Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriageby Joe Darger, Alina Darger, Vicki Darger, Valerie Darger
From a familythat inspired Big Love’s story of Bill Henricksonand his three wives, this first-ever memoir of a polygamous family captures theextraordinary workings of a unique family dynamic, and argues forthe acceptance of plural marriage as an alternative lifestyle. Readers ofCarolyn Jessop’s Escape, Elissa Wall/em>/em>… See more details below
From a familythat inspired Big Love’s story of Bill Henricksonand his three wives, this first-ever memoir of a polygamous family captures theextraordinary workings of a unique family dynamic, and argues forthe acceptance of plural marriage as an alternative lifestyle. Readers ofCarolyn Jessop’s Escape, Elissa Wall’s StolenInnocence, and James McGreevey’s Confession,as well as fans of shows like Big Love and Sister Wives, will beenthralled by the first groundbreaking book in praise of polygamy.
Independent Fundamentalist Mormon husband Darger and his three "sister wives" offer a candid, often engaging account of how and why they chose to enter into an outlawed form of marriage.
Best known as the inspiration for the controversial HBO seriesBig Love,all four Dargers were products of successful polygamist marriages. "[O]ur childhoods were great," they write, "and were a big factor in our decision to pursue the same family structure in our own lives." Darger met his first two wives, Vicki and her cousin Alina, when the three of them were preteens, but serious dating did not begin until high school. At that point, Darger was at the center of what he admits was "an unusual love story, even within the Fundamentalist Mormon culture." With the blessing of all but one father, he began courting both Vicki and Alina, who in turn worked on solidifying the personal relationship they had with each other. After 18 months, the three married and began their lives together. Ten years later, in 2000, the trio welcomed a third wife, Vicki's sister Valerie (who had left another, unsuccessful polygamist marriage), into their family. The tragic death of Alina's newly born child in 2001 brought unwanted legal and media scrutiny into their lives, but rather than destroy the family, it "started [them] on the road to activism to fight anti-polygamy biases." The Dargers do not evangelize for what they admit is a challenging lifestyle. Rather, with admirable honesty and dignity, they ask readers to respect their choice to live by the tenets of their faith.
Eye-opening and courageous.
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Love Times ThreeOur True Story of a Polygamous Marriage
By Mr. Joe Darger, Alina Darger, Vicki Darger, Valerie Darger and Brooke Adams
HarperOneCopyright © 2011 Mr. Joe Darger, et al
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Peculiar People
For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God,
and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself,
above all the nations that are upon the earth.
To say our childhoods were idyllic might be going too far. But
there is no question that each of us found growing up in a big
family with several moms wonderful. And "big" is definitely
defined differently when it comes to plural families. Can you imagine
what it's like to have thirty-nine siblings, as Vicki and Val do?
One thing for sure: none of us ever felt alone or unloved as a child!
We grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, attended public
schools, and did just about everything other kids do. At times our
parents struggled to keep us clothed and fed, but we never felt
deprived. What was hard was dealing with prejudice about our
family's lifestyle. Even so, our childhoods were great, and were a
big factor in our decision to pursue the same family structure in
our own lives.
I grew up thinking the stars were aligned for me from the day
of my birth. I was my father's seventh child, born on the seventh
day of the month, in the year 1969which seemed to have
particular significance because it was mentioned so often in songs.
Why bring up 1969 if there wasn't something unique about it? I
was just sure I was really special, and nothing changed that, not
even the eight siblings that came after me.
My ancestors were early converts to the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, and were among those who continued plural
marriage when the church abandoned the practice. I was two years
old when my father took my mother's sister as a second wife, so I
never really experienced any other kind of family. Aunt T. had
even helped come up with my name before she married my dad.
My two moms shared one house for several years before my
father bought a second home for Aunt T., who would add seventeen
children to my mom's fifteen. But in all of my earliest memories,
Aunt T., my other mother, is there. She was the one who
cooked dinner when my own mother couldn't. She was the one
who, when my mother was sick one Christmas, sewed new nightgowns
for all the girls in the family. She made me the beautiful
plaid dress with a big bow and lots of ruffles that was inside a box
I opened one Christmas morning. But I knew she wasn't my real
I was helping Aunt T. put away dishes in the kitchen one day
and called out, "Hey, Mom, where does this go?" My hands flew
to my mouth as I looked at Aunt T. and said, "Oh, sorry, I didn't
"That's okay. I love you, Alina," she said.
My mom was elegant, reserved, and responsible. She liked to
paint, wrote stories she tried to get published in Reader's Digest,
and sang beautifully. Once when I was very young, my mom got
dressed to go on a date with my dad. She had on green plaid
bell-bottom pants, high-heeled boots, and matching jewelry. Her thick,
curly auburn hair was down, tumbling over her shoulders. I
thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen as she
walked out the door.
Aunt T. was lovely, too, with long, dark brown hair and bright
blue eyes that sometimes turned green. She was vivacious and
loved a good time. She was the one who made holidays and special
occasions magical, planning the taffy pulls and other fun. She
always wanted to go places and do things.
Maybe because they were so different, my two moms got along
very well. I never heard them or my dad exchange cross words.
My mom believed parents shouldn't involve children in adult
problems. It wasn't until three days before my own marriage, at
age twenty, that I heard my mom and dad argue. Even then, they
were trying to hide it; they thought I was asleep.
My father had a deep, booming voice and a commanding presence
that sometimes came across as gruff and intimidating. He
was stocky and short, his pants dwarfed next to those of his long
legged daughters on the backyard clothesline. He loved pranks,
often instigating wrestling matches and water fights that drove
my moms crazy.
Money was always tight. My dad worked in construction, and
there was a downturn in that industry during my childhood. When
I was in first grade my mom went to work as a secretary, leaving
me and the family's other young children in Aunt T.'s care. We
wore hand-me-down hand-me-downs and grew a big garden each
summer so that we had lots of fresh food and, in the winter, home
canned goods. Though we didn't have a lot of money, we were
rich in other ways. We never lacked for companionship, and the
holidays were always festive. On Thanksgiving, we would set up
a big buffet, and the meal would last all day as friends and family
stopped by. On Christmas Eve, we would wait anxiously for a visit
from Santaan uncle dressed in the traditional red and white
costume and accompanied by three or four of our grandmas. We
didn't get a lot of presents, but there were so many of us that the
tree was buried in packages. It would take forever to get them all
opened. Christmas was organized chaos!
In big families like mine, even the littlest children are expected
to do chores. I was four when my mom taught me to wash dishes.
The other kids were at school or napping when she pulled a chair
up to the sink and had me stand on it as she carefully showed me
how to wash a glass by rubbing a dishrag along the inside and then
the rim. Sunlight slanted through the kitchen window, turning
the soap bubbles into tiny iridescent rainbows. The water was
warm and silky. It was so cozy and comforting to be working
alongside her that the day has stayed with me all these years.
When I was in second grade, our house became too crowded
and Aunt T. moved to a new home that was about fifteen minutes
from our home in Millcreek, a suburb of Salt Lake City. My moms
would have preferred to live closer to one another. It would have
saved them a lot of time since the children were always swapping
back and forth between the two homes in what seemed like a giant,
never ending slumber party. Neighborhood games really got under
way once the other half of the family showed up at one house or
the other. We'd take over the street or a big open field for a round
of Kick the Can or Pomp, a version of touch football. On Sundays,
we gathered at one of our homes for family religious services,
which were always followed by a big dinner.
There was one benefit to having my moms live in different
cities: Aunt T.'s children went to different schools, so we were
spared having to tell classmates and teachers why we all had the
same last name. But our neighbors knew we were polygamists
and, while most didn't like it, the gossip about my family usually
went on behind our backs. In fourth grade, I became friends with
an exchange student who moved in with a family on my block.
She was from the Navajo reservation. We walked to school
together, talking nonstop. One day, she brought up my family.
"They say that you're polygamists," she told me.
"It's true," I said.
"Who cares?" she said, shrugging. "My uncle is, too."
But others were less accepting. One summer evening, a half
dozen of my siblings and I were playing foursquare on a big
cement pad in front of our house. It was dusk, and we were going
hard at it in the waning light. A carload of teenagers drove by and
someone leaned out the window and yelled, "Polygamists!" along
with some obscenities. We stood frozen until the car disappeared
down the street. No one wanted to pick up the game again, so we
went inside the house. Some of the older kids were mad, calling
the teens a bunch of jerks. I didn't say anything, but it bothered
me more than I let on. My stomach ached all night, and the next
day I was afraid to go to school. I hadn't been able to see who was
in the car as it whizzed by, so I couldn't rule out my classmates.
Most of my siblings shrugged it off, but from that night on I played
in the backyard, where I felt less exposed.
My grandmother Nor sometimes talked about how tough
things were when her husband, Louis Alma Kelsch,* went to
prison for polygamy in the 1940s, and about the discrimination
my mother and the other children faced. My grandfather, who
had five wives and thirty-one children, had refused to give up his
plural families or abstain from talking about his beliefs; as a
consequence, he spent seven years in prison. Arnold Boss, my great-
grandfather on my dad's side, was also in prison at the time.
Home was a safe haven for me, but school seemed like a
danger zone. I was proud of my family and my heritage but believed
I had to keep my background secret. I lived with the constant worry
that my father might be taken to jail if the wrong people found out
we were polygamists. I also feared being ridiculed and rejected by
my classmates, which was why I had to develop a lot of trust before
sharing anything about my family with someone at school. The
friends I trusted enough to bring home had usually figured it out
already and discreetly let me know they didn't care about my family's lifestyle.
* In 1934, Louis Alma Kelsch was excommunicated from the LDS Church because
of his plural marriages. During his disciplinary hearing, he asked for a copy of
Doctrine and Covenants, a Mormon scripture, and read out loud the salutation on
the church's 1890 declaration that it would stop polygamy. "The Manifesto says, 'To
Whom It May Concern,' and it doesn't concern me a damn bit," Kelsch told the
hearing panel. He then ripped out the pages with Joseph Smith's revelations
regarding plural marriage and stuffed them in his pocket, saying the revelations
obviously meant more to him than to the court members. Louis Alma Kelsch by Barbara
Owen Kelsch (Salt Lake City, UT: privately printed, n.d.), 29.
"I know you have a lot of siblings and I'm fine with
that" is how my best friend in seventh grade put it to me.
But I couldn't control every situation that threatened my
carefully knitted cocoon. That same year, I was in my homeroom class
as the Student of the Month award was announced over the school
intercom. The announcer was reading a description of the student,
and as soon as he said, "She has eleven siblings," I knew it was me.
My face turned bright red and I slumped down in my seat.
Afterward, all that my classmates wanted to talk about was the
size of my family: "I can't believe there are twelve kids in your
familywow!" they told me.
My brother caught me in the hall later. "Congratulations," he
said, shaking his head from side to side. "Tough luck, huh?" He
was right. It was both good and bad at once.
Some of my siblings didn't care what people thought about
our family. For my fourteenth birthday, one of my sisters from
Aunt T. planned a surprise party at my house. She invited eight
of my junior high school friends, only two of whom had been to
my home previously. Another sister kept me away while they
decorated the backyard with crepe paper, balloons, and a big
happy birthday sign. I was definitely surprisedand mortified
when I saw all these people I kept compartmentalized in my life
gathered in the backyard. The number of siblings coming and
going during the party was a dead giveaway. I knew that later I
would have to reveal my family to the girls who hadn't already
known we were polygamists.
My sister was hurt by my obvious lack of excitement and didn't
understand my embarrassment. But that's how I typically handled
my family background: I tried not to draw any attention to myself
even in extreme situations.
That was my approach in another junior high incident as well.
A girlfriend and I were walking home from school one afternoon
when a silver Mercedes-Benz sedan pulled to the curb alongside
us. The male driver, dressed in a business suit, rolled down the
passenger window and called to us. We could see, even without
moving from the sidewalk, that he had untucked his collared shirt
and pulled down his slacks to show us his erection. We both
laughed in nervous disbelief and took off running to our homes.
The man sped off in his fancy car.
I went straight to my bedroom without saying a word to anyone.
But my friend immediately told her parents, who called the
police. An officer then telephoned my house and asked to speak
with me, much to my mother's surprise. She handed me the
telephone and then stood listening as I did my best to downplay what
"It's not a big deal," I told the officer. "It's nothing." The last
thing I wanted was for a police officer to come to my house and
start asking questions that might end up with my father being
hauled off to jail. When I hung up the telephone, I told my mom
about the man in the Mercedes. She was upset about it and encouraged
me to speak with the officer, who had given me his number
in case I wanted to add any details.
"It's fine," she said. "You should talk to him. Go ahead."
I was silent. My only thought was, Like that would ever happen!
In my mind, it was better to say nothing about the pervert who
had scared my girlfriend and me than to risk publicly exposing
Excerpted from Love Times Three by Mr. Joe Darger, Alina Darger, Vicki Darger, Valerie Darger and Brooke Adams Copyright © 2011 by Mr. Joe Darger, et al. Excerpted by permission of HarperOne. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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