Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, but is a religious principle in Fundamentalist Mormonism. Here’s what a spiritual marriage is to the Browns.
While only legally married to his newest wife, Robyn, Sister Wives star Kody Brown refers to having a “spiritual union” with his other wives, Meri, Janelle, and Christine. Many people who are not part of the Fundamentalist Mormon church don’t understand what a spiritual marriage is and what it entails both legally and as a part of the Fundamentalist Mormon faith. Even though Kody’s other marriages aren’t legal, he and his four wives have created enough drama to fill 15 seasons of Sister Wives so far.
The family allegedly started doing the show to display the beautiful side of their polygamous lifestyle, but all it has really shown is what everyone already expected: It is not an easy, jealousy-free life. The wives not only have to share a husband, but must defer to his rules and decisions, including where to live. While Kody can marry as many wives as he pleases, his wives are required to be monogamous with him. So much built-in drama is good for the show, but bad for the family. On top of that, polygamy is illegal. Kody is not allowed to be legally married to more than one of his wives, which is where spiritual unions come into play.
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Kody maintains one legal marriage recognized by the government, and his other wives are a “spiritual union,” meaning it is recognized by Kody’s church, but not the government. For the Browns, polygamy isn’t just a preference, but a biblical principle. Despite the wives and Kody being kicked out of their church for failing to uphold other parts of their faith, the family still feels bound by this religious practice. In their church, spiritual marriage is exactly the same as a typical marriage, except it is always the man having multiple wives, never the other way around.
According to the Fundamentalists Mormons, God desires families to be polygamous. Even the mainstream Mormon church, which no longer practices polygamy, believes that their founder, Joseph Smith, was ordered by God to marry multiple wives. When Smith hesitated, God sent an angel armed with a sword to threaten Smith until he obeyed. That helps explains why Meri stays with Kody despite their relationship completely falling apart to the point that the couple doesn’t enjoy spending time together. This is not just about the two of them, but what God has allegedly commanded. Spiritual marriages also outlast legal marriages. Instead of “til death do us part,” spiritual marriages last for all eternity, with a husband and all his wives being reunited in the afterlife.
In one episode, Kody said, “I didn’t want to be an advocate of plural marriage anymore because I am more aware now than I ever was before the apparent and obvious unfairness in the relationship.” Not known for his empathy, this was a huge step for him to finally notice the unfairness of the situation. Despite this observation, Kody quickly reverts to blaming his wives for their jealousy rather than their polygamous lifestyle. Despite choosing to disregard other teachings of his church, he has chosen to uphold this one and expects all of his wives to get in line.
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