This book review appeared on my original blog on December 10, 2016. I am reposting it as/is. This topic comes up because the Boy Scouts are in the news again because of rampant sexual abuse.
It’s time once again for another exmo lit book review. It’s been awhile since I reviewed any books about the LDS church, but I decided I had to read this book when I saw it referenced on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site. Written by Tommy Womeldorf and published in June 2015, Scouts Dishonor is Womeldorf’s true story of getting involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America. Although many boys grow up Mormon and enjoy Scouting, Womeldorf’s experiences as a Boy Scout were extremely traumatizing. Although he’d been a promising athlete who had dreams of playing sports professionally, what happened to Tommy Womeldorf would cause him to abandon athletics and turn to alcohol and drugs.
In 2012, Womeldorf decided he wanted to seek justice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America. He was living in Arizona at the time, along with his wife Arlene, and daughters Sophia, Julia, Fiona and Lola. Sophia was Arlene’s daughter from another relationship, but Womeldorf treated her as his own. The family had been attending the LDS church for awhile, although Womeldorf had fallen away from Mormonism for about twenty years.
One summer day, Womeldorf was working as a laborer for a job at a Marriott Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. His job was to unload a truck. On the side of the truck were the words “Boy Scouts of America”. Twenty-nine years earlier, Womeldorf had been a Boy Scout, where his nightmare began. Unloading the truck had apparently awakened something inside of Womeldorf that made him want to seek justice for what had happened to him when he was a thirteen year old boy. He was in the care of Craig Mathias, a Mormon Boy Scoutmaster who happened to be a pervert.
Tommy Womeldorf’s parents had both been raised in alcoholic households. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had seemed like a wholesome and stable environment for their family. Womeldorf’s father was especially impressed by the church, though his mother seemed less interested in it. She eventually came around and the family became regular attendees.
Like many young male Mormons, Womeldorf joined the Boy Scouts, where he first met his abuser. Mathias was a methodical, meticulous man who easily spotted the vulnerable and exploited them. Womeldorf’s father had had to take on extra work and gave up his position as Boy Scoutmaster, giving Mathias more opportunity to groom his victims. As he was growing older, Tommy was less interested in scouting. He and his parents had been fighting about it. His parents finally said he could skip church if he would go to Boy Scouts. He relented when they also threatened to take away his Ozzy Osborne and Motley Crue posters. It’s my guess that the tension at home, along with Womeldorf’s father’s extra work hours, had made a perfect storm for Mathias to strike.
Just a warning. Womeldorf goes into graphic detail about what happened to him when he was alone with his abuser. I had to stop reading a couple of times because it was sickening to read. Womeldorf’s mother was totally trusting of Mathias and never had a problem with letting her son visit him alone. She figured he was a Mormon who was divinely called by God to be a Boy Scout leader. He had to be safe, right?
Although Womeldorf and his father reported Mathias to Bishop Brent Griffiths, Griffiths discounted Womeldorf’s story. Instead of being helpful and supportive, Griffiths changed the direction of the meeting by bringing up Womeldorf’s sins. Five years later, Craig Mathias was convicted of sexually abusing five Boy Scouts. However, Womeldorf did not get justice, since his claims were unacknowledged. Womeldorf writes that had the bishop taken him seriously, those boys would not have had the experiences they did.
In the wake of the abuse, Womeldorf descended into drug addiction, drug dealing, and alcoholism. His life began to turn around when he met Arlene Ryan, a single mother of an infant daughter. They eventually started attending the LDS church again and were even profiled in a 2012 issue of the Ensign. But Tommy soon started feeling very uncomfortable in the church and went inactive. Two church members came over to his house to assign him a calling… assistant Boy Scoutmaster. It was at that point that Womeldorf told the two members that he was pursuing legal action against the church due to their negligence when he was himself a Boy Scout. And then he sat down to write his book.
I paid 99 cents for the Kindle version of this book and I think it was money well spent. I noticed a few minor editing glitches. For instance, sometimes Womeldorf mixes up words like council versus counsel and prey versus pray. Overall, though, Scouts Dishonor is a remarkably coherent account, especially given that Womeldorf abused many drugs and drank a lot of booze in the years after his abuse. It appears that although he’s given up on Mormonism, Womeldorf is now living a clean and sober life with his wife and daughters. I recommend his book.
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