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Police report sheds more light on accusations against former MTC president

FILE - A police report released Wednesday evening shed new light on allegations against a former president of the LDS Church's Missionary Training Center in Provo.
FILE - A police report released Wednesday evening shed new light on allegations against a former president of the LDS Church's Missionary Training Center in Provo.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — A police report released Wednesday evening shed new light on allegations against a former president of the LDS Church's Missionary Training Center in Provo.

In an interview with BYU University Police three months ago, Joseph L. Bishop, 85, said he asked a missionary to expose her breasts to him in a room at the MTC in 1984, which she did, but he denied her allegation that he raped her.

The new information came from a University Police case report originally released as a heavily redacted document to the Deseret News on Tuesday through an open-records request. On Wednesday evening, after reviewing Utah’s open-records laws, University Police re-sent the report with much of the redaction lifted, including a recounting of the interview with Bishop.

"Joseph’s account was fairly similar to (hers) except for the rape," Sgt. Robert Nelson wrote in the report. "Joseph told us that he did go to his small MTC preparation room in the cafeteria area with (her). Then while talking to her he asked her to show him her breasts, which she did."

Bishop served as the MTC president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from July 1983-86. He previously served as president of Weber State University from 1972-78.

Through his son, Bishop continued Wednesday night to adamantly deny committing any crimes.

"He was very clear there was not sexual activity, whether consensual or non-consensual," Gregory Bishop said.

Gregory Bishop said his father told him the woman exposed her breasts to him on her own in the summer of 1985 when she came to him for help after her mission, not in 1984 at the MTC.

The woman is now 55. The Deseret News typically does not name victims of alleged sexual assault without their permission.

Posing as a reporter, the woman confronted Bishop near his home in Arizona at the start of December 2017. She recorded that conversation. MormonLeaks released the recording on Monday without the permission of the woman, who told the Deseret News she was unhappy with the release, which she said created problems for her.

The new information from the BYU police report appeared to corroborate information on the recording, where Bishop admitted to going alone with her to what he said was a secondary office.

In the recording, she said he attempted to rape her. He responded that they talked about her breasts. Elsewhere on the tape, he admitted having inappropriate conversations with her, described himself as a sex addict and said yes when pointedly asked if he molested a second sister missionary.

Nelson said in the report that detectives listened to the recording, and he concluded it was consistent with the detectives’ interviews with the woman on Dec. 4 and Bishop on Dec. 5, except for whether a rape happened and the room’s layout. The woman told detectives the room had a bed, TV and VHS tapes. Bishop said it did not.

The Deseret News Tuesday reported that the first release of the BYU report included a note from a prosecutor saying that, based on BYU's investigation, he would have charged Bishop with a crime if the statute of limitations had not run out.

"I have no reason to doubt the victim’s disclosure, and would have likely prosecuted Mr. Bishop but for the expiration of the statute of limitations," deputy Utah County attorney David Sturgill told University Police. He said the statute of limitations for the undisclosed charge expired after four years.

Gregory Bishop said his father's memory of the time is foggy and that he was on medication after heart surgery when the tape was made. He said his father was holding himself to his own higher standard for a church leader when he said he was a sex addict and had molested the other woman.

Gregory Bishop also questioned the credibility of the woman who made the tape because of her criminal history and accusations she has made against other men.

The woman confirmed that some of that history is valid when she spoke Tuesday with the Deseret News, but she said it does not alter what she said happened with Bishop.

In the University Police report, Nelson said he and another detective on the case asked Bishop to explain "why his account of the rape was different from the woman’s."

"He said he either can’t remember it or that (she) was exaggerating her account," Nelson stated.

In a statement released by the church Monday, LDS spokesman Eric Hawkins said the woman's allegation is "very serious and deeply disturbing."

"If the allegations of sexual assault are true," he added, "it would be a tragic betrayal of our standards and would result in action by the church to formally discipline any member who was guilty of such behavior, especially someone in a position of trust."