Becoming Sister Wives Chapter One
MERI AND KODY
I spent the early years of my life living in California with my parents, both of whom were devout followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I was a baby, my mom had a friend who left the LDS church because she practiced plural marriage. When my mom learned about this, it piqued her interest, and she began studying the principle as well. Soon after, she suggested to my dad that the family move to Utah. He didn’t know her religious reasons at the time, but he said sure, let’s move—though it took them four and a half more years of research and studying the principle before they actually did. We finally moved to Utah when I was five years old.
It was my mother who urged my father to take his first plural wife. He did, and she joined the family when I was only five, but I still have fond memories of her. Unfortunately, it was a short marriage with no children, and she left two years later. When I was ten, my mom and dad once again brought a new wife into the family. I didn’t think there was anything strange about it—in fact, I was excited. I was a shy kid and didn’t make friends easily. When I found out that the woman my father was courting was from a large polygamous family, I was thrilled to have the chance to get to know a whole new group of people and be able to make more friends. Our family grew quickly. Eventually, my father took four wives in addition to my mother. In total, I have twenty-seven siblings!
I was in a slightly easier position than many of my siblings who came from my father’s second, third, fourth, or fifth marriages. Since I was the child of my father’s first marriage, his “legal” one, it was simple and natural for my father to be my father in public. Since polygamy isn’t widely accepted, for the other kids, it could be more difficult to acknowledge their father publicly. To my father’s credit, he “owned,” that is, acted as a true father to, every one of my brothers and sisters.
Growing up, I always assumed I would live the polygamous lifestyle. It was the tradition in which I was raised. My biological parents and my mother’s sister wives all seemed happy for the most part. Of course there were the normal ups and downs that happen in any family. I loved being part of a large family; it felt normal and comfortable. My parents, however, never pushed me toward the principle. They wanted me to make my own decisions and come to plural marriage, if I chose, through my own route.
My parents’ only rule about religion was that I had to go to church, but this isn’t so different from millions of parents around the world. It was always made clear to me that whatever religion I embraced as an adult—whether our branch of fundamentalism, LDS, or something else—was entirely up to me.
Despite the fact that I was shy, I managed to make a number of friends outside our church group. I worked at a portrait studio and became friendly with many of my coworkers, which helped me to overcome my shyness. Perhaps because I interacted with so many people outside my faith when I was a teenager, for a time I really questioned whether or not I was going to live the principle of plural marriage. I was struggling to find my way and discover my own identity within our close-knit community and the requirements of our faith—and then I met Kody.
I was raised in the LDS faith. Both of my parents were devout Mormons. However, when I was fourteen years old, my mother pulled me aside and explained to me some of the doctrines of Mormonism that are a little more intense. One of these is that of celestial plural marriage. The moment my mother described the principle to me, I had a feeling that this was something I was going to follow. I had no idea how or when, I just knew.
Of course, being young and stubborn, I battled hard against this calling. In the LDS church there’s absolutely no opportunity to explore plural marriage. It’s simply not done. Plural marriage is one of the few things that sets the Mormon fundamentalist faith apart from followers of the LDS church. The religions are similar, but this one difference is astronomical. Embracing it meant leaving the faith of my childhood forever.
When I was nineteen, I was sent on my LDS mission to southern Texas. During the two years I spent proselytizing for the Mormon church, the doctrine of plural marriage was constantly on my mind. It spoke to me. It called to me. But I still had no idea what to do with this summons.
While I was away in the ministry in Texas, I got a letter from my mother telling me that my parents had been excommunicated from the LDS church and had joined a fundamentalist Mormon faith. I thought, Well, this is interesting. But I was still too hardheaded to see it as a sign that I should follow in their footsteps. My parents’ excommunication from the Mormon church broke my heart. I was deeply concerned about their spiritual welfare, but God spoke peace to me. I continued my service in the mission field and finished my two-year calling.
By the time I returned from my mission, my father had taken a second wife. My mother had written me dozens of letters about how wonderful her sister wife was, so although I had never met my new mom, I was ready to accept her completely. She deserved my respect and my love, simply because my father had married her.
When I returned to Utah from Texas, I immediately experienced the remarkable warmth of the principle of plural marriage as my mother had explained it to me years before. The warmth and love I imagined would go hand in hand with a polygamous lifestyle were no longer an unattainable ideal. They were real and concrete and precisely as I had imagined they would be. My mother was away, but here was another woman who loved my father and whom my father loved, and by extension, we grew to love each other as mother and son. It was an easy and wonderful evolution.
Even though my parents had converted to fundamentalism and I’d discovered for myself the warmth of the polygamous lifestyle, I was still uncertain about converting myself. I began associating with members of my parents’ new church and attending their gatherings. I thought I knew what I wanted, but it took me a while to make a commitment. Then I met a girl named Meri, and that changed everything.
I first noticed Kody at church. Our church group is quite close-knit and has been together a long time, so any new face really stands out. He caught my eye, and I believe I caught his. Someone introduced us, but beyond a brief hello, I don’t think we said a word to each other. I was eighteen, and I’d never been courted by a guy before. Shoot, I was so quiet that I’d probably never even been noticed by a guy before! So nothing of a romantic nature crossed my mind during that first meeting.
That summer I attended a camp for girls of our faith. One of my fellow campers, a girl named Christy, was here from out of state and had a photo of her brother who was attending our church in Utah. When she showed it to me, I immediately recognized Kody.
A few months after camp ended, Christy came back to Utah from her home in Wyoming to attend a wedding. She invited me over to the house where she was staying. I walked in the door and there was Kody, sitting on the couch! He said, “Hi, Meri! You’re the Meri my sister is always talking about.”
I was shocked that he knew my name. I was used to my friends getting all the guys while I went pretty much unnoticed. It was good to be seen for once and not to be overlooked for my shyness. I was a little taken with Kody right off the bat. He was definitely cute, and had a great attitude. He was talkative and engaged me in conversation, and made me feel comfortable around him. Neither courting nor dating were on my mind at that point. He was the brother of a good friend, and that was how we began our friendship.
The next day Kody and Christy came to meet me as I got off my shift at my job at a portrait studio in the mall. The three of us went to lunch and then to an evening get-together. I felt comfortable around them, as if I’d fallen into a new and safe friendship.
Over the next few days, I began discovering what a fun guy Kody was. He was always laughing and smiling. He had a good attitude and a positive outlook on life. He really was outgoing and positive. I was impressed with the strength of his convictions and the depth of his spirituality. After knowing him for just a few days, I found myself liking to be around him and spending time with him, and wondering what direction this new relationship would take. One night, while his sister was still in town, we went to the home of some friends of his family for a party. There were quite a few people there, but every once in a while I would catch Kody looking at me. When our eyes met, he’d give me a little smile. It made my heart race. Unfortunately, a few days later, Christy returned to Wyoming. Since she was the reason I’d been hanging out with Kody in the first place, I didn’t really think that he and I would see each other as much as we had been.
Thankfully, I was wrong. The next week, Kody and I continued running into each other at church events. Eventually he asked my dad if it would be okay if the two of us went out to grab a bite to eat. I know it seems pretty old-fashioned that a young man would need my father’s permission to go out with me, but our faith has specific morals to uphold and protocols to follow. Therefore, out of respect for me and my dad, Kody wanted to request my father’s permission for our association. Anyway, there was something flattering about a young man going to the trouble of getting my father’s approval before taking me out.
My father was an excellent judge of character and warmed to Kody immediately. My dad had a good handle on people. He had no problem with Kody and me “hanging out,” which soon became the description we jokingly used for our relationship. He knew me well enough to know that we would be appropriate with each other, and knew he had nothing to worry about in my new relationship. Now that we had my father’s approval, Kody and I could get to know each other in earnest.
Maybe it was because of me or maybe it was purely because of his growing interest in our faith (I like to think it was a combination of the two), but Kody started spending more and more time associating with people from our church. I usually found myself somewhere nearby. Kody was, and always has been, a loud and enthusiastic presence. It is hard to miss him in a crowd. Back then, I was quickly learning that Kody is the guy everybody wants to know and be around.
At first when people noticed us hanging out together they would ask Kody if I was his sister. I had been a member of this church since I was five years old, but I was so quiet and shy that many people had simply not noticed me. Now that I was spending time with Kody, people began to take notice.
Before Kody arrived in our group, I had been a wallflower. Now I began coming out of my shell. It was nice, but it was strange. I was experiencing the people and places that had been most familiar to me in a whole new light. I was participating instead of standing on the sidelines. I was spending more and more time with him and starting to hope that our relationship would go beyond friendship.
But then, Kody broke my heart.
After we had known each other for a few weeks, when I could no longer deny that I was falling for him, Kody came over to my house. We were sitting on the couch, waiting for my mom to get home. Kody really enjoyed my mom’s company and wanted to spend some time with her, which pleased me and gave me hope that things were becoming more serious between us. This hope was short-lived.
At the precise moment I’d expected him to make some sort of declaration to me, or at least hint at his feelings toward me, he said, “I can’t get involved in any relationships with girls right now. I like our friendship, let’s continue that.”
I was devastated. But I fought not to let it show.
I’m a hopeless romantic and too easily infatuated. When I was growing up, I suffered all sorts of little heartbreaks. I had a careless dating style. I would dive into a relationship before considering my true feelings. Often I’d find myself holding a girl’s hand, then I’d look over at her and think: Why am I holding her hand? I don’t really like her.
During my two years in the ministry in Texas, I promised myself that I would never again kiss a woman until I knew for sure that I was in love. When I returned home from my mission and began seriously considering converting from the LDS church to Mormon fundamentalism, my mother told me that I should take time away from girls, or at least from dating them. She knew that I needed to become less careless and discover what it was I truly wanted from a relationship and whom I truly loved. My mother sat me down and said, “The next time you find yourself infatuated with someone, why don’t you just try and be friends? Don’t rush into a romantic relationship right off the bat. Be friends and let something develop.”
That decided it. I told myself I was done with dating carelessly. I was done chasing girls. I urged myself to be patient and to learn how to be friends with the next girl I became interested in. Meri was my experiment in friends!
Meri was so cute and sweet when I met her that I had a hard time suppressing my hopelessly romantic nature. She had a remarkable purity about her. I had a sneaking suspicion that we were soul mates, but because of the promise I had made to myself, I rejected this notion. I was determined to be Meri’s friend until I knew her better and could confirm my suspicion that our destinies were intertwined. I was glad that Meri and I kept finding ourselves spending more and more time together.
I was excited to be associating with members of Meri’s faith. They had an intensity about religion that I found inspiring. Perhaps because their religion was somewhat countercultural and at odds with certain conventional doctrines, they took no aspect of their belief for granted. They examined their convictions carefully and enthusiastically. The members of this group were fully committed to their ideologies and discussed them at length, both debating and confirming the tenets of their religion. Every day I spent with this group seemed to turn into an impromptu revival with profound discussions of spirituality and religion that I’d been missing in the LDS church. Even though I loved my new group of friends and their congregation, I hadn’t yet determined whether I should join the faith.
Nevertheless, I kept surrounding myself with people from my parents’ new church. A few weeks after I told Meri that I wasn’t open to dating, I invited her up to my parents’ ranch in Wyoming for Thanksgiving. Meri and I were never far from each other’s side during that trip. Naturally, people began to ask if we were dating. It was pretty clear that we liked each other a whole lot more than just “friends.” I often caught Meri making eyes at me. I didn’t have to ask her how she felt about me—it was written all over her face. I couldn’t stop winking back at her from time to time. It was no longer possible for me to deny that I had strong feelings for Meri. She was sweet and innocent, and a wonderful listener. Sh...
Présentation de l'éditeur
A SINGULAR STORY OF PLURAL MARRIAGE
Since TLC first launched its popular reality program Sister Wives, Kody Brown, his four wives—Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn—and their seventeen children have become one of the most famous families in the country.
Now, with the candor and frankness that have drawn millions to their show, they reveal exactly how their special relationship works—the love and faith that drew them together, the pluses and pitfalls of having sister wives, and the practical and emotional complications of a lifestyle viewed by many with distrust, prejudice, even fear. How do the four relationships differ? What effect does a polygamous upbringing have on their children? What are the challenges—emotional, social, or financial—involved in living this lifestyle? Is it possible for all four sister wives to feel special when sharing a husband? How has being on camera changed their lives? And what is it like to add a new wife to the family—or to be that new wife?
Filled with humor, warmth, surprising insights, and remarkable honesty, theirs is a love story at heart, unconventional but immediately recognizable in the daily moments of trust, acceptance, forgiveness, passion, and commitment that go into making one big, happy, extraordinary family.
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