Saturday, November 3, 2012
Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown 'A Mormon/LDS Fundamentalist Polygamist Marriage with 4 Wives!' - Review
In many ways, the Browns are like any other middle-American family. They eat, play, and pray together, squabble and hug, striving to raise happy, well-adjusted children while keeping their relationship loving and strong. The difference is, there are five adults in the openly polygamous Brown marriage—Kody and his four wives—who among them have seventeen children. Since TLC first launched its popular reality program Sister Wives, the Browns have become one of the most famous families in the country. Now Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn reveal in their own words exactly how their special relationship works—the love and faith that drew them together, the plusses and pitfalls of having sister wives, and the practical and emotional complications of a lifestyle viewed by many with distrust, prejudice, even fear. With the candor and frankness that have drawn millions to their show, they talk about what makes their fascinating family work, addressing the topics that intrigue outsiders: How do the four relationships differ? What effect does a polygamous upbringing have on their children? What are the challenges—emotional, social, or financial—involved in living this lifestyle? Is it possible for all four sister wives to feel special when sharing a husband—and what happens when jealousy arises? How has being on camera changed their lives? And what’s it like to add a new wife to the family—or to be that new wife?
Filled with humor, warmth, surprising insights, and remarkable honesty, this is a singular story of plural marriage and all the struggles and joys that go with it. At heart, it’s a love story—unconventional but immediately recognizable in the daily moments of trust, acceptance, forgiveness, passion, and commitment that go into making one big, happy, extraordinary family.
Although I generally do NOT review Memoirs/Auto-Biographies because HOW can you RATE someone else's life? I want to review this book because it is controversial, and I do feel that each person on this earth, no matter what they believe, has the choice to live the way they want to live. I am rating this book on how well they wrote this book, and I really do like how they did it. First Cody, the husband to these four wives, writes a Prologue, then the wives each take a turn to write about Matrimony, Sorority, Family, and Celebrity. Finally, Cody writes the Epilogue, other than that, we do not hear from him. I thought this was a good way to lay the book out, but I did feel like Cody only had so much input, and being that he had the first and last word was like he definitely IS the 'head of the household's', and the wives are subordinates. This is hard for me to swallow as I feel marriage is an equal partnership. Marriage is not about the wives being below the husband.
I've been watching this TV Reality show since the beginning out of sheer curiosity and thinking this is absolutely wrong, yet it has also brought many questions my way, and opinions, of course! Who wouldn't have them? I like this family, and they have a TON of children, 17, to be exact. This family is a Mormon/LDS Fundamental Polygamist family that has FOUR wives, with Kody being the husband. (Also with this family having so many children, it can't hurt to purchase this book and hopefully answer my questions, but to allow them to earn money FOR the children.)
My first thoughts about this is first, HOW CAN THIS BE LEGAL? And second, "HOW can ANY woman SHARE a husband with another woman, or in this case, WOMEN - PLURAL!" So they call each other their 'sister wives'. Okay. The thought of this makes me uncomfortable because it is NOT normal to me, but because I feel this is very wrong. After watching several seasons of this show, I 'have' grown to like these people, and in a way I can see the benefits of having a sister wife, yet I still CANNOT accept their views on marriage, which I'll get into in a moment. It is just not 'my way of life', but not to say no one else should not live this way. To each his own.
So this book comes out, I still have questions in 'trying' to understand polygamy and jealousy, mostly, because that IS how I think I would feel if I was in this situation, As I watch this TV show, I cannot help but to feel these women MUST FEEL JEALOUSY at some point in time. How can they not? As I read the book, YES! They DO HAVE JEALOUSY, much more so than what the TV Reality Show captures.
First, let's get to their marital beliefs. I do have several quotes I am going to use, so I apologize because it will make this review much longer than what I want it to be, but I feel using these quotes will help you understand their marriages/wives/belief system, as I just cannot explain it myself since it is not my religion nor my belief system, I cannot understand it fully and I don't think I ever will, but it was a very interesting book to read as it did give me more insight into their situation they have chosen.
I am in a singular marriage. My being in a singular marriage is what "I" feel is 'normal', and how I choose to live. I would guess many people feel my conventional marriage is the normal marriage. Thankfully, Cody states, "I do not consider followers of another religion any less worthy in god's eyes or in his, nor what is appropriate for one person is appropriate for another." That made me feel much more comfortable about 'their calling' to be polygamists. Yet, where does this 'calling' come from? A voice that goes off in your head? An appearance from an angel, or from God? What IS this calling?
I do want to applaud Cody for saying this: "I want to make it clear that the practices of FLDS have no place in my universe. (They say FLDS, yet they also call themselves FLDS believers? I'm confused.) We belong to a different religious community, one that has several thousand members worldwide. In our faith, incest and spousal abuse are serious crimes, which, when discovered, result in immediate legal action. I'm sure when most people think of Mormon fundamentalists they think of long, modest dresses and old-fashioned hairstyles - something you might see in an old Western movie. This only covers a fraction of polygamists. If we weren't on TV, you wouldn't be able to pick my family out of a crowd. We dress like anyone else - maybe a tiny bit more modestly, but definitely modernly. Our kids go to public school. They watch TV, go to the movies, play computer games, go to parties, and listen to popular music. They play sports, wear makeup (sometimes too much for my liking), and participate in school activities. Basically, my family is not all that different from yours."
He says, "It's a calling, something we are summoned to by God. It's a commandment in our scripture, fundamental to our belief system. It's intention and design is specific to our personal development and spiritual growth." On the television show, they 'do' use the Book of Mormon for the belief system and their principles and religious system, in addition to the Bible we are ALL familiar with, I 'think'.
"However, when the opportunity for plural marriage is placed before us, and when we are called to it - it seems wise to accept." (HOW can plural marriage be placed before you? Is God supposed to make an appearance out of nowhere and tell you "You MUST follow plural marriage."? I don't get this quote. God does not make an appearance in your life, nor come to you and tell you to do this. Personally I think it is an idea that they know about, is followed by their religion, and 'can be' a possibility to act on, which they have done. I'm really not sure HOW this 'calling' is supposed to be, or in what form it happens.)
"Celestial pleural marriage isn't something we take lightly or take for granted. It's a calling, something we are summoned to by God. It's a commandment in our scripture, fundamental to our belief system." (Again, HOW does God 'summon someone'? Plus, how are their commandments different than the ones in the Bible we all use? IS their Bible different than ours? It must be because when I read the Ten Commandments in my Bible, I do NOT see anything talking about plural marriage.)
"So how can I love four women? It's a fair question and an easy one to answer. Loving them is simple. It's like breathing, waking up in the morning, putting one foot in front of the other. It's one of those things you do unconsciously, something so deeply ingrained into your psyche and your way of being that you never question it. It's hard to explain how I love my wives to someone who is not inside the principle." (Okay?)
What is this "principle", I ask. Is this the Mormon Principle/Scripture? Is this the Fundamentalist Mormon Principle/Scripture? Is there a difference? I don't know? I did find a good paper about the Mormon Principles written by Joseph Smith written in July 1843, which really is NOT that long ago, and the religion was founded by Joseph Smith who claims to be a prophet from the apostles Jesus appointed as such. This religion did preach polygamy as a general rule of marriage, but was ruled in court in about 1902, (correct me if I am wrong with my dates here, as I am not Mormon, but trying to remember from watching the television show what the Brown family stated as such.) as being 'against the law'. This is where the Mormons branched off into the Fundamentalist LDS groups which allowed polygamy. A good paper I found about this can be found here at this link: http://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/141-32-41.pdf for your reference. It is called "The Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism". So I learned being Mormon does NOT mean Polygamy, but quite the OPPOSITE. Mormons in general, do NOT participate in Polygamy, but quite the opposite. It is the Fundamentalists who practice Polygamy. Fundamentalists is a religion that has split from the regular Mormon religion. As an example, many religions were formed based upon Catholicism, examples being Lutheran, Church of Christ, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. Some of these religions may not all follow the same guidelines, I'm only trying to make a point. (I apologize if I have name religions that have not broken off of Catholicism, the first 'organized' religion.)
Cody is married legally to ONE wife, which is Meri. The other 3 wives had a ceremony, but legally are NOT married to Cody, nor do they have ANY legal claims to him. Meri, in fact, is the wife who encouraged Cody to accept more wives into their marriage. She, and a few other wives grew up in polygamist households. This is why this way of life is normal to them.
"To be honest, I am not sure if any one of my wives could fulfill all my needs, nor do I believe that I am fulfilling all of theirs. (This is very true to what is in the book. Cody does NOT fulfill ALL of their needs, in fact falls quite short with some of his wives. There is a lot of jealousy of Meri, the first wife. Janelle had a huge problem with it being the second wife. At the time they lived in a double-wide trailer, and Janelle had her own bedroom. In the evenings when they all sat together, Janelle was left out as Cody and Meri sat on the couch together snuggling. Janelle never got to do that with Cody. Cody does admit to being immature in the beginning, and has grown tremendously since marrying Robyn. This is 16 YEARS INTO THE MARRIAGE!) Janelle and I can talk business. With Christine I enjoy the lightness of being together. With Meri the world is structured and organized, her house is peaceful and in order. When Robyn came into the family, she brought about an emotional honesty that required me to start dealing with things I'd avoided."
Is it really necessary to bring in all kinds of different people into a marriage who have different strengths in order to make a man whole and able to understand life better I ask? Those of us in conventional marriages do not have this, nor do I think we feel the need to have this.
"One of the things instilled in you if you grow up LDS is that you are living the only true faith - nothing else will get you to eternal exaltation." (I question this greatly. I do not agree with the Mormon faith in regards to this statement Cody made, however I am personally NOT Mormon.)
"I saw so much potential in polygamy.", Cody says.
What Cody had to say somewhat satisfied my questions as much as I can be satisfied, but did not change what I think about polygamy.
Now the wives had a LOT to say about their marriage and sister wives.
They are not all happy, and yes, jealousy is VERY high, and they have to work on this themselves and with each other. They have had a lot of insecurities about their own marriages, and when new wives have been brought in, this increased how they felt.
I could really feel for these women. I imagined myself in their predicament, and I would have felt the very same way. They have tried to work all their issues out between them, but there will be a life long issues to deal with. It only makes sense that their would be issues between four different women. Janelle even left their marriage twice so far. Now as I see the commercials on television for their next season, one of them is Janelle talking about leaving the marriage again, for a third time.
The book goes into much more into detail about their move from Lehi, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada. They seem much happier in Las Vegas, but their living arrangement is less than ideal. They went from one house, yet when Cody married Robyn, she was left out of the house due to not having enough room in their big house as it was designed for three wives. With that in mind, just when do you STOP taking new wives, I ask? Each new wife brings in new problems with living quarters. How many wives will Cody end up with, I started to wonder while reading.
Right now in Vegas they feel the culture there is diversified enough they feel accepted and do not have to hide their polygamist marriage from others. The children even have more friends in school. What I also find interesting, and this is also featured in a commercial for the upcoming season, is one of the female children states "I don't want to share my husband." Interesting, and I would have to agree.
The book did get into the nitty-gritty, more into detail about each of their marriages, and gave more information overall.
One thing I truly admire about these people is that they love their children VERY much, and consider everything they do with them in mind first and foremost, which is what ALL people should do. This makes me very happy.
The book is very informative, very interesting, and a good read. You will learn a lot about what the wives truly feel about each other, Cody, and the children. You will even learn of Meri's great difficulties she suffers with of infertility.
One thing I found very interesting in this book is that the wives felt at the end of the shows when they are sitting on the couch, that is was kind of like a counseling session, and they worked out a lot of their problems. They laughingly call it their "therapy session', yet are serious about it, too. One of the things that bothered each of the wives is the fact they learned a lot about the others' marriages, which they did not want to know about. They all feel each of their marriages to Cody is private and should remain so, but, when you are doing a Reality TV show, how could you expect everyone's lives to remain private? It's out in the open for ALL to see. If they did not want to know more about each others' marriages to Cody, then they should not have done a Reality TV show.
If you enjoy this TV Reality show, you will find this book very informative and find it fills in the gaps of what is missing on the television show.
Cody and all of the wives all agree the reason they did the Reality TV show was to bring attention to the public the polygamy lifestyle. They have been successful with that, and I have found their different lifestyle interesting, to say the least.
Polygamy is not 'my' choice of marriage, but to many Fundamentalist Mormon LDS groups it is. This falls into the choice of lifestyle. There are many lifestyle choices one can choose from in this day and age, and this is one of them. Just like no other lifestyle choice should be judged, this one should not be either. We are not asked to jump in and join ANY lifestyle, we "ALL" are free to choose how we each want to live. To each his own choice.
Now that they are in Las Vegas, they have finally found four lots to build four houses next to each other. I question their decision about this. Back in Utah, they had one 'main' house, with three apartments off of it. They could stay in their own apartment, or go into the middle of the house, complete with a kitchen as well, and all be together. This IS how the children grew up, and NOW they are changing this and will be living as separate families? I don't agree. In my opinion, they should do what they had in Utah. Build one main house and four separate apartments off of it so they CAN REMAIN ONE COMPLETE FAMILY, WHICH 'IS' THEIR OBJECTIVE WITH PLURAL MARRIAGE.
One HUGE question I have. When is enough enough for Cody with wives? Is he planning on adding MORE wives to this equation? If they 'do' build ONE MAIN HOUSE, where would they house a FIFTH WIFE? I am VERY uncomfortable about this.
In the book, Christine is the one who made the initial decision to do the Reality TV show, and brought it to the table first with Cody, then to the rest of the family. At this same time, they decided to bring in another wife. Was this fourth wife, Robyn, because of the Reality show? To bring some drama to their lives FOR THE SHOW? I really wonder about this. WOULD a fifth wife ever be brought in? This IS somewhat addressed and they state openly they cannot say a fifth wife would not be in their future. UGH! I leave it at that.
This book was one I chose to read freely on my own. It was not provided for me by anyone for review.
Posted by Laurie Carlson at 9:00 PM