Mormons Not Laughing About Polygamy Comedy 'Big Love'

Vicky Prunty, 43, is a former "sister-wife" from a polygamous marriage. She left several years ago and founded Tapestry Against Polygamy, a group that aims to expose the practice and help women leave their polygamous marriages.

Prunty said her marriage was "a lot like 'Big Love' -- except I was in a double marriage, not a triple marriage. And my husband didn't take Viagra."

Joking aside, Prunty said that she had mixed feelings about the show. She hopes that it will bring attention to polygamy, but she's afraid it will gloss over some of the serious problems.

"It could minimize the problem," Prunty said. "It will probably hit more on the entertaining and humorous aspects of the life. … But it's not indicative of women with 12 children forced to have a baby every year."

Modern Mormons Miffed

Like Earl and her family, Hendrickson and his wives are supposed to be part of a fundamentalist sect of Mormonism. However, Mormonism banned taking multiple wives before the turn of the 20th century.

But that distinction is lost on most people, and many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints feel that "Big Love" exploits out-of-date stereotypes.

The church, which is based in Salt Lake City and one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States, said in a statement: "Polygamy was officially discontinued in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1890. Any Church member adopting the practice today is excommunicated. Those groups which continue the practice in Utah and elsewhere have no association with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and most of their practitioners have never been among our members."

"The Church has long been concerned about the continued illegal practice of polygamy, and in particular about reports of child and wife abuse emanating from polygamous communities today. It will be regrettable if this program, by making polygamy the subject of entertainment, minimizes the seriousness of the problem."

HBO has agreed to add a disclaimer at the end of the first episode, saying that the Mormon Church has officially banned polygamy. The show's creators have also said they had spent more than two years researching the concept to make it realistic.

Mary Batchelor, who is the director of Principle Voices, a pro-polygamy organization, said that she's planning to watch the show and optimistic about its portrayal of polygamous life.

"We are planning to watch the show, are prepared for it to be 'adult' and are hopeful and excited to see our lifestyle represented in a realistic, honest way, and that includes the struggles/challenges along with the joys that are a normal part of family life," Batchelor said in an e-mail.

Prunty doubts that a totally realistic portrayal of the lifestyle is possible.

"To really understand it, somebody would really have to live it," she said. "Otherwise they'd have a difficult time grasping the complexities of the lifestyle and the abuse."

But will Prunty be watching the first episode?

"Absolutely!" she said with a laugh.

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