Wendy Worthington was raised in a fundamentalist Mormon sect in America where her sexual and marital future were decided by The Prophet. If you leave you will be disowned by your family and suffer an eternity in Hell. However, Wendy was already living in her own damnation after being sent to become the second wife of a family friend where she was raped and abused and then sent to marry her sister’s husband making her a “sister-wife”.
Written by Adam Reilly
Earlier this year in June the supreme court heard the case of a Lebanese man who arrived in Ireland with two wives. The courts found the second marriage invalid under irish law. This story peaked my interest not only because of the complicated legal system but polygamy as a whole is an alien concept to most people in Ireland. The only “real” insight offered by television shows like Sister Wives and Escaping The Prophet.
I tried to track down some polygamy organisations in Ireland but there wasn’t any. None that wanted to be found anyway. However, my interest hadn’t faded and I especially wanted to see what it was like for the women in these polygamous marriages. You never really hear of a woman with multiple husbands which is unsurprising seeing as the bastard patriarchy still have so much grip on the world. I knew that being a plural wife most likely wasn’t as glamorous as it is often portrayed in the media so I wanted to find a woman who had really lived it.
Eventually I came across an article on Cracked from a few years ago about a woman who escaped this life so I contacted the editor, knowing it was a long shot. As luck would have it the editor was able to track down the woman he had interviewed several years prior and put us in contact. That’s where I met Wendy. We spoke on the phone for an hour and she shared some of her most vulnerable moments with me like we were old friends. I was surprised by how openly Wendy spoke to me but also grateful because she was able to give me a look into real world polygamy that I would have been impossible without her. Wendy was my inside woman in her old church which was a fundamentalist offshoot of the Church of Mormon called the Righteous Branch.
“We left our old church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS) to move to the Righteous Branch because our church had started to allow black men to be ordained for the first time and my father would not allow us to remain as he believed the church had lost its way.”
“All of these groups are formed around prominent families, in a very Game-of-Thronesian manner. For instance, the Kingston Group is known for intermarrying, including marrying brothers and sisters to each other. The LeBaron family is notorious for putting hits out on people.
Some of the members of the latter, in fact, murdered the head of one of the largest fundamentalist polygamist churches, a guy named Rulon Allred. A man named Gerald Peterson Sr., claimed Allred’s spirit appeared to him an hour after his death and proclaimed Peterson the new head of the church. Allred’s son, Owen, wasn’t about to be denied his inheritance by some ghost story. He fought back and took most of his dad’s church. But a small chunk splintered off with Peterson, and that’s how my church — the Righteous Branch — began.” via Cracked.
Wendy explained that she was lucky compared to some of the other girls because The Prophet hadn’t found her a husband until she was a 18-year-old girl whereas other girls were given to their husbands as young as 14. The girls were expected to receive their own “message from God” to help direct them to their husband but realistically it was The Prophet who decided who these girls would marry. And to go against the will of The Prophet was not a smart move for a girl to make.
“There was no real revelation from God, in essence we were like cattle and these dirty older men picked out who they wanted to marry from the bunch. We were bought and sold, depending on how much of a donation the men made decided the quality of the girl they got.”
At the age of 17 Wendy was living with a friend of the family and his who were also members of the church. Wendy told me how she was naive and thought that the family just enjoyed her company but of course The Prophet had already spoken to the family friend and Wendy’s parents behind her back and told her that her salvation lay with *Bill and his wife. Bill’s wife was not set on the idea of Wendy marrying Bill but she was eventually bullied into accepting it by the church leaders in the following weeks. After the wife eventually accepted what was happening the wedding was set for five days later.
“Bill’s wife hated me. She did not want me as part of their family and she definitely didn’t want Bill to get a second wife. She treated me horribly and emotionally abused me. I slept in the living room and sometimes late at night Bill would come down to chat with me. I looked forward to his night-time visits it made me feel so special.”
Even after Wendy was married to Bill the relationship dynamic continued to deteriorate. The wedding was extremely simple and took place in Bill’s cousin’s family room but Wendy was happy, or conditioned to feel that way at least. At the wedding party afterwards Wendy desperately wanted to sit with her new husband but he was set in between his first wife and his daughter. They didn’t make any room for her and it was made clear that she was not allowed to have any photos alone with Bill. The pair didn’t have sex on their wedding night, instead Wendy slept on the living room floor and Bill gently squeezed her shoulder before going to bed with his first wife. Wendy didn’t even kiss her husband for the first month of their marriage and it wasn’t till five months later that the couple would consummate the marriage.
“Bill’s wife came to me the night before and told me that Bill would be visiting my room early the next morning to consummate the marriage. I didn’t know what to expect. He came to my room the next morning and the two of us prayed before stripping down to our long garments, long underwear with the crotch open from the navel to the small of the back. The sex didn’t last for 10 minutes and he couldn’t even kiss me because he had a cold sore. Afterwards he lay next to me for 5 minutes while I cried and then he went back to bed with his wife.”
The abuse from Bill’s wife continued and every time Wendy would get upset they would tell her how disgraceful it was for her to be so selfish. Wendy had fallen into a deep depression and lost a dangerous amount of weight. She cried herself to sleep every night but then had the idea that if she gave Bill a child everything would get better. So Wendy shared her idea with Bill and his wife and it did not go well. A week later Bill ended his marriage with Wendy.
“My family is falling apart, and you’re the reason why.” – Bill
Another few months had passed and Wendy felt hopeless and depressed. The church believed that depression was due to a lack of faith and denied any form of therapy or medication.
The Prophet was of course was up to no good as per and had once again gone behind Wendy’s back to her sister and her husband. He told them that God wanted Wendy to marry her brother-in-law as a reward for his service to the church. Now Wendy was married to the same man as her sister and the two were “sister-wives” which is not an uncommon practise. The marriage lasted a week.
The church was not without its own scandals either. The leader of Wendy’s old church married two of his nieces when they were just 16, as well as a third 16-year-old girl from another family. Then there was Wendy’s sister’s brother-in-law, who was accused of molesting his daughter. He admitted to it and was excommunicated only to be welcomed back a week later. At least two other men were accused and convicted of molesting their children. One guy had four daughters, every one of them a victim — he spent years in prison despite his wife’s defense of him.
Fortunately, Wendy was able to escape this life and get away from her church. Within five years her sister and brother-in-law left the church eventually followed by her parents although Wendy’s father had to leave his second, second (unfortunately not a typo) behind.
Today Wendy is happy and tries her best to expose the ugly truth behind Mormon polygamy.
Thank you to Robert Evans from Cracked who helped me to track down Wendy, without there would be no story for me to share and thank you Wendy for speaking so openly with me and your bravery.