Religion can be a great comfort to many people. There’s something magical and awe-inspiring about churches and religion’s impact on art and culture through the years.
Whether it be walking through the Vatican marvelling at the architecture and beautiful paintings, or something as minimalistic AS hearing orchestral choir music in churches across eastern European countries, it’s hard not to be caught up in it all.
Of course, there is a point where religion becomes toxic, where God’s teachings are twisted and manipulated to fit a warped ideology. It’s here where things become dangerous, typified by extremist groups like the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (Or FLDS for short.)
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is a four-part docu-series diving into the horrors inherent within the FLDS, starting back in 1991 and progressing through to 2011.
Through eyewitness accounts from survivors of the time, we’re introduced to the FLDS’ inception, branching away from the Mormons who got rid of polygamy (men marrying more than one woman). The FLDS however, did not. Instead, they embraced this way of life, believing that the more women a man married, the closer he’d become to God.
The first episode introduces us into this world, with several different witness statements talking us through their day to day lives, interlaced with archival home footage of the community. Overseeing this community was a man named Rulon Jeffs, the Prophet whom everyone admired and praised.
When he passed away, the attention shifted to Warren Jeffs, his son. It’s here where the story takes on a far more dark and sinister edge (and the material with Rulon isn’t exactly easy to watch either).
Jeffs married 78 different women, 24 of which happen to be underage children. Oh, and he also marries his own mum too.
The middle chapters then detail the abuse and the ensuing media interest in this community, rounding things out with a final chapter that sees Jeffs in the courtroom fighting to stay at the head of the FLDS movement.
Although there is a definitive ending to this one, there is a slight air of ambiguity, especially given how much influence Jeffs has on this community – even to this day. As one person tells us glumly in the final episode, he’s become something of a martyr.
The episodes progress at a reasonable pace, while the talking head interviews are a much needed perspective in all this to actually understand what these women went through.
Fleshing out the ensemble is a private investigator, law enforcement, a TV journalist and more, although the victims from inside FLDS remain a constant (and welcome) presence throughout this 4 part series.
With episodes clocking in at 45 minutes a piece, the length of this story is just about right, although I must admit that episode 3 could have been cut down a little. That’s a minor nit-pick though in what’s otherwise a tightly ensembled docu-series.
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is a series that highlights the horrors of suggestion; when leaders twist and pervert religious teachings to fit a warped and archaic world view that only benefits themselves. Shocking, gripping and decently paced, Keep Sweet is well worth a watch.
Verdict - 7.5/10