Friday, April 3, 2009

FLDS Keeping Sweet a Year Later

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)


Lucy said...

While I do not agree with them on their chosen beliefs of polygamy, I did not think that the government could just go in by force and take away those children. That was not right. When are 'they' (governmental officials) going to start taking away OUR children because we (or any other sect) believe differently. It's a step around the corner. Religion in this country is obtained by freedom to choose. Where is the line that government officials are going to step over to pull that?

Kalola said...

"Keep sweet" ... now I know what that term means. Thank you, BiV, for your enlightening post.

Alisa said...

That first photo. Wow. The pain there.

C. L. Hanson said...

BiV, as much as I am not thrilled about their lifestyle, I am constantly impressed by your empathy and your interest in portraying their humanity. It's too easy to dismiss them as incomprehensibly crazy -- with some work we can see the rest of the story.

Pliggy said...

This is what Rulon Jeffs taught, he read this almost every Sunday

Tim said...

I don't really empathize at all with the FLDS. They are using the media to gain sympathy. One thing to their credit is they stay on topic—they don’t deviate from the script.
They bought the ranch in El Dorado under false pretense (told everyone that it was going to be a hunting lodge--and it wasn't). They didn’t have proper sewage treatment and were finally fined until they fixed it—but they didn’t want to fix it.
The leadership keeps the men and women on a short leash. One wrong move and your wife is someone else’s and if you're a young male you might be kicked out. They aren’t allowed to make friends with the “outside” world.
I still believe that the government had a responsibility to ensure that there was no child abuse going on. Texas felt the only way to ensure no abuse was taking place was to take all the children. I can tell you that the volunteers in San Angelo did everything they could to ensure that the children were cared for properly (we personally knew volunteers ).
The women of the FLDS want us to feel sorry about the living conditions at Ft Concho now claiming it was like stables. I lived in San Angelo for 4 years and visited Ft Concho many times. The rooms are not at all like stables. The enlisted barracks are large with thick walls and wooden floors. They have windows and doors to open for ventilation. There are large wooden porches to sit out on if you want to. The parade ground provided plenty of room for playing. The officer houses--are houses..and people rent them for family reunions.
The children weren't taken away because the FLDS believe differently. They were taken away because of alleged child abuse.
Do I feel sorry for the FLDS? No.

Pliggy said...

No, but they feel sorry for you Tim. It is blind bigotry that keeps you from seeing the truth.

Tim said...

Pliggy--I have no bigotry--I have the honest truth. Thanks for sharing your loving concern for me.

Anonymous said...

The FLDS are victims of brain washed immoral doctrines and they believed these to be good and true. This is a cult for sure. I'm LDS and feel bad for their deep ignorance and the pain it brings them to their sin. Polygamy a satanic sin!
They give LDS a bad name in the public.
The gov't might have gone a little far nevertheless it was necessary if a child is abused they Have to take action to protect the child from rape and incest etc. This was the best they could do at this time.

Ex Social Worker

Anonymous said...

Ok! Lets clear some things up with all this crap that is being said. I believe we are all entitled to our own feelings. So I will be a voice coming from the inside. Some people actually have so much faith in the God they believe in that they will live their belief to the best of their ability
1. Tim, imagine that you were living exactly what you believed. Imagine that you were told you must follow a prophet that was to you "called of god." Now, your whole life you lived exactly what you believed. You only did things that you thought were right. Then, for some odd reason, your son, your only child. The one you would never lay a hand on in abuse, was literally torn from your arms for something you didn't do. Just think about that and ponder that. Can you even imagine the heart ache. Now, that is exactly what happened to my sister! Her only child that was 1 year old. That is messed up and you know it!
2. I believe there are better ways to deal with misunderstandings than with force. Any person that lives here would have let you into their home if you had a warrant or pass of some sort for an investigation. We are not a violent people and are very patient.
3. If you had your child ripped from your arms and some media man stuffed his camera down your throat, you would show your feelings too.

Take no offence. If you can voice your feelings, so can I! Just think next time before you do. What if this happened to you???

Bored in Vernal said...

Anonymous, thank you for weighing in here. I think what has been accomplished at the ranch is all pretty incredible. I was touched by the nonviolent and gracious way they handled the raid and the media attention which resulted. Among every group of people there are those who have problems. But I have to admire the way the majority of fundamentalists live their religion.