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