A college professor in Vermont has released a book in support of polygamy, explaining why she believes it is the next civil right in America.
Janet Bennion is a professor of anthropology and sociology at Lyndon State College in Lyndonville. Earlier this year, she released a book entitled Polygamy in Primetime: Media, Gender and Politics in Mormon Fundamentalism, outlining her research on the topic and why she supports the idea of a woman or man having two or more spouses.
Recently, Bennion sat down with the Vermont publication Seven Days to further explain her views on polygamy, as she has been studying the lifestyle for over 20 years, and even spent time herself among a polygamist group. Bennion, who said that she does not wish to be a polygamist as she is happily married to one man, outlined that much of her book is based on talks with Mormon women or those involved with the Apostolic United Brethren.
“The groups vary, and some women find that working with other women in the home is beneficial to them,” she told the publication. “One woman described her co-wives as ‘second mothers’ [who do the childcare], so she can go find a job in the community. They have this economical and social network that provides a little bit more freedom than you might see in a monogamous pair bond.”
Bennion said that while most modern Mormons no longer follow polygamist doctrine, there are a number of them who still do.
“[T]he mainstream is made up of people with ancestors who were polygamists,” she added. “You can see that there are some sensitivities there, especially in an election year. Half of my family was for Romney, the other half for Obama. The Romney half was saying, ‘You shouldn’t have that book out there.’”
The professor advised that lesbianism even exists within polygamist relationships. She said that she received “love letters” once from a married woman, and was also invited to dinner by another who wanted to see if she was marriage material.
“There are women in the Utah pioneer days who formed a sisterhood network and allowed for lesbian connections,” Bennion stated. “I talked to at least three women who had formed sexual connections to their sister wives or to another woman in the community.”
She said that she feels that those who oppose polygamous marriages are bigots.
“We need to just step back, get off our high horse, and look at this from a civil liberties perspective. If we’re going to pave the way for alternative sexuality, why not provide liberties for those who choose the polygamy form?” Bennion asked. “As a feminist, I say, ‘Bring it on; let’s legalize it.’”
However, others are not supportive of this concept at all.
“I think our country was based upon [the resolve] that we would uphold the traditional view of things as outlined in the Bible,” Chip Thompson, director of Tri-Grace Ministries in Ephraim, Utah, told Christian News Network. “Polygamy places our country and children in what are not healthy situations.”
He pointed out that in the Bible, while some in the Old Testament had been involved in polygamous relationships, it still was not right.
“In none of these cases do we end up with a pretty picture,” Thompson explained. “We see jealousy, we see abuse, we see lots of things that we wouldn’t want to promote.”
He felt that such relationships are especially damaging to children.
“There are regulations in the New Testament that God did not want polygamist leaders leading His Church,” Thompson continued, pointing to 1 Timothy 3, where Scripture outlines that a bishop must be “the husband of one wife.” “I think God did that on purpose. He does not want it promoted.”
Thompson, who has been ministering to Mormons and its various sects, such as the Allreds, the True Living Church and the fundamental LDS, says that despite polygamy being illegal in the nation, it is prominent in Utah.
“All throughout Utah … there’s a lot of polygamy,” he said. “Mormons do espouse polygamy, but [for some] not now. … They believe that polygamy is a part of their eternal existence if they are exalted.”
In recent months, polygamy has made its way back to the spotlight, especially due to reality shows such as TLC’s Sister Wives and HBO’s Big Love.
“I think marriage is under attack,” Thompson stated. “I think the family is under attack.”