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Be Careful What You Wish For

Feb. 18, 2002
Feb. 18, 2002

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Feb. 18, 2002

Catching Up With...
High School Basketball

Be Careful What You Wish For

Olympics? Polygamist Timothy Wadlow doesn't have time for any
Olympics. He's got three wives, three houses and 28 kids to
juggle. You sure they don't give a medal for this kind of thing?

This is an article from the Feb. 18, 2002 issue Original Layout

Wadlow (all names have been changed) is one of 30,000 dirty
little secrets Utah would very much like to keep hidden during
the Salt Lake City Games. That's how many polygamists are
estimated to be living in the state. And their number is believed
to be growing, despite that polygamy is condemned by the Mormon
church and illegal in Utah.

So even though the Wadlows live not five miles from one of the
busiest Olympic venues, they won't be going to the Games. "The
state of Utah doesn't allow us to be open and public," says one
of Wadlow's better fourths, Donna, who speaks for the family. "So
we'll watch them on TV."

Besides, the Wadlows practically stage their own Olympics. At one
of their homes they have six snowmobiles, a quarter-mile-long
lighted sledding hill, basketball and volleyball courts, and snow
cone and popcorn machines. Since they're 32 strong--more
participants than 54 nations have in Salt Lake City--the Wadlows
always have enough for a football game. "Our children don't want
to become pro athletes," says Donna. "They want to dedicate their
lives to their children, just as their father has done."

Still, wouldn't it be cool if someday a polygamist NFL star
looked into the camera and chirped, "Hi, Moms!"

If you want to try this at home, be warned: Polygamy is not a
Penthouse letter brought to life. "Everybody thinks it's about
sex and orgies," says Donna, who came from a family with 35
children and three mothers, breaking the record set by Shawn
Kemp. "It isn't. We're not in this for romance, sex, money or
status. We're in it for the spirituality. We know this is what
the Lord wants."

As Fundamentalist Mormons, the Wadlows believe the founder of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, had a
revelation from God to reinstitute the Biblical practice of
polygamy. Some believe Smith may have had as many as 84 wives
before he died at the hands of a mob--not believed to be the 84
wives.

Nowadays, most plural marriages, as polygamists like to call
them, work better if the wives live separately. The Wadlow
so-called sister-wives all keep their own kids under their own
roofs until Sunday, when the whole gang gets together for prayer,
play and a supper large enough to buckle Mrs. Osmond.

As to which roof the husband sleeps under each night, "two nights
for each wife and then move on," says Jack Miller, a former
polygamist who lives about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City.

O.K., but what happens when one wife gets jealous of another?
"That happens," says Jack. "I had a wife tell me she deserved
more nights because she had more kids than the other wives." Who
hasn't been in that argument, huh?

Oh, and adding wives isn't quite as simple as adding, say, Dolby
Surround sound. "In my case," says Alice, the one wife Jack has
now, "it was Jack's [first] wife who kept telling him about me,
trying to get him interested in me. Finally, he invited me over
to supper at their house. It was awkward at first, but then we
all just clicked."

Honey, great news! I slept with Alice!

To a lot of monogamist guys the truth about plural marriages is a
little bit of a buzzkill. "There's no sexual thing between the
sister-wives," says Alice, "and a husband's intimate relationship
with each of his wives is completely private. That never gets
shared between the wives."

If you think polygamous husbands are luckier than Brad Pitt,
you'd be wrong. "For a man in a plural marriage it's a greater
commitment," says Donna. "Instead of taking time for sports or
his golf game, my husband's total focus is his wives and
children."

In other words you'll be lucky to get the remote.

But in a plural marriage the husband is definitely king of his
castles. "A man is chief of the household," says Jack. "He's not
beholden to anyone. Hold on a second...."

Jack was gone from the phone for 30 seconds.

"Hey, can you take out that 'chief of the household' thing?" he
said meekly. "My wife didn't like the way I said that."

O.K., so maybe it's not that different.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
In case you think polygamous husbands are luckier than Brad
Pitt, you'd be wrong.