Content Warning: This article contains references to sexual harassment, child abuse, racism, homophobia, and suicide.
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey from Netflix is a four—part documentary series that chronicles the rise and fall of cult leader Warren Jeffs, as well as child abuse and sexual harassment that took place during his reign as a leader and self-proclaimed prophet of fundamentalists. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The documentary is largely faithful to the heartbreaking true story of the abuses and manipulations committed under Jeffs.
Directed by Rachel Dretzin and Grace McNally, the film “Be Nice: Pray and Obey” relies heavily on survivor testimonies, as well as news footage and internal church videos to make it easy to follow the secret inner workings of the FSPD. There are also several recreated scenes featuring actors and real-life survivors, a storytelling method that can be seen in other Netflix documentaries such as “The Worst Roommate.” The archived and recreated video is edited in Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey so that it looks like it was shot with an 8mm camera, which is somewhat anachronistic since most of the events in the series take place in the 2000s.
While these recreations may not be real footage of the events, there is a large body of evidence supporting survivors’ claims of underage marriages and child abuse by the FSPD, including exhaustive documents and records that Jeffs kept in a safe in his large temple. at the Longing for Zion Ranch in Texas. Members of the FSPD still believe that Jeffs was unfairly accused, but the film “Be Nice: Pray and Obey” shows how real and large-scale the abuses and crimes taking place in the church were.
Explanation of the origin of the FSPD Church
Most of the events described in the book Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey take place in the 1990s and 2000s, but the history of the FSPD goes back much earlier, as the Netflix documentary says that it is rooted in the practice of polygamy by Joseph Smith in the early days of the Mormon Church. In 1890, the church banned what its supporters call “polygamy” and eventually excommunicated those who continued this practice. The polygamists gathered in the Short Creek community, legally recognized by the twin cities of Hildale and Colorado City, which were located on the state border between Utah and Arizona. Officially, the Church began in 1932 as an organization known as the Council of Friends, but many different ideas and practices of fundamentalist Mormonism remained in it, which led to several splits.
The polygamists in Short Creek followed a succession of prophets, starting with John E. Barlow. In 1953, a government raid on Short Creek failed to dislodge the sects. In 1984 , Roll Jeffs became the sole leader of the FSPD after the death of Leroy S. Johnson and worked on the unification of the Church under his rule. As documented in Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven, adapted for the Hulu series, several of Rulon’s wives, aged 60-65, were minors at the time he married them, and some were as young as 14. and the Obis describe Rulon’s reign positively compared to that of his son Warren. He still supported the patriarchal system of arranged marriages and used it for his sexual gratification.
How Warren Jeffs Became a Prophet
As his father’s health faltered, Warren Jeffs maneuvered to succeed him with the help of his mother, Marilyn Steed. After Rulon’s death, Warren married all but two of his father’s wives within a week and seized control of almost all of the lands and businesses in Short Creek. Jeffs began transferring his most loyal students and several children to the second complex, the Longing for Zion Ranch in Texas.
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey depicts Jeffs’ increasingly radical theology, including the strict imposition of Mormon religious clothing and his millenarian prophecies of impending doom from which only true believers on a certain piece of land will be saved. However, the Netflix documentary doesn’t delve into the more fanatical beliefs of Jeffs and the church, including viewing homosexuality as the ultimate sin and viewing blacks as the devil’s tool. For these reasons, the Southern Poverty Law Center called the FSPD a hate group. By isolating his followers with radical sermons, Jeffs gained complete control over them and began separating families to further facilitate marriage and abuse of underage girls at Zion Ranch.
Prosecution of Warren Jeffs
Jeffs was first charged with sexual abuse of a minor and conspiracy to commit misconduct with a minor because of his role in arranging the forced marriage of Elissa Wall, who is being interviewed in the Netflix documentary about real crimes Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, followed by a similar charge based in Utah.