LDS Church reacts after release of police interview of former church official accused of sexual assault

Salt Lake Temple. Photo courtesy: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

For an updated story, click here.

PROVO, Utah, March 23, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — The LDS Church has issued a followup statement regarding the alleged sexual abuse of a female missionary in 1984 by Joseph L. Bishop, then the president of the Missionary Training Center.

The new statement follows the revelation that in a 2017 interview with the Brigham Young University Police, Bishop — who is now 85 — did not admit to the attempted rape, but he did confess to asking the female missionary to show him her breasts. She reportedly complied.

“We 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,” says the message released Friday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Such behavior is repulsive and sinful. The Church is looking into all aspects of the assertions on the recording of Joseph Bishop. This includes the work of outside legal counsel, who are interviewing priesthood leaders, family members, law enforcement officials and others with knowledge of these incidents.”

The first Church statement, released Tuesday, was in response to the release of a recording the woman said she made during a conversation with Bishop last December.

The audio file was released by MormonLeaks, a nonprofit organization that releases leaked information associated with the LDS Church. MormonLeaks was formed, the website says, “on the belief that increased transparency within the Mormon Church results in fewer untruths, less corruption, and less abuse within Mormonism.”

The recorded conversation covers topics including whether he remembers trying to rape her and molesting other female missionaries for whom he served as a trusted spiritual adviser.

The man identified as Bishop admits to molesting at least one female missionary in his charge, while saying he does not specifically remember attacking the woman confronting him.

Joseph L. Bishop served from 1972 to 1978 as president of Weber State University, then called Weber State College. Photo (1970s): WSU

“I was not strong,” Bishop allegedly says in the recording. “The last person who should have been in that situation was me. I shouldn’t have been in that position.”

Friday’s LDS Church statement continues:

“We are aware of one other woman (who is referenced in the December recording) who informed her local ecclesiastical leaders that she was sexually abused by Joseph Bishop while he served as president of the Missionary Training Center.

“When she reported the alleged abuse to her local Church leaders in 2010, they provided emotional support as well as professional counseling services. 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.

“On Wednesday, the Church, along with media outlets, received the unredacted police report from BYU Police, which included an admission of inappropriate sexual conduct. We are committed to bringing accountability for what has occurred.”

When investigating BYU Police officers asked Bishop why his account of the 1984 incident differed from that of the alleged victim, the report says, “he said he either can’t remember it or that (she) was exaggerating her account.”

Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill has said he could not pursue charges against Bishop because the statute of limitations had run out. In 1984, the legal deadline for filing a rape charge was four years.

“I have no reason to doubt the victim’s disclosure,” Sturgill has told reporters.

The LDS Church’s statement Friday reiterated that sexual abuse is against Church policy.

“Sexual abuse cannot be tolerated in the Church. We continue to urge our leaders to take reports of abuse very seriously. 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.”

To hear the full audio recording of the conversation between the accuser and the man said to be Bishop, click on the download below (used with permission from MormonLeaks).

To read a transcript on the MormonLeaks website, click here.

To read the LDS Church’s Tuesday statement on its website, click here.

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