Of all the families that have been featured on Seeking Sister Wife, and even other polygamist shows like Sister Wives, The Winder family comes across as the most stable and happy. While their faith is what compelled them to enter into this type of arrangement, it appears that their compatible personalities and the work they’ve put into nurturing their relationship have truly allowed their family to function and flourish.
What do the Winders believe? What is their religion?
Tami shared this in the first episode of Season Two: “Part of our belief is that we are preparing to become gods and goddesses of our own worlds. We believe there is no better way to become a god than plural marriage because we believe God lives plural marriage as well.”
Tami is referencing the Mormon idea that marriage involves a man being sealed to a woman in marriage, making their union eternal and allowing them to enter the third tier of Mormon heaven, called the “Celestial Kingdom.” Mainstream Mormons believe that this can happen with monogamous marriage, but they do allow a man to seal with more than one woman if his first wife dies. In this case, a man can be married for eternity to more than one woman. This is an extremely patriarchial belief system that means women must be chosen by a man in order to enter this top heaven.
Fundamentalist Mormons believe that in order for a man to enter heaven he must be in a plural marriage like their religion’s founder Joseph Smith, who had 40 wives. This system is still patriarchial, but if everyone practiced this, it would mean a lot of men would never have wives, and would never have a chance to enter this top heaven under their belief system. We have already seen fall out from this structure with the FLDS church, where young boys are thrown out of communities to fend for themselves so just a few men can share all of the women.
Independent Fundamentalist Mormons, like the Winders, are not a part of the FLDS and do not engage in abusive practices like child brides, but if their practice was more widespread, they would still have the problem of scarcity of women and abundance of men.
Do they have a church?
Like the Browns from Sister Wives and the Allredges from last season of SSW, the Winders operate with an independent fundamentalist Mormons. All three families come from Utah, and seem to have similar belief systems, and they are all operating separately from the FLDS group ran by Warren Jeffs. In fact, the Allredgesa and the Browns are now related by marriage because Aspyn Brown’s husband Mitch Thompson is Vanessa Alldredge’s brother.
The Browns used to be members of the AUB, which stands for Apostolic United Brethren. It’s unclear if this is the same church that the Winders consider themselves a part of, but their belief systems are similar with the idea that the principle of plural marriage has unlocked for them the highest heaven in Mormon theology: the celestial kingdom, with each plural marriage having their own “world” like Tami mentions.