In commemoration of the first anniversary of the raid on the YFZ Ranch, FLDS members invited friends and supporters to attend a gathering at Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas earlier today. They rented the fort for the afternoon as a remembrance of the difficulties they experienced last year when the children were forcibly removed. One of the first places the mothers and children were taken was Fort Concho, a National Historic Landmark and museum, spreading over about forty acres and including seventeen restored buildings. FLDS members described the buildings as "stables," and said they felt like they were in a concentration camp setting there.
Much has been said back and forth about whether Texas CPS was justified in removing the children from their homes. But I would like to focus on the reactions of the FLDS community to the difficulties they faced. They admit that many of the experiences to which the families were subjected tested to the core their ability to follow the teachings they had been given by their religious leaders to love and forgive even those who mistreated them. In a journal entry, Marie Musser expresses her efforts to forgive:
This heaven-sent love is first a self-discipline in righteous living. But it empowers us to forgive the wrongs of others and leave judgment to God. Keeping sweet is the conquering of oneself, setting oneself aside and taking on a greater power, a more noble nature—the character of God…. It is reachable—this becoming like God. The meekness and the humility increase; and then the thoughts, inspired of heaven, awaken in your mind, guiding you how to love others more. You remember the good in them, and you express it in a prayer of gratitude to God, thanking the Lord for each other. You even gain the power through the vision of heaven to look beyond each others' weaknesses, looking upon what they can become because you seek perfection for yourself and also for others.
In this snippet, Marie mentions a phrase originating with one of their prophets, John Y. Barlow, and often used by Rulon Jeffs and his son Warren Jeffs, the succeeding FLDS leaders. "Keeping Sweet" is a maxim that has fascinated and intrigued me since I first heard it used. In talks given in Sandy, Utah in 1991 and 1994 Rulon Jeffs explained what he meant by keeping sweet:
"I want you all to understand the continual use of the two words 'keep sweet' means keep the Holy Spirit of the Lord, until you are full of it. Only those who have it will survive the judgments of God which are about to be poured out."
"Keeping sweet no matter what is a matter of life or death as we approach the day of the great judgments that are to go over the earth. . . Let us get it and keep it. You don't turn it off and on. It must be a permanent thing in our very nature, and a part of our character."
The very walls in Rulon Jeffs' home in Sandy reflected his philosophy, sporting wallpaper that proclaimed "Keep Sweet No Matter What." Members keep the injunction in remembrance in many ways. In the late 1990s, the FLDS published a newsletter for the members and the masthead included, "With Every Breath, Keep Sweet, No Matter What." At the Bountiful community in Canada, "Keep Sweet" is spelled out in white stones at the entrance of the school. Wall plaques can be found in homes emblazoned with "Keep Sweet, No Matter What." In the YFZ Ranch in Texas were seen signs that stated, "Keep Sweet Forevermore."
Warren Jeffs has taken this phase a step further, making it into a commandment, a mantra to keep your feelings under control.
“If you are keeping sweet no matter what, you are a person ready to give up your own will and just obey the priesthood over you. In order to Keep Sweet, it requires the sacrifice of our feelings.” (WSJ 11/2/95) "To be loyal to Heavenly Father, to truly love Him and obey Him, you must keep sweet no matter what. If your feelings can be disturbed and you simply need more of the spirit of God to have and earn more of that sweet spirit, you must pay the price. The price is sacrifice. Set aside any feeling or thought that disturbs the spirit of God." (WSJ 1/28/2003) “Keeping sweet means saying your prayers and obeying the priesthood over you.” (WSJ 3/6/96)
Now I have read a lot about the FLDS motto of Keeping Sweet and how it contributes to oppression, suppression, and repression of women. But as I watch and listen to the videos of their lovely quiet voices, their efforts to forgive and move on with their lives, their peaceful and productive community, I think that their mantra has helped them come closer to attaining their ultimate goal.
"...we are here to become like God so that we can stand in His presence. We must be full of the same Spirit that our Father in heaven has, and that governs and directs all of the Gods. The Holy Spirit of God has all the attributes of God. If we have it sufficiently, we are like God, and we will love Him with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. I pray that we may all have sufficient of that Holy Spirit of God that we may be caught up when the judgments go forth upon the land and the whole earth. Keep sweet! That is the bottom line." (RTJ 1/26/96)