain in one family, it is those unique qualities in each of us that give us our collective strength.
How do you support such a large family?
We work. We work hard. Sometimes it seems like we never really stop working, but it is a labor of love and something we value. Joe and two of the wives also work outside of the home. We try to be frugal and not wasteful. When we shop, we buy in bulk and hunt for bargains. We recycle many goods right inside our own home. We raise chickens, partly for the eggs, but also their feed is from the scraps left behind by the kids at the dinner table. You could almost think of it like three families combining resources. We take the responsibility of raising our children seriously, and it is against our ethics to rely on anyone else to shoulder that responsibility.
Why do you have so many children?
We value family, and children are a big part of that. We were all raised in big families so it is very natural to us. It is also part of our faith, something we articulate more in Love Times Three. In short we are married for the purpose of creating a family, in our theology families are eternal.
Do you remember all your children’s names/birthdates?
We really do get asked if we can remember all of our kids’ names. Is that a rhetorical question? As for birthdates, I think Joe is the only one that remembers ALL of their birthdates-month, date and year, and he has never forgotten an anniversary! The rest of us know some of all of them.
How do you take care of the emotional needs of so many children?
Our children are our life, it is important for us to know them as individuals. They have always had at least one adult at home to raise them, and they have four loving parents to attend to their emotional needs.
We talk to each of them to set goals and see what interests them as individuals. When a problem arises with one we all get together to come up with a solution. The individual is respected and revered as that is the strength of our collective family.
Do you ever get jealous?
We get asked this question probably more than any other. And the answer is a resounding YES! We are human. How we deal with it is what makes the difference for us. First, we all entered this marriage knowing that Joe had a relationship with more than one person. We also get a lot of fulfillment out of the relationships we have formed with one another as sister-wives. In the beginning of our marriage, it took a lot of work and adjusting. We had to learn to trust one another.
Communication is also very important. In order for it to really work we each have to want for each other what we want for ourselves. We strive to put the whole relationship before each individual relationship. Over the years jealousy has become easier to deal with but sometimes that old feeling still creeps in. Overcoming our selfish and jealous natures is part of our faith and the more we have been able to do this, the more our love has grown as a family.
In applying the ideals of our faith in Plural Marriage, we have become more secure in who we are and the love we each have. Since it is a very frequently asked question, Love Times Three is FULL of our stories and experiences detailing how we have dealt with it over the years. We highly recommend reading it!
Is polygamy illegal?
It is currently a felony in the State of Utah and many other states simply because we “purport” to be married. This could mean five years of prison. If we were to just live together, Joe call us his mistresses or girlfriends, there would be no criminal classification. We feel that it is this felonious classification that has given explicit license for prejudice, discrimination and hate targeted against our family, and many like ours. This law has pushed many families into the shadow of fear where others are able to capitalize and take advantage of these fears resulting in unhealthy consequences.
Why did you write Love Times Three?
That question has several answers. The simple answer is this: It was the right thing to do. This is the first-ever memoir written by a family living happily in this lifestyle. We are one of many polygamous families. By sharing our story, we hope to educate and inform about the many myths and stereotypes that exist concerning polygamy. Our desire, as consenting adults, is to live our faith free of persecution and without the threat of prosecution.
Isn’t polygamy patriarchal and oppressive to women?
With three women in the home, we don’t see how Joe can oppress us any more than if there was only one of us. Our family is patriarchal but it is important that we explain what it means for us. We go into depth on this subject because the patriarchal concept is often used as the basis of an argument that polygamy is oppressive to women. We read in 1st Corinthians, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” From our perspective, Paul is acknowledging an inherent equality in the sexes, but we don’t view this equality as “sameness.” It means that there is equal value, while acknowledging that man and woman have different job descriptions.
As plural wives we do not need to be like a man, nor do we need to feel like he is “our man” any more than we are “his women.” We do not need to fill the role of a man, or split it 50-50. The matriarchal role is prized and valued in our family and faith. In fact, we believe that wanting to be men when we are women acknowledges that there is something inherently broken in being female.
We applaud the advances of women in society, as historically we have been unable to vote, regarded as property yet unable to own property, or given away in marriage as a business exchange. The feminist movement to redefine the role of a women from such historical connotations is certainly understandable. However, in the name of feminism the traditional role of a woman continues to be devalued and often goes too far. It denies an integral part of our faith as well as the laws of natural science: that male and female are made for each other, that God values both men and women, and that our goals as a family are unattainable without both sexes. For us, the family and the ideals for which we strive are always greater than self. It is in this unity that the sum is greater than the parts.
We encourage our daughters to plan their mothering years towards the highest achievements for themselves and their families, but never to sacrifice the care of the child to any other social goal; and to regard their husband and father as a man striving to support them in fulfilling womanhood as a wife and mother.
As our pattern, we adhere to the traditional Christian teaching from the Apostle Paul from Ephesians, Chapter 5, Verses 21 – 33: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church… Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;…Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” Joe considers the example that Christ set as both head and master, but also a humble shepherd and servant to His flock, to be the pattern he should follow, as the head of his own family.
In Mormon scripture, from Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121 we are taught the pattern for family government. It is these ideals that lay the foundation on how we live our lives and bring greater capacity to love: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—”
Many have used scriptures as an excuse to strip women of their rights, or subjugate women as their property. We don’t recognize any structure or definition that treats women as inferior. Abuse is unacceptable in any relationship, and wherever abuses exist we condemn such.
Families formed by principles such as gentleness and meekness we call patriarchal families; therefore, patriarchal living is simply a family—living in love, service, and order.
At the head of the family a man has the responsibility to live in such a way that he can be trusted and inspired. In that role, he is called to serve. In many instances, this requires personal sacrifice. As women we are our husbands’ councilors, his advisory and are influencers of the future, for we are the treasured mothers of our children. The more women that are in that role the more influence they wield. Plural Marriage, or polygamy therefore, is not inherently abusive, and patriarchal living is living in such a way that respects women and their roles as co-creators of a family.