SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – A Colorado woman is suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for what her attorneys call an “epic institutional betrayal of trust.”

The woman who has identified herself as McKenna Denson says she was raped by former Missionary Training Center Joseph Bishop while serving as a sister missionary in 1984.

In a press conference Thursday, Denson claimed Joseph Bishop developed a trusting relationship with her then forcibly raped her in a secluded room at the MTC in Provo.

In March, the website MormonLeaks published audio of the former MTC president admitting to inappropriate interactions with women in a conversation where he was confronted about the alleged abuse by Denson. 

A lawsuit filed Wednesday names the Church and Bishop as defendants. It alleges there were public complaints, before Bishop served as MTC president and known to Church leaders, of Bishop’s inappropriate behavior toward women.

The lawsuit also states that Bishop confessed his “improprieties” with women to another Church leader. He was given a “blessing” and there is “no indication that the Church took any action to investigate these possible crimes or investigate whether under its own internal policies, Bishop would be subject to Church discipline.”

The lawsuit states these actions could have alerted Denson and other women about Bishop’s tendencies. Instead, he was elevated to the role of President of the MTC where he had access to thousands of young women who were training to be missionaries.

Denson says she reported the assault to Church leaders about 10 times between 1987 and 2017.  The lawsuit claims the inaction that followed each time she disclosed the assault caused her “emotional distress” from leaders “not believing” or “discounting [her].”

After the lawsuit was filed, a Church spokesperson released a statement:

“Our hearts ache for all survivors of abuse, and the Church is committed to addressing incidents of abuse wherever they are found. As this is now an active legal matter, we are unable to make further comment at this time. We are confident that the legal system will ensure a just result in this case.”

McKenna Denson and her lawyers explained Thursday the lawsuit aims to sek justice for the rape and force policy changes to protect others. 


Read the entire lawsuit.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the toll-free Statewide 24-hour Sexual Violence Crisis and Information Hotline at 1-888-421-1100. The Utah Coalition against Sexual Assault (UCASA) reminds people there are 11 community-based sexual violence services in Utah. Click here for locations.