SALT LAKE CITY — The woman who has accused a former leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Missionary Training Center of sexual assault has filed a lawsuit and made her name public.
McKenna Denson filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court late Wednesday, naming ex-Provo MTC President Joseph Bishop and the LDS Church as defendants. They were being sued for sexual assault and emotional distress as well as fraud. FOX 13 previously reported she was threatening a civil lawsuit over the alleged sexual assault that occurred at the MTC in 1984.
The lawsuit accuses Bishop of sexual improprieties while serving the church in Florida, as well as improper behavior toward women during his time as Weber State University’s president in the 1970s. The lawsuit alleges that Bishop had also previously confessed to inappropriate behavior around women, but was instead given a “spiritual blessing” and no other corrective action was taken by the LDS Church.
“In an epic institutional betrayal of trust, just the opposite occurred; Bishop was called to be the President of the MTC in Provo, Utah. There, instead of having access to hundreds of young missionaries, the Church elevated him to a position of power over thousands of young women who were training to be missionaries,” Denson’s attorney, Craig Vernon, wrote in the lawsuit.
Denson’s lawsuit accuses Bishop of targeting her and grooming her for a sexual attack. She described being led into a room and attacked.
“He forced her back down, restraining her with his palms on her shoulders. Eventually, she was able to kick free and pull her garments and hose up enough to get out the door. As Denson was leaving the room, Bishop shouted that no one would believe her, saying ‘Look at you, look at me,'” the lawsuit states.
Denson also accuses the LDS Church of doing nothing about reports of a sexual assault and Bishop’s past conduct.
“Moreover, in an apparent effort to protect the Church and the self- proclaimed sexual predator, leaders engaged in an ongoing pattern of not only failing to believe Denson, but even more disturbing, blaming and shaming Denson,” Vernon wrote.
Denson’s recorded confrontation with Bishop, now aged 85, has him claiming he does not remember any sexual assault, but also apologizing for other sexual misconduct. It was posted on the MormonLeaks website as she was in the midst of settlement talks with the LDS Church, prompting public criticism of the faith.
The accusations against Bishop and the LDS Church have sparked controversy and whether enough has been done to protect victims of abuse. The LDS Church recently disclosed a second potential victim at the MTC under Bishop’s tenure.
Bishop’s family has said he denies the allegations and accused the woman of previously making false claims. The LDS Church referred to a prior statement that reads: “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.”
Denson was planning to speak about her lawsuit at a news conference on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Vernon told FOX 13.
Read the lawsuit here: