So I’m watching Sister Wives as I type this. One of the daughters is named Madison; she has only intermittently appeared on the show recently because she’s away attending school at Utah State. She has been very clear that she is not going to live polygamy. A recent tangential story arc in the show was that she had decided to be baptized LDS. That was the plan. (Good for her, I thought.) She just reported to her moms that she got two phone calls, including from the mission president, that they’re not going to let her get baptized. Apparently they had wanted her to publicly denounce her family, and of course she wouldn’t do that. She can keep attending church if she wants to but she can’t get baptized. They told her they hope she’ll “reconsider” the Church “when her family isn’t so much in the public eye.” They hope she’s not “bitter” about it.
Of course this show reflects events that actually occurred some months ago. She and her fiance, Caleb Brush, had planned on getting baptized together, but now that isn’t going to happen. She describes Caleb as a “devout Christian,” but i don’t get the impression that she would join any church other than the LDS Church.
I had several thoughts about this. First, if it’s the MP’s call and not above his pay grade, I can absolutely guarantee that my MP would have approved of this baptism. So the reticence here to greenlight it was surprising to me.
Second, I understand the Church’s reticence about being associated in the public eye with polygamy in any way. That’s an association it’s been trying to ditch for a century now, with almost no discernible progress toward that end. I get that aspect of this.
To me, however, the deep insecurity over this issue in this case does not do the Church credit or reflect well on it. Maddie’s absolute commitment to live a monogamous lifestyle has been a part of the story line of the show. Yes, she’s something of a public figure because of the program, but very specifically as a monogamist.
In my view from a PR perspective asking her to denounce her family publicly as the price for baptism was a misguided approach to the issue. The Church is now a part of the story line anyway, in what I perceive as a negative light. She is not her family; why would we require this of her as a condition precedent to baptism? I thought we were The Family (Trademark) Church? Maddie getting baptized would have been positive publicity for the Church; the Church trying to get her to turn on her family and then denying her baptism when she refuses is not a good story for them. And this PR result was entirely predictable in my view.
But maybe I’m not seeing this issue clearly. What do you think about this? What should the Church do in this case? Is it wise to require children of polygamists to publicly denounce their families as a condition of baptism? Should the public nature of the potential candidate in this case change the policy result? Should we be quite so skittish about giving the public an opportunity to connect us even in a tangential way to the practice of polygamy? Your thoughts appreciated.