Kody Brown has no reservations about going public with his four wives and their combined 18 children in front of cameras.
The 50-year-old and his unconventional family are the stars of TLC’s “Sister Wives,” which shows how they navigate life in a world that seems to shun their lifestyle. The series has been airing since 2010, with the newest season out last month.
“We’ve been able to present a different side of the story that traditionally was sort of a media’s whipping boy,” Brown told Fox News. “The polygamist community really didn’t get a fair shake and that was the motivation for us to actually go public. And in doing so, we got the blessing of being able to recognize each other and be recognized as a family instead of hiding in the shadows so to speak.”
Christine Brown, 46, said the family receives many well-wishes from those still learning about their “plural marriage.”
“I feel like we’ve really had so many people reach out to us that just want — they wish us so much good,” she explained. “… People are just so supportive. We’ve had a lot of people just be really sweet to us.”
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Gosh, I really didn’t get it. Thank you for helping me see a different side because a lot of times the train wrecks are what makes the news,’” added Janelle Brown, 49. “And so I think we’ve been very blessed in having the opportunity to change people’s perceptions, at least.”
Brown’s first and only legally recognized marriage was in 1990 to Meri Brown, 48, The New York Times previously reported. The pair originally met in 1989 through mutual friends and tied the knot six months later when she was 19 and he 22. Five years later, they welcomed their daughter Mariah. The newspaper shared that Brown’s second wife Janelle came in 1993, followed by wife Christine a year later.
Brown and Meri divorced in 2014, AZCentral.com reported. He legally married fourth wife Robyn, 40, so that he could adopt her children from a previous relationship. Brown has previously said he is “spiritually” married to Meri, Janelle and Christine.
Being married to more than one person, or bigamy, is illegal across the United States. The law in Mormon-heavy Utah is considered stricter because of a unique provision that bars married people from living with a second “spiritual spouse.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned polygamy in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today. The Browns consider themselves fundamentalist Mormons.
Robyn said faith is essential in keeping the peace within the union.
“It absolutely guides us in everything that we do,” she explained. “You don’t see a lot of cat fights in our family, and a lot of that is because culturally and spiritually we are taught that we treat each other with charity and with love and we… go forward with a Christ-like type of attitude towards each other.”
“If we didn’t have the guidance of faith, religion or spirituality in our lives, I don’t think we’d ever be able to be functional in this kind of lifestyle,” said Brown.
Brown stressed that having multiple relationships means respecting each boundary, which he willingly chronicles for the series.
“The very first season we had a nine-month courtship with Robyn,” he said. “It was a nonsexual experience. And when we were married… we were able to go on a honeymoon… So the point is we don’t have sex outside the marriage.”
“We call it plural marriage, and so we don’t consider it polyamorous,” Brown continued. “… Therefore, we focus specifically on respecting marriage and the boundaries of marriage. We don’t have any relationships that would be considered marital relationships with those who are not married.”
But like with all unions, plural marriages have their own set of challenges. In 2011, the family fled Utah under the threat of prosecution following the premiere of their show. They headed to Las Vegas but realized they didn’t want to grow old in Sin City. In 2018, they packed up once again and headed to Flagstaff, a liberal college city in largely conservative Arizona. That is where they reside today.
The Browns have ruled out returning to Utah, where they feel discrimination persists against plural families.
“We finally just decided Utah was never going to be a safe home for us. And because Las Vegas was essentially an exile… we just came together finally and decided that we wanted to move somewhere where we were all choosing to move. And so we went through a negotiation process on where we chose to move [to Flagstaff].”
But one challenge the women in particular claim they don’t struggle with is envy over sharing the same spouse.
“I do get jealous sometimes, sure,” admitted Christine. “Absolutely. But I’ve got these lovely ladies that support me in my relationship with Kody and they support me as a mom. They support me as a sister wife. … I value them and I love them. And they love me too. And so there’s a bigger picture you have to keep in mind. This is a big family that we’re talking about. And so, it’s actually very empowering and has a lot of good benefits, too.”
Janelle said the new season will continue to address misconceptions the public still has about the Browns.
“You know, I think one of the biggest things that we addressed this season is that one person calls the shots for everybody, and I think that is a common misconception,” she explained. “I don’t think a lot of people can understand that one person isn’t saying we’re all going to do this or you have to do this. It’s very much a family decision. And so that is something that we hope we can continue to show and educate people — that we’re not little Stepford wives or something that go along for the process.”
“This season we constantly show the sort of the negotiation that each of us has with one another and with the entire group of us in making a decision,” said Brown. “It’s a process and it’s a lot of diplomacy, a lot of negotiation, a lot of give and take. And I think that we see a lot of that this season.”
One thing the Browns have agreed on? Not considering a fifth wife anytime soon.
“We really took the fifth wife thing off the table a long time ago,” said Brown. “And because we don’t want to snub the concept, we’ve always sort of been very casually dismissing it, and I think that’s one reason the question keeps coming up. But it’s technically been off the table as long as we’ve done the show.”
And when it comes to their children, the Browns agreed they don’t have to follow a similar path when it comes to marriage. It’s a subject that, like everything else, the Browns aren’t afraid to tackle in front of audiences across the country.
“We all want our kids to be inspired with whatever kind of family structure they want to have,” said Christine.
"Sister Wives" airs Sundays at 8 PM on TLC. The Associated Press contributed to this report.