Netflix Original, Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, has grabbed the attention of TV enthusiasts worldwide. The docuseries tells the story of Warren Jeffs taking over the FLDS, a fundamentalist religious sect. One identifying feature of the religion is its connection to polygamy, a practice where men take multiple wives. For some TV viewers, the idea of polygamy is directly tied to the Brown family of Sister Wives. The Browns took to polygamy for religious reasons and have shared their struggles as a family on their TLC reality TV show. Do the Browns have any connection to Warren Jeffs and the FLDS, though? It’s complicated.
What polygamist sect did Warren Jeffs control?
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey focuses heavily on Warren Jeffs and the women who escaped his control. Jeffs is serving a life sentence for sexual assault, but before his jail stint, he controlled the FLDS, a fundamentalist religious sect.
The FLDS is a fundamentalist sect that remains tightly knit. The sect practices polygamy but also believes in modest dress. They remained mostly closed off from mainstream society for decades. During Warren Jeffs’ reign, many church members lived on or close to an expansive compound and educated their children at a private religious school. While the FLDS are polygamists like the Brown family, that appears to be where the similarities end; that doesn’t mean there aren’t familial connections, though.
The Brown family was never a part of the church group from ‘Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey’
The Browns appear to have stepped away from their church. In 2021, after Christine Brown announced her divorce from Kody Brown, she revealed that she hadn’t been to church in more than a decade and didn’t feel the need to seek their approval to dissolve her spiritual marriage. While the family might not be religious now, they were while living in Utah.
When the family lived in Lehi, they were a part of the Apostolic United Brethren. While the AUB shares the tenant of polygamy with other fundamentalist LDS groups, it has publicly stated that the AUB has no connection to the FLDS. In 2008 the AUB issued a public statement to the Desert News to denounce the FLDS. That said, Sister Wives fans note that there appears to be a great deal of overlap in surnames between the Browns, their social circle, and the FLDS. So, what is going on?
Christine Brown has deep ties to the FLDS
Christine Brown may no longer consider herself a polygamist, but she has deep ties to the AUB and the FLDS. Christine’s grandfather, Rulon Allred, was supposed to be the successor of a former prophet for the FLDS. Refusal from the community to acknowledge Allred as the next prophet led to the group splintering off. Rulon Allred created the AUB.
Christine’s connection to polygamist leadership doesn’t end there. Christine’s great uncle, Ervil LeBaron, was the leader of a separate polygamist sect. He ordered a hit on Rulon Allred and was sentenced to life in prison for Allred’s murder.
Allred isn’t the only familiar surname that comes up during Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey. Sister Wives fans are probably familiar with the surname Jessop and Darger. Both have appeared on Sister Wives in the past. Joe Darger and his polygamist family are friends with the Brown family. The last name Jessop came up quite often, too. Before she met and married Kody Brown, Robyn Brown was married to David Jessop.
Merril Jessop was believed to be running the FLDS following Jeffs’ arrest. While Merril Jessop and Robyn’s ex-husband might be related, they could very well be strangers. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, many of the Jessops in Utah are interconnected and related, descending from just three brothers. That doesn’t mean they know each other, though. There are thousands of people who carry the surname. David Jessop’s family appears to be heavily involved in the AUB, but little is known about their ties to the FLDS.
Related: ‘Sister Wives’ Star, Christine Brown, Appeared in HBO Documentary, ’48 Hours’ Before the Family’s Famed TLC Show
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