In the Spring 2020 issue, V.H. Cassler speaks out against Utah’s recent de facto decriminalization of polygamy here. What do our readers think about the 2020 change to Utah’s law?

Full Citation for this Article: Editorial Board, SquareTwo Journal (2020) "Readers’ Puzzle, Spring 2020 Issue," SquareTwo, Vol. 13 No. 1 (Spring 2020), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersSpring2020.html, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 5 Comments

I. Ashley Alley

While V.H. Cassler's piece brought up many important and valid points and concerns, one particular concept wedged itself into my consciousness. I have found myself constantly reflecting upon her description of COJC legislatures attempting to ensure that the Lord is not made a criminal if He reinstates certain previous practices upon His return, coupled with the imagery of the Uzzah's fatal mistake of "steadying the ark". I find myself often wondering if we as members of the COJC are sometimes guilty of fighting wars God has not asked us to fight on various self-determined battlefields.

For example, after the recent confusion over the adjustment to the Honor Code at BYU that removed the section regarding homosexual behavior (see https://www.sltrib.com/news/education/2020/02/19/byu-appears-remove/), a group of students took it upon themselves to #savebyu by coordinating efforts to denounce homosexuality across campus (see https://www.abc4.com/news/reactions-to-byu-honor-code-change/). The group created a hashtag, a Twitter account, and a website with a full-fledged manifesto (since removed/expired but previously found at www.savebyu.com). While their intentions were stated as supporting the Lord's prophets and the COJC's teachings on the family and sexual relations, their actions (including posting hundreds of copies of The Family: A Proclaimation to the World all over campus) were viewed as harassment by many LBTQ+ students and allies. They justified their actions by proclaiming they were defenders of God's truth and law. But at what point do we cross the line from being defenders to being agitators? How can we ensure that in our defense of the truth we "use boldness, but not overbearance" (see Alma 38:12)? If the brethren have not asked us to coordinate such efforts, are we actually supporting them or are we undermining other aspects of their messages of love, forgiveness, and respect?

This line of thought is certainly tangential to the original question posed by the Readers' Puzzle, but the piece has given me much to mull over. To return to the topic of polygamy, now that the law has been passed, I will be watching carefully for the data as it becomes available because I am not convinced that decriminalization will produce the results advocates claim, especially in terms of higher rates of abused women leaving and reporting polygamous relationships.


II. Michelle Brignone

I don’t understand Utah’s change in their polygamy law. The twelfth article of faith says “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” The United States outlawed polygamy in 1879 in Reynolds v. U.S., so for Utah to decriminalize it and refuse to prosecute it is blatant and willful disobedience to church doctrine and federal law. By decriminalizing polygamy and winking at those who practice it, the members of the Utah state legislature fail to uphold the law of the land and the constitution they so vehemently profess to defend.


III. Nkoyo Iyamba

I completely DISAPPROVE of the Polygamy Bill for the exact reasons outlined in the piece -- except for Elder Oak's stance on people like me who are pro-choice but anti-abortion. I don't have to vote for anti-abortion laws or encourage people to do the same. The decriminalization of polygamy is NO BUENO. Though as pointed out in the piece, I am surprised that it was virtually unanimous!! I am continually astounded by card-carrying LDS Utah legislators. I DISAPPROVE.


IV. Diane Spangler

Cassler cogently argues against Utah's recent decriminalization of polygamy. She cites persuasive data and provides precise analysis with respect to multiple deleterious effects of decriminalization of polygamy on women, men, children and society as a whole as well as providing cogent interpretation of the incoherence of decriminalization of polygamy with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter CoJC) doctrine. I wholeheartedly agree with Cassler that Utah’s recent decriminalization of polygamy is a horrible misstep that will result in tragic consequences for many including the State itself. Utah’s casual handling of the seriousness of polygamy creates a truly dangerous mindset which sets in motion unjust and abusive practices. Additionally, I assert that Cassler is overly generous with CoJC leadership in absolving them of their silence on this issue. Cassler suggests that CoJC leadership has remained silent on Utah’s decriminalization of polygamy because the CoJC would be attacked if the leadership was outspoken. However, in Section A of her article, Cassler quotes Dallin H. Oaks of the very CoJC leadership stating that members of the CoJC should be outspoken on political issues involving moral issues. Indeed, the CoJC was vigorously outspoken on other legal issues involving marriage such as same-gender marriage. I find it hypocritical that the CoJC leadership has remained silent and is, in essence, complicit with Utah’s decriminalization of polygamy which is in clear opposition to the CoJC stance on the essential nature of marriage as monogamous. The CoJC spent an enormous amount of effort and resource in its blatantly public opposition of same-gender marriage. Why is the CoJC leadership then silent in the matter of decriminalization of polygamy in the very State wherein the CoJC is headquartered? Cassler’s apt concluding remark to Utah Leaders applies equally to CoJC Leaders: For Shame! For Shame!


V. B. Kent Harrison

I agree with Cassler's concern about the decriminalization. I have some personal experience with the effects of polygamy. Many years ago, when we were raising our family, LDS Social Services asked us whether we would be willing to take in a 12-year old boy from a polygamous family. We said yes. It turned out to be an unfortunate experience. When the police would come for his father, his father would run--and he would run, too. We found out that he had lived in a commune in Page, Arizona, had had homosexual and heterosexual experiences, you name it. He exposed himself to our daughter. We actually feared for our lives. After five days we asked Social Services to take him back. We later found out that he was in prison.

I suppose that story could be construed as an argument in favor of decriminalization, but I think nothing could have helped that family.