Judge orders church to turn over some names of past sister missionaries

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge Friday ordered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to provide names of any sister missionary who has alleged that a former Missionary Training Center president sexually assaulted them.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead issued the order in response to a request from lawyers for McKenna Denson in her ongoing lawsuit against the church. Denson alleges that former MTC President Joseph Bishop raped her in a basement room while she was a missionary at the MTC in 1984.

Pead granted attorney Craig Vernon's request that the church produce a list of names and last known address of all sister missionaries who were at the Provo-based MTC at the same time as Denson within 21 days. Denson was in the MTC in January and February of 1984. In addition, the church must provide the names of sister missionaries who have alleged any sexual assault or misconduct by Bishop during his tenure as MTC president, which spanned 1983 to 1986.

The church issued a statement in March 2018 saying it was aware of one other woman who told her local ecclesiastical leaders that she was sexually abused by Bishop while he served as MTC president.

"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," according to the statement.

Church attorney David Jordan said in a court hearing this week that the woman was not at the MTC at the same time as Denson and that the alleged assault did not happen on campus. He said the woman was on temporary medical leave from the training center at the time.

Denson sued Bishop and the church in April 2018 for sexual assault and battery, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent nondisclosure and fraudulent concealment.

Judge Dale Kimball tossed out all but one of Denson's claims last fall, saying the statute of limitations had expired. He allowed to stand her contention that the church hid Bishop's predatory sexual behavior. A trial is scheduled for July 2020.

Vernon also wants the church to compile a list of names of all missionaries who served in the Buenos Aires Argentina North Mission during the time Bishop was the mission president.

Jordan told the judge in the hearing that the church doesn't have such a list.

Pead ordered the church to make a "reasonable" attempt to search for the information, including a search of membership records to identify mission, location and dates of service.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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