I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mine was a young suburb filled with new trees planted in the easement strip. Dotted and dashed along the sidewalk, driveways stitching neighbors into the commonness of the neighborhood. On each side of us and in just about each home on the street were kids my age and most in my class at school. Young families, filled with promise, living the American Dream. All were equal, right? It was supposed, but not practiced.
We believed in Plural Marriage, and despite our best efforts, and the fact that my Dad had only one wife, the secret would slowly leak out. We were the odd ones, sectioned out, teased and name called by our peers, sniffed at by the adults, and in most cases blatantly talked about and snubbed. This was true at the corner store, at the gas station, and for me, in school by my teachers, whom at first I was enamored with, but then as the coolness turned cold, I learned not to trust.
It was not this treatment though that kept us quiet and secluded into our own home. It was the threat of being found out for our beliefs. We had to watch every reference made in public and around our LDS relatives. We could not let on to our religious leanings. My grandfather had been put into jail for the practice of Plural Marriage, arrested in the 1944 raid. This a man I knew as a good and honest man, and if they could put Grandpa Dave into prison I wondered how would my Dad possibly be protected? In fact when he was 12 years old he and his younger siblings were taken into court and called on to testify against their Dad. How would I ever, ever be able to do such a thing as that?
I remember full well coming out of a “cottage meeting”, we dared not meet formally in a church, I was holding my father’s hand as we came down the gravel drive, when we spotted the men in black suits standing behind the parked cars taking down the license plate numbers in their little spiral notebooks. I don’t know for sure if they were FBI, or just spies for the Mormon Church. I do know my father’s hand tightened as he stopped right in his tracks and I could feel the worry travel through him and into me. I knew at that point I would never talk, never share with my friends, my cousins, and associates who we were and how we believed. No one was going to steal my Dad from me, no one. I would protect him the best I could and silence was that way.
Well, that was the early sixties, and this is a new millennium, right? Not so much. Fear still exists. With dealings such as the 2008 raid in EldoradoTexasthe specter becomes real, giving fear flesh and bone.
Living with the shroud of being underground, secretive and not forthcoming cheats a person out of fullness, out of legitimacy and slants their life in unreasonable ways. I don’t want this for my children or my grandchildren. I don’t want fear of raids, of separation, imprisonment haunting their lives. So, if I want change I must bring about that change…each generation is entitled to build their own institutions, and I am able to build upon the steps of those that have moved before me, aiming for a stronger foundation for the exercising of our rights for those that are our future.
~Written by A Woman’s Place~