If there's one thing that the lay person knows about Mormonism, it's polygamy. Soon after the Church was established, Joseph Smith got "revelation" that it was OK for some men to have more than one wife. Revelation is in quotes because I am not sure if God actually said that or if JS made that up. Theological arguments aside, and despite the fact that polygamy hasn't been a part of Mormonism since 1890, it still haunts women today.
In Mormondom, there is intense pressure for women to be perfect. Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." Women know they can't be perfect, that it's impossible, and yet we still tie ourselves into knots to get as close as we can. The ideal Mormon woman, Molly, is the goal that most Mormon women set. And everyone has a different version of what Molly is. But basically, Molly is the embodiment of how far a woman is from what she thinks she should be. This is harmful and a sad way to live. It's no wonder that Utah (what we in Kansas call the Motherland) has the highest rates of anti-depressant use in the country.
So how does this tie into polygamy? Well, for that, you need a little background into Mormon doctrine. Mormon doctrine believes that families are eternal. Which sounds really nice. I love my husband very much and the idea that we are together forever is beautiful. But what isn't taught as often (mostly because it makes people sick, confused, and angry) is the belief that polygamy is practiced in the Celestial Kingdom. (The Celestial Kingdom is the upper level of Mormon heaven) One of the perks of the Celestial Kingdom is eternal increase, which means procreation forever.
In Mormon temples, couples are bound together in ceremonies called "sealings". This means that they are bound together for eternity. But, you ask, what happens if one dies? Then the remaining spouse can remarry. It used to be that men could be sealed to more than one woman, but women could only be sealed to one man, but I think that's changing.
However, the threat of polygamy in the eternities scares some women here on Earth. One of my fears, when we were both practicing Mormons, is that I would die, and he would get married and love his 2nd wife more than me. And I would be like Leah in the Old Testament, married first, but second fiddle. When we would fight, I would tell him that he "wants me to die so he can marry someone better." Yes, some of that was the Bipolar talking. But it's a very real fear in the Mormon community. The thought that even though LDS, INC denounced polygamy, it's still floating around in doctrine. It's hiding in the background, and nobody talks about it, but sometimes we feel it...Especially women in the church. Regardless of what the First Presidency says, we can't shake the notion that women are replaceable and expendable. Or, at the very least, in direct competition with other women (whether now or in the eternities) for the love and attention of their husbands.
All of that makes a lot of marriages seem slightly...unequal. If a woman feels she has to be pretty darn close to perfect to achieve #1 status in the hereafter, then she is going to be more willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. She is going to be willing to be submissive, put herself last, throw herself into bearing and raising godly children, be what her husband wants, no matter the cost to her. That's a hard way to live. And the real tragedy is that Mormon men are brought up thinking this is what they deserve. They deserve a wife that will drop of out of school to work part time and raise the children so he can become a doctor. They deserve dinner ready when they walk through the door. They deserve every sacrifice their wife has to make. Why? Because men have the priesthood (authority to act in God's name). Like so much of Mormondom, it doesn't come down to an individual's talents and gifts. It comes down to anatomy.
So here's a shout out to those women killing themselves trying to be perfect. In some ways, I respect you, because I have always been too selfish to go there. It takes a strong person to consistently put themselves last; to give so much of themselves away all the time. On the other hand, why would you live your life in competition with a sister-wife you have never met? Just put down the to-do list, take care of yourself, and be who you want--not what you think you should be. Sister, you only get one Earth life. Live it for you!