LDS Church responds to allegations of sexual assault by former mission president
(KUTV) -- The LDS Church released an official statement Tuesday regarding allegations of sexual assault by Joseph L. Bishop, a former president of the Provo Missionary Training Center. The accusations were first brought to light on Monday by MormonLeaks when it released an audio recording and transcript of a contentious two-hour conversation between Bishop and his alleged accuser.
In the interview, arranged under apparent false pretenses, a woman questions Bishop and accuses him of attempting to rape her while she was a new missionary at the Mission Training Center (MTC) in 1984. In the recording, Bishop claims to not remember that incident, but later apparently admits to "molesting" another female missionary under his supervision.
In the statement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the allegations "are very serious and deeply disturbing" and said "If the allegations of sexual assault are true, 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."
The Church said it knew about the accusations in 2010 when the woman in question told her local church leaders in Pleasant Grove, Utah, that she had been sexually assaulted by the MTC president. According to the Church, it was immediately reported to the Pleasant Grove Police Department who interviewed the woman.
2News has learned that interaction actually resulted from an apparent threat made against the life of Bishop by his accuser. 2News obtained a Pleasant Grove police report from April 2010 claiming the accuser made the threat to a local LDS stake presidency. When they investigated, the accuser told police her threat was "along the lines of humor" and "was not meant as serious."
She was warned by the investigating officer and told not to confront Bishop, but no further action was taken against her or Bishop. Pleasant Grove Police told 2News the alleged sexual assault was not investigated because any incident would've taken place outside their jurisdiction and because the threat, and not the alleged assault, was the reason the Church contacted them.
The Church says they also contacted Bishop's local ecclesiastical leaders at that time, but that no action was taken against him because those leaders were "unable to verify the allegations." The Church said it was contacted about the matter again in 2016 and then in January 2018, when a lawyer representing the woman contacted the Church.
Following the recorded interaction between Bishop and his accuser in December 2017, Brigham Young University Police Department opened an investigation into the alleged sexual assault. BYU Police would only release a heavily redacted copy of the police report, but included a statement from Utah County Deputy Attorney David Sturgill indicating he "had no reason to doubt the victim's disclosure, and would have likely prosecuted Mr. Bishop, but for the expiration of the statute of limitations."
However, Joseph Bishop's attorney and son, Greg Bishop, provided 2News with his own reasons for doubting the woman's story. Bishop provided 2News with a list of nearly two dozen incidents stating the same woman made false accusations against individuals and companies. Those incidents include allegedly false allegations of rape, planted evidence, and personal injury. Some of those claims included documentation. Others did not. Idaho attorney Craig Vernon represents Bishop's accuser. He tells 2News that while his client has actions in her life "she wishes she could take back," many of the claims are not true, and that Bishop's family is "running a smear campaign" to discredit her. "The tape speaks for itself," Vernon said.
On the tape Joseph Bishop admits that he gave a "back rub" to a female missionary that became too "frisky." Bishop also told his accuser that he had a "sexual addiction." He goes on say he would sometimes counsel victims of sexual abuse in his role as mission president, but because he "was not strong" he considered himself "the last person who should have been in that position." He also worried about excommunication from the Church because of his actions. He never admits to the attempted rape of the accuser referenced on the tape, and denies ever attempting to rape anyone else.
Greg Bishop told 2News that his father was released from the hospital just days before the recorded confrontation. He emphasized the interaction was arranged under false pretenses, and that he's 85-year-old father's memory has been failing. On his father's behalf "he adamantly denies the allegations" made against him. Greg Bishop said his father "has been retired for many years and is living quietly in Arizona. He is not a public figure, and not of interest to anyone except his family and loved ones."
Vernon says his client did not give the recording to MormonLeaks. He says his client now plans to file a lawsuit against Bishop and the LDS Church, and may soon be ready to tell her story publicly.
The full statement from MormonNewsroom. can be found here and is reproduced below.
The audio of the interview can be found at MormonLeaks.io.
The interview transcript can be found below.