Mormon abuse cases

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mormon abuse cases are cases of confirmed and alleged abuse, including child sexual abuse, by churches in the Latter Day Saint movement and its agents.

Selected LDS Church cases[edit]

  • In 2001, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) paid a three million dollar settlement to Jeremiah Scott, after Scott filed a lawsuit in 1998 against the church for what his attorney described as an attempted cover-up of sexual abuse Scott suffered from church member Franklin Curtis.[1] The LDS Church denied legal liability in the case, and said it was settling the lawsuit based on "litigation economics" alone.[1]
  • In September 2008, LDS Church bishop Timothy McCleve pleaded guilty to sexually molesting children from his ward.[2] He was sentenced in December 2008 to 1–15 year prison terms for the abuse.[3]
  • In March 2010, former LDS Church bishop,Lon Kennard Sr. was charged with 43 felony counts of sex abuse and sexual exploitation of children, and was imprisoned in Wasatch County, Utah. In November 2011, Kennard was sentenced to three terms of five-years-to-life in prison to be served consecutively, after pleading guilty to three first-degree felony counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child for sexually abusing his daughters.[4][5]
  • In mid-2013, LDS member Michael Jensen, son of a respected local Mormon family, while still on his mission in Arizona, was brought back to West Virginia for questioning. Members of Jensen's congregation were told by his mother to ask Michael to babysit. He abused the young children in the families who are included in the lawsuits and many other children too. Jensen was convicted of sexually abusing two children and is currently serving a prison sentence of 35 years to 75 years in a West Virginia state prison. Unfortunately, due to the extreme difficulty for children to testify, Michael was only convicted for abusing two of the many children he abused. At the time of his sentencing, a state judge classified him as a "violent sexual predator".[6]
  • In December 2013, LDS Church bishop Todd Michael Edwards was sentenced to three years in prison for molesting two teenage girls who attended his congregation in Menifee, California. Edwards received two concurrent sentences of three years in prison for two felony counts of sexual battery and sexual penetration with a foreign object. A felony charge of witness intimidation was dismissed as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors after Edwards pleaded not guilty.[7]
  • In January 2014, two men filed a lawsuit in the U.S. state of Hawaii against the LDS Church, alleging that they were sexually abused as children on a church-owned pineapple farm in Maui from 1986 through 1988.[8]
  • In January 2014, former LDS Church bishop Michael Wayne Coleman was arrested and charged with luring a minor for sexual exploitation after a forensic examination of his laptop and cellphone revealed sexually graphic conversations and an exchange of nude photographs with a teenaged student in Brazil.[9]
  • In August 2017, former LDS Church bishop Erik Hughes pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two teenage boys from his congregation in Mapleton, Utah. The abuse occurred in June 2014 during his tenure as bishop. Hughes received concurrent 1–15 year prison sentences on the sexual abuse counts, and 0–5 years in prison for witness tampering.[10]
  • On August 15, 2017, MormonLeaks published a 316-page document which contained confirmed and alleged instances of child sexual abuse between 1959 and 2017.[11]
  • On October 30, 2017, an Australian court sentenced Darran Scott to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing boys, some of whom he met as a Mormon leader.[12]
  • In 2022, a bankruptcy judge approved a reorganization plan for the Boy Scouts of America to settle claims of child sexual abuse by troop leaders. The original plan was to include a US$ 250 million payment from the LDS Church, but the judge refused to approve that part of the settlement proposal, stating it went too far in attempting to protect the LDS Church from abuse claims that were only loosely connected to scouting activities.[13]

Joseph Bishop case[edit]

In March 2018, MormonLeaks, a watchdog website, released a December 2, 2017 recording, taken in a Chandler, Arizona hotel conference room, of an interview of Joseph Bishop, a former LDS Church mission president, then 85, by McKenna Denson, a 55-year-old woman from Pueblo, Colorado. In the recording, Denson, who first poses as a Latter-day Saint sectarian faith reporter, accuses Bishop of having abused her in January 1984, while he was her mission president at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, taking her to his private study with a day bed, tearing open her blouse pulling up her skirt, and successfully penetrated her against her will,[14] her being spared continuation of the rape due to his erectile dysfunction.[15][16]

In December 2020, the case was dismissed at the request of both the church and Denson.[17]

Timeline of reportages[edit]

Denson may have reported the abuse to her subsequent Washington, D.C., mission-field leader in 1984 or 1985.[18] In 1987, she reported it to her local congregation's bishop, Ron Leavitt, a microbiology professor at Brigham Young University (BYU).[19] (Leavitt told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2018, "I felt the allegations were groundless" because, among other factors, his assumption potential MTC presidents receive extensive vettings.[20]) Per some reports, what Leavitt was told was that Denson and another missionary were taken by the MTC president to the basement of the MTC and shown pornography.[21] Denson says that in 1988 she told at least one LDS Church general authority, Carlos Asay. Asay has since passed away and the LDS Church states it has no record of Denson's meeting with Asay.

In 2010, Denson told her local Pleasant Grove, Utah, ecclesiastical leaders, who referred the matter to local police. Pleasant Grove police made a routine call to the Denson's home verifying she did not need emergency assistance and did not open an investigation of her accusations[22][23][24] because they had occurred outside of Pleasant Grove's jurisdiction.[25]


Within the recording, Joseph Bishop says he does not remember his interactions with Denson transpiring in the manner she describes. Bishop says that while president over the MTC he engaged in inappropriate behaviors of which he regrets, involving more than one young woman serving at the MTC, including having given a back rub that became "too frisky" to a young-woman once-missionary trainee who served as his and his wife's assistant at his family's home.[26] (This then-assistant to Bishop's family later reported the 1985 abuse by him to her bishop in 2010.[25])

Bishop said that some young women missionary trainees at the MTC would have flashbacks to previous experiences of sexual trauma and would counsel with MTC leaders (in worthiness interviews) for spiritual guidance; he said he was "the last person who should have been" providing pastoral counseling to these young women.[27] He describes himself as a sex addict.

Joseph Bishop's responses[edit]

Joseph Bishop's son and attorney, Greg Bishop of Park City, Utah,[28] told reporters that at the time of the interview, his father and client was on medications and recovering from surgery, and lacked mental acuity, and that many of his statements in the recording reflect this confusion.

Furthermore, Greg Bishop said that sometime after Denson returned to Provo, Utah, from Washington D.C., she showed her breasts to Joseph Bishop without solicitation.[25][29][30] Denson has denied this, stating that the last time she met with Bishop was at the time of the assault: "I did not speak to that man again until Dec. 2, 2017."[31] BYU police stated that, during their 2017 investigation, Bishop told them that at the MTC, he asked Denson to show him her breasts.[32] (Bishop's son and attorney says his father and client does not remember making that statement to police.[18]) The Utah County attorney's office said that it likely would have prosecuted Bishop if Utah's statute of limitations for rape (which up until the 1990s had been four years) had not expired. The case was closed December 23, 2017.[33]

Greg Bishop distributed to the news media excerpts from a dossier compiled by attorney David Jordan of Stoel Rives, who had been hired by the LDS Church, which contained Denson's LDS Church membership record, and which detailed the history of investigations of Denson's accusations within various jurisdictions, as well as for alleged crimes such as criminal fraud. Denson had reported over a half-dozen times that she was assaulted by numerous men on numerous separate occasions. Jordan's dossier says that Denson later retracted her initial accusations on certain occasions as having been false. None of these accusations have been prosecuted.[34][35][36][37]


The accuser's legal counsel, Craig Vernon, made the LDS Church aware of the recording in January 2018.[38] Settlement negotiations between Denson and church where in progress when the recording was publicly released in March 2018 by MormonLeaks, which she had not initially authorized.[32][39] but came to do so, after the fact.[40] After the recording became public, the negotiations stalled. On April 4, 2018, Denson filed civil suit in the U.S. District Court for Utah against the church and Joseph Bishop for redress with respect to her mental, physical, and economic hardships caused by the alleged sexual assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure and fraudulent concealment.[41][42][14][23][43]

On May 15, 2018, attorneys representing both Joseph Bishop and the LDS Church filed motions to dismiss Denson's suit, arguing that the statute of limitations for Denson to file these claims had expired long before.[44] On August 13, 2018, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball dismissed most of the lawsuit, except for its fraud allegations against the LDS Church.[45]

In May of 2019, Denson's lawyers asked to be removed from the case with the judge approving the request on the same day.[46]

LDS Church's responses[edit]

The LDS Church has not concluded its investigation into Joseph Bishop. The church hired an outside law firm to interview him, his accusers, and others. The church had been made aware of a second accuser in 2010. No action was taken at the time because of Bishop's adamant denial of the accusations.[47] Ron Leavitt stated that in the 1980s, while he was serving as Denson's bishop, she told him that Joseph Bishop had taken her and her missionary companion to the basement of the MTC, and showed them pornography. Leavitt stated that he did not share this information with anyone at the time. "I didn't think it had much credence. I wasn't going to risk sullying the reputation of someone based on that kind of a report," Leavitt told the news media in 2018.[21]

In March 2018, the LDS Church publicized its abuse resource hotline for use by local church leaders, and released a resource document that says, in part, "Church leaders should never disregard a report of abuse or counsel a member not to report criminal activity to law enforcement personnel."[48][49]

Child protection policy in the LDS Church[edit]

The LDS Church states that abusive behavior, whether physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional, is a sin and is condemned unreservedly by the church.[50] The church teaches that victims of abuse should report it to their bishop or other trusted leadership, and should be assured that they are not to blame for the abuse. Bishops and other trusted leaders are told by the church to contact the church's Help Line before any further reporting takes place.[50] Abuse of any form should be reported not only by the bishop but also by the victim to local law enforcement.[50]

Fundamentalist abuse cases[edit]

A 2017 lawsuit alleges that polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, his brothers Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs, and Wendell LeRoy Nielsen, along with 20 unnamed defendants, ritualistically sexually assaulting underaged female members of their religious denomination in the presence of other members and kept records about the abuse. Although sometimes confusion exists, the Fundamentalists and the LDS Church are entirely separate religions from one another.


Media representations of Mormon abuse[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Lawyer blasts LDS Church". Deseret News. September 5, 2001.
  2. ^ "Former LDS bishop pleads guilty to sex abuse". KSL. September 24, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ex-bishop in Harrisville gets prison for sex abuse". Deseret News. December 18, 2008.
  4. ^ "Children's charity co-founder sentenced in sex abuse case". Salt Lake Tribune. November 3, 2011.
  5. ^ "Heber charity co-founder sent to prison for sexually abusing daughters". KSL. November 3, 2011.
  6. ^ Meier, Barry (2019-05-03). "The Mormon Church Has Been Accused of Using a Victims' Hotline to Hide Claims of Sexual Abuse". Vice News. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  7. ^ "MENIFEE: Mormon bishop sentenced to three years for sex abuse". The Press-Enterprise. December 11, 2013.
  8. ^ "Two Men File Lawsuit Against Mormon Church Alleging Sexual Abuse as Teens by Church Leader on Pineapple Farm in Hawaii". The Christian Post. January 24, 2014.
  9. ^ "Former Mormon bishop accused of trying to lure teens". USA Today. January 24, 2014.
  10. ^ "Utah judge sends former Mormon bishop to prison for sexually abusing boys in his congregation". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
  11. ^ "Instances of child sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" (PDF). MormonLeaks. August 15, 2017.
  12. ^ "Australian filmmaker gets 10-year sentence for sexually abusing boys, some of whom he met as a Mormon leader". Salt Lake Tribune. October 30, 2017.
  13. ^ Knauth, Dietrich (8 September 2022). "Boy Scouts set to exit bankruptcy after $2.46 bln U.S. sex abuse settlement approved". Reuters.
  14. ^ a b "Woman sues the LDS Church, says she was raped by Missionary Training Center president". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  15. ^ "Family of former LDS mission president accused of sexual assault responds to allegations". 22 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Woman confronts LDS Church official about alleged sex assault". East Idaho News. 21 March 2018. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  17. ^ "McKenna Denson, LDS Church agree to drop lawsuit over sexual misconduct by a former Missionary Training Center president".
  18. ^ a b "Amid quiet life in Chandler, sex-assault allegations hit Mormon leader". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  19. ^ Jones, Chris (22 March 2018). "Woman who accused MTC president of sexual assault has been telling her story for 3 decades".
  20. ^ "Former Missionary Training Center president admits to asking a young missionary to expose her breasts in the '80s, BYU police say".
  21. ^ a b Jones, Chris (March 22, 2018). "Woman who accused MTC president of sexual assault has been telling her story for 3 decades". KUTV.
  22. ^ Herald, Genelle Pugmire Daily. "LDS Church responds to allegations of sexual abuse by former Provo MTC president".
  23. ^ a b "Woman who accused former MTC leader of sexual assault will pursue a civil lawsuit against the LDS Church". 22 March 2018.
  24. ^ Kuruvilla, Carol (22 March 2018). "Former Mormon Missionary Center Leader Accused Of Sexual Assault" – via Huff Post.
  25. ^ a b c Walch, Tad (23 March 2018). "LDS Church says a second missionary made sexual abuse allegation against former MTC president". Deseret News. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  26. ^ Kauffman, Don (21 March 2018). "LDS Church responds to allegations of sexual assault by former mission president". KJZZ. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  27. ^ "Retired Mormon mission president admits he molested a female missionary". Religion News Service. 2016-09-27. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  28. ^ Tess Vigeland (2012-08-10). "Mormons and provident living". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  29. ^ Walch, Tad (21 March 2018). "Police report sheds more light on accusations against former MTC president". Deseret News.
  30. ^ "Former Mormon Mission President Accused of Sexual Assault". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2018-03-21. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  31. ^ "Woman accusing Missionary Training Center president of rape wants justice — and policy changes in the LDS Church". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  32. ^ a b "Former Missionary Training Center president admits to asking a young missionary to expose her breasts in the '80s, BYU police say". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  33. ^ Herald, Rhett Wilkinson Daily. "Utah County Attorney's Office reportedly closed case against former MTC president".
  34. ^ "Former Missionary Training Center president admits to asking a young missionary to expose her breasts in the '80s, BYU police say". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  35. ^ Kiersten Nuñez (22 March 2018). "Family of former LDS mission president accused of sexual assault responds to allegations". Salt Lake City: Fox13.
  36. ^ "A woman was shocked to see her name in a Mormon church-compiled dossier — which she says was designed to discredit her birth mother". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  37. ^ Jones, Chris (March 30, 2018). "Exclusive: Documents reveal how the LDS Church responded to MTC sex scandal". KUTV.
  38. ^ "Church Statement About Alleged Sexual Assault by Former Mission President". 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  39. ^ Walch, Tad (21 March 2018). "Woman levels accusations against former MTC president". Deseret News. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  40. ^ "Statement on Behalf of the Victim in Joseph L. Bishop Audio Recording". MormonLeaks. 2018-03-24. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  41. ^ Walch, Tad (2018-04-04). "Woman files suit against LDS Church and former MTC president". Deseret News. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  42. ^ Ben Winslow (2018-04-05). "Woman who accused ex-MTC president of sexual assault sues LDS Church". Salt Lake City: Fox13.
  43. ^ "The Latest: Woman says ex-Mormon missionary leader raped her". Archived from the original on 2018-03-23. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  44. ^ Pierce, Scott D.; Miller, Jessica; McCann, Sheila (May 17, 2018). "LDS Church wants court to dismiss lawsuit accusing former MTC president of rape, saying it wasn't filed in time". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  45. ^ Winslow, Ben (August 13, 2018). "Judge dismisses most of sex assault lawsuit against LDS Church, ex-MTC president". Fox 13. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  46. ^ "McKenna Denson looking for new lawyers after hers quit MTC sexual abuse lawsuit against LDS Church".
  47. ^ "Mormon leaders knew of two alleged victims of former Missionary Training Center president in 2010". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  48. ^ Walch, Tad (2018-03-26). "Updated LDS policy allows another adult to sit in on leaders' interviews with children and women". Deseret News. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  49. ^ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2018-03-26). "First Presidency Directs Leaders to Prevent and Respond to Abuse". Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  50. ^ a b c "Abuse".
  51. ^ "Lawsuit accuses FLDS church leaders of ritualistic sex abuse".

External links[edit]

News stories