Our Curious Relationship With Centennial Park Arizona

Joe’s sister Rachel, Vicki, Valerie, and Alina with Amanda at her wedding as filmed on TLC’s My Three Wives last summer.

Members from the polygamous community of Centennial Park were recently featured in a special called Polygamy USA which aired on National Geographic. We have not seen it yet but understand it to be well done. We are excited to watch the first episode and subsequent episodes to follow. Centennial Park has participated in many media specials and they have a high standard of doing exceptional things in their community.

Since we do not belong to any church or religious group, we inevitably get questions about the differences between us and a community like Centennial Park, or us and the Brown family of Sister Wives. Doctrinally we are probably not as different as we are culturally. Until the early 1950’s Mormon Fundamentalists were largely one group; differences arose in questions of who held priesthood authority and many of the current churches that practice plural marriage were established. Many of us share common roots.

For those of you who watched our television special, My Three Wives you probably know that our daughter Amanda married a young man from, and currently lives in Centennial Park, Arizona. She is in love not just with her husband, but with the community. We have met so many good people there; it is easy to see why.

One of the more obvious differences between us is the mode of dress. Centennial Park is more conservative in tradition. In their culture the women predominately wear dresses and the men long sleeve shirts. There are many other cultural differences we continue to discover, such as the work missions that many of their young men participate in.

Also, we do not live in a polygamous community like Centennial Park, but in a suburban neighborhood. Like us, Centennial Park is committed to the education of their children. They have a highly ranked charter school and a high school within their community. Our children attend local public and charter schools.

Another difference is that Centennial Park practices a form of placement marriage. In most cases men do not solicit marriage that decision is left up to the women. In our family there are no placement marriages but we as parents try to be involved with guidance and counsel as our children choose their mates for life. Amanda and Rob did not practice placement marriage. In their case they met through some mutual friends.

Doctrinally Centennial Park subscribes to a “Priesthood Council” leadership. In the early 1980’s among the group that lived in Colorado City Arizona, there was a dispute concerning leadership. Some members believed in “one man rule” while others believed the group should be led by a priesthood council. Eventually, the group split, those who followed the “one man rule” system came to be known as the FLDS. Those who followed the idea of a council for leadership left Colorado City and founded the town of Centennial Park. Today there is no formal relationship between Centennial Park and the FLDS.

We do not feel we have any leader or prophet on the earth at this time and that their church is not sanctioned by God, as such we do not belong to their group.  Hence, we are known as “Independents” meaning we have no church or community affiliation. The Browns are part of a different sect known as the Apostolic United Brethren, and we feel the same about their church as we do about Centennial Park. However, there are many fine people in the different polygamous groups.

It is our belief that we are more alike than different, and so long as these communities do not espouse abuse, neglect or force in their practice of polygamy we should unite in decriminalizing polygamy for all of our families. 

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38 Responses to Our Curious Relationship With Centennial Park Arizona

  1. Tracy Roth-Myers says:

    As I see it you folks are not really that much different than us Jews. You have many different levels of FDLS just like we do! There are very orthodox Jewish folks and there are Jews that are not orthodox as well. Also it sounds like there are very similar customs with dress, education, marriage, families and levels of clergy. It is nice to know than we can have similarities and we can learn from each other! Respectfully, Tracy.

  2. Jimie Davis says:

    I thoroughly enjoy Polygamy, USA. I was not raised in a plural marriage, but I feel in my heart that it comes from God. It is my deepest wish to be in such a family. Keep educating others!

    • terry blevins says:

      we tried to stop by C.P. last weekend to see about joining their community, but it seemed like they had a bunch of Tourist so we did not want to add. but we are looking for our sister wife and one day we would like to join this coomunity. so if anyone knows a way of contacting CP please let us know that we dont add to current lookie loo issues

      • Ashley says:

        Hi Terry,

        My family has spoken to the Brethren in CP, and are visiting in September. We have been speaking with people from CP for awhile. We are planing the move in March 2014. If you have questions you can contact us. Especially if you would like to know more. Check out our blog it’s our journey.

        Ashley and Corey

    • Karen says:

      I watched Polygamy USA with great interest. I am thrilled that they clearly distinguished themselves from Warren Jeffs and his horrible settlement. The people were refreshingly “normal” and seemed happy to be there. While it is not a life I would choose for someone I care about, it is not a life of abuse and of involuntary couplings with underage people. There are lots of ways to be happy.and this seems to be one.

  3. JanetH says:

    thanks again for such an intelligent well written piece explaining all this. I was raised in a LDS household for the first 12 yrs of my life and I still enjoy reading /understanding more esp. as these shows run on tv..peace!

  4. DaleK says:

    The Polygamy USA special was well produced. It presented the polygyny in a relatively positive light. But it did not explain much of the doctrine, only saying that they believe in what they do. For example, they spoke of “The Work,” a few times, but gave no explanation.

    I have been curious about polygyny and what actually practicing the principle would be like for the last decade. I’m also curious about the United Order, and what that would be like in practice. It is difficult to get any real information from those who have practical experience. I am thankful that several practicing families have begun to open up, or “come out,” which allows me some information on the practicalities of the experience. For some years, the only images available seemed to be the FLDS and their prairie dresses and braids.
    I have also thought about the spiritual arguments in favor of the continuation of the practice and against the manifestos. My personal decision is that the LDS Church clearly exercises priesthood authority at all levels, so it follows that President Monson must hold the keys. Even though I cannot refute the arguments for polygyny’s continuation, I must respect where I find the keys.
    I also believe in a loving and merciful god, so I believe you have a good chance of His respecting your choices for your reasons, since you do it in faith and supplication, trying to righteously follow him. Please understand that I cannot and do not judge you. Each of us must find what truth we can, and none of us can prove we’re right.
    I traveled to Canada once and tried to make contact with Winston Blackmore, but I could not identify any homes in his valley as poly, so I failed.
    I saw some details that I believe to have been incorrect. Either my knowledge is lacking, or the producer is loose with facts. Otherwise, it presented a wholesome view of a poly community, with some interesting differences from the broader American culture. Placement marriage, young men serving service missions, and that the faith community is led by a priesthood counsel were presented without moral judgment.
    It was a far better picture of the poly community than the FLDS raid videos were.

  5. Melly Queen says:

    Really really enjoying learning about your culture and the polygamous world. Serious! :-)

  6. Courtney says:

    I love the show! I was hoping to see your daughter and her husband since they seem to be open with their beliefs by appearing in your special and also with Rob appearing on the Lisa Ling special.

  7. Meg says:

    I have a question about your general beliefs that I’ve been wondering for a while. Being raised as a mainstream Mormon I see a lot of similarities in our faith, one question I have is about the Word of Wisdome. Do you guys follow it? I ask because on the TV shows I’ve seen polygamous people drinking coffee, and I think I saw a woman on Polygamy USA drinking a glass of wine, so just purely curious. While I do not believe the same things as you, I completely admire your love and dedication to follow what you believe in so strongly! It truly is inspiring and has made me really want to believe in something so strongly again. Thank you!

    • Joe says:

      Great question. This could have a long answer but the short version is that this Section 89 is interpreted as a word of advice by some, and as a commandment by others and it is quite varied among various fundamentalist groups and families. The Brown’s as part of the AUB would be more closely aligned with the LDS Church on this matter, while Centennial Park appears to be more liberal in its interpretation if at least not its enforcement. We feel within our own families that when the counsel has not been headed the results have been deleterious at best. That said we are probably in between these two on how strict we are at applying the Word of Wisdom. The important thing we think is that whatever someone believes they do it because it is in their heart and not because they feel peer pressure to be anything but authentic.

  8. Heather says:

    As a retired history teacher, I never want to stop learning! I love learning about different religions and the various sects contained therein. It was so easy to see the love in your family, and I absolutely can’t wait for you to write another book!
    God Bless you.

  9. Edward says:

    I thought you might appreciate this interview with sociologist and anthropologist Janet Bennion on modern-day polygamy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erTwhTCAAss

  10. Brigitte Le Blanc says:

    That is the prettiest wedding picture I have ever seen. Love the outfits and hair, and the dress of course :)

  11. Robin says:

    I just read your book and wanted to look you up to let you know that I support your convictions. I think that no one should cast judgement upon the decisions of consenting adults in a committed, loving relationship – regardless of the structure of that relationship. Why should society turn a blind eye to a married man having a secret affair, but speak out against a relationship in which all parties are aware and happy? Furthermore, I wanted to let you know that reading about how organized and involved you are with your children inspired me to translate some of your advice into my relationship with my son. Although I am a single mother with just one child, I realized that I was in some ways doing less than you are with 24 children to care for! It lead me to put together a summer reading program for him and to be more attentive and patient. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you the most happiness life can bring.

  12. Johnnomads says:

    We thought the special spent too much time on the religious justification, there are many ppl who live a poly lifestyle both traditional polygamy and other alternatives, outside of a faith basis.

  13. Carolyn says:

    I have enjoyed getting to know your family and learn more about your lifestyle from your book and blog. I happened to catch the first episode of Polygamy USA the other night. I see they do place a lot of emphasis on the placement marriage. I was just wondering how Rob’s family and community reacted to his choice to take a different approach to getting married?

  14. Rachael says:

    I’ve been watching the show and have observed how the placement marriage works. It seems to be a very serious practice in centennial park. One young boy on the show has a girlfriend that he is trying to marry. Basically he went around the brethren’s system of placement marriage and it has angered his family and some members of the community. Since Amanda and rob didn’t participate in the placement marriage were people upset with them? Did the brethren or community feel that they rejected or went around the system and did what they wanted?

  15. Karoline says:

    Sect? In the negative meaning of the word?

  16. Ami says:

    I haven’t seen the My Three Wives special and I’m wondering if it will become available online or on DVD?

  17. Jill says:

    Decriminalize not legalize so all can still collect government support…

    • Johnnomads says:

      Yes absolutely! My wives and I have no interest in being legally recognised, we do however wish to be free from the spectre of criminal prosecution. A great many laws would have to be changed before we’d even entertain the notion of registering our union with civil authorities.
      >
      Jill wrote: Decriminalize not legalize…

  18. Colleen Marie says:

    I have been watching “Polygamy USA” on National Geographic. My perspective is that the community in Centennial Park is still very conservative and traditional, but at the same time trying to make the distinction between themselves and the FLDS communities, like Colorado City. From watching this program as well as “Sister Wives” on TLC, my perspective is that your family and the Brown family are probably more effective because you all “blend in” better with mainstream culture. For example, your family and the Brown family wear typical clothes that the average person is wearing on the street. In Centennial Park, they are much more conservative and fit the stereotype more just based on the way that they dress. Also, it seems that the community in Centennial Park functions with the man being the head of the household and the women are almost subservient (I don’t like to use that word but I can’t seem to find another word that would be appropriate). With your family and the Brown family, it is a much more modern family dynamic where the husband and wives are equals and no one person is below anyone else.

  19. While I myself do not deny polygyny for several reasons and my own beliefs are reflected based on research into many things, I do find it rather questionable about marrying direct sisters or cousins. Of course here you are all adults and for that this is a good thing as too much is painted in a rather gross light. But truthfully Polygyny is not specifically a Mormon, Muslim or any other specific group. It is a human rights one. I know of more than a few with no religious foundations who want such unions, and in fact its actually the ladies who have encouraged it. What are your thoughts on these matters as I am a Polytheist.

  20. Suzanne says:

    From a personal freedom standpoint, I fully support consenting adults making the choice to engage in plural marriage, but there is one thing that I find troubling when thinking of the greater religious/cultural basis– the mathematical impossibility for all young men who seek plural marriage (which their beliefs have suggested is necessary for higher celestial glory) to even have one wife, let alone multiple wives. Since the population is approximately 50/50 men and women, when one man marries 2-3-4-etc. women, that leaves 1-2-3-etc. young men with no wives at all. The math to support that belief system on a large scale just doesn’t work. What happens to the “extra” young men?

    • melissa says:

      As someone living in Centennial Park, I can answer your question. The approximate population is not 50/50. It’s more like 60/40 in favor of the female side right now. I would say it changes every few years to favor one or the other. I would estimate though that there are more members under the age of 20 here than over. It is a very young population. Besides, there are actually more monogamous families living here right now than polygamous ones. Not every family is blessed with multiple wives. Nor are these mongamous couples are not looked down upon because they arent practicing the principle of plural marriage. Every blessing comes in due time. Also, not everyone who grows up here stays with this religion. It is about free agency and being able to make your own choices. Nothing here is forced upon. So there arent “extra” young men like you are referring which happens in Colorado City. There are also converts, both men and women alike, to this work that bless us like the Darger’s daughter Amanda.

  21. Jamie Diane Snow says:

    I just want to say May God Bless you all!!!! If My husband and I where younger bodied we would move!!! Our god will continue to Bless each and everyone as long as you stay on his path to Salvation….I hope to take a vacation this summer And we hope to visit Centennial Park….We are of faith….again I think of you all often may God Keep You and Bless You….Jamie-Diane and Rodney…..

  22. Scott says:

    So do you guys have 3 ways or is that forbidden? What happens when the man dies do you get new husband for the group?

    • Joe says:

      The nature of your curiosity reflects more upon your own inner consciousness than a sincere desire to understand our world. I would suggest you continue reading other blog posts and our book and your questions will be answered even if your curiosity may not find satisfaction.

  23. Ashley says:

    Thank You,

    My family has been looking toward yours for years of inspiration on how to live plural marriage. Your blog is always inspiring even though we belong to two different communities it’s nice to read your opinions.

    Ashley

  24. Renske says:

    They look cute :D

  25. Lane Collier says:

    I am LDS and I think the Mormon Church should return to our roots which is polygamy.

  26. Lacy says:

    How does one talk to members of the CP community? I really can’t find a website dedicated to them online or a way to contact them to get to know them better and learn more about their community than what the show shared. I really loved a lot of aspects to their way of living the faith and principles, and was curious on all their choices and rules on various subjects. I also wondered how one came to live in such seemingly nice community, as I did see in one episode that a newer member to their community originated with his wife from Pennsylvania. I truly love and believe in the faith, I want to raise my family around like-minded people. Sadly I know at this point in time no matter where I could move to, my family does not hold financial means to do it, but we plan to save up and go where we believe God is directing us.

  27. Tebogo says:

    I am a South African, a firm believer and I believe in polygamy and take it as a way of life. To me it was very interesting to see that there are other people around the World who adhere to th same believe system which is on my side inspired by both my religion and tradition. Over the years we the firm believer of polygamous marriages ave received critism and we have been judged by those who would see nothing wrong in gay, Lenin and extra marrital affars (cheting) but see everything wrong with polygamous marriages. I am hereby requesting that you share your contact details with me via email as I would like o know more and have further discussions with you. May you all stay blessed and indeed polygamy is a way of life and God love it.

  28. Ms. Devine says:

    There were also a lot of us Evangelicals, Catholics, Baptists and other Christian, non-LDS denominations who enjoyed the show. As Americans we are united and hopefully respectful of our differences.
    The reason we do not believe in or practice polygamy is because we believe that God established one man and one woman to become one, not 2 or 3 or 4 to become one. Of course, as early as the book of Genesis, the original intent was broken. But in our way of looking at it, Adam and Eve were the original first couple which consisted of only 2.

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