The twin sisters who share a HUSBAND (and he’s also married to their cousin)

From their brunette hair to their dress sense, twin sisters Vicki and Valerie Darger have a number of things in common. But the 42-year-olds share more than just their looks – they are both married to the same man.

The sisters are in a polygamous marriage with Joe, 43, who is also wed to a third woman – their cousin Alina. The Dargers, who are fundamentalist Mormons from Salt Lake City, Utah, live together in a large family home and have 24 children between them.

Vicki, currently a stay-at-home mother, has been married to Joe, who runs a construction company, for 22 years. Valerie joined the family as his third wife in 2000.

In the eyes of their Fundamentalist Mormon religion, all three women are equally married to Joe. They each have their own bedroom, and Joe alternates between the three rooms each evening.

Valerie, who works in the family cleaning business with Alina, 43, said: ‘The fact that Joe was married to Vicki didn’t bother me at all. I took it as a sign he would be a good husband for me as well. As teenagers, Vicki and I liked some of the same guys. I thought it might even be good if we married the same man.’

Vicki added: ‘I know that some people are uncomfortable at the thought of two sisters sharing a husband. But there’s a good chance if a husband is compatible with one sister, he’ll be well matched with another.’

Brave Joe was just 18 when he began dating Vicki and her cousin Alina at the same time and married them in a joint Mormon ceremony in 1990. The following day, Alina became his legal wife when they married again at a ceremony under state law, while Vicki acted as witness.

‘Even in our community joint courtships are rare,’ said Vicki. ‘We knew we were taking on a huge challenge and responsibility. The accepted pattern in our culture is for a couple to prove themselves first in a monogamous marriage, before taking on the challenges of a second wife.’

Describing their joint dates, Joe said: ‘Since Alina and Vicki were close friends and were interested in pursuing me together, the best thing I could do was to nurture that combined friendship. I was attracted to both girls and knew that individual relationships would develop in time.’

Vicki and Alina had been married to Joe for ten years when they both encouraged him to start pursuing a relationship with Vicki’s twin Valerie. Valerie had just gone through a divorce after her marriage to an older man Donald, who had six wives, broke down due to his gambling and abusive treatment.

One evening, while Valerie and her five children were staying with the Darger family, she felt a sudden spark of chemistry with Joe.

Joe admitted: ‘I had a connection with Valerie, but the fact she was Vicki’s twin was weird – they both had the same mannerisms. But Vicki opened my mind to it.’

Alina added: ‘I was excited at the prospect of Val becoming part of our family. I had a genuine love and concern for her and wanted her to be the happiest she could possibly be.’

Joe and Valerie married in another Mormon service in their home, with Vicki and Alina standing beside them, and celebrated with a family meal.

The Dargers were investigated by state authorities several years ago for their beliefs and attempted to keep their plural marriage secret for many years. But two years ago, they decided to talk about their relationship to raise awareness, and to try to overcome prejudices against their religion and lifestyle.

Although polygamy is generally illegal in all 50 states, practitioners are almost never prosecuted unless there is evidence of abuse, statutory rape, welfare fraud, or tax evasion. The three wives and their husband have co-written a book ‘Love Times Three’, and some of their adult children also contributed to the story.

‘We hope that by talking about our way of life, polygamy will step closer to being an accepted lifestyle and the laws that criminalise it might change,’ said Joe.

Polygamy among Mormons began with the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement Joseph Smith when he declared in upstate New York in 1831 that he had seen visions telling him that ‘plural marriage’ should be practised. After his death in 1844, followers took polygamy to Utah, where it was practised publicly until 1890 when it was renounced by the LDS church to win statehood for the territory.

During that time, Congress issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act in 1962 which re-asserted that polygamy was illegal in all US territories.

The LDS argued that such laws infringed their right to religiously-based practise under the U.S. Constitution. But a ruling by the Supreme Court in 1878 stated that they were not protected based on the long-standing legal principle that while government cannot interfere with religious beliefs, it can with practices.

Various splinter groups left the church after the 1890 Manifesto in order to continue polygamy. Nowadays, there are said to be more than 30,000 people practising polygamy in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Arizona.

States occasionally take action against polygamists, notably Tom Green, who was sentenced to five years in prison for bigamy in Utah in August 2001.

One famous Mormon is U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, whose father George W. Romney was born in 1907 in a settlement in Mexico that had been founded in the 1880s by Mormons fleeing American anti-polygamy laws.

The last polygamist in Romney’s direct ancestry was his great-grandfather Miles Park Romney, who had three wives. Romney’s paternal grandfather Gaskell was monogamous and the Mormon Church outlawed polygamy in 1890.


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