“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.



Jon Ogden

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