Exclusive: Documents reveal how the LDS Church responded to MTC sex scandal

A file photo of the Missionary Training Center, Provo, Utah before a remodel. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) - On March 20, as a sexual assault scandal was exploding around former Missionary Training Center President Joseph Bishop, his son, and attorney Greg Bishop sent an email to 2News unsolicited.

In the email, he unspools a five-page dossier about the past of the woman who had accused his father of rape.

The email included the woman’s criminal record, alleged false allegations she’d made in the past, and jobs she’d lost.

It even included details about an incident that occurred when she was 17 years old. Bishop encouraged reporters to examine the woman’s past adding, “consider the source.”

In the last two days, 2News has obtained a letter that was written by David Jordan, a lawyer at the firm, Stoel Rives, acting on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The document is a response to a letter from the woman’s attorney, Craig Vernon, requesting a settlement from the LDS Church.

The document includes everything we saw in Bishop’s email, plus a review of her ecclesiastical church record.

At the bottom, the Jordan indicates that he sent the letter to Greg Bishop.

It appears Bishop took portions of the letter, and at times, repeated allegations word for word and sent it to the media.

At least three media outlets did stories based on the letter.

Jordan acknowledged that he wrote the letter and only sent it to Bishop because he had been included in an email chain by the accuser’s attorney. Jordan says he did not release the letter to the media.

Salt Lake City attorney Greg Skordas said the document was meant to be used for negotiating a possible settlement, releasing it was improper.

“It’s a little bit problematic to me that this kind of information is now released,” Skordas said.

Turner Bitton with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault said even if the church didn’t put out the letter, the methods used in it are intended to silence accusers.

“It sends a message to that individual person, but to everyone else, that if you come forward we are going to dig through your past we're going to dig through your experiences who you are your very identity,” Bitton said.

Bitton also said the church has every right to collect the information it did on Bishop’s accuser, but said, the way they did it and what they collected, may not sit well with church members.

"The vast majority of people that I know that are people of faith who are don't want to see this kind of behavior,” he said. “What they don't want to see is the church engaging in a way that looks like a ruthless corporation at times."

Eric Hawkins, a spokesman with the LDS Church said in an email: “It is customary and acceptable for outside counsel to correspond with the attorneys representing other parties, including sharing information that may support or refute their claims."

In an emailed statement, Hawkins said:

As we've said in both statements, our work to address this matter has included the work of outside legal counsel to interview and investigate the facts and allegations. This requires access to membership information. During this process, it is customary and acceptable for outside counsel to correspond with the attorneys representing other parties, including sharing information that may support or refute their claims.
But it's also important to not confuse the legal and ecclesiastical lines. Attorneys are doing the legal work, and that has contributed substantially to what we understand about this case. But ecclesiastical decisions about Church members remain in the hands of local leaders, whose responsibility it is to determine how to minister to, discipline and care for the members in their stewardship.

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