Can Christians have multiple wives?

When today’s question fell on my desk, I just smiled.

I’m just as obsessed with the FLDS church as the next girl – or at least the next nerdy theology girl who reads all the books and watches all the documentaries about this particular sect of the LDS church. (If you haven’t seen it yet Be Gentle: Pray and Obey, you better turn on your Netflix and start watching on weekends. If you are looking for something to read, Under the banner of heaven is still one of my favorites).

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The FLDS Church (or Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is “one of the fundamentalist Mormon denominations that practice polygamy”. According historiansthe movement emerged in the early 20th century, after many of its members were excommunicated from the Mormon Church for actively practicing plural marriage.

Just as the LDS Church deviates from mainstream Christianity in its beliefs, the FLDS Church deviates from the LDS Church in several different ways, the most obvious being its beliefs about polygamy.

And in the Christian tradition, marriage is between two humans.

This, of course, is rooted in scripture. Although there is not a verse in the Bible that says, “Marriage is between two human beings” (not to mention just “between a man and a woman”), Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5and Ephesians 5:31 are often used as the basis for marriage between a man and a woman.

For our purposes, however, let’s move beyond heteronormative terms to define marriage between two human beings. This, after all, is justice. It’s letting love be love. It is adhering to the conviction that God’s table is big enough for every human being, regardless of their sexual identity or orientation.

In this way, according to The reform project“the essence of marriage according to the Bible is covenant love – not procession, gender hierarchy, or anatomical complementarity. Same-sex couples live this view of marriage on a daily basis. (If you haven’t not read yet God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, Founder and Executive Director of The Reformation Project, put it at the top of your list).

And when we define marriage as covenant marriage, marriage is still only between two human beings.

So take this welcome message to the common prayer book:

The union of two people in heart, body, and mind is destined by God for their mutual joy; for help and comfort given to one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is the will of God, for the gift of children and their education in the knowledge and love of the Lord.

Take also this proper preface, given before taking the Eucharist:

Because in the gift of two people to each other in faithful love, you reveal the joy and abundant life you share

with your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In these two examples, the mutual joy is the goal, the intention, the desire. While joy certainly occurs in relationships and friendships outside of marriage, the purpose of this sacred covenant is a combined joy that can only be found in and through the other person.

Which brings us back on a loop to the many Netflix specials on the FLDS church that I tend to consume on a regular basis: as an outsider, the concept of mutual joy doesn’t seem to be singularly found in marriage, at least not when the practice of marriage involves several women being married to the same man.

Instead, for the women involved, the mutual joy seems to be found in their relationships with their sister wives and with their children. Mutual joy seems to be found in adhering to a lifestyle that pleases their prophet and Heavenly Father. Mutual joy seems to be in keeping meek, praying, and obeying the commandments placed before them.

But the mutual joy does not seem to be found with their husbands.

While my husband isn’t as obsessed with watching FLDS church documentaries as I am, there is a mutual joy in his support for me watching said specials on Netflix and Amazon Prime – just as mutual joy is present for me when I watch it light up at the sight of a college football game.

I don’t care about touchdowns and quarterbacks and pigskin oval balls, in general, but it’s invigorating for me to see him experience joy through a game or two on Saturday.

And that, in any marriage covenant, is the goal.

We want, desire and crave the best for the other person, for in their joy our joy is made complete.

Ours becomes a mutual joy.

What you say? In this series, we answer popular questions readers have about the Christian faith. What questions do you have for me to answer?

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