Allegations of sexual assault by a former president of the Provo Missionary Training Center against a sister missionary have resurfaced after 34 years.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Tuesday to clarify the path the allegation has taken over the decades, and the controversial audio leaked Monday.
“These allegations are very serious and deeply disturbing,” the church statement says. “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.”
According to the statement, the matter was first brought to the attention of the church in 2010, approximately 26 years after the alleged assault. The woman, who served briefly as a missionary in 1984, told leaders of the Pleasant Grove Utah West Stake that she had been sexually assaulted by Joseph Bishop, then- president of the Provo Missionary Training Center.
“They listened carefully to the claims being made and then this was immediately reported to the Pleasant Grove Police Department, and the police interviewed her at that time,” the church statement said. “The church does not know what she said in that interview, but the church received no further communication from the police concerning the matter.”
Captain Michael Robertson of the Pleasant Grove Police Department acknowledged on Tuesday the department was aware of the allegations, but said Pleasant Grove’s involvement was not about the allegations.
“The woman contacted the church leaders. She made threats she could possibly hurt someone,” Robertson said. “We went out to her home to visit her and make sure she was OK. We never investigated the alleged abuse.”
According to mormonnewsroom.org, the church referred these allegations to Bishop’s local ecclesiastical leaders. They met with him and he denied the allegations.
“Unable to verify the allegations, they did not impose any formal Church discipline on Mr. Bishop at that time,” the statement continues.
Two years ago, the same woman contacted a stake president in Pueblo, Colorado. In January of this year, the church was contacted by a lawyer representing her.
“He provided a copy of a recording that she had made of a conversation between her and 85-year-old Joseph Bishop in December 2017,” the church statement says. “Since that time, the Church has engaged in an investigation of this individual’s allegations.”
The statement continues, “In the course of that investigation, both she and Mr. Bishop have been interviewed by outside legal counsel. Not surprisingly, the stories, timelines and recollections of those involved are dramatically different.”
This woman reaffirmed her allegations, while Bishop again denied them. The woman reported she had met with Elder Carlos E. Asay, who passed away in 1999.
“We have no record of an interview between Elder Carlos E. Asay and this individual,” the church statement said.
“The Church, as a religious organization, does not have the investigative tools available to law enforcement agencies. Nor can the Church substitute for the courts in adjudicating legal claims,” the statement continues. “The Church has great faith in the judicial system to determine the truth of these claims. Nevertheless, the Church takes seriously its responsibility to hold its members accountable for their conduct with respect of the laws of God and man.”
According to the mormonnewsroom.org statement, the church is continuing its investigation of this individual’s claims and will act consistent with policy of zero tolerance for abuse.
According to audio and transcripts released on MormonLeaks.io, the woman met with Bishop in 2017 to interview him about his service in the church, which she recorded.
At 40 minutes and 30 seconds in the audio, the woman shifts the conversation to her discussing what she claims he did to her as a missionary in the MTC.
A long conversation ensued. The woman shared her claims and recorded Bishop discussing misconduct he had with other women.
MormonLeaks.io noted that while Bishop never affirmatively acknowledges any specific actions, he reportedly admits in the recording he molested at least one woman and had been inappropriate with many other women. At one point, he claims if the full extent of his sins were to be revealed, he would be excommunicated and the church would be embarrassed.
In part of the transcript from the more than one-hour audio interview, the woman intimated that as a 9-year-old, she had a sexual experience with her step-father that caused him to disassociate. She said her spirit left her body and reentered after the act.
The woman then reminded him of the alleged attempted rape, and was transcribed as follows:
Bishop: Why would I not remember that?
Bishop: That’s terrible.
Woman: Yeah, that was. But, I’d rather be me than you.
Bishop: I would rather be you than me.
Woman: I have had real serious issues with priesthood holders ever since. Half of them have been unfaithful, and I figured you know, maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just a magnet for men who take advantages of vulnerable women.
Bishop: You just ... I don’t know how many women there are, but if this story went public...
Woman: You would be the Harvey Weinstein of the Mormon church. True?
Bishop: I would be.
Woman: Yes, you would be.
Bishop: I would be.
Woman: How many women have you apologized to? At, least obviously. Is [redacted] still alive?
Bishop: I haven’t ... she contacted ... she did what you did, appropriately so. She made an attempt to find out. I did [inaudible 01:10:22] her. Anyway, I had a conversation with an authority, called me —
Bishop: Somebody in the church, I don’t remember their name.
The conversation continues with accusations and revelations on the number of women Bishop was physically familiar with.
“When you have an addiction and you recognize and you’re doing things to young vulnerable women, broken women, who are looking only to make their lives better and serve the Lord, you took advantage of us, and you just stayed — not only did you stay in that calling, you go on and take other callings,” the woman told him in the audio.