Cornerstone, Drew

We See What We Want to See

Stephen Covey made the image featured above famous.  He used to ask audiences what they saw: an old woman or a young woman with a shawl.  He had other images to prejudice viewer minds beforehand, one that emphasized the old woman and another that emphasized the beautiful woman.  One half of the room would see one image and the other half of the room would see the other (they had instructions to close their eyes for the other half if you didn’t guess).  When he put the combined image on the projector, he would get roughly half of the room answering his question by raising their hands to indicate that they saw an old lady.  You can guess what the other half of the room saw.  The room would routinely respond by seeing what they’d been trained to see.  Until audience members saw the non-combined images, very few people saw both women in the same combined image – they saw one or the other.  After going through the exercise, you have to ask yourself what glasses you use to see things.  In religion or philosophy, we refer to this as exegesis.  What paradigms are affecting how you perceive your world?  Are those paradigms right, wrong, or neither?  Are they helping you, hindering you, or not affecting you at all?  If you’re an introspecting individual, you’ll want to know the answers to these questions.

This concept has renewed meaning for me.

Having reviewed literally thousands of viewer comments, this principle has become more profoundly engrained in my mind than ever before.  Before telling you about that, I’d like to say what I see when I watch the show (not in any particular order).  First, I see very strong motivation to continue losing weight.  I’m down more than twenty pounds since filming but since I’m lifting six days a week, I’m guessing I’m closing in on thirty pounds of fat loss – still far from where I’d like to be.  Sad, I know, that’s obvious and self-absorbed but … I’m just being honest. That sticks out to me.  Second, I see my beautiful wives saying things I’ve heard them say many times before and I feel gratitude in my heart that they are who they are.  I’m proud of each of them for different reasons but I’m everlastingly grateful they are each a part of my life.  I was also disappointed that too much lighting made a couple of them look like ghosts in several scenes.  I want to have a talk with our cameramen and say: “Hello, we’re pale-skinned.  Could we dim those lights please?  We look like Casper and his buddies.”  Third, I see bitter bickering and failure to abide by basic Christian principles that leaves me feeling inexpressibly sad and extremely regretful that we, as a family, set such a bad example of our lifestyle on national tv.  Worst. Disappointment. Of. My. Life.  Fourth, I see happy children acting happy just like every other day of their lives romping around in the background of the show, largely unnoticed.  Fifth, splicing and dicing. I’m not supposed to talk about that much but I see more of it than any of us expected.

Of course, many viewers see the bickering. I can’t blame them for that – it’s in your face, so to speak. 

But many viewers absolutely love the fighting. They gossip about it and talk nasty about it on various forums across the internet and they take pleasure in sophomoric mocking of how individuals speak and appear. Some comments are so vile, they leave me truly disheartened to see how shamefully far we’ve fallen as a country. We incessantly wallow in our most base levels of humanity (or lack thereof) and find pleasure in sickly, infested mud. I’m truly heartbroken we’ve set such a bad example of our lifestyle that we fed that culture to whatever degree we did. The self entitlement attitude of snowflakes has also taken me by surprise. Somehow, by going on tv, everyone should expect the foulest comments to be made and all of those comments are “valid” and need to be spoken or else the person expressing them might feel devalued somehow. Ummm. Ok. And people wonder why we homeschool. I would rather my children be considered somewhat socially awkward than to grow up thinking it was important to spew venom out of their mouth in order to feel important. I digress.

But here is what surprised me.

Despite what I perceive as a nearly universal failure to show any redeeming qualities about the lifestyle, our family has received a lot of love from viewers as well.  I’ve been asking them how they’ve seen past all of the bickering and they’ve had a lot to say. Many viewers say they don’t like how reality tv shows focus on so much drama but they expect it and just look past that part of the programming. Those viewers have made some astute observations I may have missed. One noted that if April and I had been married for twenty years, we must be doing something right. And while other viewers are calling for one of us to leave the other for whatever reason they perceive as so egregious, April and I have walked side by side for over two decades because we have something deeper, something profound enough to disallow disagreements from throwing us into different worlds. Other viewers have noted that our children are very happy, healthy, and beautiful. That wasn’t an accident. When we go in public, people notice that they are remarkably well behaved as well. And talented. I’ve been super proud of my children in their interviews as well. They did such a good job and none of the parents were around to coach or advise. We just let them say what they had to say. They did a much better job than I did!

These types of viewers notice that we’re “real” because we allowed ourselves to show our bad side on camera so people can see what the lifestyle is “really like.” I swallow hard when I hear that one. Our first season doesn’t show what our lifestyle is “really like.” It shows us experiencing our worst train wreck as a family! But I’m grateful some good can come of it. Other viewers have noticed that it must be terrifying for us to be public with our lifestyle with prosecution hanging over our heads and that the fear probably induced stress and extra drama for filming. I feel like saying “thank you” to anyone with enough vision to consider that as a factor. One of my wives was crippled with fear at times and lamented after various scenes that she felt like she messed everything up. It’s nice to know that some viewers can see through the dramatic music and zooms to discern that. Others have noticed that our personal interactions with fans online shows a different personality than shown on tv so there must be some editing to weed through. Thank you as well. Others have the intelligence to see past the “it’s all about sex” rhetoric and note how we trudge through thousands of hateful comments to answer sincere fan questions on fan groups. We’ve tried not to make much fanfare about that but sensitive fans notice anyway.

These people are the type of people that give me hope for our country.  They see the young, beautiful woman with a feather and shawl after they’ve been encouraged to see the ugly old woman. Hopefully, if we have a season 2, we’ll offer everyone else a chance to see that beautiful woman as well but if not, I know you’re still out there. May God pour out every blessing upon you that you’re willing to receive.




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13 thoughts on “We See What We Want to See

  1. Beautifully written! I will admit that when I watch the show, I do love the drama. But I see other things! While I’m not in a plural marriage, I still identify with the incredibly different roles and characteristics that husbands and wives have. It’s beautiful how God created us so differently to lock us together perfectly. You demonstrate that incredible gift with not one woman but three! And it’s neat to see that while each one is ridiculously different from the other, everything fits!
    And I do notice the happiness of the entire family. A rarity these days.
    Also, never once did I think someone looked ghostly! I’m always in awe at how good looking everyone is!
    I hope you don’t get discouraged by negative comments. I’m pretty sure that there is not one perfect family in this world. You are very courageous to show your natural struggles and also how you overcome! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your support and for watching. Hopefully, next season (if it happens), we’ll have less family drama and more of normal life drama portrayed! God bless.

    2. I hope there is a season 2! Blessings to you and your family Drew. Thank you for sharing and your candid thoughts. I found your blog post very relevant and I appreciate your honesty ??

  2. I think like many other people, I’m middle America. I’ve lived in a monogamous relationship and raised a family in a tolerant but somewhat conservative enviornment. Prior to watching years of Sister Wives I would have absolutely rejected any argument polygamy could ever be a good thing. Watching the show gradually changed my mind. Your show, except for the Snowdon family, has only cemented in my mind the need for all of us to broaden our views.
    Don’t worry that the drama needed for ratings blinds people to the true nature of things. Yes, it’s sometimes fun to see the bickering but only because it does humanize and actually endear viewers to what is a realistic view of life in polygamy.
    To pretend there isn’t jealousy and tension would have made me continue being a skeptic.
    The raw honesty of the Brown family and their sacrifice to show the good, bad, and ugly of life made me see the light. They are good people trying their best to be great parents and navigate this life.
    I hope your family finds a good place to land but I think no matter what everything will be okay.

  3. I do not understand why polygamy is a felony. A man can have mistresses and that’s acceptable?
    If a man is committed to one or more woman in a spiritual marriage and all are accepting I feel that is more respectable than seeing someone outside the marriage without the spouses knowledge. I do not understand why the Mormans in the state house of Utah have such a strong stand against polygamy. The Morman forefathers practiced polygamy and I understand the Church no longer takes part but how do you criminalize men and women that just want to be able to live their lives to their beliefs and openly love their entire families? If you believe in family values you should listen to those that are not oppressed. Now the cults as in Warren Jeffs communes are NOT the same as the polygamist living a consensual loving relationships. Set up another march and get monogamous supporters involved to speak out.

  4. This was such a thoughtful and interesting commentary. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this process. Your family strikes me as very genuine and kind. Many blessings to you.

  5. I didn’t think your bickering took center stage , you all looked fine and I applaud you all for being so brave to show us your family and life. I really hope Utah changes the laws and they stop prosecuting polygamists. If you choose to have 1 or 10 wives is your business not the governments.

    It broke my heart when your kids couldn’t call you Dad in public. Having to worry about being found out has to be hard.

    I hope you are all well and you didn’t have to move. No one likes to move, but you do what you have to do to keep your family together. The first year is difficult in a monogamous marriage so I’m betting it’s the same or in some cases even harder in polygamy marriage.

    I am looking forward to season 2 and wish you all the best.

  6. Hi Drew! I just want to say thanks for writing this. I believe that in every family there is drama, and the fights between your wives seemed like the fights my sisters and I have because we all love each other but we show our love in different ways and we aren’t able to process in the same way. That being sad, I pray for your family frequently and I hope you are all okay. Stay safe and may God bless you!

  7. I asked this on your other page, so sorry for the double ask. Can you give a guess as to how many polygamists start out as monogamist (most likely mainstream LDS). It seems like Drew and Jeff both started out monogamous, then studied Mormon history and became convinced of polygamy. It seems a little unfair to the first wife. I know April says she studied and came to believe in polygamy, but I’m afraid she felt like she had no other option. It seems a little like a bait and switch to me, even though I am not accusing Drew or Jeff of bad motives, but I do believe they may have put their first wife in an untenable position. So I guess 3 questions:1. how many polygamists start out monogamous? 2. Out of that group who start out monogamous, how many are LDS? 3. Does it seem unfair to the first wife that after they marry, the husband studies up on polygamy and wants to change the family structure?

    1. I don’t think there are any statistics for things like this. In my particular case, I waited for a year for April to be converted before I became a part of a community of polygamists. I wasn’t going anywhere without her and she knew that. There are some men who move on regardless of what the first wife says and that does end up in broken families, but I wouldn’t say that it happens very often. It’s extremely rare for someone to go straight from being Christian to being Mormon fundamentalist and becoming a plural family.

      To be clear, I’ve never heard of a man “studying up on polygamy” and then wanting to “change the family structure.” Mormonism used to set forth polygamy as a requirement for entry into the highest degree of heaven (we believe in multiple degrees of glory in heaven, not one). That is no longer taught in the LDS Church so when people learn about that or any number of other doctrinal changes, they start reading and learning about what early Mormonism was all about. Eventually, those roads all lead to plural marriage for reasons too in depth to explain here. I don’t know of any man who actually converted to Mormon fundamentalism from the doctrine of plural marriage. They end up there after traveling different doctrinal roads. Most men, after observing the heavy demands of this lifestyle, are not anxious to live it. It is difficult for the men, too. People who mock that answer are people who think it’s all about sex. Those individuals are as far shortsighted as anyone on the planet. I’ve never met a man who said the lifestyle was worth it because of the sex. It’s worth it for a plethora of reasons but it is also insanely difficult on so many levels that very few men, if any, are so shortsighted as to “want to change the family structure” on this basis.

  8. 1. Well … almost all (but not all) START as monogamists within a polygamist culture expecting to later marry polygamously … but that probably wasn’t what you meant! So … not very many. Most polygamists start out in that culture but there are continually people converting to the religion …
    2. Mostly from the LDS church.
    3. Not at all. Nobody says “If you don’t let me marry someone else, we’re through.” And most don’t “study up on polygamy.” We study many different doctrines that were restored by Joseph Smith and then subsequently removed by the LDS Church. The most socially glaring of those doctrines is polygamy but I was much more interested in doctrines about eternal progression. Everyone imagines the men receive this is as some exciting, glamorous opportunity but they come from a culture where adultery is a sin next to murder. Contemplating the change to polygamy involves gaining a testimony that this isn’t going to lead to a grievous sin. It doesn’t take much looking into the culture to discover that the lifestyle is difficult for everyone involved so, for a God-fearing LDS man, considering polygamy is awkward, intimidating, and scary, not fantasy-fulfillment.

    There are several factors viewers are not seeing – so many that I’ve met a couple women openly comment that they think it is harder for a good man to live polygamy than it is for women. Also, it is difficult to find an additional wife, even within the groups, because people are uncertain who will stay and who won’t be able to handle the pressure of persecutions, etc. So, essentially, you are blackballed until you prove you’re committed to your religion. In some groups, they won’t even baptize a man unless his wife is converted as well – and they ask the woman independent of the man to see where she stands (that’s what happened to April and I). They don’t want men just looking for a new wife, they want someone committed to the religion. Lastly, women are strongly supported in the LDS church if they want to leave a relationship where polygamy is contemplated so they have a free pass out of the marriage if they want it. Even after they’ve been in a relationship for a long time, people are ready and willing to provide a home, a car, and a job to women wanting to leave polygamy. So, it’s a choice, freely made, and with a get-out-of-jail-free card.

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