'Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey': Who is Warren Jeffs? What is the Netflix documentary about?

·TV Reporter, Yahoo Entertainment UK
·4-min read
The new Netflix documentary explores the crimes of cult leader Warren Jeffs. (Netflix)
The new Netflix documentary explores the crimes of cult leader Warren Jeffs. (Netflix)

Netflix's latest true-crime documentary Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey tells the horrifying story of self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs and the religious cult he led.

Jeffs became internationally known when a 2008 raid on his ranch freed scores of abused followers - but who is he and what happened in his church?

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Here's all you need to know about the documentary currently streaming on Netflix.

When is Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey available to watch?

The four-episode true crime documentary began streaming on Netflix in the UK on Wednesday, 8 June.

All episodes are currently available to stream.

What is Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey about?

A raid on the ranch freed more than 400 children. (Netflix)
A raid on the ranch freed more than 400 children. (Netflix)

In 2008, the world's attention was drawn to the Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas, where a dramatic police raid uncovered evidence of sexual, physical and psychological abuse of the religious followers living there and took more than 400 children into custody.

The ranch was home to a a secretive, polygamous sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), ruled by Warren Jeffs.

Netflix's documentary explores the horrific existence suffered by many of its residents, including forced underage marriage and pregnancy, incest, and multiple wives to each husband.

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It hears from some of the brave men and women who escaped the sect and who tell their stories of life under Jeffs' rule.

The world's attention was grabbed when the sect was raided after Jeffs' arrest. (Netflix)
The world's attention was grabbed when the sect was raided after Jeffs' arrest. (Netflix)

Director and executive producer Rachel Dretzin said: "It was almost impossible to believe that a society so repressive, isolated and extreme could exist in plain sight in 21st century America.

"And then I began interviewing survivors... After many months spent reporting this story, it was clear to me that these women could have been my daughter, my mother, or me. And it was also abundantly clear that they showed incredible courage and strength in leaving this religion-turned-criminal cult."

She added that the women who escaped had no education, skills or money, saying: "For their whole lives they had been valued solely as plural wives and as breeders of children.

"To leave meant saying goodbye to everything and everyone they loved to start over in a society they didn’t understand. 'Badass' doesn’t begin to describe how fierce they are."

Who is Warren Jeffs?

Rulon and Warren Jeffs reigned over the polygamous sect. (Netflix)
Rulon and Warren Jeffs reigned over the polygamous sect. (Netflix)

The man behind the abusive cult, Warren Jeffs, was a self-proclaimed prophet who had himself lived his whole life as part of the sect.

His father, Rulon Jeffs, had been the previous FLDS Church president and by the time he died in 1986, was said to have around 20 wives and 60 children.

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Warren Jeffs took over the post from Rulon after his death and was even harsher in the way he treated members of the cult, marrying his father's widows apart from one who escaped and another who refused.

Jeffs, now 66, is thought to have 87 wives, including having married a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old and is currently in prison for crimes including sexual assault of the two children he forced to marry him.

The complicated Jeffs family tree. (Netflix)
The complicated Jeffs family tree. (Netflix)

As the sect leader, he was responsible for choosing wives for all of his followers and forced a number of underage unions between children and adult males, as well as incestuous marriages.

Many of the former sect members have accused him of sexual assault, including his own nephews who say he abused them as children.

Jeffs was on the FBI's most wanted list and was eventually caught in 2006, when he was pulled over for a minor traffic offence and a number of disguises were discovered in his car.

The ranch was not raided for another two years, when 439 children were removed and placed under the care of child protection services.

Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence plus 20 years in an Arizona jail.

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is currently streaming on Netflix.

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