Last night I finished watching the 4-part documentary series, Keep Sweet, Pray and Obey about the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) cult, led by pedophile Warren Jeffs. This was an excellently crafted documentary, but so difficult to watch at times, even though there was nothing in it that I didn’t know already. But to see the faces of the women and girls, to see the creepy face of Warren Jeffs, to hear firsthand from survivors about the abuse was often upsetting and angering.
Lots of tricky shenanigans to keep CPS scrambling.
The final episode brought back memories for me of when I was invited to a weekend meeting by Child Protective Services, which called together various professionals to help them figure out the best way to care for the 400+ children who were removed from the Zion Ranch in El Dorado. There were children of all ages, including teen moms who were told not to claim their own children but let an adult say it was her child. Lots of tricky shenanigans to keep CPS scrambling. They had already bent over backward to try to accommodate the moms.
The brilliant Dr. Bruce Perry was there, the child psychiatrist from Baylor University who worked with the children who came out of Waco after the fire. Trauma therapist Shelly Rosen from New York was there. Former members of the FLDS were there. We were doing our best to develop a workable and humane response to this horrific situation and find ways to help the children.
We were doing our best to develop a workable and humane response to this horrific situation and find ways to help the children.
But our meeting was cut short because, even though Jeffs was already arrested at that point, he told those whom he left in charge to hire the best lawyers and best PR team. The media coverage was so skewed in their favor that the American public was won over. The result: a judge ordered all the children returned to the compound. We all went home heartbroken.
And, of course, a huge BRAVA! to Elissa Wall for holding firm and being willing to testify against Jeffs and for speaking out in the documentary Keep Sweet. And thanks to the jury for seeing through the defense arguments and declaring a guilty verdict. We all know that this story isn’t over by any means. Short Creek is still there with countless true believers who haven’t yet given up on their “Prophet.” Hopefully, one day they will break free.
My book, Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out and Starting Over, has been one way that I have tried to contribute to resources for those born and/or raised in a cult as well as help educate the general public about the risks and dangers for children of cults.