The February issue of National Geographic (which my brother gave me a years subscription as a Christmas present. Thanks again, Ricky.{that 'thanks' should be read with heavy sarcasm[just kidding(or am I?)]})has a cover story on 'Polygamy in America'. While it touches on a variety of groups, it primarily focuses on the Flds Church in Texas and in Hilldale Utah.

Aside from the polygamy thing(which I realize is a big aside. Probably big enough to cancel out the positive aspects I am going to describe) I found their community to be very likable. Even admirable.

I've often thought that the ideal community would be something like a primitive tribe with some modern technology, and that is exactly what the Yfz ranch is like.

I feel much of our modern troubles come from the fact that we evolved in a particular environment which is radically different than our modern societies. We have certain desires and tendencies which once served us well but can now work against us.(similar to what I talk about here).

However, I also feel technology makes our lives better. If we could somehow combine our old ways of living with the benefits of our modern world, life it seems, would be better.

Their communities are small. The largest one has 6,000 people.

They don't own televisions, but they do use the internet, cell phones and drive automobiles.

The entire community is based around the temple, which serves not only as a spiritual center but a social one as well.

They grow most of their own food and everyone, including children, help.

They have other businesses as well, such as machine manufacturers which are owned and operated communally.

If someone needs a house, the community pitches in and builds it. "In one display of solidarity, the men built a four-bedroom home, from foundation to roof shingles in a single day."

Ironically, they are kind of like a hippy commune. One woman even operates a naturopathic dispensary in Hilldale.

I realize other communities similar to this exist, usually with a left wing/environmental worldview being the uniting glue, but one thing those communities seem to lack is the strong family basis.

If you lived in a place like the Yfz ranch, all your grandparents and siblings and cousins and uncles etc. would be your neighbors. While being so close physically to your extended family can have its pros and cons, over all it sounds nice to me. Especially if you shared a similar world view.

I have always had a fully negative impression of the Flds Church, but while reading the National Geographic article, I was surprised to find myself feeling envious of the community they have made for themselves. I was also surprised to learn that aside from the polygamy thing and the patriarchal way the priesthood is set up(again, I know this is a big aside), the women actually had a big say in things. I heard an interview with the female photographer of the piece and she described the community as feeling almost matriarchal.

Over all, I wouldn't want to live at the Yfz ranch. Not only because of polygamy but the patriarchal theocracy alone is enough to be a deal breaker, however, I did find much of their way of life to be admirable.


Vincent said...

I like the idea of polygamy and lived in a commune for some months, which seemed like much longer because so much happened. That was when I took the acid trips mentioned in another comment, though drug-taking was officially forbidden.

It wasn't polygamy, but there were some complex relationships within the commune and with members of other communes. Some would have called it promiscuity, and in my older wisdom I make no defence of it whatever.

Ideas of ecology were pretty vague then but we vaguely subscribed to what we thought of as Aquarian ideals.

What in retrospect I like best about the commune I lived in was its lack of democracy. the house was owned by a few people who made the rules. Others were guests and were chucked out if and when the owners got fed up with them. I and my family were chucked out, for the crime of becoming born-again Guru-devotees, and annoying people thereby.

Vincent said...

I'm in this photo in front of a geodesic dome: back row, long hair, moustache. My eldest son is at the front with a hand on his eye. I think it is him anyhow. There are more kids in the picture than actually lived there.

Chris Almond said...

that is really interesting Vincent. I feel like recently i've learned a few things about you that have surprised me.
The picture is interesting, I've always wondered what you look like, though I guess I still can't imagine what you look like today.
Anyway, interesting to me that you like the idea of polygamy, why is that? I think that growing up as a mormon I have a hard time seeing polygamy in a positive way.
I'm also interested in this statement "What in retrospect I like best about the commune I lived in was its lack of democracy."
I would have imagined a lack of democracy to have felt unpleasant, yet it was your favorite part even though it ultimately got you chucked out. I guess i'm curious why you liked that aspect?
So were you a 'hippy', or was our commune living a one off sort of thing?

Vincent said...

Did I say I liked polygamy? But I will refrain from further comment on that kind of arrangement. I am not what I was then.

In practice, the lack of democracy was a yoke whose burden was light. You could do what you liked. I can only think of one rule actually: no drugs (which everyone discreetly broke including those who made the rule up). The point was it had a core of four owners. Everyone else paid rent. Apart from that, it was anarchy. The children in particular ran riot. If they damaged your furniture which you had stored in the basement, your complaint to their parents was dismissed on the grounds of the children's personal freedom.

A democracy is where people gather to make up rules, such as "children must not interfere with personal property". We didn't have any of that type of thing.

The rule against drugs was to avoid police raids of course. Everyone in the nearest town thought we were into drugs. In fact, one local man who lived with us with his family (in a geodesic dome) and who worked as a builder for one of the owners was growing cannabis, hidden amongst nettles. The secret was well-kept. I only knew about it when he had harvested the grass & dried it, and asked me to come with him as lookout when he had a suitcase of the stuff to sell to a dealer in Cambridge. I'd already stopped smoking the stuff by then.

ricky said...

I haven't read this Natty G article although I have looked at the pictures. But my answer to the question your title posits- No.

All the books I've read and my experience visiting Hilldale/Colorado City makes me like very little about anything they are up to. But you make me want to read the article now and hopefully give me a new perspective.

Although, there is a much smaller sect who actually lives in a cave, that are more modern and seem cooler to me. http://cbs5.com/national/polygamist.cave.homes.2.866760.html

Chris Almond said...

@ ricky
I guess I should have been more clear that I really don't think the fLds are cool.
I just think that the way their community is organized is cool. Aside from polygamy and it being lds centric. Which is a big aside.
But I do highly recommend the article. It was the most fair treatment I've read. All the documentaries i've seen seem to start with the assumption that the Flds are bad and then illustrate why this is so.
Overall, I still have a mostly negative impression of the group, but the National Geographic article has left me with a less negative impression, and in a select few areas a positive one.