‘Sister Wives’ family makes home in inclusive Arizona city

In this June 17, 2018 photo provided by Kali Poulsen shows a photo after the wedding of a daughter from the polygamous family from TV's "Sister Wives" at La Caille Restaurant in Sandy, Utah. The polygamous family from TV's "Sister Wives" moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, because they said they needed a new hometown after realizing Las Vegas was a great place to take "exile" but not where they want to grow old. (Kali Poulsen via AP)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The patriarch of the polygamous family from TV’s “Sister Wives” drove around his new hometown in northern Arizona, admiring the mountain views but still thinking about the heap of boxes that needed sorting at the homes he rented for his four wives and 18 children.

“We moved to heaven, but we’re in living hell right now,” Kody Brown said, laughing, during a recent phone interview with The Associated Press.

Packing up four moving trucks in Las Vegas during triple-digit July heat and taking his family to Flagstaff, a liberal college city in largely conservative Arizona, was no easy task.

But the Browns said they needed a new place to call home — and film their TLC reality show — after realizing they didn’t want to grow old in Las Vegas. They said they lived there in “exile” after fleeing Utah in 2011 under the threat of prosecution following the premiere of their groundbreaking show.

Flagstaff residents have a “live and let live” attitude, and the City Council has passed resolutions promoting diversity and inclusion. The city has snowy winter seasons and is a popular destination for desert dwellers to cool off.

That open-mindedness and beauty attracted the Browns after they ruled out returning to Utah, where they feel discrimination persists against plural families.

“Let’s just say there’s a lot of hippies in Flagstaff, and they’re awesome,” Brown said.

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.

In a memo addressing legal questions about the family, Flagstaff police said Brown could not be charged with bigamy because he is legally married to one woman, Robyn Brown. The patriarch says he’s “spiritually married” to the other three women.

The Browns bought four lots totaling almost 15 acres a few miles from downtown Flagstaff for $820,000 in June, according to property records. They said they eventually plan to build a home or homes but are now living in four rentals scattered throughout the community.