In mid-June I read a disturbing report that first appeared in the Deseret News which stated that Utahns use 11% more goods than the state’s landmass can produce. Since Utah is our newly adopted state, I initially felt a little guilty that I’ve added to the burden since moving here. To read the stats, read “The Ecological Footprint of Utah,” posted on the Internet at utahpop.org/vitalsigns by an activist group calling itself the Utah Population and Environment Coalition.
Barely two weeks later, I picked up the Salt Lake Tribune to read yet another story in the Living section on suburban polygamy. (These stories seem to be even more popular since the new HBO series “Big Love” began last year.) What made this report unusual was that it was full of large color photos, taking up about a whole newspaper page in total, illustrating I suppose that these people look just like “us” and blend right in at Costco.
The male, who uses the pseudonym Gary in the story, traces his polygamous heritage all the way back to Joseph Smith’s era. All three of his wives also grew up in plural families and say they loved it.
“We were never alone or lonely,” said Valerie, who has 40 full and half siblings. They attended public schools, were doted on by their multiple mothers and grew up with the freedom to decide whether to embrace plural marriage.
Gary is the only one of his 18 siblings to do so. In Kaye’s family, three of 31 children entered plural marriages. About half of Vicki and Valerie’s siblings are in polygamous relationships.
When he was 18, Gary decided that he just wasn’t going to fill “fulfilled” in monogamy (oh those teenagers!). His own words were that he felt “there was more for me, not in terms of women, but what I wanted out of life.”
Now, 17 years, three wives and 21 children later, Gary says, “To me, if I’m going to attain the highest degree of perfection, it’s going to require me to sacrifice my own selfish interest to live this way.” (This is not altogether clear to me. Would somebody please explain to me exactly what are his sacrifices?)
Yesterday, another more famous polygamist, Tom Green, was quietly dismissed from Utah State Prison in Draper (suburb of SLC) early in the morning after serving a six-year term for bigamy. He was picked up by two of his sons to be driven home to his legal wife who was waiting with at least 20 of his 30 or more children, plus three of his “spiritual” wives (he once had four, but one left him with her five children while he was in prison).
The terms of his release require him to reside only with his legal wife, while his three “spiritual” wives reside in adjoining units of a “quadplex” in Springville. He must pay $34,420 in restitution for state aid his family received, and register as a sex offender (one of the crimes he was convicted for was impregnating a 13 year old stepdaughter he later took as a “spiritual” wife). My guess is that the state will look the other way if he decides to engage in extramarital sex, particularly if his legal wife knows about it and doesn’t object.
Walt Kelly was a political cartoonist who used to write “Pogo,” for the Sunday funnies back in the ’60s and ’70s. He first used the term “We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us” on a poster for Earth Day in 1970. It quickly became a rallying cry for conservationists everywhere.
Have you been keeping account of the numbers of children here? Let’s see: my math challenged count comes to at least 140. And if you think about the numbers of other siblings entering polygamous relationships at an average of at least five children per woman . . . well, old Walt Kelly was right, wasn’t he? There seems to be a problem here.
Add the warning we got from former Vice President Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth” to Utah’s ecological footprint statistics, and it stikes me we would do well to resurrect that rallying cry once more, except this time to call for a new religious movement.
Here’s my plan. Since it’s a human condition to depend on a higher source to blame or fix our problems, all we have to do is pray for another visit from an angel. (After all angels have visited in the past as well as biblical times, and they’re still as popular as ever.) Let’s get a modern one this time, like Earl in Saving Grace, or John Travolta (Michael) since Tess (Della Reese) and Monica (Roma Downey) are no longer available. Let’s call this new angel Mona.
This modern, outspoken female angel, Mona, would intercede on our behalf with God, who I suspect by this time is probably hanging his head in sorrow at the mess we’re making of his good green earth, making Him (unlike George W) more open than ever before to suggestions from mere mortals.
They’ll have a nice discussion, and Mona will then deliver God’s new directives to the leaders of all the churches in the world that still encourage their members to “Go forth. Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” The first stop will be to the Mormons (including the polygamist Fundamentalists), then the Catholics, and then the Muslims who still practice polygamy (at least in some parts of the world). I suspect this new directive will be very simple.