How Did Jim Bob And Michelle Duggar Really Meet?

The sixth month of every year traditionally gives rise to many wedding celebrations. June 2023 will mark a very different occasion — the premier of "Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets." This four-episode docuseries from Prime Video airs the dirty laundry of the Duggar family, reality TV fixtures featured in "19 Kids and Counting" and "Counting On." For fans of their shows, the Duggar clan's allure has always been found in their conservative Christian values. 

For example, patriarch Jim Bob and his wife Michelle shunned contraception and home-schooled their 19 children. Their daughters wore unrevealing, unfashionable clothes that covered most of their bodies. The Arkansas couple also avoided exposing their children to non-Christian influences, focusing instead on scripture and wholesome pleasures. Hiking trips, zoo visits, and picnics were featured in episodes of their TV show. How heartbreaking, then, when this clean-living family experienced the scandal of eldest son Josh Duggar's prison sentence.

The docuseries takes pains to link the famous family's secrets to their involvement with The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP). This controversial Christian organization, which some allege is a cult, began as a youth outreach program in 1961 and gradually expanded into ministries, conferences, a home education program, and a library of more than 1,200 media pieces, according to the IBLP website. Based on revelations in "Shiny Happy People," it's no accident that Jim Bob and Michelle would be drawn to IBLP. So, how then did the Duggar matriarch and patriarch first cross paths?

Young Christians and a ministry to match

Jill Duggar Dillard is a central figure in "Shiny Happy People." Since "Counting On" ended, she's maintained the Dillard Family blog, which includes recipes, photos, and endearing accounts of family life with husband, Derick Dillard, and three sons. In particular, she highlights the personal significance of meeting her future husband through her father, Jim Bob, who once was Derrick's prayer partner.

There's meaning, too, in how Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar met. In the docuseries' first episode, Jill describes her parents' original encounter. "My parents, they met when my dad was out on church visitation with a friend of his. His friend had mentioned 'Oh there's this girl, she's a cheerleader she just became a Christian,' and my dad's like, 'Let's go see her.' My dad invited her to his junior-senior banquet . . . somewhere in there, sometime after that got married. Pretty young actually, she was 17, he was 19."

Youth and faith, then, were central aspects of their union. It seems only natural that these teen newlyweds would gravitate toward IBLP, which began as a ministry focused on the young. Years later, NBC would report allegations that IBLP's founder had abused young women. "We do not agree with everything taught by Dr. Bill Gothard or IBLP, but some of the life-changing Biblical principles we learned through IBLP's ministry have helped us deepen our personal walks with God," wrote Jim Bob and Michelle in a statement that speaks to pure intentions and innocent involvement.