2nd Plural Marriage

 Part One: 2nd Plural Marriage

My second “spiritual” plural marriage was in the fall of 1992 to Chris Nemelka, husband #2. I am uncertain of the date that we were married because celebrating anniversaries was not on our family priority list. In fact, anniversaries didn’t happen at all.  During my spiritual marriage to Chris, out of respect for the sister-wives, there would be unspoken family agreements: No public display of affection, no photo of us together, no going on a date before or during our marriage, and wives would wear the same style of dress. I was coming into an already made polygamist family, which seemed perfect.

Although Gary, my first husband, and I had been married for over a decade, we had not been “one” spiritually or physically in over a year.  During my plural marriage as a first wife, I tried to find ways to resolve my emotional pain due to polygamy.  It seemed as if I was always in a state of managing it, instead of resolving it.  My insecurities would always return, especially when there was a new scenario. Besides having blessings and demons cast out of me from the priesthood, which never helped (my husband said I was like a “binging alcoholic always slipping” – I didn’t drink).  One approach I used was separating my body from my husband by not having sex with him. It seemed to protect my heart.  Although I don’t like using the word “heart” because it is a biological term used for a certain organ in the body which pumps blood, it truly felt as if a dagger was being thrust into that specific area. The pain was excruciating, and it did not dissipate for long without return.

I came up with the idea, or supported an idea that I had heard among other Mormon fundamentalists, that sex should only be used for the purpose of procreation.  It made sense.  How else could God allow men multiple sex partners, and not allow women the same pleasure? Although, I also knew the reverse was true, how sterile would sex be if it only involved a mounting process.  During this time I was very confused with plural marriage and sexuality altogether, and wasn’t quite certain of whether polygamy was right or wrong, or I was weak, or my husband was a loser.

One afternoon Gary and I went for a ride in the car; he told me that Mary was pregnant, which felt like another stinging jab to my heart.  Distancing myself didn’t work that time. Gary also told me that by adding another wife into our family, it would help our relationship (this was more like a sucker punch). Many Mormon polygamists believe that 3 or more wives are needed in a family to get to the highest degree of heaven. I had given him one wife, and I was not about to repeat the same mistake, or learning experience, twice.  I could barely accept our differences, and I was not going to contribute to them.  After coming back from our Sunday drive, I realized that my husband and I were on two different paths.

I had already started to unravel the Mormon polygamy revelation D&C 132, believing it was a false revelation, yet Gary disagreed, and always held the “eternal” marriage covenant that I made to him in the temple over my head.  Of course, I can now look back in time and tell myself that at 18 years of age (!), I hardly knew what man I wanted for an entire eternity — let alone, if I even wanted one for more than a life time.  Yet, in my ardent quest to know the truth, I started searching for more answers.

I read parts of “Mormonism–Shadow or Reality” by Gerald and Sandra Tanner, which provided information about the LDS wedding ceremony, including the exact words of the vows that I made with Gary in the LDS temple.  After reading the actual words, it reminded me of the promises we made in the temple, and provided me with a mental image of Gary and I standing on two separate sides of the room, two separate identities raising our arm to the square and making covenants to God, not to each other.  As I thought about someday meeting my Maker on the other side, I couldn’t imagine pointing to Gary saying, “He made me do it!” It was the first time I realized the importance of taking accountability for my own actions, and not blaming my husband.

One day, my husband Gary came to my house (he rotated between two wives and homes) elated about meeting a man who claimed to have been given the “sealed portion” of the gold plates.  In Mormonism, it is believed that there are missing scriptures from the “Book of Mormon” that are promised to come forth at a later time, which reveal many of the mysteries that are left out of the original “Book of Mormon”. Gary invited this man, whose name was Chris, and his family over to my house for dinner, so I could meet them.  They seemed like a very nice family.

Mormon gold plates

After the meeting was over Gary decided he was going to become a scribe and editor for Chris, so he could help bring forth the sealed portion of the gold plates.  Gary had previously served in the capacity of an editor for a prophet named John Shuggart who splintered off from the Apostolic United Brethren polygamous group.  I was not overly surprised. I was more anxious wondering what was in this particular writing supporting “polygamy” because why else would Independent Fundamentalist Mormons believe it, and why else would Gary offer to be Chris’s scribe. I waited until everyone was gone, and quickly scoured the purported “sealed portion” for any words with “plural marriage” or “celestial marriage” in it.  My heart sank when inside the “sealed portion” there was a reference to characters in the Book of Mormon living the heavenly pattern of polygamy, without condemnation.  U-g-h-h-h!  I was already on the outs with my family refusing to go to church, and now there was more validation for them that Mormon Fundamentalism was true.

It didn’t take long before Chris told my husband he made it all up, and that he never translated anything; he explained it was all a joke to show the Mormon Fundamentalists how easy it is to be deceived. Gary and his friends were not so happy with the messenger’s joke.  But, I was Happy, happy, happy. At least, for awhile, anyways.

In all honesty, if Chris’s sealed portion would have validated monogamy, I probably would have been a true-believer.  Individuals continually look for validation of what they (want to) believe, instead of the other way around and being open-minded, and then learning the truth.  More often than not, individuals create God in their own image.

Some of the original writings from Chris Nemelka during the mid-90’s look similar to his early version of the sealed portion, which I sent to my mother after Chris and I were married.  In this “fake” sealed portion — which writings have increased exponentially with time, there is a note on the edge of the paper to my mother which reveals how I was still under the persuasion that Chris was an innocent jokester, not a dangerous predator. (This comment makes more sense later).

The Mormon Fundamentalists in our circle considered Chris Nemelka a fraud, or an anti-Christ. Meanwhile, Chris (my husband Gary called him “Charisma Nemelka”) managed to marry my sister-wife’s cousin, who was living with Mary and Gary at the time.  I was not included in all the details of how the marriage came about because I was living in another home, pretty much separated from my polygamous family.

For months, due to a combination of stress from polygamy, excess prayer, fasting, scripture reading, a perfect petri dish of blurred-reality was created. My family support system was not the greatest; I had distanced myself from LDS relatives, and living plural marriage in separate houses created a “single-mother + mistress” dynamic.  Though my “slipping” and not having sex with Gary was more representative of isolation. I spent all day caring for our children alone; going on walks, visiting the library, cooking, gardening, singing, reading, and playing ball with them.  At night, I would read scriptures and books, or sometimes watch television (or videos).   A few times we had attended various  churches in our neighborhood trying to connect with other like-minded people.

A reoccurring late night infomercial of starving children living in an under-developed country, their tiny bodies and protruding bellies and tears pulled at my heart-strings.  I had already learned to control my body by refraining from sex and worldly pleasures, and so I made a conscious decision only to eat what I needed for the children of Africa, as if my prayers and fasting would help feed them. My delusions went beyond this — I believed if I could have enough love and faith, like Alma a prophet in the “Book of Mormon” whose faith and prayers changed the heart of his rebellious son, I could do the same thing for my husband.  One of the videos that I watched during this time, encouraging this type of unconditional love and faith, was called the “Butter Cream Gang” that I had checked out of the library at the LDS chapel down the street.  What I perceived as “signs” were always presenting themselves.

So, I continued praying and fasting until at some point, after waiting three years for God to intervene, I realized that since I could not change my husband, I needed to take responsibility for my own actions.

After a beautiful dream, I finally knew what was expected of me. I was told through a female Indian warrior to go up to the mountains with my children, and if I had faith everything we needed would be provided.  So, in my car, and up Immigration Canyon we went.  We wandered around in the mountains, and as soon as it was time to change the baby’s diaper, back to the car we went.  Needless to say, at the end of this excursion, I went home more confused and alone than ever.

I was having a difficult time associating with the Independent Fundamentalist Mormons because I perceived them  as hypocrites of the worst kind; they left out the teachings of Christ and lived the “higher laws” or what they considered the “meat” of the gospel, yet they only cherry-picked what they wanted to live.  On their pious perches, they seemed completely void of loving others (at least the LDS accepted backs in their church). On one particular evening as I was driving my son up for karate lessons in Park City where my sister-wife’s father, Bill Morrison, was giving lessons, I concluded, “This doesn’t make sense.  I am allowing my children and myself to get sucked in closer to the Mormon fundamentalists, when I have nothing in common with them.”  Playing tennis with my sister-wife’s family at their Park City tennis club was fun, yet it was not going to get us to heaven.

At the core of my discontent was Joseph Smith’s revelation in Doctrine & Covenants 132 not adding up.  I started  unraveling the Mormon polygamy revelation after noticing that Joseph Smith was being “rewarded” with blessings galore, while Emma was being threatened with damnation.  The scripture was void of answers, and it seemed suspiciously convenient for Joseph, and lacked compassion for Emma.  At this point, I had never learned that domestic abuse could involve mental, emotional, spiritual and other various forms of sexual abuse — such as, polygyny.  Nor, did I know what the terms “duress” and “coercion” meant.  With my limited knowledge, I could only make child-like connections — such as, “Why was Emma given a brain if she couldn’t use it?”

After my sister-wife’s cousin married Chris, his wives made a friendly outreach towards me and my children, we started  home-schooling our children together.  Chris’s family appeared to be everything that ours was not — they made their own clothes and were non-materialistic, children were the priority not intellectual adults chatting about the end times (my attitude was “let’s not talk the talk – let’s walk the walk!”), his wives were friends and worked together, and they cared more about people than their scriptures. Plus, Chris’s first wife seemed nothing like me, she appeared to be happy, and accepted her husband living polygamy.

I was impressed with Chris and his wife for bringing a young single-woman into their family; a woman who had difficulty finding a righteous man to marry.  Mary’s cousin had lived with our family on and off for a few years, yet my husband was not so altruistic.  (He had explained that he was attracted to a certain body shape).

During this time, I had  justified Chris’s sealed portion deception by thinking, “Well, maybe my family and some of the Independent Mormon Fundamentalists will wake up now and see how easy it is to be deceived….”(which, of course, they didn’t). I also thought, “Chris definitely is unorthodox in his way of teaching people, and I wouldn’t do that, but he did tell the truth in the end . . . so he’s actually a good guy.”  I got his joke~!

Besides believing that there were certain benefits in polygamy, especially for a single-mother with five children, it also seemed like polygamy would be a necessity for women like me in the last days.

” . .  .  in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” Isaiah 4:1

Not long afterwards, I went to Chris’s family requesting to be a part of their little community.  I explained my desire to be with a family who held the same beliefs, and that I was “not” interested in having a physical relationship with Chris.  (There are various types of relationships that exist in polygamy, and I wasn’t looking for a man to go on dates with or provide me with more children, I was content with motherhood and the children I had.)  Living in Utah didn’t give me many options, I didn’t fit in with members of The Church of Jesus Christ-Latter-day Saints, and I didn’t fit in with the Mormon Fundamentalist culture.  Not many men were interested in adopting an already made family.   Due to believing in the influences of an evil world, I didn’t have the confidence of raising my children by myself. I still believed that I needed a man to follow, and someone who could be a positive role model for my children.  I believed Chris Nemelka was the answer.

Certainly if polygamy was wrong than there would be something in the Bible saying it was wrong, or a sin. Christian anti-polygamists believe that the Bible is explicit when describing the sacred monogamous union between a husband and wife (singular), and pro-polygamist Christians believe that when the New Testament describes the unity between a marriage it describes each marriage union, as in plural. I believed family dynamics were not as important as finding the right person, or family, to join.

As I entered the non-decorated Nemelka home, Mary’s cousin was in the front room with Chris, and welcomed me with open arms.  Chris’s first wife was in the kitchen cooking when I approached her to ask what she thought. To me, the first wife’s authentic consent meant everything.  I noticed tears in her eyes, and I was immediately concerned — there were no onions on the cutting board.  Yet, she reassured me that her tears were only because she felt so sorry for what I had gone through with my first husband.  The Nemelka family disliked how Gary had treated me during our previous get together.  Chris’s first wife welcomed me into the family.

As Chris walked me to the door of my car to go home, he put his arms around me, and kissed me. It was very strange; instead of being sickened by this, his warm arms and gentle kiss seemed natural.  Too natural.  I remembered how upset I was when I found out Gary and Mary were holding hands before they were married.  I remembered Gary telling me that if it was wrong that he had married Mary, he would have felt that something was wrong.  I didn’t feel wrong either. I hadn’t wanted a physical relationship with anyone — what had just happened?

Chris explained that his wives wanted me to be a “full-fledged wife” with all the benefits (though I realize now that I never heard this directly from their mouths). Reflecting back, the whole thing was bizarre.  Chris’s two plural wives came to my front door and brought over a dress that the first wife had sewn for me (it wasn’t a wedding dress); Chris’s plural-wives dressed similarly in a long, blue, pinafore-style dress with a white button blouse. Then they left.  My children, Chris and I bowed our heads and said a prayer next to my couch, and that was it.  (That was the first and last prayer we would ever say as a family).  In the following months, Chris would confess he was an atheist.

After entering the family, I was asked, or told, to dispose of all my meaningful worldly possessions, so in the trash went wedding photos from the first marriage, high-school yearbooks, and jewelry.  Chris’s family lived with only what they needed, no superfluous anything.  The act of forsaking worldly possessions was nothing new to me.  I had already given up holidays, make-up (except my mascara), credit cards, and unhealthy foods.  For me, always a couple steps ahead of everyone else (I think the word is “fanaticism”), it made sense.

As mothers, our daily focus was taking care of the children.  As sister-wives, we needed helping hands and not outside distractions from our husband, and leader.  Plus, it was important that we were respectful of each other’s personal relationship with Chris.  As wives, during the day our relationship with Chris was platonic, and every third night, once the door was closed, our relationship morphed into that of a married couple.  Our husband didn’t help with the children, or do domestic chores, instead he worked outside the home, and concentrated on his writing.  Later, he would also organize family events.

Whether Chris tried to be equal to his wives, or not, equality in polygamy never equates to fairness, and there is no equality when men are placed above women.  In time, I would come to learn that Chris’s first wife was going through many of the same emotions I was going through in my first plural marriage.

Here is a poem that Chris and I wrote together, which he proudly placed on the family entertainment center after paying for it to be professionally-typed in calligraphy, and fitted into a beautiful frame. The purpose behind the poem was nothing more than one more way to groom his wives, and define our roles.  This demeaning blast-from-the past poem (I’m taking accountability for helping write it) also symbolizes his relationship with the second wife, whom he considered a “wounded bird”.  Whether we were roses, birds, puppies, lame horses, whatever analogy he used, Chris masterfully played a different character or role for each wife, depending on what he perceived she needed.  When he was finally caught — the game was over.

I will end this here for now, before the moment Chris pushes wounded bird #2 & #3 out of his family nest.

(more to be continued . . .)


Dear Caretaker

We are your roses.  Strong in root we stand. Though our pedals have withered and many tares have grown around us, we are waiting for your loving care. We are still very fragile from our many years of neglect, but this only enhances our love for you are you tenderly prune us.  We will be patient until we stand in our glory; beautiful roses just for you.

    Dear Roses

With tenderness I’ll prune your stems, with a loving heart your pedals.  Remember though, as the seasons pass, that it is you who shares your beauty.  I have only a gradner’s hand which is learning without experience to assure that your beauty is enhanced.  As I toil with your growing, there’s something which will always be true: It’s not you who gains from my hands, but me who gains from you.


2 Responses to 2nd Plural Marriage

  1. Harry Dschaak says:

    Very good.

    I like how this reveals polygamy at it’s finest and it’s worst, and leaves me with good information that I can remember… Christopher (in 1992) was noticed by you to have been continually writing and he seems to have been experiencing life to the fullest. It’s likely that he did not know that being married to three women could be so stressful before he agreed to it, but it’s obvious that fatherhood and responsibility were not enough to keep him in the arrangement once the honeymoons were over. Your experience gives glimpses of Wife #1 and spiritual Wife #2 which is great because neither of them are talking. I think it’s important to note that this is a story about 5 (or 7) full grown adults who were trying to make lifelong decisions (eternal decisions) while children born and unborn hung in the balance waiting for the verdict.

    More please.

  2. admin says:

    You make some good points. I think you are right — his polygamy started to unravel, and he didn’t want to deal with it anymore. He got more creative as time went on. Sadly, it is the children who suffer from not having a father around, or a father helping provide for them. The good part is that during this time the mothers’ were very devoted to their children, as much as they could be (!) — the sad part is that when divorce and separation occur, due to a violation of trust. it creates unnecessary pain & trauma for everyone, including the children.

    I just posted some letters . . . more to come!

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