Here is the full transcript of American basketball player Lance Allred’s TEDx Talk: What is Your Polygamy? at TEDxSaltLakeCity conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.
Lance Allred – American basketball player
“Wow, you’re really tall. How tall are you? Do you play basketball?”
“You played in the NBA with Lebron James? What was that like?”
It was fun; we got along well. Lebron, the inner city kid from Ohio, and me, the deaf polygamist kid from Montana.
Poof! “What?! You grew up in polygamy? What was that like? I don’t get it. Why would people do that? Why would they stay? I could never be a second or third wife.”
Not that complicated really. It’s what they know. It’s the world they grew up in. And they know what the boundaries and the rules are. And they’re told to stay inside those boundaries, the physical boundaries of the commune and furthermore the mental and emotional boundaries. Stay inside those boundaries and you will always be safe. Safe from pain.
Most people will choose a familiar hell over an unfamiliar heaven. So, now I ask you: what is your polygamy? What are the thought patterns you have inherited from your childhood? From your parents, your grandparents, your community, that you’ve taken with you into your adult life.
What are the stories and perceived truths that still linger, and that may be sabotaging your adult experience? What are the boundaries and comfort zones you have settled in? Never daring to take risk.
Physically escaping from polygamy at the age of 13, for me, was the easy part. Mentally and emotionally escaping? Far different story.
My grandfather was Rulon Allred, the prophet and founder of the Apostolic United Brethren. I never knew him, as he was assassinated four years before I was born, by the wife of a rival polygamous leader. But I was raised in his Utopian dream, at Pinesdale, Montana.
My childhood was a world of wonder and mysticism, solidified by black and white absolutes. Absolutes that said that we were special; that we were God’s chosen people; that we had the one True Church, with a capital “T.” And that my grandfather was up in heaven, waiting for me.
The nature and appeal of absolutes is that they provide certainty in an uncertain world. And most people will do anything, anything they can, to protect that.
[Video clip -> Interviewer: Could you become a God?
Vance Allred: Yes.
Interviewer: How far would you be willing to go to defend the principle of polygamy?
Vance Allred: I was raised for it, I was born for it, reared for it, trained for it, all my life.
Interviewer: Would you die for it?
Rulon Allred: We are trying to keep all the commandments of God.
Female speaker: Early this morning, Rulon Allred, fundamentalist leader of the Apostolic United Brethren, was found shot dead in his medical office. Witnesses noticed two unidentified females leaving the scene. – Video clip concludes]
So again, I ask you, what is your polygamy? What are the black and white absolutes that you hold on to that allow you to believe that you have the truth, that you are right? And what relationships would you sabotage or endure to hold on to that story.
Maybe you are an expert mental gymnast, like myself. You had to be, growing up in that world of pesky absolutes. On one hand, you are so special; yet, on the other, you’re not quite worthy — you could do better.
You are loved, unconditionally, without question — on the condition you do everything the prophet says. And when you speak of the prophet, you speak very softly, like this.
You are told that lying is a sin. Yet, if anyone asks you if your dad is a polygamist, you have to lie.
What are the mental gymnastics you pull to stay within your paradigm to avoid cutting your losses? Would you like to see a polygamist wedding? Jazz hands!
This is my mother at the age of 16, being placed in an arranged marriage with my father. Now, note: these are not bridesmaids, these are my mom’s sistermoms, and those are my dad’s — one, two, three, four, five, six…There is just a lot of women in that room.
Throughout my basketball career, I’ve had team mates come up to me and say, “Hey yo, dawg! This new club be hoppin’. There’s like a three girls to one guy ratio, we gotta go check it.”
And I’m like, “I’m good.”
As a boy, growing up in polygamy, you saw men in power, the prophets with multiple wives, and so you began telling yourself a story that a woman is how God validates you. More wives equals more worthy, equals more power, equals more blessings, equals more wives, and so on, and so on.