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Keep Sweet by Debbie Palmer & Dave Perrin, is 393 pages of profound misery and suffering. The family charts listed on page xv of the Prologue must be referred to often as the intermingled families of the polygamist community of Lister, British Columbia, become more convoluted.
Reading this book is like traveling down a road of heart-breaking, damaged dreams: viewing from the sidelines the crushing ways adult responsibilities are forced onto children who are sure if anything goes wrong it will be their fault and they won’t make it to the Celestial kingdom.
“Kid tenders” who are ten years old being put in charge of many, many younger children while the older children and adults work (slave) for the good of the “WORK”, the plan of eternal salvation for those who follow this course.
While the adults are working or meeting in the conference sessions when the prophet comes up from Utah, the children are playing dangerous, damaging sex games. “Cows and Bulls,” “King of the Castle,” and other horrifying games where very young teen “priesthood” boys and pre-teen girls terrify little girls into “keeping secrets” are vicious occult activities described in this book.
Constant, insensitive brainwashing illustrated by the cliques that are formed between sister wives, jealousies so explosive the reader wants to walk into the book and intervene, teach some decency, do anything to stop the cruel choosing of scapegoat wives who work, wail, beg, and even die to gain acceptance in the household in which they are placed. Clichés that are repeated so many times, they jump off the pages: “keep sweet,” “obey without question,” “have a broken heart and contrite spirit,” “women will be servants in their husband’s kingdoms,” etc. Memory taught by rote, not by reason.
The reader can also see and feel the pressure placed on the “file leaders” of the community, as they drive their children like herds of animals to get all the work done that is needed to keep the cult surviving, to be found pleasing in the eyes of the prophet—God’s holy mouthpiece on earth.
The distrust of the “gentile” world, accepting medical help only when death is hovering, meeting every new day as another tough challenge to endure to the end, knowing that any type of complaint will cause even more misery. This picture is painted until the layers of paint are so thick on the canvas the reader prays that the painter will move onto another canvas and miraculously change the scene. She doesn’t. She can’t.
As you read this nonfiction book, remember the players on this sordid stage act in the present, during yours and my life time, on the soil of first world nations who hold their banners of democracy and human rights high. But hear ye, hear ye, in Keep Sweet there is no such thing. To go against the “Work” is to become a “hiss and a byword.”