A couple weeks ago I helped my youngest boy build a Pinewood Derby car and that was his first experience with cub scouts. He had a lot of fun and seems excited to go again. The following week, I took the older boy to his first boy scout meeting. Both of these happened at the nearest Mormon church. Which was totally expected. Around here the scouts are sponsored by the church so entry fees are paid for by the church. And meetings take place there. The cub scout event started out with the pledge of allegiance and moved on to the national anthem followed by races. I was expecting something similar for Boy scouts, minus the racing of course, as that is about how I remember scouts. Although, not every meeting was at the church for me, just the majority of them.
Wow, was this boy scout meeting different than the cub scout equivalent. It was downright creepy. I even felt uncomfortable there and I grew up in a Mormon household. I can’t imagine how weird it seemed to a poor kid that has never seen the inside of a church. Lucky for him he has never seen Children of the Corn either or he wouldn’t have slept for days.
They met in the relief society room with the youth girls. For me, this was a once a month thing for the combined activity, and even then we met in neutral territory like the gym. Not the girl’s home turf. A hymn was sung by all to piano music. Prayers were said (I expected this one). Then the girls stood up and chanted some long drawn out thing about being a daughter of God and having loyalty to Jesus or something. I have never heard this chant before and dozens of horror movies were streaming through my head. I nervously paced outside the room with my hand on my knife waiting to run in and bail him out once they all turned to vampires or zombies and started eating the innocent new-comers. Creep level was rising and was about 9 out of 10. Then the boys started to chant. I couldn’t hear the topic of this incantation as my blood pressure had risen to the point of blocking off my hearing. What the literal fuck is happening in these meetings? This never happened when I was in scouts and our troop was as Mormon as one could be. I don’t think we had a single kid that was not in the church.
A prayer, sure, I’ll give you that. The meetings are happening at the church. That’s fine, we can ignore that and let you do your thing while we do ours. But the ritualistic chanting was full-on witchcraft. I was surprised when there was no sacrifices at the altar or vomiting heads spinning. No turkey blood or anything.
So this brought up some questions:
- WTF is that chant?
- When did that begin? It was not around 30 years ago…
- How can you do this and watch those television ads about Mormons being normal with a straight face?
- Are all boy scout groups like this or is my super mo neighborhood just some Mecca of crazy town or something?
- Do these chants ever end or do you do these your whole life? Like can you quit once you get married, or go on a mission, or expel spawn from your witch cave or something?
For me, scouting was a great experience which I remember with much fondness. A way to learn, experience nature, practice survival techniques, and be away from parents with friends at a young age. I think it can play a critical role in maturation of a boy. And I was hoping for my boys to be able to experience it like I did. I never made Eagle scout as some paperwork had been lost/misplaced/never filed by my scout leader and I got boned out of a whole bunch of merit badges, which made me pretty pissy, so I pretty much quit. But the parts I remember most when thinking back on my scouting days, the campouts, the pinewood derby races, the Jamborees, they all produce a euphoric nostalgia. When I try to focus on bad parts, there is few things that come to mind. One being that I kind of regret my dad was unable to play a larger role in that time of my life. Another being the smell of the church. It was a very old building. Very cool design by today’s standards of Mormon churches as IIRC, the one we met at was built in the 1800’s, so it was vastly different than the cookie cutter unimaginative buildings they congregate in these days. But it did smell funky.
So what happened to scouting in Utah? I sincerely hope this is just something unique about my neighborhood. However, the creepiest parts were not something that existed when I attended church or scouts as a kid. So I assume this is maybe unique to Utah, but not just my neighborhood. It makes me sad that my boys will miss out on all that being a scout has to offer, just because a group of abnormally creepy people have taken it over here. And yes, I know I could truck them 10 miles away to non-denominational troop. But we all have lives and besides that, I just shouldn’t have to. I should be able to expect people to just not be creepy. That being said, the leader of the troop and the boys I have met have all been very nice, and appeared to be normal. I don’t know their roles in the eerie part of the proceedings. But the simple fact is, neither of my boys are interested in continuing, regardless of the fact that they enjoyed it and are interested. They just can’t get past that gut feel that something is amiss. And I sure am not going to force it on them as their gut feel is probably even more accurate than mine as it hasn’t been tempered by years of pessimism and reality.