Does FLDS still exist, or is the polygamous sect a thing of the past?
By now, you've probably heard the buzz surrounding Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, Netflix's new docu-series. The four-part project is a deep dive into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and the stories of survivors who managed to escape.
Oppressive and toxic, the group's secretive lifestyle is difficult to imagine under any circumstance, especially in today's world. So, can it survive in modern times...and has it? The heartbreaking story has quickly garnered attention and landed on the list of the best true crime on Netflix.
But before going into specifics, it's important to note how the church came about in the first place. Mormons rejected polygamy in 1890 so that they could earn a statehood for Utah, according to Esquire. The FLDS, an offshoot of Mormonism, continued to practice polygamy, despite its rejection.
Keep Sweet Pray and Obey hones in on a specific family in charge of the group: Rulon Jeffs, known as Uncle Rulon, lead the FLDS from 1986 until his death in 2002. His son Warren Jeffs, a self-proclaimed prophet, quickly took the reins from his father and is largely responsible for creating the abusive environment the FLDS is known for: underage marriages, rape, human trafficking and so on.
Today, Warren is serving life behind bars at the Louise C. Powledge Unit in Palestine, Texas, but it seems as though his horrific legacy still manages to make an impact, despite its atrocities.
Does FLDS still exist today?
According to some sources, there are members of the community who are still practicing and who still believe in guidance from Warren, even though he is in jail.
Sean Keveney, an attorney for the US Department of Justice told the documentary's filmmakers that there are still active members, and Esquire alleges that there could be upwards of 10,000 people still involved in the FLDS.
In the series itself, we hear survivors discuss severed ties between themselves and relatives who remained in the community.
"Three of us are out," Lola Barlow said in the Netflix show. "The rest of everybody’s still in. I could just drive to their house and talk to them but they won’t talk to me."
Likewise, before Keep Sweet: Prey and Obey hit Netflix, another documentary, simply titled Keep Sweet, was released on Discovery+ in 2021. In response, Salt Lake Magazine, stated: "We see Jeffs’ ghost continue to haunt the town with his influence, dividing Short Creek into faithful and "other."
Though it might not be quite as active as it once was, the FLDS allegedlly appears to exist on some level.
Background on the FLDS exposure
When FLDS' Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas was raided in 2008, over 400 children were taken into custody and authorities uncovered evidence of sexual, physical and psychological abuse, according to Netflix. This ultimately led to Warren's arrest.
Warren—who at the time of his arrest had over 70 wives, and 20+ were under the age of 17—has written a book about his "prophecy" and his desire to be released from prison. In 2019, he suffered a mental breakdown, according to authorities.
Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.
Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few.
When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.
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