Polygamy in the U.S. is more common than you might think. Experts estimate that there are about 30,000 to 50,000 Americans currently living in plural marriages, even though the practice has been illegal for over a century. According to fundamentalist Mormon beliefs, having numerous wives and children ensures exalted status in the afterlife.
The mainstream Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints banned the controversial practice in 1890, but there are sects that broke off in order to continue their way of life. The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, is the most well-known polygamous sect in both the U.S. and Canada today.
In the last few years, the FLDS has come under intense scrutiny for not only polygamy, but for allegations of underage marriage and rape. Its former leader, Warren Jeffs, is currently serving five years to life in prison on various charges related to the illegal marriages of young girls.
In Wednesday night’s new show, Inside Polygamy: Life in Bountiful
, Nat Geo gets rare access to a community that has rejected the rule of the FLDS, but retains its practice of polygamy. Winston Blackmore and his clan of nearly 20 wives and over 100 children live an isolated life in Bountiful, Canada, where they have chosen to remove themselves from the almost tyrannical reign of the FLDS.
But they still believe in the principle.
“Our whole life’s goal and aim is to make it into the celestial kingdom with Winston and our sister wives and become Gods and Goddesses in our own right… That’s the whole purpose of life here.” – Zelpha Chatwin, wife of Winston Blackmore