The Duggar family joined Bill Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles, or IBLP, early in their marriage. In the time since, both Gothard and the eldest Duggar son have faced accusations of molesting young girls, and both IBLP and the Duggar family have been accused of covering up these acts. While other reality stars connected to IBLP have worked to distance themselves from Gothard, the Duggars have advertised IBLP programs. Now, some of Jim Bob Duggar’s married adult children are joining that exodus. However, the next marriage in the family may be to another IBLP member.
So far, six of the older Duggar children have married and started families of their own.
Josh Duggar married Anna Keller, who, according to MSN, he met in person for the first time at an ATI conference. ATI, or Advanced Training Institute, is a homeschooling program run by IBLP. Josh and Anna Duggar have made no statements about IBLP membership recently, but are presumed to still be connected to the organization.
Jill Duggar married Derick Dillard. According to US Magazine, though Derick was not an IBLP member, conservative religious beliefs did bring the two together — Derick asked Jim Bob Duggar to be a prayer partner, and Jill’s father played matchmaker as well. Currently, Derick is the most vocal Duggar-in-law distancing his own family from Gothard and IBLP. On Twitter, he has stated that his family does not follow Gothard, and has even stated that some of the modesty standards the Duggar family implemented from IBLP are wrong.
I attended my BIL’s graduation from ALERT because I love and support my family. That does not mean that I follow Gothard, by extension.
— Derick Dillard (@derickmdillard) October 25, 2017
No, I don’t believe or teach that. That’s not anywhere close to what the Bible teaches.
— Derick Dillard (@derickmdillard) January 9, 2018
That’s right, the Bible says nothing about wearing skirts or having certain hair to be saved. It is a gift of God; none of our merits will save us (Eph. 2:8-9)
— Derick Dillard (@derickmdillard) January 9, 2018
Derick specifically denies that a woman is supposed to submit to a man (her father or husband — her ‘headship’), that modest dress means skirts and dresses, and that women must wear their hair long.
IBLP educational materials obtained by Talking Points Memo indicate that submission to a father or husband is a key point in Gothardism, and Recovering Grace details that the long, softly curled hair is also a Gothard value, as well as the demand on girls and women to wear skirts.
Viewers considered Derick’s religious views to be quite closely aligned with the Duggar family — so even though she wasn’t the first Duggar daughter to do so, Jill’s appearance in pants came as a shock to the public.
Then there’s the third Duggar to marry. Jessa married Ben Seewald, and though TLC reports that the two met when Ben visited the Duggar family’s church, it’s clear he has diverged from Jim Bob Duggar’s position on some matters. A simple example is the Duggar family’s interpretation of IBLP’s word on music. IBLP’s student guide (pdf) calls for a decision to listen only to “godly” music. In their book, Growing Up Duggar, Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger say that they don’t listen to “certain types” of music even with religious lyrics — that Christian rock, for instance, can’t be separated from the worldliness of rock music.
However, in the Duggar family’s new tv series, Ben and Jessa were featured spending time with a hip-hop artist — not exactly in line with the Duggar family’s past beliefs.
Fourth, and most divergent from the Duggar family’s IBLP lifestyle, is Jinger. Married to Jeremy Vuolo, Jinger moved far from the Duggar compound in Arkansas, to Texas, where she began wearing pants and may have intentionally spent the first year of her marriage child-free. In Touch reported that Jeremy, a preacher himself, has specifically stated that female modesty doesn’t require skirts. Of course, large families and letting God decide the number of offspring are central to the Duggar family’s long-espoused beliefs, and delaying pregnancy is another sign that Jinger really did distance herself from that lifestyle.
Joy-Anna Duggar married Austin Forsyth, whose family owns a resort they’ve designed in Western style, where ATI family conferences are often hosted. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have frequently given talks there and advertised the camp on their Facebook page. Joy-Anna might be the Duggar daughter who has, so far, stayed the closest to Bill Gothard’s teachings after marriage.
Unlike his sisters, Joe Duggar, as the husband, would be expected (under Gothardism) to be the headship of his home, so here, his beliefs are more relevant than those of his wife, Kendra Caldwell. Joe named her father, Paul Caldwell, as his long-time pastor, so it’s a safe bet their beliefs are pretty closely aligned, although IBLP members don’t attend a single central church, but follow Gothard’s teachings while attending churches they find fitting.
Here’s where we come to the future. Josiah is rumored to be in a courtship. If so, it would be his second. He may be the second Duggar to have more than one courtship. Josh Duggar is said to have been in a courtship at the time when he confessed to Jim Bob Duggar that he had been molesting underaged girls, and that courtship was reported to have been broken off because of his actions. Though IBLP gives directions for ending a courtship, the Duggar family has described courtship as having a goal of marriage, so breaking one off is not usual.
If Josiah Duggar is indeed in a courtship with Lauren Swanson, the young woman who was introduced as a “family friend” at an IBLP conference in Australia, he’s picked someone very closely aligned with the Duggar family beliefs. Her father, Dwain Swanson, is also a speaker at this year’s Family Conference at the IBLP-owned Big Sandy resort in Texas, alongside Jim Bob Duggar. He and his wife, Lana, have 8 children — far from the 19 kids of the Duggar family, but still a large family. He’s a founder of a religious organization, Courageous Men of the Word, inspired by the discussion at the 2013 ATI conference at Big Sandy. This year, he and Jim Bob Duggar will both speak about a father’s role in leading his family in God’s Word, which, at an ATI event, would mean God’s Word as interpreted through that organization’s belief system.
The Duggar family hasn’t made an announcement yet, and it’s possible for both Jim Bob Duggar and Dwain Swanson’s children to hold different beliefs from their fathers, but if Josiah Duggar is in a relationship with Lauren Swanson, it looks as though it will be another melding of two IBLP/ATI/Gothardism families. If Josiah and Lauren maintain their parents’ belief systems, that will make four Duggar family offspring who seem to do so, with three rejecting some or all of Gothard’s teachings.