I ventured outside the box recently when someone said to me, "I think they should make polygamy legal. Then the stuff going on in the FLDS community—the underage marriages and abuse and exploitation and fraud--would stop."
Amazed by such simplicity of thought, I looked up. In all the speeches I've heard from people who live polygamy, most have despaired of legalization. Fundamentalists usually suggest that decriminalization is the course we need to take. Particularly pious fundamentalists have warned that if polygamy ever becomes legalized, then those who earnestly live the Principle of Plural Marriage will face the greatest challenge of all: keeping the purity of their covenant.
I suppose this warning comes from the extreme desire to be right/righteous that attends all forms of fundamentalism. If everybody lives the same way you do, it's hard to feel superior. If the practice is legal and no one's prosecuting you for living your religious beliefs, it's hard to feel persecuted. If anyone can live polygamy, then the phenomenon of being bonded by a common enemy vanishes along with the need to stand together in a world hostile to family unity. Members may degenerate once given permission to live freely, indulging in base appetites, quarrels, and selfishness. Family kingdoms may disintegrate in the glare, and many may give way to divorce, disloyalty, and other ills that currently plague monogamous relationships.
But if polygamy is made legal, then lives can be paraded out in the light of day. Children don't need to fear being taken from their homes just because their parents are polygamists. Plural parents don't need to fear incarceration or job loss as retaliation for their peculiar way of life. And in daylight, people like Warren Jeffs who thrive on fear and shadows shrivel up like the Wicked Witch doused in water.
I don't know if legalization would make things better...or worse. But I think it's a possibility we need to consider. Polygamy has been around just about as long as the human race and I suspect it isn't going to go away. What do you think?