Love: A Many Splendored Thing
I met Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. Brigham Splendor just outside of Salt Lake City.
They, as old-time Mormons once did, practice plural marriage. Today the Mormons (The Church or Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) excommunicates any of its members involved in polygamy.
In defiance of the main branch of the Mormon Church, the Splendors have elected to live what they call “celestial” or plural marriage.
They believe God has commanded them to live this “higher law.”
Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. and Mrs. Splendor have 62 children and their family is still growing. I met with them in a large log house at the foot of the Wasatch Mountain Range where they and dozens of other polygamists have settled.
The Splendor wives are named after days of the week. I asked Brigham Splendor about this.
“Since there are so many of them and so few of me, we had to set up some kind of orderly system,” said the white haired and bearded patriarch.
“What about the children?” I asked.
“Letters of the alphabet for kids,” said Brigham. “Order, that’s the secret of running a household this size.” Twelve kids ran by, chasing seven dogs.
“Gosh, I’d get confused,” I said.
“Sometimes I get a little mixed up, I mean it’s awkward having five wives.”
“Why?” I asked.
“You got your seven days in a week and your five wives. It’s not the way the Lord wanted it. There’s a reason there are seven days.”
“You mean you should have seven wives?”
“Even the Lord rested on the seventh day. I am, however, looking for one more wife, we’re going to call her Saturday.”
“Darling,” called Friday, from bedroom five, “It’s 7:04, you’re supposed to be here. I’m waiting.”
“Coming, Friday, coming,” sighed Brigham Splendor. He finished off his plate of oysters and washed them down with a pint of Ginseng tonic, then staggered down the hallway.
He tripped but one of his children handed him a cane and he was able to regain his balance. A bedroom door opened and a hand yanked him in.
The child came over to where I was sitting and smiled up at me. She had long blond hair and beautiful blue eyes. “I’m K,” she said.
“Oh, how do you spell that?” I asked.
“Just the letter K, all of us kids are called letters, it makes things easier for our Daddies.”
“I thought you only had one Daddy,” I said. “And many mummies.”
“We have many mummies all the time but one Daddy at a time,” said K.
Wednesday took K by the hand and said it was time for the kids to get ready for bed.
There was much yelling and hooting and pandemonium as the older children and the wives rounded up the younger kids. Someone made a caldron of hot chocolate and about a hundred cookies and these were distributed to the screaming mob.
Brigham Splendor staggered back and fell into a chair beside me. With a shaking hand he tried to open a bottle of vitamin E. I uncapped it for him and he swallowed a handful of pills. His breathing was labored.
“Are you all right?” I asked the old man.
“I’m fine, just fine. My wives are very loving but they can be somewhat demanding. Thank the Lord I’m only 23.”
I gasped. The white haired man looked at least 70. He realized my surprise. “I know I look a bit older than I am but it’s part of the price for keeping the Lord’s higher commandments.”
A five-year-old raced through the house, pulling a toy train. Brigham started to twitch.
“Isn’t that special?” asked Thursday. “Your son misses you.”
Brigham winced in pain as he picked up the child and bounced the tot on his knee. “We had to start at the alphabet again and incorporate numbers,” explained the young patriarch. “This precious little darling is R-3.”
“R-2!” screamed the tyke and sunk his teeth into Brigham’s chin. Brigham wept as Thursday took the child from him.
As his wife walked away, she looked back and smiled at Brigham and said, “I’ll meet you in my bedroom at nine sharp. After, we can discuss when you want to meet the new one?”
“The n-n-new one?” asked Brigham. “You found her already?”
“Yes, the one we’ll name Saturday.” She winked and was gone. Brigham slipped a heart pill under his tongue.
“How do you afford all of this?” I asked.
“Oh, the wives have an insurance policy. Anything happens to me, they get five million dollars.”
“Really. But how do you live now?” I asked.
“We’re collecting on previous policies from their last husband who lived here before he died. This is a tough job — “
“Brigham,” said a sweet voice from the hall, “it’s almost nine.”
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