By: Norman So, Associate Producer

Few cameras have been allowed into the secluded community of Centennial Park. Old-fashioned, yet also modern, the residents of this community strive to be the best they can in the eyes of God. Holding true to their faith and roots of plural marriage, many go the route by way of the church, while others stray and integrate into the rest of society.

With such unprecedented access, respect and trust were something we wanted to earn from the community – we found that through one of its elders. When I shook Uncle Arthur’s hand for the first time, I immediately saw the wisdom in his eyes. He spoke to us with such conviction and premeditated words, as if he’s told them a thousand times before. Arthur’s first wife, Marlyne, was also at this initial meeting. Quietly reserved in the presence of Arthur, every word she spoke commanded the same authority. “I am not the head of our household; my wife is,” Arthur voiced.

It was a theme we found throughout our time in Centennial Park. Women have the freedom to choose their own fates both in marriage and lifestyle. Women are in charge of whom they marry, through inspiration from God. Women can choose to be part of this community, or not.

Both at the prime ages for marriage, Hyrum, 22, spends his time serving the community and waiting for the call that he has been chosen by a woman for marriage. On the other hand, Rose Marie, 18, waits patiently through prayer in hopes that she will receive an impression from God to choose a lifelong partner.

The Thomsons represent the young and more modern generation of polygamists. With iPads and iPhones in hand, they are no strangers to the outside world, social media, or popular television shows. At first, it seemed to be an odd family structure to have two wives at home and a husband away for so long, putting their family dynamics to the test. But, it works well for them.

After only one week in Centennial Park, we found ourselves in the thick of the community and its activities. The annual Turkey Bowl is one of the few instances when the community gets together. People of all ages came out to see married men play against unmarried men. It was a time to be social, competitive, and nostalgic. As leader of the younger team, Hyrum shaved his head as a tribute to his mother, Susie, who passed away a few days earlier.

Aunt Susie was seen as an icon to the community and one of the biggest advocates of giving Centennial Park its own voice. Attending Susie’s funeral was both moving and eye opening. With an event of such sensitivity, we tread as lightly and respectfully as possible by following and blending in with the sea of black suits and white dresses.

Tune in to all-new series, Polygamy USA, tonight at 9P

Comments

  1. Lisa
    Oak Ridge TN
    May 21, 2013, 7:38 pm

    I absolutely love this show, and I am a fan of polygamy. I have been married before and divorced due to my husband couldn’t be faithful. I have entered into a polygamous relationship and I enjoy the family connection that comes with dynamic. I would love to move and become a part of the polygamous community out west. I would love to be a sister wife and out here in TN that is not possible. I would be very excited to meet my poly husband, in my heart I feel that it is the correct fit for me.

  2. Judi Goforth
    Darien,GA
    May 21, 2013, 8:22 pm

    While I always viewed the community that Warren Jeffries headed as a cult, the Centennial Park community seems like both a small town and an extended family. People seem to genuinely care for each other and respect the female members. I don’t think that such a lifestyle is right for ME, but
    I can see the appeal for some people. God bless them and may they all be happy and healthy.

  3. Charles Johnson
    USA
    May 21, 2013, 9:14 pm

    Does their religion allow for other races to become members of their church?

  4. A n J
    Washington State
    May 22, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Lisa – we too are wanting to have a Polygamist relationship with a 2nd Wife. we are finding it very difficult to find a wife in our area. but we won’t give up since we know in our hearts that this is what we want for our family :)

    Does anyone know where we can find this Series to watch all the episodes? We have Hulu and Netflix.

    Thanks.

  5. Donna
    Huntington Beach ca
    May 22, 2013, 7:08 pm

    I want to know how one man supports 3 wives and 18 children. That hasn’t been addressed ass far as I can tell.

  6. Sheila
    Michigan
    May 23, 2013, 10:59 am

    I believe they did address some the ways in which the families are financially supported. They are very self sufficient, growing own food, building own houses with only supply costs, they run their own trash and other utility services. Also, unlike the Warren Jeff’s sect, many of the women have professional jobs. The community members or the other stay at home mom watch the children, so there aren’t any day care costs involved. They are educated unlike some of the other fundamentalists sects that pull girls out of school at a very young age. It is not for me, I was raised Mormon (not fundamentalist) but I am enjoying watching them make it work in the roots of my religion.

  7. Diana
    San Jose
    May 23, 2013, 6:06 pm

    Although I am happily married and not a polygamist, I find this lifestyle fascinating and interesting. I watched this show for the first time and really enjoyed it. I feel like these are pretty nice people that I’d enjoy being friends with!

  8. Dennis
    Tennessee
    May 23, 2013, 10:21 pm

    The over breeding is the part I find appalling. Why can’t each wife have one or two at the most children and spare the environment?

  9. Shelly
    Maine
    May 24, 2013, 10:06 am

    Polygamy is disgusting and If an 18 y/o girl believes her “inspiration” could come from a man in his 70′s disgusts me too. These people are all brainwashed and need to get real lives and stop being co-dependent upon other people. All religions are a joke and this religion is the biggest joke of them all.

  10. Phil
    St. Paul
    May 28, 2013, 7:12 pm

    Polygamy is not right

  11. Whalen
    Seattle, WA
    May 28, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Only in America do we air reality shows of families teaching their children to break the law as a way of life and attempt to glamorize it. Polygamy is AGAINST THE LAW. The parents of the minor children should all be hauled off to jail, the same as if you poison a child’s brain by raising them to believe incest is okay or sex with minors is acceptable. Bigamy is NOT okay, and the child protective services should swoop down on these sickos who are commiting crimes as a way of life all in the name of a religion started by a known freak.

  12. Meg
    United States
    May 28, 2013, 11:49 pm

    Several questions and observations:

    1. Why must Mormon men take many wives? I don’t get it. The Thompson guy said that people shouldn’t focus on the multiple-marriage thing, that he considers himself to be a ‘Mormon’ first… so what’s the difference between a Polygamist and a Mormon? and why is Mr. Thompson trying to be something that he is not? He has 2 wives and should own up to it – be proud, dude.

    2. Michael Cawley is the poster-man for anti-polygamy. What nerve! He has 22 kids with 3 women and he CANNOT SUPPORT THEM!!! How SELFISH!!! Seriously? He continues to impregnate these women without thinking about the financial consequences? He wants his wives, who have 5+ children each, to go back to work? What a pathetic excuse for a man. I pity him.

    3. I like the Thompson family. They’re normal and they are smarter than their elders. They understand that their children might not want to follow in their footsteps. The Thompson women are very attractive – great figures!
    I found it funny when one said that she believes “in covering [her] body… when they see me -just by the way that I’m dressed – they think that I’m a polygamist.” Really?!? Ha! I personally love to wear form-fitting turtlenecks in the winter – ones that show off my curves…but I am still aware that my curves are showing.

  13. Dslooking
    East tn
    May 29, 2013, 9:46 am

    We are looking, lisa find us at http://www.polygamymatch.com Dslooking . That goes for other females out their as well !
    It is not Legal in tn . But nothing wrong with a long term life partner !
    As to the people that think its bad. Their can be good and bad in any Relationship. What’s wrong with a real man wanting to care for more then one woman . Where ever thing is in the open no lies .Now i dont belive in just Breeding a bunch of women and having us pay for it ,and I say us because I work .
    The male population needs man up and be dads and husbands and Spiritual leaders of their house holds .

  14. Dennis
    Tennessee
    May 29, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Polygamy should be legal as long as the parties are consenting adults. It was made illegal by the same mentalities as would make being gay or lesbian illegal. Women should also be able to have multiple husbands and apparently fundamental Mormons disagree so that is wrong.

  15. LaVonne W
    June 2, 2013, 5:37 pm

    Contrary to what Mr Thompson stated, none of these families are traditional Mormons. They are fundamentalists who want to live a lifestyle that was banned by the Mormon church many years ago. They are not committing bigamy because they only legally marry one wife and the rest are what they call spiritual wives but in my mind are nothing more than mistresses sanctioned by the other “wives”. I just do not understand their lifestyle.

  16. Tim
    Florida
    June 4, 2013, 7:44 am

    It appears that most of you who have spoken out against this lifestyle (1) You do not read your bible nor (2) You do you have an understanding of our history as a nation nor(3) Do you have an understanding of the very roots of our society as well. I am an Native American Indian. Your government has done everything it could do to destroy my people. Including shove your bigoted lifestyles upon us as well.

    For if you were to do your research you would find that because of plural marriages, many families were able to survive very tragic times and were able to pull through without government assistance. A concept that some, should consider before speaking, while you are holding out your hands, for another check, from the government.

    In a truth. I do not see how some families are going to survive the moral decline of our society …………or the economic stress that many families are under now or soon will be facing, in the future, while trying to live a monogamous lifestyle. while this arrangement is not for all, why are so many so hell bent on forcing your opinion on us, as law. Could it be that your lifestyle is in part why there are so many divorces and the breaking up of so many families and the suffering of the children?,…… Uhm? Go Figure?

  17. Jesse
    June 4, 2013, 9:37 am

    Well said Tim. I agree and feel that marriage is up the the ones wishing to be wed. If a man or woman wants more than one spouse it should be allowed consenting adults only.

  18. Jenny
    June 5, 2013, 2:18 am

    I was shocked to see the Thompsons driving without seat belts for themselves or their children. Their son should have been in a car seat, but wasn’t. It was ironic that the voiceover used for these scenes was an acknowledgement that polygamy is illegal. Apparently the Thompsons pick and choose which vehicle laws they wish to follow as well.

  19. John Doe
    June 5, 2013, 12:36 pm

    I lived in Centennial Park. While the show is entertaining, it is extremely misguiding..

  20. Lynn
    Texas
    June 7, 2013, 4:42 pm

    Plural marriage is illegal period! If you kill someone, rape someone, steal, etc you go to jail and so should these men and women! If you are selling drugs and you have kids on your home they are taken away why not here?
    How ate they supported? They receive food stamps and any other benefit they can lay their hands on because our government considers them single unemployed or über enployeed moms. If they put that in the show people would be outraged knowing we pay for their groceries! It is true do your own research!

  21. Jeff
    United States
    June 8, 2013, 3:40 pm

    What 2 or more consenting adults choose to do with their lives should be their business, and not that of the government or those preaching how “immoral” polygamy is today. Plural marriage has been the standard throughout most of history, including many of the characters in the bible. I am not a mormon but I love watching this show. It really debunks alot of myths around Fundamentalist Mormons. They all seem like very hard working, moral, and good people who choose a different lifestyle. Let them live in peace!

  22. Doug
    Texas
    June 10, 2013, 2:10 pm

    The show is very well produced and very entertaining, but I am disappointed that National Geographic doesn’t do a better job clarifying the facts. The inhabitants of this small community call themselves Mormons but they are not “Mormons” — meaning members of the almost 15 million member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The show does not make this distinction adequately. Even HBO did a better job with their voyeuristically titillating “Big Love”. They would run a disclaimer as the start of each episode:

    “The Mormon Church banned its practice of polygamy in the 1890s. The Mormon Church remains unflinching in its opposition to the practice of polygamy. Polygamy is cause for excommunication from the church. Today, according to the Utah and Arizona Attorney General’s Offices, many thousands of people continue to practice polygamy, predominantly in the intermountain West.”

  23. Natja
    June 11, 2013, 5:42 am

    Meg, what about all those Monogamous Quiverfull types who have lots of children they can’t afford also? Are they poster children for anti monogamy? Fact is, for some people, two children are more than they can afford and since when did it become an automatic right for women to stay at home? It doesn’t wash with Judge Judy, not sure why it washes with you?
    Also, I am not sure why the favouritism shown to the younger wives on account of their figures! Seems a heck of a lot more sexist than anything this community does!

  24. Marina
    Springfield, NJ
    June 11, 2013, 11:50 pm

    What bothers me is the fact that one of the “characters ” believes that having 50 children and 15 wives with secure him a place in heaven, meanwhile, his children will have to live in shipping containers. Is that normal roam I crazy ????

  25. bob
    oregon
    June 12, 2013, 3:25 am

    I find myself somewhat in the middle with this show. There is many things I can agree with. Like praying to God for your spouse in life. A couple putting God and there faith first in life. Or a marriage is set up for an extremely rocky path or possibly failure. But, I guess I don’t understand multiple wives. It would be my personal belief that the bible describes a man and his wife. Not wives. At least the new testament does. That’s were I think things get confusing to me. We want to take things from the old testament and act like they are right now when they are not. And forget things that we should uphold. Examples would be that we should not kill. Now on the flip side sacrifice would not be practiced now but it would have in the old testament.

  26. katiemacny
    polygamy
    June 12, 2013, 1:46 pm

    I love the show I find the lifestyle interesting. I would only object if they want the taxpayers to support their families. otherwise it’s their lives. I notice many in this town drink, I thought Mormons abstained from alcohol, and regardless if you call them Mormon they call themselves Mormon.

  27. Kent
    June 13, 2013, 2:49 pm

    Question for Polygamist Communities

    This is math question. In nature close to 50% of human babies are male and 50% are female. (Actually, a few more males are born than females.) If a polygamist community has 100 marital men and 100 marital women and 50 of the men have two wives each, then 50 men are left without anyone to marry. If 33 of the men have three wives each, then 66 men have no one to marry and one man could have a single wife. But it doesn’t stop there, does it? Some men have four or five wives which means that 75 to 80 men in the community have no wives at all.

    So what is your solution to this mathematical inequality? Do you you expect 50% to 80% of your men to remain celibate their entire lives? Do you expect them to go off to wars and be killed? Do you expect them to go out into other communities and kidnap or seduce multiple women to be their wives? Do you kill off 75% of your male babies or do you practice gender selective birth control? That is, do you abort 75% of male fetuses? Do you expect unmarried men to form homosexual relationships?

    For what it is worth, I think polyamorous marriages, including polygamous marriages, should be legal. I just don’t understand what polygamist communities do with their extra males.

  28. Joe
    Bardstown Ky
    June 18, 2013, 11:10 am

    I am a southern baptist and do not believe in their life style. But I do believe Arthur is a wise man and he does try to teach those young men lessons on how to be a man. I wish I had a man like that in my life when I was young maybe it wouldn’t have took me so long to learn how to be a man

  29. Robert westhoff
    Las vegas nevada
    June 18, 2013, 10:32 pm

    I love the show. It gives me a totally different perspective from the FLDS Warren Jeff group. I like the idea where women choose the husband. They can actually observe a married man and see how he treats his wife and children without his knowledge. The thought occured to me as to who gave the government the right to tell mature adult people as to who they can share their lives with. If same gender people can live together in a loving relationship, then why not polygamy? We are legally ok with spouses that cheat and have extra marital relationships. See some of our highest polititians. Or wives that get disposed after 10years and replaced by a younger one. That is all legally ok. But when a man looks after two consenting mature wives, they could go to jail for 5 years? Wow. I like the fact that youth and adults can leave if they want to. I presume more men leave then girls. We can learn a lot from this community in how youth are taught responsibility and so many other values.

  30. Nicole
    Florida
    June 27, 2013, 4:48 pm

    I am happily married to one man but am fascinated by this lifestyle. I personally say let live and let them be. If they are happy so be it. Does anyone know if there will be new episodes and if so when?

  31. Tiara
    New York
    July 22, 2013, 2:40 pm

    I am happily married to one man but I must admit I find this lifestyle very interesting. I am Christian and I don’t believe in multiple wives/husbands but he bible states judge not. I feel that everyone has a right to live the way that they want and not be judged by anyone. People from all religions try and use their religion for convenience. What I mean is they interpret it to make them look good. The bible clearly states that we must love everyone no matter what. I would never want to live this lifestyle but if it works for this community I say go for it.

  32. ModernGirl
    July 27, 2013, 3:13 pm

    I’d appreciate the companionship and collaboration of a sister-wife. I am not Mormon and am not white so Centennial Park probably isn’t for me.

  33. Lisa Hagerman
    Costa Mesa, CA
    August 8, 2013, 6:02 pm

    I can’t wait until Polygamy USA season 2 airs. I love these families. Such a breath of fresh air. I had always believed that Warren Jeffs represented polygamy and I’m glad to find out he’s a very small group out there. Please keep this showing coming.

  34. muzjik
    October 20, 2013, 8:19 pm

    Donna – you asked how these men support so many wives and children? All wives, except the first, are single moms drawing government benefits.

  35. Uninpressed
    Malta, europe
    October 29, 2013, 2:31 pm

    As such I have nothing against polygamy – it’s their choice, and as long as they don’t impose anything on anyone, it’s fine by me. What I find annoying is things like “God told me” or women wait for an inspiration from God to marry…..what a load of bullshit!

    If that is the life you want, then go for it but don’t hide or justify your actions with religion…….have the courage to say that is the life you want.

  36. reymondo
    October 30, 2013, 10:21 am

    Uninpressed (sic) – haven’t you noticed?? Justifying things you do with religion is one heck of a lot cheaper than employing a team of lawyers. At least here in North America. (I wouldn’t know about Malta, where you seem to write from.)

  37. Uninpressed
    October 31, 2013, 4:53 pm

    Yes reymondo, that’s true…..it’s just that using religion to justify anything annoys me – now it’s extremists using Allah, in the middle ages it was Christians……you know what I mean.

  38. reymondo
    November 3, 2013, 12:07 pm

    Uninpressed – yes I think I know what you mean. The sad part is that us “infidels” really do not have any moral ground to stand on when trying to condemn “extremists”. Parts of the islamic world simply need to get over that fanaticism and try to catch up with the rest of us. As you would indicate, those groups are now moving through their own Middle Ages.
    Personally, I have no workable solution for this, unfortunately. I wished someone would…

  39. ScorpioMom
    Midwest USA
    January 7, 4:19 pm

    Is this show returning? Agree with your comments Uninpressed.