Anne Wilde of Salt Lake City, Utah, married a married man. With her consent, she said, her husband took other wives after her.
She was in a polygamous relationship for 33 years before her husband died, and will only say she was the second of “a few” wives.
Wilde co-founded Principle Voices, an organization in support of fundamentalist Mormons who practice polygamy.
“I’m still very much an advocate of it,” she said. “We would like to see equal civil rights.”
She said polygamy is a commandment of God in the Mormon religion.
The vast majority of Mormons don’t practice polygamy and the church does not consider those who do to be members.
The church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stopped sanctioning polygamy more than 100 years ago.
Wilde said she decided to practice a fundamentalist lifestyle after studying and praying.
“I never regretted a minute of it,” she said. “We were very happy.”
She did not live with her husband, she said, but they spent a lot of time together writing religious books.
“I’m kind of independent, anyway,” she said.
She said women have the best of both worlds in polygamy, because they can have children and a career. Another wife will often care for the children, if one wife is out.
“I know it’s not for everybody and I know it’s hard for some to understand,” Wilde said. “But the times are changing, so it could become more acceptable to people.”
She said all consenting adults should have the same rights to marry.
“We don’t want to legalize it,” she said. “We want to decriminalize it.”
The polygamists with whom she is associated don’t fit stereotypes of under-aged or arranged marriages, she said.
There are about 37,000 fundamentalist Mormons in the Western United States, according to the Principle Voices website. This compares to estimates of total official church membership of at least 4 million worldwide.
doing it again.”
Kim Farah, the national spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in an e-mail, “We believe the commandment to practice polygamy was given by revelation and was discontinued by revelation.”
She said polygamy was an important part of the teachings of the church for a half-century in the 1800s.
Its origin in the church can be traced to 1831, when founder Joseph Smith made a “prayerful inquiry” about the ancient Old Testament practice of plural marriage. Then came divine instruction to reinstitute the practice as a religious principle in the 1830s.
In 1890, Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the church, received a revelation to withdraw the command.
Still, Farah said, “the church honors and respects the sacrifices of those who chose to live this principle during the formative years of the church.”
In 1862, Congress and then President Abraham Lincoln enacted the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, which made the practice of polygamy illegal in the territories.
Then, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided in the 1878 case of Reynolds v. United States that polygamy was not protected by the Constitution, based on the legal principle that while laws cannot interfere with religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.
Today, polygamy also is strictly prohibited in the Mormon Church.
“Some people left the church to continue the practice of polygamy, or were excommunicated because they refused to give it up. Some of their descendants are found in polygamous communities today in various parts of the United States and Canada, but especially in the West,” Farah said. “They are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Those involved are not only in violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of the church, she said.