I just finished Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife by Irene Spencer.
I grew up Mormon so I have an historical interest in polygamy. I even have some limited personal experience with it. My father’s great-great’s were polygamous. Legend goes his great-great grandfather was polygamous when polygamy became outlawed in Utah in 1890. This caused a fracture in The Church, where many families continued to live by The Principle and the majority abided by the law. My dad’s great-great remained married to the youngest and prettiest wife and divorced the others, causing resentment from the rest of the wives, his great-great grandmother included. I could have this wrong. It’s only what I recall of family lore.
Added to that, one of the first boys I dated in Junior High in Orem, Utah came from a polygamist family. Two of the wives had divorced by the time I dated him, but he had 19 sibling-cousins. His father had married two sisters.
At times I watch Big Love or read books like this and think, “This might have been my potential future.”
Reading this book, what struck me was the common thread of men using religion and “the Word of God” to get what they want from women. The author, Irene Spencer, speaks in great detail of her personal feelings as a wife. So many of the justifications she used to convince herself to participate in things her own heart, soul, spiritual intuition and her own inner voice told her not to do, she did because her husband told her to and she believed he had to obey him to get into heaven and avoid hell.
The thing is, I’ve heard the exact justifications used by men to control women in every religion. This pattern of women ignoring their own innate spiritual guidance systems, their own promptings from the Holy Spirit, or whatever terminology different religions use, is a common thread in religion and the history of religion.
The other connection I made is her willingness to do anything for the promise of love. Not actual Love – just the promise of it. This is a common thread of women and girls in abusive situations. Love – it’s our Achilles heal. This desperate need for love must have been what the authors of Genesis referred to as “The Curse” when Eve was told she “would love her husband.” That’s why women will consent to abuse, tyranny and inequality in their relationships. In my opinion, the point of the story is to warn women NOT to do this – to overcome her curse – only then will she save herself. This same verse has tragically been used in countless congregations to convince women they should submit to their husbands.
Irene reminded me of Biblical figures like Sarah from Genesis. Following their husbands and prophet to the ends of the earth, often times to disastrous ends.
The fact that these stories end in disaster makes me question whether we’ve been reading The Book wrong. Many of these stories, in fact, appear to me as “what not to do” warnings. Still, we hear it preached from the pulpit as the example to follow.
I read Irene Spencer’s account of being enslaved by the dictates of male religious authorities, social orders of a legalistic religious nature, and blindly doing what her husband commands of her – ignoring what her own spiritual authority and divine connection is telling her – as an account of “what not to do.”
The real tragedy is that women don’t trust their own spiritual authority and divine connection more than they trust male authority figures.
Think of the profound, divine insight the planet has missed out on.
Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com. She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.