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LDS Church says a second missionary made sexual abuse allegation against former MTC president

The LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
The LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church learned in 2010 that a second woman had made an allegation of sexual abuse against a former president of the church's Missionary Training Center in Provo, the church said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

The statement expressed "anger and distress" over the allegations against Joseph Bishop, who served as the MTC president in 1983-86 and warned that, "We are committed to bringing accountability for what has occurred."

Joseph L. Bishop
Joseph L. Bishop
Weber State University

News broke earlier this week that a woman had alleged Bishop raped her while she was a missionary under his care in January 1984. The woman confronted Bishop in December 2017 and a recording of their conversation leaked on Monday. Bishop has denied that allegation.

During the recorded conversation, the woman asked Bishop about a second woman.

"Did you molest her?" she said.

"Yes," he said.

The church said Friday that the second woman on the recording reported to her ecclesiastical leaders in 2010 that Joseph Bishop sexually abused her while he was the MTC president.

"When she reported the alleged abuse to her local church leaders in 2010, they provided emotional support as well as professional counseling services," the statement said. "Mr. Bishop’s local ecclesiastical leaders were contacted and they confronted him with her claims, which he denied, and local leaders did not feel they could pursue church discipline for Mr. Bishop."

The first woman also reported the abuse to local church leaders in Pleasant Grove, Utah, in 2010. His local leaders also confronted him with those claims at the time and he denied them, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said earlier this week.

Hawkins said a Pleasant Grove LDS leader contacted police and reported both the abuse allegation and threats she made against Bishop. That is confirmed by a 2010 Pleasant Grove Police report obtained by the Deseret News through a Government Records Access and Management Act request.

Pleasant Grove Police Chief Mike Smith said Friday night that his department investigated only the threats because the alleged sexual abuse happened outside its jurisdiction.

"The crime that was alleged to happen in our city was the threat to a church leader, which is what we responded to," he said.

Smith said that the call from the church leader, known as a stake executive secretary, included the allegation of sexual abuse but no details. In fact, the police report says, "He reported that (she) was involved in a sexual assault situation with her MTC mission president in January 1984."

The officer reported that the woman told him her statements were meant to be humorous, not serious. The officer closed the case.

"An officer would assume if the call is not going into detail on the sexual abuse that it would be handled by the right jurisdiction and that we should take care of the allegations in my jurisdiction," Smith said.

Hawkins declined to comment Friday night.

Friday's LDS Church statement said church leaders share "the anger and distress church members and others feel to learn of incidents where those entrusted with sacred responsibilities violate God’s commandments and harm others."

It called that behavior repulsive and sinful and said that outside legal counsel for the church is conducting an investigation. Those attorneys are interviewing priesthood leaders, family members, law enforcement officials and others, the statement said.

The first woman told BYU University Police on Dec. 4, 2017, that Bishop raped her at the MTC in 1984. Bishop denied the allegation in an interview with detectives the next day. He said instead that he asked her to expose her breasts to him and that she did.

BYU released its report to the Deseret News through a GRAMA request on Tuesday, but it was heavily redacted. On Wednesday evening, BYU sent the report again with most of the redaction removed, revealing Bishop's statement about asking the woman to expose herself.

Friday's church statement said the church first received the unredacted police report on Wednesday evening.

Bishop's son, an attorney who is representing him, said this week that his father adamantly denied the allegations and was confused about the timeline of events. He said the incident he described to police happened after the woman's mission in 1985 and that she exposed herself without provocation.

Bishop's son did not immediately return a call Friday for comment.

"We continue to urge our leaders to take reports of abuse very seriously," the church statement said. "Leaders should call the church's abuse helpline, which has been established to assure that victims are cared for and that abuse reporting laws are strictly obeyed."

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that one of Bishop's accusers "said she raped him." This version has been corrected.