Jesus Loves Polygamy, This I Know
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The Internet offers a taste of everything these days -- even personal ads for polygamists.
Here's a sample from polygamy.com: "A Ph.D. engineer, now an investment manager and wife, a teacher, building new home in the Johnson City, Texas area in a private reserve seeks another wife, age 25-40.
We seek a kind, gentle, intelligent, attractive and committed lady to share our home. Prospective wife should be career minded, a committed submissive to the husband. She should have a high libido and be very open minded and willing to explore in her relationship to her husband."
Although polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, it's practiced by an estimated 100,000 Americans, and is commonly associated with the Mormon Church, though church members are loathe to admit it. Says William Stoddard, local Mormon Church spokesman: "(Polygamy) is absolutely prohibited and has been for over 100 years, and anyone who engages in the practice will be excommunicated."
But the Internet has helped the practice expand: Men and women in search of multiple marriage partners need look no further than such sites as TruthBearer.org, 3coins.com and bfree.org, just to name a few.
The kicker: The ad-placers aren't Mormons, and the sites don't operate from Utah. This ain't your mother's polygamy.
Why Have Just One?
Mark Henkel, founder of TruthBearer.org, a pro-Christian-polygamy Web site operated out of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, is a conservative Christian who, after extensive Bible study, realized that the marriage lessons he's learned are wrong. Since Isaiah, Abraham, Moses, and other biblical figures had more than one wife, Henkel decided to follow in the "mighty heroes" footsteps. Once he hit the Internet, he found he wasn't alone.
"We know that we have to bring this to others," says Henkel. "Right now there aren't that many (practitioners), it's not the mainstream at this point. That we put the words Christianity and polygamy together -- which used to be an oxymoron -- is testament to the growth that we've done."
Henkel adds that Christian polygamy differs from Mormon polygamy. With Mormons, he says, the main purpose for polygamy is procreation; they believe it's their duty to give life to a multitude of children's unborn souls. In doing so, they'll reach one of the highest levels of heaven. With Christians, it's about following Scripture, and listening to God's commands.
"There are places where God will call a family to one more wife," Henkel says. "This is not about flesh. It's not about a harem or women as possessions. This is marriage -- it's pro marriage."
He points out that "love not force" is a large part of Christian polygamy: Women aren't forced into a relationship. He insists there's no abuse of women, and men don't take the "chest-pounder" view, forcing women to do anything against their will.
Of course, not everyone agrees.
Polygamist2 Turned Monogamist
Carmen Thompson has been in two polygamous relationships: one Mormon, in which she was the sixth of eight wives; and one Christian -- to a couple she met over the Internet.
"The Mormon fundamentalists are more inclusive, and prefer to increase their numbers in breeding, while Christians increase their numbers in adults via the 'Net," says Thompson, who lives in Pennsylvania.
Thompson strongly disagrees with Henkel when it comes to abuse. "It's about power, control and sex and has very little to do with God," Thompson says. "I believe (men) are using God and Jesus as their seduction pull. The men are usually very charismatic, very good with scripture, and they use God's word to basically get you to do what they want." She endured abuse in both polygamous marriages.
Thompson is now in a monogamous relationship and helps refugees, or former polygamous wives and sisterwives. She runs www.polygamyinfo.com, where she exposes abuses and offers help for those looking to leave a polygamous relationship.
Michael Shone Sr., of Bellingham, Wash., operates the largest polygamy personal ads site on the Internet ( www.3coins.com), with almost 400 ads -- all for women. His site is not religiously affiliated, and he says religion has nothing to do with the fact that he had two wives.
"We'd been to college and decided to all get married, and thought that hadn't happened to anyone else, so we were in the closet. Then we got on the Internet and thought 'hey!'"
It was 1996, and they'd come across the Web's first polygamy sites. They realized they weren't alone, and watched as the Internet became a meeting place for other polygamists.
"There's gay bars and regular bars out there, there's no polygamy bars or groups or organizations or associations. Nothing. It's all hidden," he says. "The advent of the Internet has exploded the availability (of polygamy)."
Though he was thrilled to find so many Web sites, he found that they all had one thing in common: They promoted patriarchal Christian polygamy. He knew that wasn't for him.
"The first thing we thought was that the women were being abused. There was sort of a patriarchal deal ... that sounded like just an excuse to 'own' women. It was like a macho thing with God's approval. I didn't agree with that. Neither did (my wives)," says Shone. We decided we'll put together a personal site for women, because it's really about women. If the women get along there's the possibility for a relationship."
Though his site's been responsible for more than 90 polygamous unions since '96, Shone insists he's not pushing the practice.
"I don't feel like I promote polygamy. These people are going to do it anyhow, so why not do it through our site, where there's at least some rhyme or reason and someone's watching what's going on? I can only go through my own experience and say it's a really neat relationship."