Kody Brown rose to fame on TLC when his family’s show, Sister Wives, debuted in 2010, but the Browns have undergone many changes since then.
When reality TV audiences were introduced to the Browns, the supersized polygamous family often gave viewers glimpses into their personal lives, including their spiritual beliefs as fundamentalist Mormons.
As polygamists, Kody and his wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, followed the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), a sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), which is part of the Mormon faith.
Mormons once practiced polygamy, dating back to the 1840s. Polygamy is defined as the practice of having more than one spouse at a time, typically involving one husband and multiple wives, as in Kody’s case.
The Book of Mormon instructed its male followers to take up more than one wife “for the purpose of raising “up seed unto [the Lord].”
Interestingly, Kody was raised in a traditional Mormon upbringing and didn’t entertain the idea of polygamy until his father, William Winn Brown, felt called to the lifestyle. Then Kody had a “divine calling” to polygamy himself.
Kody Brown became a polygamist in 1993 when Janelle joined his and Meri’s marriage
Kody married his first wife, Meri, in 1990, when he was 21 and she was 19. Meri had been raised in a polygamous lifestyle, so she shared Kody’s beliefs and was vocal about wanting sister wives.
Meri became a sister wife for the first time, and Kody officially became a polygamist when Janelle entered their marriage in 1993. Janelle, like Kody, wasn’t raised in the polygamous lifestyle but also felt called to plural marriage.
Interestingly, Janelle’s mother, Sheryl, became Kody’s father’s second wife when he decided to enter into plural marriage.
Kody added two more wives over the next 17 years. Christine, also raised in a polygamous family, became Kody’s third wife in 1994, and Robyn, who also grew up in the polygamous lifestyle, became wife number four in 2010.
Sister Wives stars Kody and Robyn Brown are legally husband and wife
Because having more than one legal spouse is unlawful, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn were only spiritually married to Kody, while Meri remained his sole legal wife. That changed in 2014 when Meri legally divorced Kody, allowing him to legally wed Robyn so that he could adopt her three children, Dayton, Aurora, and Breanna, from her previous marriage to David Jessop.
Kody and his wives believed that plural marriage was a way to gain entry into Heaven, although Sister Wives viewers have watched the Browns grow farther from that belief in recent years.
Most of the Browns have left the AUB, including Kody’s kids
Typically in the AUB, wives need to be granted permission from a church leader in order to divorce their husbands. Christine skipped that step when she left Kody in 2021 and admitted she no longer affiliated with the faith.
This season on Sister Wives, Janelle has expressed that she still abides by the AUB’s teachings, which has caused her to rethink leaving Kody. Meri hasn’t mentioned her religious beliefs since leaving Kody earlier this year, and it appears that Robyn is still a practicing fundamentalist Mormon.
As far as Kody is concerned, it doesn’t seem that he abides by the AUB any longer, having questioned polygamy and seemingly kicking plural marriage to the curb for good.
And as for Kody’s 18 children? Despite growing up in a polygamous family, none of them are interested in a plural marriage for themselves.
Christine and Janelle recently admitted during an interview with PEOPLE that most of the Browns’ children lack the religious conviction necessary to live a polygamous lifestyle.
“None of our children have chosen to live polygamy,” Janelle shared. “We don’t even have any really that are in the Mormon church, the mainstream [Latter-Day Saints] church.”
Christine added, “Some of our kids have seen how hard it is, and some of our kids have seen the separation. They see how hard it is, and they’re like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. No, that’s not for me.'”
Sister Wives airs on Sundays at 10/9c on TLC.