Sister Wives' family has Powell ties

Posted 10/7/10

A photo on TLC's website depicts Kody Brown and his three wives, Meri, Janelle and Christine, with Heart Mountain's unmistakable silhouette visible in the background.

Though the family now resides in Lehi, Utah, they lived in northern Wyoming for …

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Sister Wives' family has Powell ties


{gallery}10_05_10/brown{/gallery} The Brown family is pictured at their home last year. Back: Meri, Mariah, Kody holding his daughter Savannah, Logan, Janelle, Aspen and Christine. Center: Paedon, Mykelti. Front: Ysabel, Gweni, Gabe, Hunter and Garrison. One daughter is not pictured. This photo was featured in “plainSpeak,” a news magazine produced by Northwest College students. Courtesy photo/Josh RockvamA polygamist family formerly of the Powell area attracted national attention and scrutiny for starring in the reality television program, “Sister Wives.”“I like marriage, and I'm a repeat offender,” Kody Brown says with a smile in the premiere episode on TLC. {mosloadpositionuser201}

A photo on TLC's website depicts Kody Brown and his three wives, Meri, Janelle and Christine, with Heart Mountain's unmistakable silhouette visible in the background.

Though the family now resides in Lehi, Utah, they lived in northern Wyoming for a number of years, where Kody and his three wives raised their plural family, now numbering 13 children.

“All three of us were married before any of the kids were born,” says Christine, wife No. 3.

As he introduces his wives on the TV show, Kody says, “I just fell in love, and then I fell in love again and then I fell in love again.”

“Sister Wives” follows Kody as he falls in love again with a fourth wife, Robyn. She brings another three stepchildren to the family, for a grand total of 21 people — one husband, four wives and 16 children.

In one scene, a group of Kody's daughters are standing in the kitchen, and explain that they're sisters.

“Sisters from the same mister,” Kody says in the background. “She's a sister from the same mister, and he's a brother from another mother.”

Though the Browns hoped to shed light on polygamy to broaden the public's understanding, “Sister Wives” also drew the attention of Utah police, who are investigating the family for bigamy.

Lehi police are investigating whether the family is violating bigamy laws in plain view on cable TV. Kody is only legally married to Meri (his first wife), but calls all four his wives.

“...When we decided to do this show, we knew there would be risks,” the Brown family said in a statement last week. “But for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking.”

The family lived at a home near Heart Mountain for several years, and some of the wives worked at Powell businesses.

Meri, Kody's first wife, worked at Marquis Awards in two different stints for a total of nine years, leaving in August 2005.

“She was a great employee — one of the best we've had,” said Terry Collins, Meri's friend and former employer at Marquis Awards. Collins said she stays in touch with Meri.

In May 2009, the Brown family was profiled in “plainSpeak,” a biannual news magazine produced by Northwest College students.

In the article by former NWC student Ryan McLaren, Kody says he doesn't want to force his view of marriage on others — but he would like to be decriminalized.

“We're not felons. We're a family,” Kody says in the plainSpeak article.

In the article, Kody says he thinks it's funny that American society thinks it's almost “normal” for a man to have multiple sexual partners, like Hugh Hefner, who has a TV show centering on him and his multiple girlfriends.

“But when someone wants to do the responsible thing and get married, people think it's weird,” the article says, paraphrasing Brown.

On “Sister Wives,” Kody says his family is fundamentalist Mormon, separate from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Across Utah and parts of the western U.S., an estimated 38,000 self-described fundamentalist Mormons continue to believe and/or practice polygamy, believing it brings exaltation in heaven.

Although it is rarely prosecuted, bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah, punishable by a prison term of up to five years. Under the Utah law, a person can be found guilty of bigamy through cohabitation, not just legal marriage contracts.

The Browns share one home, which is divided into three separate living areas for Meri, Janelle and Christine. Kody rotates who he spends the night with, sharing all the living spaces. The children sleep in the living areas belonging to their own mothers, but often intermingle between the three spaces.

“The family functions as a whole, but we all have our own autonomy,” Janelle says on the show as she describes the home's layout.

“The children have all bonded with all the mothers,” Kody says in the first episode.

On the show, Meri says she and Kody both knew early on in their relationship that they would eventually take in another wife or wives into the family.

The wives willingly accept the arrangement, even prefer it over a traditional one-man-one-woman marriage.

“I didn't want to just be married to a man. I wanted sister wives,” Christine says on the show. “I just like the idea of companionship, I like the idea of the freedom it got me … I honestly wanted sister wives more than a husband for a time in my life. I wanted the whole family, not just Kody.”

“It gives me a great deal of security to see him meeting the needs of my sister wives,” Janelle says in another clip.

Yet bringing in a fourth wife is likely going to stir some insecurity. In the show, when Kody makes the announcement, one of the teenage children says it will be weird at first, but she's sure they will get used to it. For the kids, it's welcoming even more children to a growing family. For the wives, it's sharing their husband with another woman.

“I'm not going to lie. There are jealousy issues … those are there, those are natural. Hopefully that's something I can overcome,” Meri says on the show.

For Kody, the father figure of the family of 21, he seems unwavering in his beliefs in the plural family structure.

“Love should be multiplied, not divided,” Kody says.