Big Love: The “Divine” Role Of Women, aka, Where’s My Pot Pie?

Season 5 ep. 4, watch on HBO Sundays

Interesting that the dream Bill had about Emma Smith (first wife of the founder of Mormonism, Joseph) had her look and mannerisms set in the 1950s. The era of “Lysol douches” and “washing yourself so your family doesn’t hate you.” The state of Utah hit that 1950s mindset and decided to stick around.

Barb is trying to push this idea that women are equal to men, and if it wasn’t something I’d seen over and over in that state already, I’d root for her. It’s a lost cause, and she knows it, which is why she continually hides her new thoughts from Bill.

The past few episodes seem to be focusing on the whole patriarchy that is the LDS religion (don’t tell me polygamy is different, we’re going to redress that soon) and show what you get when you push for equality and do so in a closed society. Hint: it’s not going to be peaches and cream. Lois is confronted with the results of her patriarch: she has dementia born of herpes, something she evidently didn’t know she had. Thanks a lot, Frank, you took her life [“It’s all been such a waste! I’m filthy!”] you took away any joy she could have had, you took her boys from you, and then the final blow: you’re taking her mind, too. Her entire sense of self worth is wrapped up in Frank’s treatment of her over the years.

Interesting to me that Margene is turning to another father-figure (and boy, she all but called Bill ‘Daddy,” huh? At least she’s recognizing that she wanted a father when she joined the family) in the Gobi Juice dude. And I kinda think some of the writers from the show have been reading my blog for a while, because I’ve talked about how the LDS church is nothing but Amway with Jesus and magic thrown in for a few years now. Utah is THE CAPITAL for pyramid schemes, did you know? Margene and her buddy said Utahns are so good at them because of their righteousness, but it’s really because the church is a damn pyramid scheme, you buy all of your worship stuff from the church, you pay a tithe to go to the temple (or you can’t go) you even have to buy regulation undies from them. They should just cut the crap and market a “holy vitamin breakfast powder” that makes you righteous from the inside out!

Nicki is doing something that is all too familiar to me with other women I know that suffered sexual abuse: instead of getting honest-to-god therapy, she’s using the lingo to present to others that she’s working on herself in a healthy manner, all while projecting all of her issues and triggers onto the women around her. Saying your strong and dealing with the problems of your past is one thing, actually dealing with them and moving past them is another. I have no idea if Nicki is going to get actual help or not, but I really hope they do, if only for the great message to many of the viewers that are doing the same thing. She’s just going from one extreme (the compound’s teachings are True!) to the other (I hate everything about the compound, they are Evil!) and that’s just not healthy.

Barb. Oh, Barb is riding a float on Denial, isn’t she? There are scads of websites devoted to “Mormon Feminism” and the importance of women in the LDS church. They all cite circuitous sources, doubling back on themselves with the mantra of “we matter, we matter, God loves us, too, we matter.”

Well, yeah. I mean, you have to have babies. That’s a big deal. But women don’t lead, except in cases of leading other women for charitable service, or youth guidance (mostly in decorum and service.) A woman can never instruct a man, can never lead a man, can never heal the sick, cast out devils, give blessings, perform miracles, baptize, perform a marriage, or “walk” with the Lord. They shouldn’t feel too badly, though, neither could black males until 1978, and the church had the “even one drop of Negro blood” rule in effect.

But don’t go thinking God doesn’t love Mormon women just because they’re second class citizens relegated to birth machines (or for those who can’t give birth, the church has ordered single women to assist the mothers in their local churches) because He really really does. I mean, look at how many times the leaders have said in talks that God loves them? Just ignore the fact that the church’s scriptures pretty much relegate women to the back of the room.

But what about Emma Smith? Oh, did Emma hate polygamy. I read somewhere that Emma always denied polygamy, and they must not be a member. Of course she knew about it, she was famously against it! So aggravated by her husband’s philandering (disguised as his obedience to the Lord) was she that Joseph miraculously heard from God about that very thing! How very coincidental that all is!

In Doctrine & Covenants, one of the four sets of canonical scriptures for the LDS church, Section 132 is the “Polygamy Chapter.” It’s in the books being printed today. They’ve not gotten rid of it, it’s not a doctrine they’ve destroyed or removed from the church. That’s important to remember, and something Bill mentioned when he was trying to be sworn in. At the time of this wondrously coincidental and uncanny revelation from God, Emma had had enough of Joe’s hooking up with the pretty ladies in the town. And he hooked up a lot. Nannies that lived in the house (Fanny Alger, 16) daughters of men that wanted to curry favor with the Prophet (Helen Mar Kimball, 14) and pretty women whom he threatened with Angelic Beheading (no, really) if they didn’t obey God’s will. 34 women that are widely regarded as “official wives.”

So Emma was pissed about this, as you could imagine. And she got hot under the collar one time in particular and threatened to inquire of the Lord about her taking on some more husbands. (Atta girl.) After all, there wasn’t any official scripture that outlined how this worked, this has all been done in the dark of night in Joseph’s barn (or Brigham’s, etc.) and was just talked about with a handful of leaders. Many of the incoming converts didn’t know about this activity. Joseph nipped that whole “extra husbands” thing in the bud with his timely chat with God.

And I quote: “And I command my handmaiden, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.” D&C 132:54

Interesting to note that when Joseph died, she took her children and left the church and formed her own, the Reformed Latter Day Saints, based in Kirtland, MO.

So not only did Emma have to grin and bear it, to complain about this would mean her death. That was not meant as hyperbole, but as a direct result of disobedience.

How did the church go from “not only will you do this, but if you don’t, you can no longer enter into my kingdom” (D&C 131:2-3) to their current distaste for the practice and pearl clutching when anyone hints that the modern LDS church might be cool with polygamy?

Because they have been rewriting their own history since Day 1. Joseph’s initial “how I found the Golden Plates” story has been through so many iterations, it’s not even funny. The church wanted statehood, so they took a bargain with the US to stop practicing polygamy back in 1892 in order to join the United States. And they kept on practicing it until the 1920s. As in the prophets, the apostles, all of the leaders of the church continued it, even though today’s leadership hopes you don’t pay attention to any of that.

Bill made a point that the church has been “lying for the Lord” from the beginning. God didn’t want everyone to know about polygamy, you see, so Joseph had to keep quiet about it. And the girls he married needed to keep quiet about it, too. They weren’t supposed to talk about it to anyone. Not until the 1840s was Joseph a little more brazen with it, and he’d been engaging in polygamy since 1833. They lied about that, they lied about their involvement in a massacre of pioneers in Southern Utah, they lie to this day about the reason black men were denied the priesthood until 1978.

They will lie to your face right now and say that the church does not practice polygamy anymore. Every single leader of the church has more than one wife. Now, since the 1920s, they’ve been courteous enough to wait until the first wife is dead before marrying another, but here’s the thing: in heaven, which is FAR more important to a Mormon than what’s happening here on Earth, the man has TWO wives. Both wives know that they are married to the same man, that it is a polygamous relationship. When black men got the priesthood in 1978, a large portion of the church’s membership thought polygamy was coming back. Why? Because it is still a belief that it is essential. If not, they would have taken it out of their scriptures.

So while Bill Hendrickson disgusts me ultimately, he was exactly right to call out those men for their hypocrisy. And then he ended up taking a dark path out of that building instead of the well lit main door. Fitting.

Developing story lines that I’m looking forward to: Rhonda! Oh, that devilish, wicked, conniving young lady. How wonderful was Alby telling her that was the worst shakedown in history? So funny. But this woman-child isn’t funny, and I can’t wait to see where they take her. Alby with the come hither eyes at her husband! Boy, you could cut that tension with a knife. I almost wonder if they have had a past relationship, and Alby is making eyes at him as if to say, “You got married? To a female?” Warren Jeffs, whom Alby is based off of, was widely rumored to be a homosexual, so… Only a handful of episodes left.

Note: THE book on Mormon Polygamy (eponymously titled) was written by my father’s childhood friend, Richard Van Waggoner. He’s still a devout Mormon, too, and is highly respected, even though he spilled the beans. It’s utterly fascinating (and weirdly enough, church approved) reading.