In recent months, Netflix has released a collection of harrowing true-crime content, from the “Conversations with a Killer” series surrounding the John Wayne Gacy tapes to the documentary “Our Father” about disgraced fertility doctor Donald Cline.
The streaming giant’s latest installation is the docuseries “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey,” which revisits the unthinkable horrors of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a radical denomination of Mormonism.
Considered the “one true prophet”, Warren spent years brainwashing the close-knit community into spiritual subjugation, promoting child molestation, bigamy and illegal marriage.
Over the course of four episodes, the series presents several survivor stories of former members of the polygamous and abusive cult led by Warren Jeffs. Considered the “one true prophet”, Warren has spent years brainwashing the close-knit community into spiritual subjugation, promoting child molestation, bigamy and illegal marriage, in the name of religion.
RELATED: Inside the Diaries of Polygamous Wives: The Life of a First Mormon Wife
The documentary notes that Warren himself had 78 wives in total, 24 of them minors. In 2011, he was convicted of two counts of child molestation, for which he is serving life in prison plus an additional 20 years. Watch a trailer below, via YouTube:
Today, the FLDS is considered both a designated hate group and “a white supremacist, homophobic, anti-government and totalitarian cult” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here is an overview of the history of the church, from its inception in 1890 to its practices and preaching.
The founding of the church
The FLDS was formed in 1890 after a group of nonconforming adherents broke away from the Mormon church in order to continue practicing polygamy. Polygamy being deemed illegal in the state of Utah (and nationwide), the group decided to settle in the towns of Hildale and Colorado City located on the border between Utah and Arizona . The remote locations allowed them to follow their customs and expand their clientele with little or no reaction from state law enforcement agencies in either jurisdiction.
During the 20th century, the FLDS suffered several local government crackdowns that inadvertently made the denomination stronger rather than weakened. On July 26, 1953, all FLDS members residing in Short Creek, Arizona—including 36 men, 86 women, and 263 children—were arrested in a pre-dawn raid ordered by state governor John Howard Pyle. The outcome of the raid, however, did not go as planned as it garnered negative media coverage and botched the governor’s own political career. Instead, it has bolstered public support and sympathy for the growing polygamist cult.
Reign of Rulon T. Jeffs
The FLDS’ first leader was John Y. Barlow, followed by Joseph White Musser and then Charles Zitting, following a brief community scuffle. Zitting was later succeeded by Leroy S. Johnson, who led the sect until his death in 1986. That same year, Rulon T. Jeffs took over as prophet. Prior to his role as an FLDS leader, Rulon served as an apostle high priest in Salt Lake City after returning to town in the spring of 1945.
Among his followers, Rulon was commonly referred to as “Uncle Rulon” and he “often made decisions based on visions he claimed to have received from a higher power,” per Distractify.
In “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey,” one of Rulon’s many wives, Alicia Rohbock, recounted the Prophet’s dining room wall, which arranged each photo of Rulon’s partners in the order he took them. had married. At the time of his death in September 2002, it was reported that Rulon had over 75 wives and fathered around 60 children. It is also believed that many of Rulon’s wives were underage at the time of their marriage – Rohbock, in particular, was only 20 when she married Rulon, who was 86.
“Keep Meek: Pray and Obey” (Netflix)
Warren Jeffs takes over
Son of Rulon, Warren quickly assumed his position as a prophet soon after his father’s death. What once belonged to Rulon now belonged to Warren, including Rulon’s 70+ wives. Warren married all but two of his father’s partners and, in addition, assumed his father’s previous responsibility of assigning wives to their appointed husbands.
Warren stripped the women and girls of their autonomy, ordering them to put on a new kind of prairie dress that covered them from head to toe and to do their hair in a specific way.
Many former FLDS members recalled that Warren’s leadership marked a dark period in the church’s long history. Under his rule, the rules for cult members became stricter, with Warren dictating what they wore, who they married, and what they ate. Warren also forced members to turn over personal property to church leadership, demanded that children be homeschooled, and even banned members from voting, telling them he was the President of the United States. . . .
Warren also banned the use of red colored items (even though he owned a red Cadillac Escalade) banned different types of entertainment – such as “dogs, toys, television, newspapers, internet, birthday parties, etc. ‘birthday and Christmas, festivals, parades, camping and fishing’ – and encouraged members to calm their emotions.
A handful of his rules served to control the girls and women in the group. Warren facilitated many minor and incestuous marriages, forcing girls as young as 14 to marry their distant relatives. The so-called prophet also adhered to his own rules and had 78 wives, 24 of whom were minors.
Additionally, Warren stripped women and girls of their autonomy, ordering them to don a new type of prairie dress that covered them from head to toe and to style their hair in a specific way.
Warren became a wanted criminal in 2005, when he was first charged in Arizona with arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a 28-year-old man, who was already married. The following year he was arrested as an accomplice to rape for performing another illegal marriage involving a 14-year-old girl.
In 2007 Warren was convicted of two counts of rape, and in 2008 he and other FLDS members were charged with bigamy and sexual assault.
Three years later, on August 4, 2011, Warren was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 and sexual assault of a child under 17. He is currently serving a life sentence for the first and another. 20 years for the latter.
“Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey” is currently streaming on Netflix.
More stories you might like: