“Keep Sweet” Unveils the Hidden Horror of Politeness

Utah still has a “keep sweet” problem

Jon Ogden
4 min readJul 3, 2022


Still from “Keep Sweet,” a documentary on Netflix

“Politeness doesn’t care about morality, and vice versa. If a Nazi is polite, does that change anything about Nazism or the horrors of Nazism? No. It changes nothing, and this nothing is the very hallmark of politeness. A virtue of pure form, of etiquette and ceremony! A show of virtue, its appearance and nothing more.” — André Comte-Sponville, philosopher


“Keep sweet, no matter what,” preached Rulon Jeffs, former president of a branch of the FLDS Church, as recounted in the Netflix documentary Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey. “That’s the road to perfection.”

“It meant to be in control of your emotions,” explains Elissa Wall, the woman who first spoke to authorities about the crimes of Rulon’s son, Warren. “You didn’t display things like anger or resentment or frustration,” she adds, “especially towards the fathers and the husbands.”

Rulon wore a hat emblazoned with the phrase “keep sweet” and even had it etched on the bottom of his shoes. “It became more and more drilled into us: keep sweet,” says another woman, Charlene Jeffs.

Stay polite, no matter what. This was the cultural ideal, the documentary convincingly argues, that paved the way for horror and abuse.

Rulon had married girls who were many years his junior, just as polygamist Latter-day Saint prophets before him had, including Brigham Young (who married a 15-year-old when he was 42), Lorenzo Snow (who married a 16-year-old when he was 57), and Wilford Woodruff (who married a 15-year-old when he was 46).

After Rulon died, his son Warren did the same thing. But Warren also added terrors of his own. He demanded that all non-Church books be burned, that certain boys be ejected from the community so they didn’t court girls meant for Church leaders, and that underage girls perform explicit and illegal “rites” in the temple.

All the while, Church leadership encouraged members to “keep sweet.”

In fact, as soon as one person, Elisa Wall, was willing to not “keep sweet” and instead go to authorities, Warren Jeffs was locked away.

Utah Has a “Keep Sweet” Problem



Jon Ogden

Co-founder of UpliftKids.org, a lesson library and curriculum to explore values at home.