Big love: religious or criminal? Essay
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Barbara, Nikki, and Margie are three women from three very different backgrounds whom share one very universal dynamic. Barbara, is an extremely devoted mother of three, elementary school teacher, and wife to her husband named Bill. Although very endearing, Barbara is no stranger to pain and struggle. After only a few years of marriage to Bill, Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer, a terminal disease which she battled for years. Moreover, Barbara overcame her struggle and has now become a better wife and mother.
Nikki, a timid young woman, is a mother of two, relentlessly inflicts her harsh religious beliefs onto others as she was raised on the same polygamous compound as her husband named Bill. Margine, a vibrant liberal young woman and mother of 3, is a housewife who has the spirit of a 16 year old girl. Despite her vivid appeal to people, life, and friendships, she constantly struggles with insecurities that prohibit her from being the woman and mother that she aspires to be and coincidentally, her husband is also named Bill.
Although these three women are all married to a man named Bill, the common name sake is no coincidence. Margine, Barbara, and Nikki are all married to the same man, Bill Paxton. Bill, owner of a major retailer is a Polygamist who resides outside of Utah after being banished from the polygamist compound where he once grew up. Despite his excommunication from the ranch, Bill continued to implement the same polygamist fundamentals into this own lifestyle. Bill has 3 wives, Barbara, Nikki, and Margine, whom he married consecutively and currently has 8 children between all three wives.
Barbara, the first wife is responsible for maintaining the hierarchy between all the wives, while Margine and Nikki maintain their own individual homes. Whist many outsiders of polygamy consider their relationships immoral and illegal, this family attempts to preserve their bond through the religious upbringings that they are accustomed to. This narrative is that of the HBO series, Big Love, which depicts the lifestyle of a polygamist family outside of a compound, whom consequentially attempts to apply religious beliefs and multi-marital subsistence to their family while simultaneously sheltering the world from their illegitimate existence.
Despite the HBO’s depiction of polygamy in the United States, the commonality of polygamy is currently being rationalized, causing more individuals in society to evaluate the internal infrastructure of many polygamist cults as more criminal than religious. Overall, polygamy is not a new concept to the modern world. Many indigenous cultures across the globe still practice polygamy including various tribes in Africa and South America, and yet in other areas such as the United States, Europe, and Asia, monogamy is enforced, thus making polygamy illegal in many parts of these designated Areas.
Polygamy in the United States can be dated back to 1929 in its association to the Mormon Church, even though the Book of Mormon was created in the late 1800s. Mormonism is quite different from traditional Christianity. Traditional Roman Catholicism has divisional leaders such as priests and or deacons whist Mormon church officials are deemed prophets. Traditional Mormonism is classified under a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Under Mormonism, The Book of Mormon is a companion of the traditional holy bible and teaches that as God was man, man can become a god as well.
Additionally, Mormons also believe that God was not created on earth, but on another planet under his god. Just as humans must adhere to commandments, God also had to conform to a set of conventions in order to please his god. After complying under god’s rule, God came to earth where he married a goddess with whom he produced children. These children, deemed the spiritual offspring whom later developed as humans on earth, are brothers and sisters of Adam and Eve.
Modern Mormonism under the sect of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints should not be confused with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) openly practice and support polygamy within secluded compounds or polygamist epicenters where this practice is legal in portions of the United States such as Texas and small areas within Utah. The official leader and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Gordon B.
Hinckley, has denounced polygamist practices, promising to excommunicate any member whom participates in polygamy activities. Furthermore, Hinckley has stated that there is no such thing as a Mormon Fundamentalist, which refers to the FLDS church, thus regarding the church and its members as complete contradictions (“ ‘Mormon’ Polygamy: Misconceptions“). Nonetheless, Mormon polygamist lifestyles are undergoing unprecedented scrutiny in light of recent media debuts, consequently permanently damaging its already impaired reputation.
Although many television portrayals of polygamy such as HBO’s tele-series, Big Love, do not exploit criminal behaviors of neglect and the abuse of children, the current disbursement of hundreds of children from a Mormon based polygamist cult in Texas has begun to provide attentive outlook on illicit violations that have occurred. The situation began in April of this year after police received a frantic 911 call from a girl who claimed that she had been abused, forcefully married, and impregnated by an older man.
Investigators, already watchfully suspicious after previous abuse allegations surfaced almost 4 years earlier, had finally acquired enough evidence to disembark upon the compound territory. The call caused a surge of law enforcement and child protective services to recover over 400 children and teenagers from the compound and over 150 adults. Despite America’s unfavorable views towards polygamy, the plural aspect of the polygamist society is not the trigger behind disapproving conjectures, yet the abuse of young women and children remain problematic to accept.
Women and children are considered the most feeble members of society, and although polygamists claim that the procreation of children into a whole family as a society is a major basis of their religion, it will always remain a substance of abuse. For instance, in many religions such as Mormonism and the polygamist sect of the Fundamentalist Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), marrying and impregnating girls as young as 12 is permitted regardless of the criminal facets.
Andrew Gumble states that “the police and child protection services knew as soon as the El Dorado ranch was built in 2004 that the fundamentalists were polygamists, with a track record of marrying off girls as young as 14 or 15 to church elders who might be in their 70s or 80s” (6). Under the law, any girl wed under the age of 18 without parental consent to marry is illicit. Marriage is a contract which minors cannot enter without parental consent. Additionally, any adult 18 years or older that engages in a sexual act with anyone under the age of 18 is committing a rape.
Ethically speaking, children are vastly inept during developmental stages of adolescence and childhood which inhibits their ability to conduct relationships in respect to marriage and child-rearing. Jodi Grizzle, of the Children’s Service Society of Utah, says most girls that age are already going through the oftentimes rocky and rough years of adolescence. “Teenagers don’t have the ability to think abstractly. Our brains don’t finish developing until we’re in our 20s. So you have a teenager with a significant life event, and they aren’t necessarily capable of comprehending all of the implications” (“Over 50 percent).
In spite of a common misconception that many young females are willing contestants, hundreds of young girls are not consenting participants. Many of these ostensible leaders of the FLDS often engage in forced marriages and sexual acts with many young women whom are compulsorily admitted into polygamist compounds. In fact, Andrew Gumble also attests that “their ‘prophet’ and leader Warren Jeffs, now serving prison time for his role in arranging the forced marriage of a teenage girl in Utah, has a reputation as a hardliner and a man who inspired great fear even in his own followers” (6).
Warren Jeffs, a former FLDS prophet, is currently awaiting trial for accessory to rape. Warren Jeffs, took over the FLDS empire consisting of over 12,000 members after the death of his father, Rulon Jeffs, in 2002. Warren Jeffs was accused of sexually abusing a nephew for over 10 years in addition to forcefully arranging the polygamous marriage of a 16 year old girl to an older man. Warren Jeffs was on the run for 2 years before he was caught in August of 2006. Not only are young women victims of abuse in these compounds, but children also exert signs of abuse under polygamous governance.
Indirect abuse of children has also been corroborated under the recent compound investigations. Many of the children were not properly cared for, as the result of medical examinations confirmed broken bones and lack of vaccinations that are required of school aged children and babies. Although it has not been determined if the children’s broken bones were the result of direct abuse or circuitous negligence, high scrutiny and speculation has already characterized the parents of the children as abusive and incompetent.
Despite FDLS religious values, the religious aspect cannot compensate rationale for forced marriages, rapes, and neglect of young women and children unwillingly involved in polygamist existence. Many polygamist agree that the prosecution of their actions are not based upon criminal measures but their religious beliefs. For instance, Rodney Holm, an ex-police officer convicted of bigamy, refutes his conviction on the grounds of violation of the 1st and 14th amendments as the conviction aims to attack those whom are attempting to implement a holy religious based lifestyle (Winslow “Polygamist appeals“).
Furthermore, Holm’s lawyer, Rod Parker contests that “The Utah court’s criminalization of polygamous relationships that do not seek recognition as legal marriages violates the Equal Protection Clause because it discriminates on the basis of religious affiliation” (Winslow “Polygamist appeals”). However, despite the negative outlook on polygamy for its illegitimacy and immorality to some, the religion is not under question in any way, it is the abuse and violation of laws that coincide with polygamy that is being addressed.
Under the law, polygamy is illegal and has been illegal since 1879 which makes bigamy illegal as well. Polygamy is not a religion but a breach of the law. Holm was also charged with committing a sex act with a minor, his 16-year-old wife Ruth Stubbs. Sex with a minor is illegal under the law. Incorporating illegalities into a religion does not make it legal. For instance, if Tom Cruise would like to incorporate snorting cocaine into Scientology, it would still make snorting cocaine illegal because cocaine is illegal in the United States, despite his religious beliefs.
Legal issues are being addressed, not religion. Consequentially, sex with minors is illicit and it’s a form of abuse, just as forced marriages and child neglect which are core facets. Although it is difficult to reform individuals from a way of life that is viewed to some as holy and religious, it is better to curb problematic behaviors including domestic violence and child abuse. Domestic violence hubs should be implemented in order to curtail the occurrence of violence within polygamist households. Seminars within polygamist communities should become mandatory.
Traditionally, polygamist households could consist of one wife to upward amounts of 30 wives over a man’s lifespan. Each wife could have up to 11 to 15 children during the span of her ability to reproduce. Any mother, young or old, can understand the stress that comes along with raising children. A family of that magnitude could cause any woman to exert nontraditional parenting practices such as yelling or excessive hitting to discipline children. In the eyes of the law, excessive hitting or beating a child is considered child abuse, excluding moderate spankings.
This situation was observed in the house of a woman named Heidi Mattingly, a 33-year-old mother of 11 and member of the Kingston Polygamist Clan in Utah. The judge found that Heidi hit her children in the face until they bled, hit babies, and verbally abuses her children, however, the court also founded that Heidi was also abused by her husband and prophet of the clan, John Daniel Kingston and other members of the society as well, which explained why she behaved accordingly towards her children. (Thompson). Heidi was provided with individual and group therapy in order to sustain a healthy disciplinary role for her children.
Established organizations that work within polygamous compounds such as The Primer are advocated for domestic violence reforms. Many social workers agree that groups such as The Primer are very helpful because of their insight into polygamist groups. A social worker named Madsen said “It opened my mind to how many people live the lifestyle,” he said. “There’s like 50 groups. I had no idea. It told me some of the history that I didn’t know. For example, this group (the Kingstons) doesn’t dress in bonnets and long dresses” (Winslow).
Although anti-polygamists discourage The Primer and organizations like it because of its encouragement of polygamy, it has definitely provided a safe haven of resources for victims of abuse. In conclusion, polygamy is not a current phenomena, as many tribes still practice polygamy in portions of Africa and South America. The United States is not a stranger to polygamy as well, as polygamy has existed as far back as 1929, even though the Book of Mormon was created in the late 1800s. Although Mormons believe in one god, they are vastly different than traditional Christians.
For example, traditional Roman Catholicism heads each dioceses with a priest, deacon, and or bishop, whist Mormonism believe that prophets should be the head of a sect. A spin-off of traditional Mormonism is the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also called FLDS. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints should not be confused with FLDS because of different views towards polygamy. In fact, the current prophet of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Gordon B Hinckley, vows to excommunicate any individual involved with polygamy.
Additionally, Hinckley says that the Mormon Fundamentalists are a complete contradiction to the Mormon church. This severance from the mainstream religions is not the first portion of negative propaganda that polygamist cults have received. In April of 2008, a frantic 911 call from a 16-year-old girl tipped police off to a polygamous compound in Texas, after years of being under observation. During the raid, over 400 children and 150 adults were taken into police and protective custodies.
Signs of abuse, towards children and young women were all implicated in forced marriages, rapes, and neglect. Although there are many participants, many of the young women are forced to marry older men, which is illegal. In fact, marriage to a minor without parental consent is illicit in the eyes of the law. Additionally, if an adult engages in a sexual act with a someone under the age of 18, it is also illicit and considered rape. Many young women from polygamous lifestyles can attest to this behavior, just as the young woman who pressed charges against former FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs.
Warren Jeffs headed a polygamist empire consisting of about 12,000 members after the death of his father, Rulon Jeffs in 2002. Warren Jeffs was also accused of molesting his nephew for over 10 years. Furthermore, many of the young women are also mothers at young ages of 12, the beginning of adolescence, which is additionally problematic for teens as well. Many mothers at polygamist compounds are additionally under added stress of being a role model to 11 to 15 children that are conceived throughout their lifetimes.
Many women such as Heidi Mattingly resorted to nontraditional parenting methods such as over excessive spankings or brutal beatings, and verbal abuse. Heidi Mattingly, mother of 11 children was found guilty of abusing her children by hitting them in the face, hitting babies, and verbally abusing her children. In order to curtain her behavior, individual and group treatments were granted to Heidi to help her maintain a healthy disciplinary figure towards her children in addition to reversing abuse that she sustained under her husband and “Prophet”, John Daniel Kingston of the Kingston Polygamist Clan.
Groups such as The Primer have become a special aid to social workers involved in polygamist groups for their understanding of the infrastructure in each group. Although anti-polygamist activists disagree with The Primer’s actions, deeming their participation as encouraging polygamy, their presence within the polygamist community draws much needed attention towards the realization of abuse within polygamist communities in tandem with providing resources for victims of abuse. BIBLIOGRAPHY Buncombe, Andrew. “Cult leader accused of making under aged girls marry adults.
” The Independent (London) 1 Sept. 2006: Gumble, Andrew. “The ranch has not yet revealed all its secrets.. .” The Independent on Sunday 13 Apr. 2008: 6. ” ‘Mormon’ Polygamy: Misconceptions. ” 2007. <http://www. mormon- polygamy. org/>. “Over 50 percent of teen girls on FLDS ranch are mothers. ” Narr. Lori Prichard& Carole Mikita. KSL Television and Radio. NBC, Salt Lake City. 28 Apr. 2008. Thompson, Linda. Deseret Morning News “Polygamist mom guilty of child abuse. ” Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Jan 13, 2005. FindArticles. com. 08 May. 2008
<http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20050113/ai_n11499594> Winslow, Ben. Deseret Morning News “Polygamist appeals conviction to top U. S. court. ” Deseret News (Salt Lake City). 17 Oct. 2006. Find Articles. com 08 May 2008 <http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20061017/ai_n16782090> Winslow, Ben. Deseret Morning News “‘Primer’ details intricacies of polygamist life”. Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Jun 11, 2006. FindArticles. com. 08 May. 2008. <http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20060611/ai_n16480844>.