Now, an astonishing look at a most unconventional marriage arrangement -- polygamy, one husband with many wives. It's still going on in this country today. That might surprise you, and so will the people who live this lifestyle. You're going to meet some of them tonight.
What kind of woman would be willing and happy to share her husband? And how does one man satisfy their needs? John Stossel takes you into a world that some men only dream about and others call home.
See you in a few minutes.
(VO) It's Sunday morning, and Jim Harmston kisses his wife Laura good - bye. Then he leaves their house in Manti (ph), Utah, and goes just down the street to another house, where he will have a breakfast with his wife, Karen. Yes, Harmston is married to both women, and it's not a point of conflict around here. The wives know about each other, say they like each other.
Good morning. You ready?
(VO) And Laura and Karen are just two of Harmston's wives. Harmston has -- count them -- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight wives. And if you spend a little time in this town, you quickly learn there are dozens of men living here with more than one wife. Around here, they openly practice polygamy or, as they like to call it, plural marriage.
We are grateful for the opportunity that we have to meet here as thy saints ...
(VO) The men were once Mormons, but since the Mormon church no longer condones polygamy, they've joined Reverend Harmston's church. Harmston preaches that having lots of wives is God's wish.
It's a commandment from the Lord. We believe that God is a polygamist.
(on camera) God was married to several people?
We believe that.
Harmston says God tells each man how many wives he should have. (on camera) God tells you? Talks to you?
Mm - hmm. That's correct. Having triumphed over the weaknesses of the flesh, as many of you, I have delivered.
(VO) Computer operator Randy Maudsley heard from God, and now he has two wives. John Harper, a building contractor, also got the word. He has two wives and is looking for a third. Artist Doug Jordan is married to three women. And Bart Malstrom (ph), who owns a herbal products company, says God told him to marry five times. (on camera) Do you love them -- love them all the same?
(VO) Now, if this all sounds very much like it's a man's world, it is. Harmston's 100 or so followers believe that men are apostles, God's representative on earth. And they have final say on all matters. For these men say, monogamy -- having just one wife -- doesn't make sense.
I saw this movie, "Tornado" -- what was it called -- "Twister." And here's this guy in a situation with two women that love him, and he's being torn. And to me, it's all a mass of confusion. Just marry them both, and they wouldn't even have had to make the movie. (Laughter)
(on camera) I think a lot of people watching will say this is just a way for men to have their sexual fantasy life and get away with it. You're all shaking your heads.
If a man enters this relationship for sexual reasons, he'll soon find himself on the rocks in a world of hurt.
Most of the men out there that think that this is just a fantasy life aren't considering the responsibility that comes with it.
What responsibility? You get to have sex with five different women. They take care of the children. They help you work and keep the houses.
The responsibility is every day, 24 hours a day. It never goes away.
This is not the way I would choose to live.
It's not the way you would choose to live?
For my own personal selfish tendencies.
Because it's very, very difficult. It's kind of like the circus act of having all the plates on the end of the poles at the same time, and you're running around trying to keep everything going.
(VO) That includes budgeting intimate time for each wife. (on camera) What's your arrangement?
I spend one night with each wife, rotating.
Back and forth?
Back and forth.
Three nights. Now, if I was to get another wife, I might cut that back to two. But ...
Are you looking for another wife?
Well, I'm not per se looking for another wife. If the Heavenly Father decides that it's time for me to have another wife, then I probably will.
And Randy, how do you do your arrangement?
Well, I sleep with whomever I feel so inclined. I don't have a schedule.
They don't say, "Oh, I want Randy tonight"?
They can express their desire if they like. Usually they'll come to me and say, well, so and so -- "tonight is her birthday," you know? "Would you spend some time with her?" Sure. I sleep by myself a lot, too.
In America, this is supposed to be illegal.
Well, we believe that God's law supersedes man's laws and that laws created by man are basically inferior, and we tend to fear God more than man.
(VO) And around here, the bigamy and polygamy laws are rarely enforced. If they were, they'd be arresting lots of people. One survey found in Utah and northern Arizona, 30,000 people live in plural marriages. Of course, sometimes the wives just say no.
I believe that the most difficult thing that a woman can contemplate in this life is sharing her husband.
(VO) Ronnie Baker was shocked five years ago when her husband, John Baker, told her he wanted to take a second wife, Ronnie's best friend. When Ronnie objected, friends told her she was defying the wishes of God.
That I was filled with evil spirits because I would not accept my husband's and girlfriend's relationship and that I was holding them back.
(VO) Ronnie still said no.
It was just so plainly incredibly obvious that Ronnie and I were just not going to see eye to eye on this thing. One day, I decided it was time to move, and I'll tell you what. It nearly killed me to walk out of that house.
(VO) But walk out he did, leaving Ronnie to fend for herself and their 11 children.
It was quite a scene, actually. We were huddled, the children and I were huddled in the middle of the living room floor begging, "Please, tell us why. What have we done? Why are you leaving?"
I felt I had to do what God required me to do.
I don't believe that God breaks up families. I just don't.
(on camera) Her husband left her when she wouldn't take a second wife. Children go without fathers because the father left.
She might have followed her husband and been obedient to him.
But it hurts the kids. I mean, why should she have to?
War hurts children. The Lord said, if you're not willing to give up your wives, your lands, your possessions for his sake, you're not worthy of him.
(VO) John Baker did marry Ronnie's best friend, then he married another woman. He said he expects to marry several more. None of them is forced to stay.
My wife or wives can never say to me, "If you don't do what I want, I'm out of here." I'll say, "Good - bye. Why are you here?" Because if she's there, it's because she wants to be. And I've told them all, "You're free to leave any time you want." There are consequences, but with God.
The women we marry are not silly and giddy. We marry women who are informed, mature emotionally and spiritually.
(VO) What kind of women would agree to arrangements like these? Would you want to be part of Bart Malstrom's family? Bart, the master, balancing life along with five "sister wives" and 14 children? What would that be like?
Well, when we come back, the women talk honestly about what it's like. Do they really do this willingly? And if they do, isn't there jealousy? John Stossel with wives who have to take turns, after this. (Commercial Break)
ABC News' 20/20 will continue in a moment. (Commercial Break)
Maybe you aren't surprised that some men still practice polygamy -- taking wives whenever they feel the call. But how do you explain the women? What's in it for them? And what kind of woman would agree to wait in line for her husband's attention? As John Stossel continues, you'll see for yourself, and I think you may be surprised.
Let's see if she's awake.
(VO) Bart Malstrom is married to five women. After spending several days with them, it's clear that these are not naive young girls who were tricked into this lifestyle. Two of the women went to college, one is a nurse. All say that becoming one of several wives was as much their idea as Bart's.
None of us were forced into this. We chose to live this type of family situation.
(VO) Wendy became Bart's second wife about three years ago. Her parents are part of the town's polygamous group, so this was fine with them.
But the rest of our extended family thinks I'm nuts. My friends think I'm nuts.
(on camera) Well, I think a lot of people would say, "Yeah, how can you do this? Aren't you jealous of these other women? Aren't you angry at them?"
Well, why should you be angry? Yeah, you get jealous because you're human, you're normal. And these guys don't have as much of a problem as I do with it, but ...
Yeah. But you learn to overcome those feelings. I've gotten to the point where I love these women just like I do my own blood sisters.
(VO) Pam is Bart's first wife. She is 36 and recently gave birth to her sixth child. (on camera) What did you think when Bart told you, "I'm taking another wife"?
She told me. She was the one that asked me to join the family.
Oh, really. It was your decision?
It was both of us's decision. But I was the one who asked her -- even though I struggled with my feelings, I knew this was something that I needed to do and to live.
(VO) Each sister wife -- that's what they call themselves -- has her own separate living quarters, either in the house or in a trailer outside. All pitch in raising the other's children. Occasionally, one wife will act as midwife and help deliver their sister wife's baby. Laura, who is 41, is wife number three. (on camera) Do you think he has a favorite wife?
I don't think so.
Does he love you all equally?
He loves us equally, but that doesn't mean that we all get the same thing. It's what each of us need.
It's just like a mother with each one of her children. You love all of your children, but yet each one of them have a different personality and have different needs.
(VO) Bart's newest wife is 22 - year - old Nicole. She says she is totally comfortable sharing Bart with the other women, including wife number four, Monique, who is Nicole's older sister. (on camera) It doesn't bother you?
Uh - huh.
A little bit?
Not with her.
How about the other ones?
If it arises at all, it's only given certain situations. But I generally feel with these guys I'd want them to have the same thing. In fact, usually I'm taking care of Monique's girls when it is her nights with Bart.
How does the time work? Take turns?
We go in the order that Bart married us, starting with Pam. And we each get two nights, and then it will be the next one's two nights, and it goes down the row.
Do you count the days until your night, look forward to it?
Actually, a lot of times it sneaks up on us. "Oh, yeah, tonight is my night." We're so busy that, you know, we really don't think about that most of the time.
Some men watching this will say, "He's just living the male fantasy." It's the sexual fantasy of many men -- five beautiful women all to himself.
I'm sure they will get over it soon.
It takes a lot of time and energy to take care of five women. And just with one woman can have a whole lot of problems all wrapped up in there, and that's tiring for a man. Because I'm sure men don't have all these little feelings that us women do. And you get five of those women and get a couple of us on the same day that are having a bad time ...
Having PMS or something like that.
I mean, it is really time consuming and very exhausting.
Monique makes it sound like Bart is suffering.
Oh, I'm not saying that. He loves us very dearly. But if you were talking about the fantasy part. If they have this fantasy that having sex with five different women is just the thing to do -- that's why I said he'd get over it ...
Do you really think you'd have enough energy?
This is all for the men. How would you feel if your wife said, "Honey, I'm going to take a honeymoon with another guy"?
Thing is is that she would no longer be my wife.
Why is it OK for you, but not for her?
I didn't make the law. God did.
And you know this is what God wants?
Absolutely. And so do our wives.
Some people say this is just immoral, that God meant for one man and one woman to be together, and this is immoral.
Well, there's many examples in the Bible of all the great patriarchs have more than one wife. Abraham, Noah, all of those men had more than one wives.
But don't you want a serious relationship where you get the guy all to yourself?
No. Not anymore.
We would rather share one good righteous man than have a rotten husband all to ourselves.
Wow. I mean, who's to say that the one man would be rotten. But is it true, John, did Abraham and Noah and the great patriarchs have more than one wife?
I don't know about Noah. I couldn't find anything about him. But Abraham and other patriarchs, yes. Scripture says they did.
But with all these wives, all these children, they go to college, the wives need clothes. How do they support these wives?
Well, it's not the men supporting entirely. All of them work. All of them pitch in. They have family enterprises. They seem to be doing OK.
I'm speechless. I guess there's all kinds of love and marriage, and women want different things, which brings up your special that you have this Tuesday at 10:00. "Lust, Love and Marriage" -- I'll watch that.
You look at more conventional marriages in America and love. What brings people together, what makes them like each other, and then how we mess it up and lose love and what science now says about how we can make love work and make it last.
All these answers Tuesday at 10:00?
I'll be watching. Thank you, John. This was so interesting.
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