• "Seeking Sister Wife" is a reality show following polygamous couples or throuples, and premiered on TLC in January 2018
• Cast members include the Brineys, the Alldredges, and the Snowdens
• Fundamentalist Mormons practice plural marriage and other unconventional practices which modern-day Mormons have long left behind
• The largest groups are the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church)
• Warren Jeffs, president of the FLDS Church, was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for accessory to rape, and a 2008 raid of the church's Texas ranch resulted in many investigations and arrests
What is “Seeking Sister Wife”?
Premiering on TLC in January 2018, “Seeking Sister Wife” is a reality show following polygamous couples or throuples – most of whom come from secular or Mormon backgrounds – as they search for new ‘wives’. Surprisingly, this is easier than it sounds, as the hard part is accommodating the third or fourth partner, and navigating the everchanging dynamics of the group relationship.
The show’s fourth season was broadcast from June to August 2022; there were doubts regarding its possible cancellation, but season five will reportedly air sometime in 2023.
Season one of the show featured the Brineys, the Alldredges, and the Snowdens. Drew Briney and his three wives – April, Angela and Auralee – were fundamentalist Mormons who raised their brood of over a dozen children in tranquil Utah. Eight of those children were born of Drew and April’s marriage, who’d been together for over two decades before inviting TLC camera crews into their unusual lives.
Surprisingly, Drew wasn’t raised as a Mormon but was interested in religion since his childhood. He eventually convinced April to participate in the polygamist lifestyle, and would tie the knot with Auralee after dating for eight months – together, they welcomed six more children. Angela, the third wife, knew Drew for less than a fortnight before they married and had Leonardo Vincenzo, his fifteenth child and her first.
Due to Utah’s unfriendly attitude towards polygamy – which is illegal in the state – the Brineys relocated to Oregon. Unlike her husband, April wasn’t totally enamored with the lifestyle, and hinted that she’d be interested in going her own way. While the show was filming its second season, Drew filed for divorce from April when she abruptly returned to Utah with their six underage children – Jacob, Jasher, Brielle, Jocelyn, Kyra and Keilana – and left the rest of the Brineys behind.
The show’s production team ultimately decided that the Brineys wouldn’t return to season two. Drew, Auralee and Angela stepped back from the limelight, also choosing to delete their website and family blog. Drew focused on his passion for writing science fiction and fantasy novels – two of which are number one best sellers – whereas April has been documenting her new life since breaking free from the Brineys.
Next up are the Alldredges: Jeff and his wives, Vanessa and Sharis, appeared on the show during seasons one and two, but dropped out as they were uncomfortable with the direction “Seeking Sister Wife” was going. Melina and Jennifer were prospective additions to their family, but on both occasions, things just didn’t work out.
Jeff became a fan favorite thanks to his affable personality and down-to-earth attitude. He remains active on social media, and fans can see that some of his newfound hobbies include woodworking, yoga and fishing. He finally found a third wife, Donna, in 2020; sadly, their short-lived union broke down after just one year, and he resorted to GoFundMe to pay for their costly child custody battle. For now, Jeff, Vanessa, Sharis and their children are living in South Dakota.
The controversial Snowdens also made headlines recently, but for far more sinister reasons. Dimitri and Ashley came from a secular background, shared three children named Canaria, Armonio and Nenufar, and had been spiritually married for nine years. Rather than pursue polygamy for religious reasons, their interest in finding a second wife was purely spiritual. While participating in the show, their prospects between seasons one and three were Joselyn, Jakira, Vanessa, Christeline and Tayler, but things didn’t work out for numerous reasons.
Despite deciding that she was ready to share Dimitri with another woman, Ashley laid down one non-negotiable rule: there would be no physical intimacy until Dimitri and the sister wife made things official through marriage. After just one date with Joselyn, Dimitri broke the rule by hooking up with the newcomer; the courtship came to an abrupt end because Ashley, ironically, felt that she could no longer trust Joselyn.
Things didn’t pan out with Jakira either, but Ashley and Dimitri were much luckier in season two when they met Vanessa Cobbs. Following a successful courtship and engagement, the trio participated in a spiritual wedding ceremony – but this time, Vanessa would be the one to end things with Dimitri and Ashley.
Taking to Instagram in early 2019, Vanessa wrote a cryptic message that read: “I now know that just because you love someone (or a family), doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re meant to be with them. Sometimes their long-established dynamic is not aligned with your own personal growth and path forward.”
Saddened but undeterred, Dimitri and Ashley returned in season three with high hopes for Tayler and Christeline, their new potential sister wives. Tayler, Christeline, and the latter’s two children visited Dimitri and Ashley’s home and ended up staying longer than expected due to the travel restrictions caused by the worsening coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
The closure of non-essential businesses meant that Dimitri couldn’t head out to work, so the family decided he and Tayler should do odd jobs while Ashley and Christeline took care of the kids at home. Things seemed to be flowing well in California, but a few weeks into lockdown, Tayler visited her family in Dallas and never came back.
After six weeks with no communication, Tayler and Dimitri ended their relationship on camera via videocall. No good explanation was given regarding Tayler suddenly cutting-off the Snowdens, which left viewers confused, but they soon forgot about it when Dimitri and Christeline’s relationship flourished, and he popped the question.
Shortly afterwards, Dimitri and Christeline were married… but he filed for divorce in May 2021, and the pair were declared legally single ten months later. Although the divorce is yet to be finalized, ugly details have come spilling out, painting the reality star in a negative light. Christeline filed for a restraining disorder in March 2021, claiming that Dimitri was abusive during intercourse, and had woken her up by slamming her head into the headboard of the bed on at least one occasion.
It wouldn’t take long for Vanessa, Dimitri’s season two sweetheart, to post a cryptic quote about abusers and narcissistic predators. She captioned the photo: “Enough. Stop lying to the world and yourselves. Get help. There’s no shame in therapy.” Tayler also seemed to confirm that Dimitri had abused her, and addressed TLC executives by writing: “Throw the whole show away. I know too much to be cancelled.”
#SeekingSisterWife In a disturbing new interview with @JohnYates327, former Snowden sister wife Ariadne Joseph speaks out about abuse she suffered while living with Ashley & Dimitri. She says she & other exes told TLC, but they kept filming new seasons. https://t.co/UoigdBe9nu pic.twitter.com/Fl5MwTd06F
— Starcasm (@starcasm) May 6, 2021
Ariadne Joseph is yet another woman who came forward with abuse allegations of her own. Ariadne never appeared in “Seeking Sister Wife”, but lived with Dimitri and Ashley for a time and shared her harrowing experiences with the blogger John Yates. Apparently, Ariadne confronted Dimitri after he received text messages from another woman, which led him to manhandle and shove her.
According to Ariadne, she had told TLC producers everything about Dimitri, adding: “Chrissy [Christeline] and her children didn’t have to go through that… Tayler, Vanessa, they did not have to experience this… I came out and I released all that information – and I had text messages and pictures,” adding that TLC had ‘scrubbed’ her evidence.
When the pressure got too much, Ashley finally put a stop to months of rumors in July 2021, by confirming via social media that she and Dimitri had broken up. The Snowdens were unceremoniously removed from “Seeking Sister Wife”, and Dimitri has yet to publicly comment on his legal woes or new single status.
The death of Bernie McGee, aged 41, in summer 2019 also cast a dark cloud over “Seeking Sister Wife”. Bernie and his wife Paige participated in “Seeking Sister Wife” during season two. The middle-aged couple had children, at least one of them in his adolescent years, and were interested in expanding their family unit with potential sister wife Brandy.
Bernie and Brandy’s blossoming courtship led to Paige feeling jealous and left out. When her husband and the potential new addition to their family began going on dates alone, an enraged Paige said that she no longer wanted to participate in the show. Paige and Bernie’s children weren’t happy about Brandy either, despite Bernie and son John sitting down for a lengthy heart-to-heart as the McGee patriarch tried to explain the ins and out of polygamy.
Before things could go further between Bernie and Brandy, he passed away of heatstroke and a heart attack while riding his bike. TLC released a heartfelt statement mourning the loss of a beloved cast member, and offering the McGee clan their condolences, but eyebrows were raised when it turned out that Paige didn’t even have enough money to cover her husband’s funeral expenses.
Shortly before Bernie’s death, the McGee family lost all their possessions in a house fire. This was part of the reason why they wanted to find not one but four sister wives – by pooling their resources, Bernie and Paige would be able to buy a plot of land on which to build a house and get their lives back on track. Bernie also wanted to have more children, but a past miscarriage had left Paige unfertile, so the sister wives would be expected to bring babies AND money to the table.
Paige’s whereabouts in 2022 remain a mystery, as the “Sister Wife” alum is uninterested in the limelight.
Fundamentalist Mormonism is defined as “a belief in the validity of selected fundamental aspects of Mormonism as taught and practiced in the nineteenth century”. Mormon fundamentalists wish to continue practices, such as plural marriage and egalitarian communism, which modern-day Mormons have long left behind. Fundamentalists believe that the Latter-Day Saints Church (LDS) wrongly abandoned or changed those principles when trying to reconcile with mainstream society.
The LDS Church currently excommunicates members who practice plural marriage, or participate in other fundamentalist practices. This has led to fundamentalists forming small groups in isolated communities scattered around northern Mexico, Western Canada, and Western US. Figures suggest that there are up to 60,000 Mormon fundamentalists in the US alone, but with under half of them practicing polygamy, although exact numbers vary.
Some founders of Mormon fundamentalist groups include John Y. Barlow, Leroy S. Johnson, and Elden Kingston. The largest groups are the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church). The former fundamentalist group is the largest, with an estimated 10,000 members living in Missouri, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming. The AUB church runs several schools as well as an Endowment House and temple.
Surprisingly, the AUB is relatively lax when it comes to plural marriage, as its leaders do not arrange marriages or authorize plural marriages for members who are under 18 years of age, or closely related.
The FLDS Church has an estimated 6,000 members. In 2002, Warren Jeffs became the church’s president; he was sentenced to life in prison just nine years later, after being convicted of accessory to rape. Many of its members live in Bountiful, British Columbia, Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and the church boasts a temple in Texas.
Members of the FLDS Church both dress and live extremely conservatively. In April 2008, child welfare officials and troopers searched one of the church’s many ranches, and took 416 children into temporary custody. A call from the ranch claimed that a 16-year-old girl had been physically and sexually abused following her marriage the year prior to a man over 30 years her senior. The next day, Judge Barbara Walther authorized the removal of all children aged 17 and under.
133 women left the ranch voluntarily, but in May 2008, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that CPS return the children, claiming that the phone call received from the ranch was a hoax. The raid resulted in many investigations, and 12 men associated with the FLDS Church have since been arrested, with some of them sentenced to up to 75 years in prison for a variety of heinous offences.
The Netflix documentary “Keep Sweet, Pray and Obey” has once again shed light on the conditions women and children of the FLDS Church live under. Some escapees have since established a women’s refuge, and the documentary included many harrowing testimonies. It’s important to note that many, but not all, participants of “Seeking Sister Wife” or similar shows, practice fundamentalist Mormonism.