Rulon Jeffs’ Wives Speak Out In Netflix’s ‘Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey’

Though the total number reported has ranged between 19 and 75 women, Rebecca Wall claimed in Netflix’s Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey that she was one of Rulon Jeffs’ 65 wives when the 92-year-old died in September 2002. At the time of the president of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (FLDS) death, an attorney for the organization declined to disclose the spiritual leader’s actual number of wives or children. The New York Times estimated the count to be 19 or 20 wives and “about 60” children. (One of those children, Wallace Jeffs, claimed he has 62 siblings in the four-part Netflix docuseries.)

Because polygamy is illegal in the United States, these were primarily “spiritual” marriages. In Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, one of Rulon’s wives, Alicia Rohbock, described the dining room of Rulon’s house displaying a picture of each woman in the order he married her. She also recalled a nightly routine of all the women lining up outside his door to take turns saying goodnight to him. “And I’m telling you, these lines were so bloody long,” she said.

Following Rulon’s death, his son Warren Jeffs essentially inherited the president and prophet role of FLDS — along with his wives, many of them teenagers, who were often raped and subjected to other forms of sexual harassment. (In 2011, Warren was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years for sexually assaulting two minors he claimed were his “spiritual wives.”) As such, many of the women are shrouded in mystery, but here is what we do know about Rulon’s wives.

Courtesy of Netflix

Zola Brown

According to ABC News, Rulon’s first wife was Zola Brown, the daughter of one of the Mormon Church’s highest-ranking leaders, known as an apostle. After Rulon’s father convinced him to embrace polygamy and he decided to marry a second wife in 1940, Zola became “so worried and upset that she cried almost day and night, that her milk dried up so she was no longer able to nurse her baby,” according to their divorce papers. She reportedly moved to California with their two small children, and after a judge granted their divorce in 1941, the LDS Church excommunicated Rulon.

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Marilyn Jeffs

In Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, Wallace refers to brother Warren’s mother, Marilyn, aka “Mother Marilyn.” According to Wallace, Marilyn believed that Warren was “very special” because previous prophets told her as much after he survived being born about eight weeks premature. “She really pushed her sons to be close to our dad, to make them the next leaders of the church after my dad,” Wallace said.

Naomi Jeffs

The Netflix doc also includes an audio clip from Naomi, who’s identified as the “16th widow” of Rulon Jeffs. “I first will ask a question: Do we really believe in Uncle Rulon?” Naomi said in the clip taken shortly after Rulon’s death, adding, “’Cause if we do, we believe that Warren Jeffs is the Prophet of God, and I need him to guide me.”

Rebecca Wall Musser

Courtesy of Netflix

One of the most vocal of Rulon’s former wives, Rebecca Wall Musser was 19 when she was forced to marry a then-85-year-old Rulon. “I was scared, I was terrified of marrying this man, and yet I could not say no because it would bring a tremendous amount of shame on my family,” she explained during a 2013 CNN interview with Piers Morgan, adding that she “felt extremely violated.” After Rulon’s death, Warren — whom she testified against at trial — allegedly threatened to marry her off to another church member in “less than a week.” So, with the help of her brother, she escaped the compound and began a new life. In addition to appearing in Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey, she also wrote the 2013 memoir, The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice.

Colleen Decker

One of Warren’s wives, Briell Decker, told The Sun in 2019 that she was 13 when her 18-year-old sister, Colleen, was forced to wed Rulon, who was in his 80s at the time. Following the elder Jeffs’ death, Warren married all but two of his father’s reported 20 wives, including Colleen, per The Sun.

Alicia Rohbock

Elsewhere in the Netflix doc, Rohbock remembered constantly going to her father asking to turn herself in (i.e. ask the prophet to choose a spouse for her) after she graduated high school. Her parents eventually gave in after she turned 20. “We sat across from Rulon, and, without hesitation, he said, ‘Well then, will you marry me?’” she said. “I was shocked a little, but that night, we were married. I believe he was 86 when I married him. I think he had 23 wives already.”

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Naomie Jessop

Peacock

Peacock’s Preaching Evil: A Wife on the Run with Warren Jeffs recounted how Jessop also married one-time stepson Warren shortly after Rulon died. Known as Warren’s “favorite wife,” her position as a scribe helped her gain intimate knowledge of the church’s innerworkings. Jessop’s detailed logs also provided the “roadmap for criminal activity” that ultimately helped prosecutors convict Warren in 2011. She shared her side of the story in Preaching Evil, which the NBC streaming service premiered in April.

The survivors’ stories were the ones director Rachel Dretzin wanted to tell in Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey. “The women in our film managed to leave the FLDS with no real education or skills, no money, no support whatsoever,” she said in a statement. “For their whole lives they had been valued solely as plural wives and as breeders of children. To leave meant saying goodbye to everything and everyone they loved to start over in a society they didn’t understand. ‘Badass’ doesn’t begin to describe how fierce they are.”

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