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A Polygamist's Wife

Date: 04-20-08
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Irene Spencer

Irene Spencer, a fifth generation polygamist, shared her account of being the second of ten wives and the mother of 14 of her husband's 58 children. She eventually escaped from her polygamist community, which practiced a fundamentalist offshoot of Mormonism. The group didn't offer religious freedom, but a kind of brainwashing, that allowed for the abuse of women and children, she detailed.

We were taught that Jesus was a polygamist, said Spencer, who married her brother-in-law at the age of 16 in 1953. Most polygamists only have intercourse for procreation, so it's a myth that the husbands have a lot sex, she noted. They're taught that living in polygamy is necessary for eternal salvation, and those who don't practice this in the outside world are going to hell.

Her group moved down to Mexico and lived in extreme poverty. They sewed clothes together from discarded fabrics, and made and sold cheese. Suicide rates are high in such sects-- Spencer said nine of her nieces and nephews killed themselves. Eventually she left her husband and sister wives, moving to Alaska with her youngest children. Her husband died four years later in 1981, and she remarried into a monogamous relationship and became a born-again Christian. One son and two of her daughters are still entangled in polygamy, she added.

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