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Colorado woman, church agree to dismiss sex assault lawsuit involving ex-MTC president

McKenna Denson speaks in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Denson, who said the Missionary Training Center president raped her while she was a missionary there in 1984, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday. Denson, 55, of Pueblo, Colorado, filed suit against Joseph L. Bishop, 85, of Chandler, Arizona, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for sexual assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure and concealment
McKenna Denson speaks during a press conference in Salt Lake City on April 5, 2018.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Colorado woman and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have agreed to dismiss her lawsuit alleging the former president of the church’s Missionary Training Center sexually assaulted her while she was a missionary 36 years ago.

A federal judge in Salt Lake City terminated the case after McKenna Denson and the church filed a motion Thursday seeking a dismissal of the case with prejudice, meaning Denson cannot sue the church again on the same grounds.

“The parties have not entered into a settlement, and aside from the agreement to bear their own fees and costs, there are no further agreements between them,” according to the filing.

A church spokesman confirmed Thursday that the lawsuit was dismissed but had no further comment.

The agreement ends Denson’s lawsuit against the church claiming that former MTC President Joseph Bishop raped her in 1984.

Denson, 57, sued Bishop and the church for sexual assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure and fraudulent concealment in April 2018. Bishop previously denied those allegations.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball tossed out all but one of Denson’s allegations in 2018, finding her claims against Bishop for sexual assault, fraud and emotional distress had expired under Utah’s statute of limitations.

Kimball, however, ruled that the statute of limitations on Denson’s contention that the church hid Bishop’s predatory sexual behavior did not begin until she confronted him in December 2017 and learned of the alleged concealment. The church denied that allegation in previous filings.

Denson and the church have wrangled over that issue the past two years. Her attorneys dropped out of the case in the summer of 2019 and she has represented herself since then.

Denson posed as a reporter to confront Bishop in December 2017 when she said he told her about his sexual history and addiction. Her interview became public when a website released their taped conversation and its 76-page transcript.

Bishop served as MTC president from 1983 to 1986 and as president of Weber State College in the 1970s.