Timeline of the Joseph Bishop Sexual Abuse Scandal
On March 19, 2018, MormonLeaks released an audio recording and written transcript of a Dec. 2, 2017 conversation between an unnamed woman (Survivor) and Joseph Bishop, in which the woman confronts Bishop for trying to rape her in 1984 while he was the MTC president and she was a sister missionary in training. Since then, the LDS Church responded and more details have become available. The following is my attempt to produce a timeline, so readers can get clearer picture of the 34-year scandal:
Prior to 1972
Joseph Bishop, while in an LDS bishopric, is involved with sexually abusive activity of which he admitted in the Dec. 2, 2017 recording:
Survivor: How many other women are there?
Joseph Bishop: It’s not that there’s so many other women, it’s just the two that were there [at the MTC], I remember one when I was in the Bishopric.
Joseph Bishop is appointed President of Weber State College. During his tenure, Assistant Dean Jan Tyler files a lawsuit regarding equal pay. The lawsuit is settled out of court.
I felt that he was a person without a sense of morality, of what was right and wrong. He was almost amoral.
Joseph Bishop is called as a mission president to the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission. While a mission president, he confesses his past sexual transgressions, including the incident while he was in a bishopric, to Church General Authority, Robert E. Wells.
Survivor: You were never called into a church council, church court, even after you confessed to Elder Wells, there was never a fellowship, nothing?
Joseph Bishop: No I hadn’t confessed all those things before Elder Wells, but wanted to redo it. I struggled to make sure that everything was taken care of.
Bishop is called as the Missionary Training Center (MTC) President from 1983–1986.
Survivor: I need an apology, and I need an admission, and I need to know what was ever done if anything, because I have carried this and it has destroyed my life. So do you remember the room in the basement?
Joseph Bishop: I do
Survivor: […] Do you remember tearing my blouse, pulling up my skirt, ripping
the back of my skirt and trying to rape me? But you didn’t, because you didn’t
have a full erection. You don’t remember that?
After returning from her mission, the Survivor reports the sexual abuse incident to her Young Single Adult Ward Bishop, alleged to be Ron Leavitt. Leavitt, in March 2018, recalled that the woman “came to him and said [Joseph] Bishop abused her, taking her and another woman to a small basement room at the MTC and showed them pornography.” He says that he didn’t believe the Survivor and says that he didn’t report the abuse to higher church authorities or law enforcement.
I wasn’t going to risk sullying the reputation of [Joseph Bishop]
- Former YSA Bishop of Survivor
However, according to the survivor, her bishop “arranged for her to speak with Asay, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy.” Asay told her that he would talk to Joseph Bishop.
Survivor: I have struggled for 33 years with what you did to me. And I am only interested in an apology. I reported what you did to me to Elder Asay. Do you remember him?
Joseph Bishop: Oh yeah.
Survivor: Quorum of the Seventy. Did he ever talk to you?
Joseph Bishop: No.
1998 and onward
Survivor “claimed she was pistol-whipped and locked in the trunk of a car by two men outside a restaurant where she had worked. Detectives learned she had been fired shortly before the incident and had made inquiries about the restaurant’s security liability. They concluded she was dishonest and her report ‘unfounded.’”
Another woman (Survivor 2), reports to local church leaders about being sexually abused by Joseph Bishop, also while he was MTC president. In an updated statement, March 23, 2018, the Church stated that in 2010, she was 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.”
Survivor 2 was referenced in the December recording:
Survivor 1: Do you remember the other girl with me? The other one you were grooming? Her name was [redacted]
Joseph Bishop: [redacted][redacted]
Survivor 1: Yes, that’s her last name
Joseph Bishop: I remember [redacted]
Survivor 1: Did you molest her?
Joseph Bishop: Yes
Survivor 1 also “contacted LDS Church headquarters in an attempt to find out the results of her reports and if Bishop had been disciplined. When they told her she couldn’t get that information, she made a threat over the phone about killing Bishop.”
Subsequently, the LDS Church contacted the Pleasant Grove Police department. The March 20, 2018 LDS church statement says that the Church contacted police about the sexual assault but says nothing about the death threat.
Pleasant Grove police contacted the survivor and reported that 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.”
Joseph Bishop authors Peace be unto thy Soul. The book includes an endorsement by Church General Authority, Robert E. Wells, the same leader to whom Bishop had confessed his sexual abuse while a mission president.
The March 20, 2018 church statement reports that in 2016 the survivor “contacted a stake president in Pueblo, Colorado” about the incident.
November 28, 2017
Survivor contacts Brigham Young University Police about the sexual abuse incident from 1984, according to the police report.
December 2, 2017
Survivor visits “Bishop in Arizona, posing as a writer who was interviewing former mission presidents. During their nearly three-hour conversation […] which she secretly recorded, the Colorado woman urged him to admit what he did to her and others.”
The survivor provides a copy of this recording to the Brigham Young Police, according to their report.
December 5, 2017
Joseph Bishop admits to some sexual abuse in an interview with Brigham Young University Police. “Joseph told detectives that he went with the woman to a small ‘preparation room’ in the cafeteria area of the MTC” and asked her to show him her breasts.
[Bishop] asked her to show him her breasts, which she did.
“Police also contacted the victim’s MTC instructor who said she remembered the sister missionary in question and recalls her being called out of class at some point, but didn’t recall who she went with.”
December 23, 2017
The BYU case is closed, after police determine they cannot pursue criminal charges against Bishop because of statute of limitations.
I have no reason to doubt the victim’s disclosure, and would have likely prosecuted Mr. Bishop, but for the expiration of the statute of limitations.
The alleged rape occurred in 1984. At that time, the statute of limitations was four years. The statute remained the same for over a decade, and I am now convinced that nothing occurred to toll it.
Survivor is “arrested in New Mexico on suspicion of identity theft. According to a police report, she used an ex-boyfriend’s name and Social Security number to obtain utility services and to lease an apartment.”
February 5, 2018
Bill HB330 is introduced to the Utah State Legislature with support from the LDS church. The proposed law “would make it a crime to record a conversation with someone without their consent.”
Church representatives have spoken with legislators to express support for (HB330), which is intended to protect the confidentiality of sensitive private conversations, including those between ecclesiastical leaders and their members
- LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins
March 19, 2018
Without the consent of the survivor, MormonLeaks releases the audio recording and transcript of the Dec 2, 2017 conversation between the survivor and Joseph Bishop.
Deseret Book removes all works authored by Joseph Bishop from its website.
Survivor’s daughter says “that within 12 hours of the story breaking, church officials and lawyers had contacted her and her siblings to interview them on the character of their mother,” according to Lindsey Hansen Park.
[Survivor] warned me that a massive smear campaign was beginning.
March 20, 2018
LDS Church releases a statement. The Church states that the survivor is a “former Church member, who served briefly as a missionary in 1984,” and that “the stories, timelines and recollections of those involved are dramatically different.” It adds that the Church “does not have the investigative tools available to law enforcement agencies.”
Greg Bishop, Joseph Bishop’s son, emails a 5 page dossier to KUTV2 News (and at least 3 other media outlets) detailing the past life of the Survivor, including 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.”
March 21, 2018
Greg Bishop says his “father does not describe or admit to any physical acts in the tape other than the back rub he admits to giving another female missionary and that “conversation happened two days after his father underwent heart surgery.”
March 23, 2018
LDS Church updates its statement to include another sexual abuse survivor (Survivor 2) who “reported the alleged abuse to her local Church leaders in 2010” (see 2010 above). She was also a sister missionary at the Missionary Training Center in 1984.
March 23, 2018
March 24, 2018
Survivor publishes a statement via MormonLeaks:
Having this story leaked has actually helped me. I was struggling with the settlement. Part of me wanted to take it and part of me didn’t. They made it easy for me. I didn’t have to choose.
March 26, 2018
The LDS Church releases a statement and First Presidency Letter to be read to LDS congregations about preventing and responding to abuse.
If the person being interviewed desires, another adult may be invited to participate in the interviews
March 28, 2018
KUTV2 News receives 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 letter includes the 5-page dossier about the Survivor that Greg Bishop sent to media outlets on March 20, 2018 as well as “a review of her ecclesiastical church record.”
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.
March 30, 2018
800 to 900 demonstrators gather “in downtown Salt Lake City to protest the faith’s practice of closed-door, one-on-one conversations between young members and local lay leaders (which sometimes include intimate probing about moral cleanliness). The group delivered 55,000 signatures to the LDS Church Office Building demanding an end to such graphic questioning in ‘worthiness’ interviews.” They also delivered to Church spokeswoman, Irene Caso, “books for each Mormon apostle that included personal stories of vulnerable situations and bishops who took advantage.”
Every time a child goes behind a closed door, we have groomed them that it’s acceptable to go behind closed doors with an older man—we’ve groomed them to be a target of a sexual predator like Joseph Bishop.
The Church is saying, ‘we’re going to turn to that 12 year old girl and ask them the decision whether they are going to be groomed or not groomed.’ The child doesn’t understand all the dangers.
March 31, 2018
During the Saturday Afternoon Session of the Semi-Annual General Conference of the LDS Church, and while newly called general authorities are making their way to the stand, someone in the audience yells, “Stop protecting sexual predators” three times in the LDS Church’s Conference Center.
April 1, 2018
In his General Conference address, LDS Church apostle Quentin Cook calls sexual abuse and rape “nonconsensual immorality.”
[His] unfortunate wording about ‘nonconsensual immorality‘ is a step back. […] Telling victims that they’ve engaged in immorality is victim blaming no matter what qualifiers you put in front of it.
April 3, 2018
What she did was brave, and I am proud of her for getting him to confess. Regardless of her past and whatever she’s done, this is a separate issue — and there’s a lot of validity to her [assault claims].
April 4, 2018
Survivor sues the LDS Church and Joseph Bishop and reveals herself as McKenna Denson in lawsuit documents produced by her lawyer, Craig Vernon. The document says that the LDS Church was aware of allegations of Bishop’s sexual improprieties before he was called as the MTC president: while serving as missionary in Argentina, while in a bishopric in Florida, and during his time as Weber State University president.
[The LDS Church] failed to take reasonable steps and failed to implement reasonable safeguards to avoid acts of unlawful sexual assault in the future by Bishop. These failures by [the church] included, but are not limited to, placing Bishop in a position of power over young, vulnerable women, trained to strictly trust and obey Bishop, the President at the MTC; placing Denson and other women in a location where they knew or should have known that they would be at an increased risk of being sexually assaulted by a self-proclaimed sexual predator.
Plaintiff DENSON also prays for equitable relief from this Court for non-monetary redress and the protection of DENSON and other similarly situated members of the public, as follows:
POLICY CHANGES: Learn of a crime? Don’t call the help line. CALL. THE. POLICE.
- Lawsuit document, McKenna Denson vs. The Corporation of the President of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Utah corporation; and Joseph L. Bishop
April 5, 2018
Survivor, McKenna Denson, and her lawyers, Jeffrey R. Oritt and Craig K. Vernon, hold a press conference. Vernon shows a document with the results of a lie detector (polygraph) test that McKenna Denson took concerning the sexual abuse allegations at the MTC. She “passed with flying colors,” according to Vernon.
September 2, 2018
McKenna Denson shares her testimony in the ward that Joseph Bishop currently attends as an active member.
The Quorum of the Twelve apostles are covering a sexual predator that lives in your ward. His name is Joseph Bishop. He was the MTC president in 1984, when he raped me in the basement of MTC.
-McKenna Denson’s Testimony
KUTV news released a recording of the meeting that happened between Denson and a member of the stake presidency, President Jones.
September 11, 2018
Mormon Leaks releases a document from 2012 that shows how the church, and their law firm, Kirton McConkie, handled 7 sexual abuse cases. The last entry in the document has drawn criticism:
The missionary department is reluctant to send this Elder home to — where he may face prosecution for a felony. His conduct is clearly unlawful in _ , and his Stake President would have a duty to report. The Elder also recently confessed to kissing and some touching with a 15 year old girl in the mission field. It is clear that the Elder needs to go home. Direction?
-Entry from the Kirton McConkie document, Special Investigations and Projects
In the last case shown on page two, the perpetrator is serving his mission in a state that does not have mandatory reporting laws for ecclesiastical leaders and his home state does.
-MormonLeak’s description about the last entry
September 16, 2018
Sam Young is excommunicated by the LDS church. After completing a 23 day food fast outside church headquarters, Sam Young is called into a disciplinary council at his home ward in Texas on September 9. Young opened the excommunication letter publicly across the street from Temple Square.
Protect LDS Children
Protect LDS Children is an organization with the aim to petition the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to stop conducting private interviews with Mormon youth. Typically, Mormon youth aged 8–17 are interviewed by older men behind closed doors. Often these interviews involve sexually explicit questions. Visit protectldschildren.org, read from over 700 heartbreaking stories, and sign the petition to stop sexually explicit interviews of Mormon youth.
March 27 Update: In the interest of providing as much information as possible, I listed two events about the Survivor in the timeline from this AZCentral article.
March 31 Update: I included KUTV’s reporting of the dossier about the Survivor sent to media outlets. I also included the news of the Protect LDS Children March in downtown SLC.
April 4 Update: I included a report of the lawsuit and added an event on March 19, 2018, reported by Lindsey Hansen Park, where children of the Survivor (Mckenna Denson) were contacted by church lawyers. I also include a link to Lindsey’s timeline.
September 16 Update: I included Denson’s testimony in Joseph Bishop’s ward and Sam Young’s excommunication.
Please contact David Scoville with corrections or updates to this timeline.