People often ask, tongue in cheek, why men who live polygamy don't just have mistresses or affairs. Sometimes they ask as if they already know the answer—although I don't know what answer they would give. John Lewellyn, who writes and often speaks about polygamy (having lived it briefly and unsuccessfully), maintains that it's all about sex. But clearly, life would be far less complicated for men if they didn't sire all those children and have to maintain all those households and keep all those wives under wraps. (As my husband puts it, "One wife is more than enough.")
So what does a man get from polygamy that he couldn't have with fewer complications by phoning an escort service, or posting personals on the internet, or hanging out in bars?
Some men really do seem committed to each of their wives and all of their children. My father was like that. He was old-fashioned about sex, even though he was a doctor. He got embarrassed when sexual innuendos were thrown around even in mild fifties movies, and he had a hard time discussing the facts of life with his children. He said that sex was a glorious thing because it created life.
Some men are committed to having as much power as possible. And the more men and women and children you can control, the more power you seem to have—at least until everybody goes into rebellion.
If you want to know what motivates a polygamous patriarch to take several wives, look at the results. The Bible says, "by their fruits ye shall know them," which can be applied almost anywhere in life. In families where love prevails, you can be sure that at the head is a man in love with his wives and children, and they with one another. In families where it's all about staying in control, well…you can be sure that whoever heads that family has created a context where "my way or the highway" is the rule of the road.
Based on what you've seen of the FLDS community in Eldorado, Texas, what makes up the context of that religious group?