I was one of 13 children raised by our father and three mothers in a polygamist community in Utah. We were fundamentalist Mormons who practiced the original teachings of Mormonism from its founder Joseph Smith. This teaching includes following the Principle, which states a man must practice polygamy—marrying at least three wives—to enter the Celestial Kingdom.
Even though I knew which woman was my biological mother, we were encouraged to treat all the wives the same. Outwardly, our family seemed content, but beneath the surface lay jealousy and pain. We never acknowledged these feelings because we were supposed to sacrifice our emotions. Even laughter was discouraged.
We were constantly told to "keep sweet" and that "perfect obedience produces perfect faith." Behind these sugary slogans lay the impossible duty of living in complete obedience to the Prophet.
Losing My Religion
In Fundamental Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the Prophet is the earthly leader and mediator between God and man. Women are on this earth to serve their husband and obey the Prophet. If a woman does this faithfully, her husband may invite her to join him in the Celestial Kingdom. A woman's eternal fate depends on keeping this Principle.
The Prophet is in charge of the Placement of young girls in marriage. The quality of her Placement depends on her level of sweetness. Knowing this, I tried very hard to live in obedience. At age 14, I began sewing my wedding dress in anticipation of my Placement. I hoped I'd like my future husband, but I feared my fate would be like those who never knew love.
When I was a child, the Prophet was Leroy Johnson. We called him Uncle Roy. He was a feeble old man who prophesied he'd never die—that he'd become young again and be lifted up to heaven. If I kept sweet, I'd be taken with him. I looked forward to that glorious day with hope and fear. Would I be lifted up? Or would I be left behind?
My world fell apart when Uncle Roy died of health issues in 1986. He was 93; I was 15. Television cameras filmed me among the many mourners crying at his funeral. However, I wasn't weeping over the death of Leroy Johnson. I was weeping over the death of my faith. I realized the Prophet had been wrong. If you couldn't trust the Prophet, why bother to keep sweet?
For Further StudyDownloadable resources to go deeper
- Reflections for Leaders: A 14-Day Devotional JourneyeBook Format Available! Fourteen days of Bible studies on Christian leadership principles for women.