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7 Famous Polygamists (and their many, many wives)

It's been pretty hard to miss what's been going on at the Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Texas. In case you haven't heard, here's a quick recap: the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which believes in polygamy, (which is different than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has a large following near Eldorado where this YFZ Ranch is located.In late March, the Texas Child Protective Services hotline received a call from a girl claiming to live at the ranch who said she was being abused. This led to a huge raid by Texas law enforcement and child welfare officials, who ended up removing 452 children (some pregnant and/or already mothers) from the ranch.

So, that's the rundown. I think there has been plenty of media coverage, so I don't need to go into great detail. Just Google "Yearning for Zion" for more information. Instead of rehashing what has already been splashed all over the Internet, let's look at some notable polygamists.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Let's start with the founder of the Mormons, Joseph Smith, Jr. While it was well-known that his "main" wife was Emma, he may have had up to 33 wives in addition to her. The ages ranged from 14 years old to 60 years old. It would seem that Emma sometimes supported the polygamist lifestyle and was sometimes vehemently opposed to it. Although she actually attended one of the weddings of her husband and another woman, she also went on record saying that her husband had only one wife and that polygamy was never advocated in their household. Some theorize that Emma really didn't know much about his other marriages "“ Joseph knew she disapproved and he secretly married others anyway, including some of her friends. It's unknown how many children Joseph Smith had "“ DNA tests are still being done on people who claim to be his descendants.

Brigham Young

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By contrast, Joseph Smith's successor, Brigham Young, had marriages that were extremely well documented. In order, he was married to Miriam, Mary Ann, Lucy, Augusta, Harriet, Clarissa, Emily (who was also married to Joseph Smith), Clarissa, Louisa, Eliza, Elizabeth, Clarissa, Rebecca, Diana, Susanne, Olive (also married to Joseph Smith), Mary Ann, Margaret, Mary, Emmeline, Mary Elizabeth, Margaret, Olive (also married to Joseph Smith), Emily, Martha, Ellen, Jemima, Abigail (who was the mother of Brigham Young's first wife, Miriam), Phebe, Cynthia, Mary Eliza, Rhoda (also married to Joseph Smith), Zina (also married to Joseph Smith), Amy, Mary Ellen, Julia, Abigail, Mary Ann, Naamah, Nancy, Jane, Lucy, Mary Jane, Sarah, Eliza, Mary, Eliza, Catherine, Harriet, Amelia, Mary, Ann Eliza, Elizabeth, Lydia and Hannah.
That's three Clarissas, three Elizas, three Mary Anns, three Marys, two Olives, two Abigails, two Elizabeths, two Harriets, two Lucys, two Margarets, five who were also married to Joseph Smith and one mother-daughter duo.
With so many wives, it's almost surprising that he only had 57 children. To accommodate his gigantic family, Brigham Young had the Lion House and the Beehive House built. One of Young's contemporaries wrote, "It was amusing to walk by Brigham Young's big house, a long rambling building with innumerable doors. Each wife has an establishment of her own, consisting of parlor, bedroom, and a front door, the key of which she keeps in her pocket".

The Jeffs

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First, we have Rulon Jeffs (that's him on the left with two of his wives). He was the eighth prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, serving from 1986 to 2002. As mentioned before, the FLDS is a sect of the Mormon Church "“ when the Salt Lake City-based Mormon Church banned polygamy in the 1890s so Utah could become a state, the FLDS was created because, among other reasons, they still believed in polygamy. Jeffs had 19-20 wives, 27 daughters and 33 sons. That brings us to Warren Jeffs (on the right), the son who declared himself the ninth prophet of the Fundamentalist Church after his father's death. He married most of his father's widows, making him the stepfather of some of his brothers. He also married women who were close relatives, but claimed that it was necessary because as a descendant of both Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, he needed to preserve the family bloodlines. He believes that a man must have at least three wives to make it to heaven, but the more wives, the better. He is estimated to have somewhere between 70 and 80 wives, including Naomi, who married his 90-year-old father when she was only 17.
Warren was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List in 2006 for arranging marriages between adult men and underage girls. He was arrested a couple of months later and charged with that, plus sexual conduct with minors and incest. He was found guilty of two counts of rape as an accomplice and sentenced to 10 years to life in prison, which he is now serving.

Tom Green

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Now, the FLDS members know their beliefs are taboo when compared with that of most people's, so they tend to keep a low profile. But not Mormon Fundamentalist Tom Green (not THAT Tom Green). He appeared on Dateline NBC, Queen Latifah, The Jerry Springer Show and The Sally Jesse Raphael Show to promote a polygamist lifestyle. He pretty much dared police to come after him, saying that marrying as many women as he wished was his constitutional right. They accepted the dare and came after him when they discovered that his first wife, Linda Kunz, was born in 1973 and had her first child in 1986 "“ which means she was only 13 when she had sex with Green. He was convicted in 2002 for child rape and was released from prison last year. He's still married to Linda. Oh, he had five wives altogether "“ Linda, Carrie and Hannah, who were sisters; and Shirley and Leanne, also sisters. He has 25 children with the five wives.

Ervil LeBaron

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When the Mormons abandoned the idea of polygamy, several families, including Ervil's, moved to Mexico so they wouldn't be under United States jurisdiction. When Ervil's dad died, his eldest son, Joel, became the leader of the community, which he eventually called the Church of the Firstborn in the Fullness of Times. In 1972, Ervil and Joel were warring over control of the Church. Ervil split off into a group of his own called the Church of the Lamb of God. He had Joel killed. Younger brother Verlan then assumed leadership of Joel's group, so Ervil tried to have him killed too. He was unsuccessful that time, though.
However, he was successful in having his followers (often his wives) kill rival polygamous leaders and their wives. He has also been linked to the death of his own daughter, Rebecca, who criticized the group. Ervil was arrested in 1979 and taken to the U.S., where he was convicted of having ordered the death of one of his rivals. He was sentenced to life in prison at the Utah State Penitentiary, but died of natural causes after serving less than two years. For the short time he was in prison, though, he kept instructing his wives, children and followers to continue to murder. It's estimated that at least 25 people were killed from LeBaron's orders in prison. His daughter, Jacqueline, is wanted by the FBI.

Tran Viet Chu

Not all polygamists are Mormons or Mormon offshoots, though. Tran Viet Chu of Vietnam says he has no problem keeping up with his 14 wives and 80-plus children.
"Poor me, every time I see a voluptuously shaped woman I find no way to resist my sensitive feeling. I seem to have been born with this flirtatious tendency," he told the
Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Public Security) newspaper. He lives with some of his family, with each wife supporting her own children. Chu provides for himself. He says he's lost count of all of his wives and kids, but says he has "at least" 14 wives. And yes, polygamy is illegal in Vietnam, and so is having more than two children per family.

Saleh al-Sayeri

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This 64-year-old businessman has had 58 wives, but doesn't remember the names of most of them. He has 10 sons and somewhere between 22 and 28 daughters "“ he's not exactly sure. He does know, though, that all of his marriages and settlements have cost him more than $1.6 million.

Islamic law allows men to have up to four wives at a time, but he says he has kept the same three for the past 20 years or more "“ it's the fourth wife he rotates out. "It's the one for renewal," he said. "I like to change my fourth wife every year."

One of his sons, Fahd al-Sayeri, said he was out with friends when they heard celebratory gunshots coming from a tent, signaling a wedding. When he conversationally asked who got married, Fahd was informed that it was his own father. Again.

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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15 Reasons You Should Appreciate Squirrels
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Even if you live in a big city, you probably see wildlife on a regular basis. Namely, you're sure to run into a lot of squirrels, even in the densest urban areas. And if you happen to live on a college campus, well, you're probably overrun with them. While some people might view them as adorable, others see them as persistent pests bent on chewing on and nesting in everything in sight. But in honor of National Squirrel Appreciation Day, here are 15 reasons you should appreciate the savvy, amazing, bushy-tailed critters.

1. THEY CAN JUMP REALLY, REALLY FAR.

A flying squirrel soars through the air
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In one study [PDF] of the tree-dwelling plantain squirrels that roam the campus of the National University of Singapore, squirrels were observed jumping almost 10 feet at a stretch. In another study with the eastern ground squirrel, one researcher observed a squirrel jumping more than 8 feet between a tree stump and a feeding platform, propelling itself 10 times the length of its body. Flying squirrels, obviously, can traverse much farther distances midair—the northern flying squirrel, for instance, can glide up to 295 feet [PDF].

2. THEY'RE VERY ORGANIZED …

A squirrel digs in a grassy field filled with fallen leaves.
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In fact, they may be more organized than you are. A recent study found that eastern fox squirrels living on UC Berkeley's campus cache their nuts according to type. When given a mixture of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, the squirrels took the time to hide each type of nut in a specific place. This method of "spatial chunking" may help them remember where the nuts are when they go to retrieve them later. Though the study wasn't able to determine this for sure, the study's results suggested that the squirrels may have been organizing their caches by even more subtle categories, like the size of the nuts.

3. … BUT THEIR FORGETFULNESS HELPS TREES GROW.

Looking up a tree trunk at a squirrel climbing down
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Tree squirrels are one of the most important animals around when it comes to planting forests. Though they may be careful about where they bury their acorns and other nuts, they still forget about quite a few of their caches (or at least neglect to retrieve them). When they do, those acorns often sprout, resulting in more trees—and eventually, yet more acorns for the squirrels.

4. THEY HELP TRUFFLES THRIVE.

A man holds a truffle up for the camera.
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The squirrel digestive system also plays an important role in the survival of truffles. While above-ground mushrooms can spread their spores through the air, truffles grow below ground. Instead of relying on the air, they depend on hungry animals like squirrels to spread their spores to host plants elsewhere. The northern flying squirrel, found in forests across North America, depends largely on the buried fungi to make up its diet, and plays a major role in truffle propagation. The squirrels poop out the spores unharmed on the forest floor, allowing the fungi to take hold and form a symbiotic relationship with the tree roots it's dropped near.

5. THEY'RE ONE OF THE FEW MAMMALS THAT CAN SPRINT DOWN A TREE HEAD-FIRST.

A squirrel stands on the knot of a tree trunk looking down at the ground.
iStock

You may not be too impressed when you see a squirrel running down a tree, but they're actually accomplishing a major feat. Most animals can't climb vertically down head-first, but squirrel's back ankles can rotate 180°, turning their paws all the way around to grip the tree trunk as they descend.

6. SEVERAL TOWNS COMPETE FOR THE TITLE OF 'HOME OF THE WHITE SQUIRREL.'

A white squirrel in Olney, Illinois stands on its hind legs.
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Squirrels are a more popular town mascot than you might think. Surprisingly, more than one town wants to be known as the "home of the white squirrel," including Kenton, Tennessee; Marionville, Missouri; the Canadian city of Exeter, Ontario; and Brevard, North Carolina, the location of the annual White Squirrel Festival. But Olney, Illinois may be the most intense about its high population of albino squirrels. There is a $750 fine for killing the all-white animals, and they have the legal right-of-way on roads. There's an official city count of the squirrels each year, and in 1997, realizing that local cats posed a threat to the beloved rodent residents, the city council banned residents from letting their cats run loose outdoors. In 2002, the city held a 100-Year White Squirrel Celebration, erecting a monument and holding a "squirrel blessing" by a priest. Police officers wore special squirrel-themed patches for the event.

7. THEY CAN AID STROKE RESEARCH.

An illustration of different regions of the brain lighting up in blue
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Ground squirrels hibernate in the winter, and the way their brains function while they do may help scientists develop a new drug that can limit the brain damage caused by strokes. When ground squirrels hibernate, their core body temperature drops dramatically—in the case of the arctic ground squirrel, to as low as 26.7°F, possibly the lowest body temperature of any mammal on Earth. During this extra-cold hibernation, a squirrel's brain undergoes cellular changes that help its brain deal with reduced blood flow. Researchers are currently trying to develop a drug that could mimic that process in the human brain, preventing brain cells from dying when blood flow to the brain is cut off during a stroke.

8. THEIR FUR MAY HAVE SPREAD LEPROSY IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

A woman in a fur vest with a hood faces away from the camera and stares out over the water.
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If you always warn your friends not to pet or feed squirrels because they can spread disease, put this story in your back pocket for later: They may have helped leprosy spread from Scandinavia to the UK in the 9th century. Research published in 2017 found a strain of leprosy similar to a modern variant found in squirrels in southern England in the skull of a woman who lived in England sometime between 885 and 1015 CE. The scientists suggest that the leprosy may have arrived along with Viking squirrel pelts. "It is possible that this strain of leprosy was proliferated in the South East of England by contact with highly prized squirrel pelt and meat, which was traded by the Vikings at the time this woman was alive," one of the authors told The Guardian. That may not be the most uplifting reason to appreciate squirrels, but it's hard not to admire their influence!

9. THEY'RE MORE POWERFUL THAN HACKERS.

A squirrel runs across a power line.
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images

While energy companies may worry about hackers disrupting the power grid, squirrels are actually far more powerful than cyber-whizzes when it comes to sabotaging our electricity supply. A website called Cyber Squirrel 1 documents every public record of squirrels and other animals disrupting power services dating back to 1987. It has counted more than 1100 squirrel-related outages across the world for that time period, which is no doubt a vast underestimate. In a 2016 survey of public power utilities, wildlife was the most common cause of power outages, and for most power companies, that tends to mean squirrels.

10. THEY CAN HEAT UP THEIR TAILS TO WARD OFF PREDATORS.

A ground squirrel sits with its mouth open.
David McNew, Getty Images

California ground squirrels have an interesting way of scaring off rattlesnakes. Like cats, their tails puff up when they go on the defense. A squirrel will wave its tail at a rattlesnake to convince the snake that it's a formidable opponent. Surprisingly, they whip their tails at their foes whether it's light or dark outside. Squirrels can control the blood flow to their tails to cool down or keep warm, and they use this to their advantage in a fight, pumping blood into their tails. Even if the rattlesnakes can't see the bushy tails, researchers found in 2007, they can sense the heat coming off them.

11. THEY HELP SCIENTISTS KNOW WHETHER A FOREST IS HEALTHY.

A squirrel runs down a tree trunk toward a pile of leaves.
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Researchers look at tree squirrel populations to measure just how well a forest ecosystem is faring. Because they depend on their forest habitats for seeds, nesting sites, and food storage, the presence and demographics of tree squirrels in an area is a good bellwether for the health of a mature forest. Studying changes in squirrel populations can help experts determine the environmental impact of logging, fires, and other events that alter forest habitats [PDF].

12. THEY CAN LIE.

A squirrel with a bushy tail stands on its hind legs.
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Gray squirrels know how to deceive. They can engage in what's called "tactical deception," a behavior previously only seen in primates, as a study in 2008 found. When they think they're being watched by someone looking to pilfer their cache of food, the researchers discovered, they will pretend to dig a hole as if burying their acorn or nut, but tuck their snack into their mouth and go bury it elsewhere.

13. THEY WERE ONCE AMERICA'S MOST POPULAR PET.

A man in a hat kisses a squirrel on the White House grounds
Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Though some states currently ban (or require permits for) keeping squirrels as pets, it was once commonplace. Warren G. Harding kept a squirrel named Pete who would sometimes show up to White House meetings and briefings, where members of Harding's cabinet would bring him nuts. But keeping a squirrel around wasn't just for world leaders—the rodent was the most popular pet in the country, according to Atlas Obscura. From the 1700s onwards, squirrels were a major fixture in the American pet landscape and were sold in pet shops. Despite Harding's love of Pete, by the time he lived in the White House in the 1920s, squirrel ownership was already on the wane, in part due to the rise of exotic animal laws.

14. THE MERE SIGHT OF JUST ONE COULD ONCE ATTRACT A CROWD.

A historical photo of nurses leaning down to feed a black squirrel
Library of Congress // Public Domain

The American cities of the 1800s weren't great places to catch a glimpse of wildlife, squirrels included. In fact, the animals were so rare that in the summer of 1856, when a gray squirrel escaped from its cage inside a downtown New York apartment building (where it was surely living as someone's pet), it merited a write-up in The New York Times. According to the paper, several hundred people gathered to gawk at the tree where the squirrel took refuge and try to coax the rodent down. In the end, a police officer had to force the crowd to disperse. The paper did not document what happened to the poor squirrel.

15. IN THE 19TH CENTURY, THEY WERE TASKED WITH TEACHING COMPASSION.

A boy doing homework with a squirrel on the table.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In the mid-1800s, seeking to return a little bit of nature to concrete jungles, cities began re-introducing squirrels to their urban parks. Squirrels provided a rare opportunity for city slickers to see wildlife, but they were also seen as a sort of moral compass for young boys. Observing and feeding urban squirrels was seen as a way to steer boys away from their "tendency toward cruelty," according to University of Pennsylvania historian Etienne Benson [PDF]. Boy Scouts founder Ernest Thompson Seton argued in a 1914 article that cities should introduce "missionary squirrels" to cities so that boys could befriend them. He and other advocates of urban squirrels "saw [them] as opportunities for boys to establish trusting, sympathetic, and paternalistic relationships with animal others," Benson writes.

But young boys weren't the only ones that were thought to benefit from a little squirrel-feeding time. When the animals were first reintroduced to parks in the 19th century, feeding squirrels was considered an act of charity—one accessible even to those people who didn't have the means of showing charity in other realms. "Because of the presence of urban squirrels, even the least powerful members of human society could demonstrate the virtue of charity and display their own moral worth," Benson writes. "Gray squirrels helped reshape the American urban park into a site for the performance of charity and compassion for the weak." Even if you were too poor to provide any sort of charity for someone else, you could at least give back to the squirrels.

BONUS: THEY USED TO HATE TAX SEASON TOO.

A colored lithograph shows men and dogs hunting squirrels in a forest.
Currier and Ives, Library of Congress // Public Domain

Though notably absent from big cities, much of the U.S. was once overrun by squirrels. The large population of gray squirrels in early Ohio caused such widespread crop destruction that people were encouraged—nay, required—to hunt them. In 1807, the Ohio General Assembly demanded that citizens not just pay their regular taxes, but add a few squirrel carcasses on top. According to the Ohio History Connection, taxpayers had to submit a minimum of 10 squirrel scalps to the town clerk each year. Tennessee had similar laws, though that state would let people pay in dead crows if they couldn't rustle up enough squirrels.

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