Brady Williams and his unconventionally large family became the talk of the town in early 2014, at which point the first season of TLC’s reality TV series “My Five Wives” premiered to a shocked yet interested audience. It showcased him, his five wives and, unbelievably, their 24 children.

Naturally, the main questions at the time were the same that people have today – ‘Why, and how?’ While it may seem complicated to explain the reasons that anyone could possibly have for that sort of marital arrangement, it’s actually rather simple to anyone familiar with certain other branches of Christianity.

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Not like other guys

It’s evident from simply reading the title of any article about Brady Williams that his mind works very differently from what is normal in this day an age. To the annoyance and disgust of a good portion of the series’ viewers, Brady put his lifestyle on full display, with pride in his gait.

He boasted in the many one-on-one moments with the camera crews that he came across the idea on his own, after researching a bit deeper into the religion his father had vehemently followed and adhered to – Mormonism. With that in mind, Brady more often than not takes credit for their entire arrangement coming to fruition, though he also does his best to remain modest.

First and foremost, Paulie

He started out as a regular married man in 1992, with his first wife Paulie. They have since had six children – Maura, Camry, September, Madeline, Joshua and Karlie. Paulie herself is employed, working as a dental assistant and hygienist somewhere around their secret place of residence in Utah.

Secondly, Robyn

Robyn came into the picture a mere eight-to-nine months after Paulie, subsequently birthing Lauren, Thomas, Hannah, Trey and Dane. Her nuptial arrangement brought art into the household, as she is someone who loves to paint, draw, and create all sorts of DIY items. She often makes gifts for the children and the other wives, surprising them from time to time with genuine affection.

Rosemary, the third

Rosemary stepped in as the third wife in 1996, adding Taylor, Brandon, Kimberly and James to the family down the line. She met Brady through mutual church activities, and was eventually seduced by his idea of what following God should really entail. She held her ground for a while too, as it took Williams a whole three years to get her to (figuratively) walk down the aisle with him.

It also helped his case that Rosemary hailed from a polygamous family herself, and saw his way as the only true way to have offspring, even before they first exchanged words. This one is also an artist, although her passion lies with music. She has had certain difficulties after the births, especially with excess weight. While most of the wives were able to keep the kilograms down post-delivery, this proved to be a big challenge for Rosemary, who is even today not satisfied with her appearance.

Nonie, number four

Nonie joined the reverend polygamous flock two years after Rosemary, taking the Williams surname in 1998. She’s given birth to six children – Taylee, Marissa, Paul, Aiden, Rachel and Addisen Jai. She is somewhat of a germaphobe, although not to an annoying extent. As a result, both of the Williams’ houses are kept squeaky clean, and through no forcing of chores.

She is also somewhat of an anxious presence at times, having worried greatly about the family’s income throughout the series. It’s believed by most fans that she is the most financially responsible out of the six parents, and thus indispensable to their daily livelihood.

As the family garnered great fame around the world through the series’ success, Nonie also took on the job of managing their entire social media presence, creating a Facebook page that showcases the day-to-day of the massive household. She proceeded to take care of the Williams public image long after the series had concluded in late 2014, attracting even more supporters over the years since.

Rhonda, the last

Another two years later, Brady placed the fifth jewel in his family crown, as well as a neat gem on Rhonda Williams’ finger. They have since had Arwen, Lake, Nicholas and Eden. They would’ve actually conceived another, but Rhonda was diagnosed with a certain breast-related health condition that would’ve endangered her if she were to breastfeed again. Hence, the two instead weighed their options with regards to adoption.

Rhonda is herself a medical professional, working as an assistant at a local health facility. She’s an artist as well, but her creative energies are channeled into really, really sweet things – wedding cakes. There’s been no update about her health condition or the discussed adoption as of mid-2023, so it’s safe to assume that she’s feeling okay, but hasn’t yet adopted a child.

They’re not all really married

Some fans who have been paying less attention will be surprised to find out that Brady is technically (and legally) only married to his first wife, with the others declaring themselves as his spiritual partners. The four subsequent ceremonies weren’t officiated by a legal representative who can bind their names together in the eyes of the law, and there’s a good reason for that.

Polygamy has a long and complicated history in the US, particularly within the context of Mormonism, which is the religion from which Brady hails. Despite being illegal in all 50 states, polygamous marriages continue to occur in some communities, and the topic remains highly controversial to this day.

The practice can be traced back to the early 19th century, when Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have received a revelation in which God commanded him to take multiple wives. Smith reportedly had as many as 40 wives, and after his death, Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), continued to promote the practice of polygamy.

Polygamy became a central issue all over the country in the mid-19th century; as the Mormon church continued to grow, so did the number of people practicing polygamy. This drew the attention of the federal government, which viewed the practice as a threat to traditional marriage and family values. In response, the government passed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act in 1862, which made it illegal to marry more than one person.

However, this law was difficult to enforce, as entire communities existed in remote areas, or simply hidden from view. As a result, law enforcement agents were unable to locate and prosecute numerous alleged offenders, and polygamy continued to be practiced in many Mormon communities.

In the late 19th century, the issue of polygamy became even more heated, with the federal government beginning to take a more aggressive approach to suppressing the practice, and in 1890, the LDS church officially renounced polygamy. In spite of that, some members of the church continued to practice polygamy in secret, and the government continued their witch hunt. This is the step in the evolution of polygamy that is still happening, even in 2023.

Today its prevalence is evident in fundamentalist Mormon groups, who are also known as orthodox Mormons, and hold the initial story of God’s message to Joseph Smith to be true. These groups often live in isolated communities, and have their own rules and traditions. While the practice remains illegal, law enforcement officials often turn a blind eye to these communities, as they are almost impossible to police and legally pursue.

The controversy surrounding polygamy in the United States has many layers. On one hand, many argue that it’s a violation of traditional family values, and is harmful to women and children. On the other hand, proponents of polygamy argue that it’s a matter of personal freedom and that adults should be allowed to marry whomever they choose.

Anti-polygamy activists cite child neglect and effective infidelity to your wedded, almost always male partner, as the most concerning issues with the practice, stating that offspring from polygamous marriages won’t get equal treatment from their multiple parents, as it will, in theory, only be preferential if they’re the adult’s biological child.

It’s unnecessary to explain how this could be harmful to a developing toddler, but there isn’t a lot of data to support the claim in the first place. In order for that to exist, studies first need to be conducted on legal polygamous marriages.

The proponents of the practice use this lack of data to support their own claim, which is that there’s nothing wrong with freedom. Also, orthodox Mormons believe that polygamous marriage is the fastest way to earn entrance to heaven. Some fans are pretty sure that more than one of Brady’s wives married him only for that reason, though their relationships radiate genuine affection.

Living their own way

Although Brady and all five wives were raised Mormon, they’ve all stepped away from the religion over the years, even its orthodox branch. They’ve been vocal about why this change was necessary, explaining that they began to identify less and less with Mormonism over time, as it was too restrictive.

They define the family structure as progressive polygamy, completely unrelated to any religion. That said, the six parents do take inspiration from other religious scriptures when teaching their many children, such as Buddhism. While not factually telling the young ones that a man once meditated until he became divine, they try their best to instill Buddhism’s teachings about acceptance, love and understanding.

Brady eventually grew tired of the old promise-of-heaven, threat-of-hell story, and the wives soon followed. They now all identify as religiously independent, practicing teachings from various religions, but not really worshipping a particular deity.

More importantly, and to the surprise of many, Brady and the wives don’t teach their children that polygamy is the way to go, even though all six of them were raised that way, and ended up doing the same thing. The kids are told that they’re in no way obligated to follow in their parents’ footsteps, and that polygamy is simply one of the ways to start a family, not ‘the’ way.

They were also spotted by the Associated Press, at which point Brady took the opportunity to advocate for the legalization of polygamy, since as he said, it doesn’t really hurt anyone. He was also seen on multiple occasions saying that polygamy should be legal if gay marriages are, but his pleas continue to fall on deaf ears.

Interestingly, and again in spite of public expectations, the women in the family identify as feminists, which is to say that no aspect of their marital arrangement makes them feel inconvenienced in the slightest. The mutual respect that the six parents have for each other was palpable throughout the series’ running, and was exemplified very well in TLC’s video entitled “My Five Wives Super Catchup | My Five Wives.”

It shows the entire family’s numerous days of filming combined, telling a wholesome and somewhat dramatic story that unfolded over their time on camera. While in most reality TV series such montages often build up towards yelling and negative comments behind each other’s backs, this is not the case in “My Five Wives.”

The only issue that the family really seemed to have was of a monetary nature, with Brady declaring bankruptcy in 2014, listing his houses, five cars and other possessions as assets in the court documents. It’s believed that he saved himself from over $300,000 of debt, and it’s still unknown how it ever got to that amount. Understandably, 24 mouths to feed could indeed be the only reason for their financial troubles, but nothing has been clarified in this regard by any family member. The Facebook page has also remained mum on the topic, with Nonie’s last update being a Mother’s Day post from 2022.

The family is believed to now live in a big new house, somewhere around Salt Lake City. Their location has remained undisclosed even throughout the TV series, as they would otherwise have been promptly arrested, and their children taken to orphanages. The existence of such families and communities is likely to remain a bone of contention for legal authorities.

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