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Polygamy Exposed Via Memoirs of Former Wives

Updated on September 9, 2014

Among Polygamy Wife Stories, This is a Memoir Worth Reading.

The original book cover for the memoir, "Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies" by Kristyn Decker. This is an early copy of the book. The one sold below is the "uncensored version."
The original book cover for the memoir, "Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies" by Kristyn Decker. This is an early copy of the book. The one sold below is the "uncensored version." | Source

A Revealing Memoir by Kristyn Decker, who was Raised and Married Into Polygamy

Fifty Years in Polygamy is a memoir that opens the door to understanding polygamy in the US, and particularly, the Allred family of polygamists. The author, Kristyn Decker, a seventh-generation polygamist, was born with another name: Sophia Allred. Her father was the Mormon "prophet" for a group of polygamists in Utah. Their group broke away from the Fundamentalist LDS church.

Sophia was one of the youngest daughters of Allred's first wife. She grew up seeing the way her mother suffered due to the manipulations of her father's second wife, and because several of the wives and their numerous children were living in close quarters, she became a victim of molestation. One of her half brothers continually forced her into the bathroom to be sexually abused.

All the abuse Sophia suffered as a child, abuse she wasn't able to talk about or report, contributed to her extreme lack of self-esteem. But there was more. The religion she was born into taught her that women should silently and lovingly accept whatever men did to them, in particular, their husbands. They were taught that polygamy wasn't a choice, it was a necessity so that they could go to heaven with their families.

Kristyn's Memoir - The Uncensored Version

Kristyn's Marriage

Whereas women were the submissive servants of their husbands, the men were pressured to create new alliances with other women. A man was encouraged to have at least three wives so he could get into heaven, taking his wives with him.

Sophia married a young man she met as a child. Mark was not of her polygamist group; he was from an "Independent Polygamist" family. HIs lack of dedication to her father's church was a constant source of discord for the young couple.

They were deeply in love with one another, but eventually Mark gave in to the pressure to marry a second wife. This woman was insecure and controlling. She wanted to monopolize Mark's attention.

In Sophia's family of origin, and then in her marriage, polygamy caused intense heartache, frustration and jealousies for those involved. There was no evidence that polygamy ever worked effectively or satisfactorily for anyone she knew.

The Polygamy Revelation of 1831 Encouraged Mormons to Marry Native Americans

This document which belonged to William W. Phelps, declared that Native American women should be wed to Mormon men so that their children would be considered white.
This document which belonged to William W. Phelps, declared that Native American women should be wed to Mormon men so that their children would be considered white. | Source

Deception Within Polygamy - Protecting the Secrets

According to the author, the interviews we see on television showing apparently happy polygamous wives are probably not an accurate representation of what the women are going through and feeling.

The women in these relationships are constrained by religion and early childhood conditioning to pretend that they are happy and contented when actually, they aren't. They are to stuff their feelings, put on a happy face, and stoically accept their distressing circumstances.

My Video Book Review - I'm the Book Lady on YouTube

More About my Reaction to This Book

The book was well-written and readable. In fact, I couldn't stop reading it. I found it fascinating. I had never read a book about polygamy before. Sophia's memoir about her family situation was eye-opening for me.

One thing that surprised me was that Sophia's mother went to college and became a nurse, and maintained employment for many years. I don't know why I had assumed that the man would have to earn enough money to support his wives and many children.

No, actually these families were beset with financial problems and so the women developed careers to support themselves and their children. In Sophia's case, her husband became unemployed and both his wives had to work. Sophia taught school; her "sister wife" became a secretary.

By the end of the book I was very put out with Sophia... who eventually changed her name to Kristyn. I kept thinking that she would leave her husband, but she didn't, and she didn't, and she didn't. It went on and on and on until I was tired of her submission, her hope that the relationship would ever work, and her patience with behavior that I would never be able to put up with.

I will not tell how the book ends; that would be telling. But I will say that the intensity of the submission of these polygamous wives is beyond what we usually see in even the most co-dependent people in monogamous society.

Meet Kristyn Decker, Author of "Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies"

Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy
Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy

Author Dorothy was a daughter of Rulon C. Allred, leader of the Allred group of polygamists.

 

This is Only One of Many Memoirs About Polygamy in the US, Written by Former Wives of Plural Marriages

There are other recent polygamy wife stories by formerly polygamous women. There seems to be an exodus of disaffected women escaping from this type of religion.

A the information age reaches into the hearts of unhappy women, they are following the call to freedom. No longer willing to accept marriages without love, they escape from dogma, tradition, seclusion, subservience, and servitude.

I can only imagine the efforts some polygamists must make in trying to keep the women away from computers! Computers are the enemy, some think, because they teach women too much. I too have been in a relationship wherein my computing was vilely insulted and demeaned, however since I earn my living on the computer, I persisted.

The memoirs these formerly ensnared women write are freeing for their souls. They are a declaration of independence, a balm to their suffering. They also contain the possibility of an income to help support them in their new lives. I hope that all these memoirs are profitable for those women who put their hearts on paper, to help support their freedom.

Property: The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife
Property: The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife

Carol escaped from a fundamentalist LDS sect in Ontario, Canada, which was led by Stan King.

 

Polygamy in the US

I told a friend at church that I was reading this book. (I attend a Calvary Chapel church, not LDS.) She said she thought there were no more polygamists, so I read to her the list of polygamous groups Sophia/Kristyn included in her book.

There are quite a few different groups of polygamists, so thousands of Americans actively practice polygamy. Furthermore, they multiply quickly as they usually have a lot of children!

The largest polygamous factions within the United States are:

  1. Independent Polygmists, Salt Lake Valley and elsewhere: approx. 15,000 adherents.
  2. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS / The Short Creek Group), Utah/Arizona/South Dakota/Nevada/Wyoming/Texas, (also Canada): approx. 13,000 members.
  3. Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) of Utah and Montana (also Mexico): approx. 7500 members.

There are many other polygamous groups within the United States of America. Kristyn Decker gives a long list of them in the preface to her memoir.

Mormon Polygamist Family in 1888

An early polygamous family, photographed by Charles Roscoe Savage.
An early polygamous family, photographed by Charles Roscoe Savage. | Source

My Question About Men Raised in Polygamy

One question I have about polygamists didn't get answered. I've always wondered what happened to the other men.

Obviously if one man is allowed to collect a lot of women, and if approximately half the population is male, and half female, there will be other men who don't get any wives at all.

This makes me wonder if a lot of men leave the group because they're not getting opportunities to marry multiple women... or any women at all. So is there a large male drop-out rate of young men leaving the religion?

With so many very young women being married off to old men, this would make sense to me. I would like to read a memoir from the point of view of a young man who had to leave in order to be married at all.

Memoir Readers and Writers, Take Heed...

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Polygamy? What Love is This? - Kollene Snow, Formerly of the Kingston Polygamy Group, Exposes Polygamy. Doris Hanson is the Host.

© 2014 Linda Jo Martin

Please Leave a Comment With Your Polygamy Wife Stories, or Books About Polygamy. Any Recommendations?

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      ChocolateLily 2 years ago

      As a wife, I cannot imagine being in this type of situation without feeling absolutely sick. I think you did a great job reviewing the book and sharing your thoughts on the subject. It really is a serious problem our society is facing in the U.S.

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 2 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      I like your question about the numbers and who is getting left out of marriage opps on the male side. Seems you have to be right about that mathematically. I've watched several documentaries on polygamy but never heard that addressed or even mentioned. Now I'm curious :). Great review.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 2 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Very nicely done-makes me want to read the book which is the sign of a very good review-thanks

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Very interesting article. Sounds like a very good book. It always startles me to know how much of it still goes on in our country. Good work!

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 2 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Thanks, Merrci... I am so grateful I wasn't raised to believe that was okay. Kristyn Decker's life would have been a lot happier if she and her husband had remained monogamous. But you could say, everything happens for a reason.

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 2 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Thanks, Martie... that's high praise! I did find the book to be fascinating. Now I want to read the other memoirs. There are quite a few of them written by women coming out of plural marriages.

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