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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ulatowski

8 Passengers Update: Ruby Franke Grows Her Cult and Shari Makes Amends With the Griffiths

It has been about three years since the YouTube vlogging channel, 8 Passengers, began its downward spiral. 8 Passengers was a YouTube channel run by Ruby and Kevin Franke, a Mormon couple with six children - Shari, Chad, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve. The family started sharing their daily lives on YouTube beginning in 2015 and acquired over 2 million followers. However, in 2020, the family was at the center of a child abuse scandal and CPS investigation after making their oldest son sleep on the floor for seven months as a punishment. This incident also raised scrutiny over past actions, such as sending that same son away for months to a troubled teens therapy camp, Anasazi, as well as making their kindergartener go hungry for a day as punishment for her forgetting to grab her lunch on the way out the door for school.

The family whined about being victims of cancel culture for a while and tried to make a comeback, but soon fell into irregular posting. However, things took a scary turn in 2022 when Ruby revealed she was stepping away from YouTube to further her involvement with ConneXions. ConneXions is an advice and personal development company founded by Jodi Hilderbrandt, a therapist who once had her license revoked for blackmailing a patient and disclosing a patient's personal information to church officials. The business offers a curriculum that claims to "help treat those lost and stranded in the darkness of distortion–which addictions, fear, sadness, and all other self-destructive behaviors derive from."

Given Jodi's history, Ruby's involvement in ConneXions began to concern some. The concern only grew when Kevin and Ruby filmed a video for ConneXions in which they admitted to pulling their 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter out of school, making them clean floors all day, and giving them no Christmas presents as punishment because Ruby alleged they were acting selfish. By mid-2022, things took a drastic turn when ConneXions became more extreme and cult-like.

What happened to 8 Passengers?

Since quitting vlogging, Ruby has thrown herself wholeheartedly into ConneXions. This included filming workshops, starting a "mom support group," posting 30-40 minute videos regularly to share ConneXion's principles, creating classes, and even offering 1-on-1 training for those seeking it. On the ConneXions YouTube channel and ConneXions Moms of Truth Facebook group, Ruby and Jodi began expressing shocking ideals of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and ableism. Additionally, they encouraged cutting off all family members if they don't agree with your ideals, taught parents that their children are evil and manipulative, and stated that a parent has no obligation to love, support, nurture, or care for their child at all and that their sole duty is to teach them about Jesus and to "save" them by any means necessary.

Things got very bad by mid-2022 when Shari posted an Instagram Story confirming that she had no contact with any of her direct family and disagreed with the "extreme views of ConneXions." She also confirmed the seriousness of the situation by asking for privacy as many people on the inside were reportedly working on the situation, and she hoped her family could be whole one day. Shari posted her statement amid allegations that Kevin and Chad had moved out of the Franke home and that Jodi had moved in. The living situation has not been confirmed, but as the months have passed, the situation has only grown bleaker.

Is Shari still no-contact with her immediate family?

Shari has continued to keep her distance from the Franke family. As of the writing of this post, she is the only Franke family member aside from Ruby who still has a public social media account that she updates regularly. So far, there has been no trace of Ruby, Kevin, or Shari's siblings on her social media since her initial confirmation of cutting contact. However, something positive that has come from the situation is Shari has made amends with her mother's and father's sides of the family. Prior to 8 Passengers ending, viewers noticed that Ruby had cut herself off from her family, the Griffiths. Her four sisters, brother, and parents all have YouTube channels, and they used to all appear regularly in each other vlogs. Once Ruby became involved in ConneXions, though, her family abruptly stopped appearing in their vlogs and no longer attended birthday parties or holidays. Plus, the 8 Passengers started skipping the annual Griffiths family reunion.

Ruby finally later addressed the situation in a ConneXions video, equating her family to a little bit of salt contaminating a jar of sugar. Essentially, she was explaining that no matter how much she indoctrinates her kids, just a little bit of influence from her family could "contaminate" them, so she cut off her entire family. Meanwhile, Kevin's family was never prevalent in the Franke's lives since the beginning of the channel.

However, Shari proved that she's no longer abiding by her family's rules by restoring her relationship with the Griffiths and her paternal grandparents. She started spending holidays, like Thanksgiving, with Kevin's parents and also started showing up in Ruby's sisters' vlogs. Just three weeks ago, Shari celebrated her 20th birthday. Fortunately, her aunt Bonnie and Uncle Joel threw a little birthday party for her. Ruby's sister Ellie and her kids showed up at the party, as well as Kevin's parents, and they gathered around as Shari blew out her candles. Just a few weeks beforehand, Shari's uncle also bought her flowers on Valentine's Day, as he did his own daughters, seemingly stepping into the fatherhood role that Kevin abandoned.

Where is Kevin?

Sadly, viewers couldn't help but notice that neither Ruby nor Kevin showed up to their daughter's 20th birthday party. While Ruby is tied up with her cult, many questions are still circling regarding Kevin. When 8 Passengers was still a thing, he shared with viewers that he was a professor at Brigham Young University (BYU), and his LinkedIn profile shows that he is still currently working there. Meanwhile, Shari attends BYU, so the question arises if he is really giving his own daughter the cold shoulder when they surely cross paths on the campus. The rumor was that he abandoned ConneXions and moved out to separate himself from the cult. However, his absence in Shari's life has called this account into question. Whether he is still involved in ConneXions or is simply a deadbeat dad, Shari must have some reason for cutting contact with him in addition to Ruby.

How bad is Ruby's and Jodi's cult getting?

Ruby and Jodi have already expressed abhorrent views through their videos, but they somehow keep getting worse. In a recent video, Jodi used the R-word multiple times and mocked the fact that many find it offensive, saying it just means someone is "slow" and then laughing as she called herself the R-word.

*Sexual assault trigger warning ahead* In another video, Jodi claimed that rape was a "choice." Essentially, she claimed that a woman cannot begin engaging in sexual activity and change her mind and request someone to stop. Then, according to Jodi, at that point, if she gets raped, it's apparently her own fault and she needs to practice abstinence...

They have also continued their extreme homophobia, claiming that microaggressions and any term related to the LGBTQ+ community was a "made-up" word. In prior videos, they said that being transgender or homosexual or bisexual was a "distortion," because the only thing a person can be is a "child of god."

Meanwhile, Ruby also seemingly addressed Shari's decision to cut contact by saying that it was her children's fault if they don't love her unconditionally. Yes, she really said that. She has said over and over again that a parent's job is not to love or nurture their children but to crush their souls and "take away their entire lives" so that they're forced to do their parents' bidding. However, even though she doesn't think that parents should love their kids unconditionally, she actually believes that kids should love their parents unconditionally. It feels strange to have to explain this, but a parent does need to unconditionally love their vulnerable, minor child that they birthed, but a child does NOT need to unconditionally love an abusive monster of a parent. She also admitted on camera that she "loved" the principles of ConneXions more than she loved her own children. I guess we already knew that, though, given how unconcerned she is that her oldest daughter won't speak to her.

Of course, the major concern at this point is on the four minor children who allegedly still live with Ruby. While Shari has cut contact and Chad is seemingly moved out and is now officially 18, it is believed that the four youngest children, Abby, Julie, Russell, and Eve, are living with Ruby. Additionally, she has confirmed that she pulled all of her kids out of school and began homeschooling them again, after having a meltdown over her teenage daughter dancing to a TikTok song in school.

Hence, while it has been touching to see Shari's extended family step up to support her, one can't help but notice that their hands are tied legally when it comes to the minor children. Wherever Kevin is, he seemingly has left his minor children in Ruby's hands. It's not just brainwashing that we're concerned about, though. Many have pointed out that Ruby gives "Lori Vallow vibes," especially as she has preached that her children are "evil" and are "manipulating" their parents. Her idea of forcing kids to submit to her will through whatever means necessary also raises serious concerns.

Is ConneXions a cult?

The arise of ConneXions has led many to question if this supposed counseling/self-help curriculum is actually a guise for a cult. It can't be denied that ConneXions meets the criteria of a cult. First of all, it meets the general definition of a cult, which is a group of people with extreme and unusual beliefs who isolate themselves from others. Ruby cut off her family, stopped vlogging, and seemingly separated from Kevin and disowned Shari, all for the sake of throwing herself wholeheartedly into ConneXions' extreme teachings. So, isolation and extreme beliefs are already strong indicators.

Additionally, cults are always about control—the leader demands complete unquestioning, zealous commitment from every member. We've already seen this take place, too. There are a lot of questions Ruby and others should be asking Jodi about her history as a disgraced therapist. However, instead, she managed to manipulate others into joining her in ConneXions despite having no qualifications for the type of work she claims to be doing. Plus, within just a few months, she managed to sway Ruby to join her work and aid her 24/7. There are even rumors that she moved herself into the Franke home, making viewers question just how strong her manipulation and control are over Ruby.

So, yes, with isolation, control, extreme beliefs, manipulation, and brainwashing, ConneXions does have the appearance of a dangerous cult. Some public reviews of Jodi and her work confirm this conclusion.

Needless to say, ConneXions is becoming more and more disturbing as time goes on. What Jodi is doing should be illegal, as ConneXions clearly doesn't provide any of the things it says it does and instead seeks to brainwash, manipulate, and steal money from its clients. Seeing Ruby's family fall apart and Ruby becoming involved in this cult is deeply disturbing and more needs to be done to ensure that her children are safe from the abusive tactics that ConneXions promotes.

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