Today I was in Bonners Ferry with Jacob who manages the ranch where I am staying. Jacob needed to get some Alfalfa seeds to sow on several acres so that they can have enough hay for the cows and horses the following year. The ranch is owned by my old business partner, but he is currently somewhere in the Caribbean on his yacht. I decided not to stay in his main ranch house, but rather in a log cabin that is in a remote place at the end of the ranch.
The owner of the seed store had a beard, checkered long sleeve cotton shirt, jeans and boots. Jacob explained that the owner was a Mennonite. The store was busy with pickup trucks parked at a loading dock in front of the store and men were carrying large seed bags and placing them in the back of their trucks. There was one group of men standing next to the loading dock and I heard them talking about the weather.
On the way back to the ranch Jacob said, “Did you notice the one man with the red checkered shirt?”
“Yes,” I said.
Jacob smiled and said, “He’s got a hopper full of problems.”
“How’s that?” I replied.
“Multiple wives. He’s one of them traditional Mormons. Just keeping one wife happy is a heap of work, but to have three must be a real problem.”
“Do you know much about them, that is how they live and what they believe?”
“A bit. They all live in a couple of simple houses over by the Montana border and have a bunch of kids running around. I’m not sure how it works, but he rotates around each night, so I heard. Must wear him out,” Jacob laughed.
“What’s their belief system?” I asked.
“Some mumbo-jumbo about owning a planet some day and that a man is like the hub of the wheel and the more spokes you got the better, with the wives being the spokes. A woman’s got to live that way and please her husband or she don’t make it to the planet. It all came from John Smith because that’s the way he lived and believe me he had plenty of spokes in his wheel.”
“But the current Mormons don’t live that way,” I stated.
“Naw. Their Prophet is always shifting their truth around which in this case was quite convenient. Years ago they had to change their laws in Utah to become a U.S. state so low and behold the prophet had a revelation and things were changed. Having multiple wives became illegal. But there are still a lot of hangers-on to the old ways.”
“How many of these traditional Mormons do you have in Boundary County?”
"We ain’t got many. Most are down in Utah."
On the ride back we talked about the different religious groups in Boundary County including the more recent arrivals who were into New Age beliefs. At the same time I reflected on these traditional Mormons who held to the original beliefs of John Smith. It is interesting how one man can create a set of thoughts and people will cling to those thoughts for generations to come. And much of the time people hold to those beliefs without questioning the underlying presuppositions.
The lifestyle of the traditional Mormons definitely goes against the historical values of many people in the United States and other countries. But there are places that allow polygamy. The Islamic world allows up to four wives, and there is a practice of polygamy in many countries in Africa. It‘s interesting that in today’s Western world we see a pattern of men and women going from marriage to marriage, or even skipping marriage and just going from partner to partner. I wondered about the philosophical presuppositions behind these different practices and reflected on the stability given to a culture by having a system of one man and one woman together for life.
The discussion with Jacob opened up some questions in my mind, which I was sure I would be thinking about during the coming days.