Some thoughts about Joseph L. Bishop

This is a sensitive topic. I’m speaking for myself here and not for anyone else at BCC.

God does not call us to defend the morally indefensible, or to call wrong things right. Whether we’re talking about people or institutions, the mandate for Mormons is to be honest and to seek to do right.

I don’t have much to say about Joseph Bishop as an individual; he has clearly done some horrible things and should not be excused. I don’t care that he’s old.

There is more to say about the police and the local prosecutor’s office. What was investigated? Who was interviewed? Why was this not further reviewed or prosecuted? Even though the statute of limitations has passed, the political and structural forces here must be investigated today. Why wasn’t this woman believed? This is the haunting question.

There is still more to say about the MTC, the church and our culture. Why was such a man put in a position of power? Why was he kept in a position of power, even after the police report? Why did subsequent leaders hear his confessions and do nothing? Why was the Church’s response so problematic, illogical, and un-Christlike both in blaming the victim and in hiding behind an ineffective law enforcement system (which the church heavily influences in that part of the world)? The church shares blame here. A culture of opacity and strict obedience to patriarchal authority, long nurtured, is ripe for abuse, especially in circumstances like the MTC. We must see that. Even I can see it, and this is the culture that molded me, and is tailored to benefit me.

Some questions and observations:

  • Sexual relations between an MTC president and a missionary can never be consensual.
  • A victim’s status as a member or nonmember is utterly irrelevant.
  • The church has taken some great steps in recent years towards eliminating the stigma against missionaries who come home early. Then it cut those efforts off at the knees in a single swipe in its press release.
  • Our church talks the talk of accountability and stewardship, but it is all personal. There is no such thing as institutional accountability in our culture.
  • Why did it take a leak, against the woman’s wishes and by those who hate the church, to have this discussion?
  • Why does justice come at the expense of victims, as it has here?
  • What does it mean to “believe women”?
  • Who failed to believe the woman here, and who is continuing to fail?
  • How can we bear each other’s burdens if we don’t believe them?


  1. I think you’re just right in terms of position and questions. In other words, I’m reading the Mormon world this way (but using first person because this is me for sure):
    1. This is terrible and I mourn with those who are injured.
    2. But I’m ready to accept that these things happen, this is part of the human condition, the Church is no proof against bad actors. and terrible as it is, some amount of abuse will be with us forever.
    3. But the institutional response, the “what do we do about it?,” is wrong/inadequate/unacceptable [leaving out some words that probably shouldn’t appear in print].

    The Roman Catholic church is dealing with this too. Newsworthy is criticism and censure and discipline for Roman Catholic Bishops who are implicated, by their own actions and failure to act. I suggest that the Mormon response is 5 to 10 years behind. And the press release is a big step backwards.

  2. The answer to your questions is the church as an institution does not care very much about the health, safety, and well-being of women and children. They care some, and occasionally a lot, but no concern or issue or problem comes anywhere close to mattering as much as the primary unspoken mission of the church, which is to bring to pass the exaltation of men. That’s the filter everything goes through—nothing gets attention unless it’s hindering that mission. Everybody else is just accessories to that goal.

    I know I’m painting in broad strokes, and some days what I’ve said isn’t true. Today is not one of those days.

    There is no safe place for women on this earth.

  3. “The church has taken some great steps in recent years towards eliminating the stigma against missionaries who come home early. Then it cut those efforts off a the knees in a single swipe in its press release.”

    Very much agreed – “who served briefly as a missionary” just throws a big wrench in the work being done to support missionaries who happen to not serve their initially expected terms. It’s taken me some time to not minimize my service when it was only 7 months, to say “I served in the Texas Dallas Mission” proudly, with no qualifiers. Does the Church believe a shortened mission can be a source of pride, or not?

    “Why did it take a leak, against the woman’s wishes and by those who hate the church, to have this discussion?”

    This frustrates me the more. While I don’t like that this woman has been “sacrificed for the cause”, there should have been more of a concerted effort by the Church to not only change practices to believe and investigate allegations but to also investigate and work to repair the many, many stories that are out there. If there was ever a job for the “strengthening the members committee” to be doing, this is it. Look deeper in cleaning the inner vessel rather than spending all the time worrying about what’s nibbling away at the edges.

    We’ve got to get past the idea that good people can’t do bad things, that there exist out there “bad people” that we have to fortify ourselves against, that “bad people” are just laying in wait to take down the good, upstanding people. No one is immune from sin, not even from big sins. We need to face it and fight it, not merely cower in the fear that it might be out there.

  4. Layne, I hear you.

  5. Dog Spirit says:

    A year or two ago, when the church released that laughable statement that it had set the “gold standard” for protecting children from abuse, I listened to some interviews with a former prosecutor who handled several child abuse cases in which he went up against the church’s law firm, and read several articles by individuals who had witnessed first hand at the local level how the church acts first and foremost to protect itself when abuse by church leadership is uncovered. Maybe there’s another side, but it just seems like the evidence that the church cares more about its reputation than the safety of vulnerable people just keeps mounting. I’m beginning to think that will never change, and it fills me with deep sadness. When the leadership at the top declares unequivocally that the church never apologizes, it implies that the church is never wrong. And as long as we are in that head space, we will continue to disbelieve victims and continue to create situations where power imbalances and opaque reporting channels create ample opportunity for wounding the flock. I’m just really, really depressed about this.

  6. Joel Wakefield says:

    I also can’t help but find myself wondering how the disciplinary process might have turned out differently if the abused individual had been an Elder, rather than a Sister.

  7. Poppa Stooks says:

    I love your comment on personal accountability vs institutional accountability. We won’t get institutional accountability until we address institutional fallibility (do what your leaders tell you to do – even when they are wrong, for you will be blessed….). Yeah, right.

  8. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Dog Spirit: DHO is going to answer for that on the other side, but the Church almost certainly is going to get hammered for damages by juries and judges in sex abuse cases–which are going to start proliferating, make no mistake–because of his remark. Proclamations of infallibility aren’t a good look.

  9. First the press conference response to the question about women and now the official statement on this… we can do better.

  10. “Why wasn’t this woman believed?” I’ve been thinking about this question too.

    In the most recent General Conference, President Eyring said (in a talk titled “The Lord Leads His Church”):

    “…the Lord’s leadership of His Church requires great and steady faith from all who serve Him on earth. For instance, it takes faith to believe that the resurrected Lord is watching over the daily details of His kingdom. It takes faith to believe that He calls imperfect people into positions of trust. It takes faith to believe that He knows the people He calls perfectly, both their capacities and their potential, and so makes no mistakes in His calls.”

    I wonder to what extent encouraging faith in these ideas makes it more difficult for women to be believed?

    The SL Tribune reported that Bishop’s victim told her LDS singles ward bishop in 1987 about what happened. According to the Tribune’s story:

    “I felt the allegations were groundless,” [the bishop] recalled this week. “They were so farfetched and not internally logical.” It takes a lot of vetting for a man to be approved for a position like MTC president, the Mormon lay leader said, “which made her story very hard to believe.”

    I wonder to what extent this bishop had faith that Jesus himself is “watching over the daily details” of what happens in the Church, and that there are “no mistakes” with respect to callings. And I wonder if that made it even more difficult for this bishop to believe her.

  11. Ironically, the woman used the fact that she came home early to emphasize the effect the alleged sexual assault had on her. She said in the tape that she told people a guy in a parking lot tried to rape her to explain the massive anxiety attack she was suffering, because she didn’t want to tell anybody what really happened. And yet, that detail of her leaving her mission early is now seen as discrediting her story.

  12. “What does it mean to “believe women”?“

    Would like some help with this one. Sincerely.

  13. With friends and family members who have left the church over the November 2015 policies, this episode adds a lot of fuel to the fire of disaffection. It is painful to read the transcript, and painful to contemplate. I love this church, but this hurts on so many levels..

    Openness and transparency are hard things, but whether through bureaucratic bungling or fear of the consequences, that appears in retrospect to have been the better option. We can’t just hope these things go away. It takes a lot of courage for someone to come forward and report sexual harassment or misconduct. For someone who is already fearful of the process, a problem like this that is decades old and still not resolved only makes it that less likely that they will want to report these things. I have not seen anything here that would rise to the level of an active coverup, but failing to deal with it properly at the time could result in the same consequences.

  14. Some gentle and very limited pushback against condemning Pres. Eyring’s claim that God “makes no mistakes in His calls.”

    I’ve written and spoken about my own experience of abuse — not sexual — at the hands of a mission president who had no business exercising control over the lives of young missionaries, especially sisters. I stand by what I have said earlier:

    Eventually I came to understand – something that might seem obvious, but which I had to learn through great effort – that God may call a man to serve, that the Church might appoint him a particular role, but it was up to the man himself to fill his calling. That man had “so many choices,” just as I had. If he chose to fill his calling unworthily, it was his fault, not the fault of God, or of the Church. It’s a sad pillar, perhaps, but is still a pillar of my faith: A man can and should and may be called of God, but it’s up to him, and him alone, whether he lives up to that calling.

    That is irrelevant in this case, however, if, as seems likely from some reports, Bishop had been guilty of sexual abuse or misconduct to any extent before his call to the MTC.

  15. It seems a no brainer: she left her mission early (and later the Church) because her MTC President targeted her as vulnerable (she had disclosed experience with a pedophile as a step dad to him) and then tried to rape her in the MTC. Can anyone, from the highest Church leader down to the newest member, possibly criticize someone for leaving their mission early after the MTC President has attempted to rape them? Then, a succession of local Church leaders didn’t believe her based on an assumption that an MTC President just wouldn’t do that. Then, her efforts to reach out to General Authorities about it were seemingly ignored, as far as she knew. Can anyone, from the highest Church leader down to the newest member, possibly criticize someone for choosing to leave the Church after such treatment?

  16. Tim, as I interpret it, the phrase is about points of departure and goals of the system, i.e., one that is oriented towards aiding women. We have various sorts of status quo and institutions around us. The phrase directs us to not let pre-established systems determine how we interpret what women tell us about the world. For example, if a female victim tells you of her abuse and her attacker is a bishop/MTC president/general authority, there’s a temptation to let the status of the attacker, by virtue of their calling or prestige, cast the woman into an immediately unfavorable light.

    Others may have different definitions here or more light on the topic. But the question is essential.

  17. It’s right there in the scriptures: “It is better that one (wo)man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Ne 4:13)
    If we can draw a straight line between sullying the “good name” of the church and the nation “perish[ing] in unbelief” then why wouldn’t they throw one person under the bus?

    What kills me though, is that our native interpretation is almost always to shrug our shoulders and say that the victim has to be the one that perishes to prevent the dwindling. She’s the one to pay the price and must keep quiet to preserve the Church’s good name. But there is no reason we couldn’t interpret this to decide that the abuser is the one that needs to perish.

  18. Amen Starfoxy.

  19. Tim – it’s the idea that false accusations rarely happen, and that people should fall on the side of protecting, help healing, and at the least believing the victim, rather than to how much this could damage the accused. Allegations and even repercussions against the accused pass with time and location; a victim carries the scar forever.

    In a way it’s like the President’s remark that he could shoot someone in broad daylight and get away with it. People don’t believe such an upstanding person could do such a thing, so they would ignore any evidence, witnesses, or even the victim in favor of keeping their “good person” spotless. To go even further, I’d imagine some people do the same when thinking about the evil things attributed to God, that he must have a good reason that’s beyond our comprehension. I really need to get around to reading “the problem of evil”.

  20. jaxjensen says:

    “he said in the tape that she told people a guy in a parking lot tried to rape her to explain the massive anxiety attack she was suffering, because she didn’t want to tell anybody what really happened.”

    This is an issue. I don’t care how long her missionary service was, whether 1 month or 18. That doesn’t affect her credibility at all in my mind. But admitting to having had made a false rape claim before now? That is a credibility issue to me. She might be being truthful this time, but having lied about being raped once before at least puts a pause in my desire to believe her this time around.

  21. Ardis, thanks for the pushback, and I agree 100% with what you wrote. Men still have their agency. And, to be clear, I have faith in the principle that some (many?) callings are inspired. I guess I just wonder about the absolutist language that President Eyring used — “no mistakes.”

  22. jaxjensen – the moral of the story of “the boy who cried wolf” isn’t just that false accusations can make you less believable and then killed, but that the townspeople now bear the onus of having done nothing when a child was eaten. All it would have taken was a single person to spend time with the boy to both fix the lying and avoid future death.

  23. I think that Joseph Bishop is responsible for his own behavior. Abusers pick on vulnerable people for a reason. This careful selection helps the abuser get away with it.

    I dont know what else the church can do with these pervs. Calling the police seems to be the answer. The only case I have ever been involved in as a ph leader involved calling the police as soon as things came to light. Let the legal authorities do what they are trained and paid to do. Let juries then if applicable do their job.

    Ph leaders should be there to protect and minister to the abused.

  24. Brother Sky says:

    Steve, thanks for this. And for the sensitivity and kindness you generally display around such topics. I think Tom Hardman has a terrific (and terrifying?) point about how the church uses the language of faith. If the Lord “makes no mistake in his calls,” that implies two quite disturbing things:

    1) LDS victims who are trying to deal with these incredibly traumatizing instances will feel silenced even more if they interpret Eyring’s words to mean that only those who lack the faith a member in good standing should have would question the authority or actions of a church leader. Given our culture’s (Mormon and American) tendency to victim blame and pressure victims to keep quiet, the burden of silence becomes even heavier if one feels that to report the abuse demonstrates a lack of faith in the Lord and his servants. The creation of that paradigm is truly insidious.

    2) The Lord knowingly calls people with a predilection for sexual abuse/assault to leadership callings which often include stewardship over young, vulnerable people. If the Lord knowingly calls “imperfect” (which adjective, I suppose, also applies to serial sexual abusers) people to positions of power, that means the Lord is willing to risk the safety, health and general well-being of many people in order to (maybe) have one person grow and enlarge their capacities. If the Lord truly does so, then that’s not a Lord I want to have anything to do with.

    I’m reminded of that quote from the Kingdom of Heaven where the Bishop of Jerusalem objects to burning the bodies of the dead Christian soldiers because of the belief that burned bodies can’t be resurrected. Balian then responds: “God will understand, your grace. And if he does not, then he is not God, and we need not worry.” Is God really willing to call potential abusers to positions of power? To give them untrammeled access to vulnerable and trusting young people who have been taught their whole lives to obey church authorities? If he is, then he is not a God I want to worship.

  25. The bishop’s reasoning (“it takes a lot of vetting for a man to be approved for a position like MYC president,” so her story wasn’t credible”) is really problematic.

    In the first place, that’s not a judgment about the credibility of her story, that’s a judgment about the character of the accused. But what’s even worse, it’s not even based on any evidence of his character, it’s only based on the fact that he received a certain calling. That’s a lot of leaps on logic.

    And the practical effect is bad. If we follow that reasoning we’re effectively saying that if a man with a high calling commits some horrible thing, his victim or victims have to have more proof to be believed than if they’re attacked by some nobody. That’s wrong. And it only increases temptation to abuse authority and try to cover sins.

    And aside from that, it’s wrong as a doctrinal matter to assume that holding a high calling is a reason to think a victim’s story is not believable. It’s the “nature and disposition of almost all men” to abuse power and authority to do evil and cover our sins. We’re not immune just because we have the priesthood or have been called by inspiration. Section 121 is about priesthood leaders specifically.

    I’m not saying that we need to be suspicious of priesthood leaders and assume that they’re always ready to abuse their authority, but when there’s a suggestion by anyone that they’ve committed a serious sin, we have to take that seriously, and not let the fact that they have a calling play an part in a decision about whether the accusation is credible. It should certainly not be, like it seems to have been here, a reason to dismiss the report without getting to the bottom of what really happened.

  26. Adding to a group answer on “what does it mean to believe women?”:
    I think of it as a basic tenet of due process. The person making an abuse claim is assumed innocent of lying unless there is reasonable proof of lying.

    Things that are not proof that an accuser is lying:
    – The person being accused is famous/wealthy/powerful
    – The accuser has had consensual sex before
    – The accuser has had consensual sex with the accused before
    – The jury and/or judge knows the person being accused, likes them, and thinks they’re a super nice person who’d never do such a thing

    This is not the same as saying that accusers never lie or that the testimony of the accuser isn’t subject to scrutiny. Sexual abuse and assault is notoriously complicated because evidence is often minimal, but that shouldn’t result in the default assumption that the accuser is a liar.

  27. Bbell: “I dont know what else the church can do with these pervs. ”

    1. Don’t put them in positions of power
    2. Release and excommunicate them immediately
    3. Tear down a culture of unquestioned reverence for authority
    4. Empower women as full equals

    The list literally goes on and on. Pretending that there’s nothing else that could have been done is probably the most harmful lie we can tell ourselves here.

  28. Not a Cougar says:

    Former prosecutor here. Tom, in answer to your questions, “I wonder to what extent encouraging faith in these ideas makes it more difficult for women to be believed?” I don’t think it matters all that much. I’ve seen many, many scumbags get away with sexual assault simply by selecting victims who were both vulnerable to attack and less likely to be believed. The jury didn’t have overwhelming “faith” in the goodness of those vermin; they simply didn’t want to believe the testimony of a drug addict or a cocktail waitress or a former prostitute or the now-ex-wife of the defendant or a highly intoxicated student or a woman in an open marriage or an unattractive woman who never should have been able to land such a handsome man or… It goes on.

    Please don’t misunderstand the point of the list above. Many, perhaps most people who are the victims of sexual assault don’t fall under any of the above situations, but these criminals are predators in every sense of the word. They often take great care in selecting and prepping their victims, and, all too often, they get away with it again and again.

  29. She wasn’t making a false accusation, she was telling what really happened to her, but hiding the perpetrator’s identity, maybe so people would be more likely to believe her, and that she might get help instead of being shamed and called a crazy liar. Why can’t people understand that? It really frustrates me when people deny compassion to victims because they aren’t sufficiently polished in their retelling of the events or don’t meet some make-believe idea of how a REAL victim acts.

  30. The church’s hierarchy behaves this was with any type of wrongdoing by leadership. My FIL was falsely accused of a white collar crime by fellow members in his ward, including a former bishop. Stake pres knew the accusations were fabricated and motivated by politics and wanted to go on record with the DA and local news to defend my FIL, but the area authority told him not too because he didn’t want to “weaken the testimonies of the local members”. My FIL was quickly able to show in the accounting records that all of the accusations were baseless and all charges were dropped with prejudice. Nevertheless, the area authority’s direction to allow a potential miscarriage of justice to move forward for the sake of tithing dollars was a significant trial for my wife’s family. The institution will always ALWAYS protect itself at the expense of the most vulnerable members. The only way this will change is when civil authority forces reform.

  31. Tim, police organizations have been working on this, so maybe a description from one of them might help:

    Jaxjensen, seriously? You are using the woman’s own account of describing how she reacted to the trauma to question whether the trauma happened? If a real attempted rape was causing an anxiety attack, but you were uncomfortable giving the full details, then it actually makes a lot of sense to explain it was an attempted rape, but pin it on someone who people would find more believable. No-one in the church would question a stranger trying to rape a girl – that’s the story many of us were fed as the only kind of legitimate rape situation. Tons of people would (and DID) question a MTC President. It’s a total no-win situation for her.

  32. Regarding “no mistakes in calls” —
    1. There is individual choice as to how to perform (which I think is consonant with Ardis’ gentle pushback).
    2. The phrase implies that all calls are from God, which I think is unwarranted. From inside and outside the system, I am confident this is not always the case. Note that I am NOT confident in my ability to tell the difference in any particular case.
    3. There is a subtext that “therefore we should not question” which is actually dangerous. If the institution is ever going to reform or do right or do better, we will have to see serious consequences for leaders who abuse, and ALSO criticism, discipline, releases,etc. for leaders who are not doing their job of (a) listening to the abused, i.e., “believing the women,” and (b) dealing with the abuser, even the abuser with a title.

  33. Amen to Ardis’ and Christian’s comments.

  34. “Sexual relations between an MTC president and a missionary can never be consensual.”

    As a moral matter, I think I agree. Big power imbalances like teacher/student, president/intern, MTC president/missionary, etc., make the more powerful person at least morally suspect, regardless of other circumstances. But I don’t agree with the implication that any sexual relations in a power imbalance make the more powerful person guilty of sexual assault, which is what it sounds like when you say that such sexual relations are non-consensual. I’m not saying Mr. Bishop is not guilty of that, just that the power imbalance alone doesn’t get you there.

    “What does it mean to ‘believe women’?”

    We should do each person the honor of treating him or her as an individual and judging his or her veracity the way we judge that of any other person, without a prejudice in favor of or against any person based on sex.

    I don’t know if we should put our finger on the scale in favor of a person who claims to be a victim. Maybe we should.

    I do know that we shouldn’t pre-judge against an alleged victim just because the alleged perpetrator is not the kind of person we would expect to commit the alleged wrong.

  35. Wondering says:

    After this story broke, I remembered an experience from my mission. It happened to my companion and involved the mission president. I had — and still have — absolutely no reason to doubt the honesty of my companion’s report. It did not involve sexual abuse, but it did involve sexual language during an interview. She was very disturbed. I was disturbed. But we had no recourse. What would we have done? There was no crime involved, so even if we had raised a fuss about it with anyone, it was likely to have been shrugged off, or, more likely, my companion would have lost credibility from having mentioned such a thing. How would we have raised a concern, and to whom? She was the only member in her family and on her mission with the grudging support of her family and would have had little incentive to report the incident to them. What could I have said to my family, and what would they have done, had I informed them?

    Even decades later I only have questions; no answers.

    On another topic, a blog has put up excerpts from a 1980 interview about Bishop’s tenure at Weber State. I don’t know the reputation of the blog, but I do know the reputation of the interviewer, John R. Sillito, so I will not link to the post, but it is easily findable under the title, “Former Dean of Women at Weber Speaks out about Joseph L Bishop.”

  36. Sometimes I wonder if our cultural unwillingness to confront the reality of corruption or abuse among leadership stems in part from a perversion of our denial of original sin. We rightly deny that we’ll be punished for Adam’s transgression, but sometimes I think we take that too far when we say that therefore we believe that people are basically good and only sin when they deliberately choose to give in to temptation. I think it’s much the opposite: we may be innocent as children, but we grow up in a fallen world and our natural inclination is to be evil unless we deliberately choose to rely on Christ and his redemption, and even if we do, we can fall from grace at any moment. When leaders betray their calling and do horrible things, that should be a reminder to us that nobody is immune, not provoke a crisis of faith–because we should never put faith in leaders’ righteousness in the first place.

  37. “Why wasn’t this woman believed?” Women ARE NOT BELIEVED. Period. Full stop. Women are not believed, nor valued, for anything other than they can “do” for a man/men. Women are not believed, regardless of the topic. And women especially are not believed when it comes to instances of sexual assault. Especially in a church that values men and priesthood holders over women and only needs women to inherit the celestial kingdom and says we don’t practice polygamy to the benefit of only men when we do. I think the ONLY value women are seen as having is if they are able to bear offspring, and then they are only glorified as mothers, not as individuals with their own intrinsic worth. So that makes our Uterus’ valuable, but not us as people beyond the extent that we supply blood flow to a uterus. I am so angry about this. Layne is right. There literally is nowhere safe on this earth for women.

  38. I’m not sure how much more disillusionment my spirit can take. I can understand that the church wanted to keep this on the down-low because it would look so bad for an MTC president to be a sexual predator, but why wouldn’t they (quietly) give him a disciplinary counsel immediately? Why wouldn’t they give him probation or excommunication? Why would they continue to give him leadership positions? That’s what’s disheartening. It’s shameful.

  39. Our leader worship is a huge problem, because it allows predators to level-jump to layers of intimacy really soon in a relationship, when in any other relationship that behavior and unearned intimacy would set off alarm bells.

    This extends to rank-and-file members as well. It’s like we assume that because they’ve paid the cover charge of membership in our faith community they’ve demonstrated that they’re worthy of trust, and more callings equals more trustworthiness. This assumption has been proven to be incorrect to a sickening degree.

  40. Can I be anonymous today? says:

    Tim at 10:33 am: “‘What does it mean to ‘believe women’?’ Would like some help with this one. Sincerely.”

    A few thoughts:

    If someone ever discloses a sexual assault to you:
    A. Just believe. Say something like. “I believe you.” Or “I am sorry this happened. I am here for you.”
    B. Be supportive. Say, “its not your fault.”
    C. Ask how you can help. Maybe, “What can I do to support you? Do you want to go to the police or hospital together?”
    D. Don’t ask for details or ask why. Too often this comes across as blaming. Let police/doctors/etc handle this.

    [Note that unless you are a professional, helping will almost certainly be limited to getting them to police, a nurse/doctor, psychiatrist, etc. Unless, of course, s/he doesn’t want that and all the person truly wants is a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear.]

    A website which might help you is: startbybelieving [dot] org

    As a side note: That site and many people like to cite statistics about how rare false accusations are. Unfortunately, there are significant problems with those statistics. That being said, in my own professional experience, false accusations are indeed rare and I have yet to personally see a false allegation which was maliciously motivated (i.e. a lie). Based on that, that disclosures of sexual assault are almost certainly true, and in small number of cases which aren’t “true” are almost always the result of something other than lying (i.e. conflicting perception of the event). Given this, you are on safe ground to assume that the person claiming abuse is being honest and in need of help regardless of what you think of the (alleged) abuser. Let the police/prosecutor deal with the abuser and what becomes of that person. For the vast majority of us, being “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” is enough.

  41. There are quite a few basic assumptions that need to change in church culture (and American culture) if you want people to believe women over high-status men.

    Major misconceptions I’ve noticed in this situation:

    – Victims have perfect recall
    – Victims always understand, immediately, exactly what has happened and how they should react to it
    – All victims have access to authority figures they know they can trust
    – Mental illness is a completely unpredictable force that causes people to misunderstand reality to such a degree that they can never be trusted
    – People who lie or do bad things can never be victimized because there are only perfectly good and perfectly bad people in the world
    – Predators make it obvious that they are predators, so if you’d ever met or worked with one then you would know
    – Church callings are made after a comprehensive, independent vetting process rather than, say, character references and intuition
    – Church leaders have a perfect ability to perceive the difference between being charmed by a charismatic person and feeling the spirit of discernment
    – People in prominent callings have more to lose from a false accusation than their accusers do from being caught in a lie
    – Accusers gain something from making false accusations (though no one’s been able to articulate what in this case)

    It’s become increasingly clear that, at the very least, all church leadership positions should come with comprehensive training on how victim/predator dynamics actually work in the real world. Right now they seem to prefer feeding into some really dangerous narratives, and I don’t know how to change that.

  42. The story is so very common: A man in power preys upon a vulnerable individual. The individual miraculously finds a way to take action (from within her trauma-created cage of anxiety, fear, self doubt) and she is discredited, shamed, vilified, while the perpetrator is protected, defended, made to appear the victim by those who have reason to fear repercussions. This is a time-honored pattern. It is simple. And it is founded in error, evil, and dysfunction.

    The Church itself may not be evil, but the response follows a pattern of evil.

    Our own church, in its early years, suffered rapes, murder, violent persecution. Joseph Smith told the brethren at that time how they should respond: “Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven —“ D&C 123:13

    Here’s my simple question: Where are the courageous and good men? Men who are willing to wear out their lives exposing predators and holding them accountable? Where are the men who will throw themselves in front of vulnerable individuals(s) to deflect or absorb the cruelty, the vile emotional assaults perpetrated by their brethren? Why must women and other vulnerable groups defend themselves in this community where men hold all the power? It’s exhausting for women and shameful for those in power who take cover behind their proverbial pulpit.

    This organization has lived and grown and altered itself to the point that it is very likely brimming with hidden things of darkness. This MTC president is the tip of the iceberg. I’m not suggesting there are many such men, but, at very least, a notable few such men who do worlds of damage to many individuals. Who will stop them? Who?


  43. So where does this kind of thing leave us with Martha Beck and Hugh Nibley? Is she still not to be believed? Being a Nibley fan, I was more than happy to completely ignore her allegations, but now I’m wondering if a second look is deserved on that.

  44. nobody, really says:

    A few thoughts:

    The incident happened in 1984, and was reported to Church officials in 1988. The first failure is that this should have been reported to the police in 1984 through 1988. And as far as reporting the incident to BYU Police, you would do just as well to report the incident to Domino’s Pizza. If BYU Police don’t have the keys to a jail cell, they aren’t police, and need to change their name to “Campus Security And Janitorial Services”.

    When first reported to the police, the police didn’t investigate the sexual assault – they investigated a threat the woman made against “Mr.” Bishop. I’d call this one a clear failure by police. Is it possible the police refused to investigate an LDS leader? Yep. Should there be an investigation if any of them are still on the job? You bet.

    We have a bad habit of teaching missionaries that everything they do needs to be approved by mission leadership. I was told that I needed to get mission president approval before seeking medical treatment for a broken ankle. A missionary in West Valley City a few years ago was shot, and nothing happened with it until they called in their numbers later that night. This stuff starts an early age, like when the Primary President insists that “We Can’t Leave Until Everybody Sings”.

    Folks, being a member of the Church, or even a full-time missionary, does not mean you surrender your human rights. You have the right to call the police, to seek medical treatment, to say No to the idiot who demands that you “just exercise more faith” and wait until P-day.

    And second, in my local unit, we’ve started with a policy that the leadership doesn’t meet one-on-one with anyone that isn’t an M. Priesthood holder. Clerk, counselor, whoever, we have a second person in the room. Not a perfect scenario, but it’s better. And if a young woman wants her Mom in the room, I’m going to insist on that being observed as well.

  45. I’m thinking about how disturbing the Church’s press release is. Many people have pointed out that it slyly marginalizes the victim by referring to her as a “former Church member” and by saying that she “briefly” served as a missionary. But there are also other problems with the release. Nowhere does the release express concern for victims of abuse. Instead, the focus is entirely on the perpetrator’s possible “betrayal of our standards” and on the possibility of Church discipline. The release makes excuses for the Church’s failure to investigate the problem, and it passes the buck to law enforcement agencies. It talks about “no tolerance for abuse,” but it says nothing about healing the wounds of abuse. The release is legalistic in two ways: it analyzes the problem of abuse in legalistic terms, and it is full of legalistic ass-covering that anticipates future litigation.

    It is painful to see that the Church’s statement on this matter has no space for the pastoral concern that should be paramount toward anyone affected by the Church.

  46. Re: Institutional Accountability
    There’s a hotline for bishops. Why not a hotline for victims? And how about a path for victim reporting that doesn’t go through the layers of Priesthood authority inclined to protect their own. Consider how can our placing women into key roles within our institution (special assignment, RS General Presidency and board) would facilitate victim advocacy.

  47. melodynew says:

    Amen, Cath.

  48. The press release gave me flashbacks to the response my wife had when she reported abuse by her bishop. As he raped her, he told her that nobody would believe her. Her family was on welfare at the time, and he threatened to cut them off if she told. She ultimately reported the abuse through her therapist, who often did work for the Church and had frequent contact with members of the 12. He came back to her and the story was that “they” were aware of him and of similar allegations, but because it was a “he said/she said” situation they could not take formal action.

    They didn’t need to excommunicate him, though he should have faced a disciplinary council anyway. They could have released him, though. They didn’t even take that simple step for a bishop who had been named by more than one teen girl in his ward; why would they do it for a President of the MTC?

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, Steve. I had two immediate thoughts:

    1. This seems to lend considerable weight to the recent movement to put a stop to priesthood leaders asking people, especially children, about their sexual experiences. The potential for grooming behavior, institutionalized voyeurism and even sexual assault are just too great. And for what? Why do we need those interviews anyway? It’s a bad precedent to have bishops asking children about their sexual feelings, whether they masturbate, and seeking more and more detail. Just stop with that stuff already.

    2. On what it means to believe women, like several others I don’t think it means that women never lie, but rather is a function of the initial attitude one brings to a woman’s story. I heard a story on NPR not too long ago about a woman who went to the police to report a rape. This particular department had a very cynical view of such reports and grilled her mercilessly, and eventually she pled guilty to making a false report of rape and served jail time. Eventually, the actual rapist was caught and it came to light that she had been telling the truth the whole time. To me all that had to happen would be to take an initial stance of belief. (I mean really, how many women are going to walk into a police station and make a false rape report? It happens, but rarely.) Take her statement, express concern, work it as though it’s true unless and until the evidence clearly leads to the opposite conclusion. It seems to me we can and ought to do much the same in the Church context.

  50. Cath — yup.

  51. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Mark N.: Beck’s accusations came as a result of the thoroughly discredited practice of recovered memory therapy. RMT was grievously wounded by its association with the Satanic Panic of the ’80s, and then Elizabeth Loftus’ research killed it and chopped it into little pieces.

    Loursat: This is what happens when the #2 in the Church is a lawyer. I lost an enormous amount of respect for DHO when he tried to be both a lawyer and an apostle during Prop 8; this is yet another example of this.

  52. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    CSEric: so much for “out of the mouths of two or three witnesses.”

    I guarantee that in Joseph L. Bishop’s case, the accuser in question was neither the first nor the last.

  53. Anonforthis says:

    As a bishop, hearing a number of stories, I came to understand that many people who have been abused are complicated. Their story is complicated. Their life is complicated. “Complicated” including that the story is not identical from telling to telling. “Complicated” meaning that life includes sins and repentance, ups and downs, depression and denial–maybe like everybody, but often even more so. I came to accept and even expect complexity, but it was a learning for me.

    I say this not to accuse or denigrate or challenge, but to say “even so, believe the women.” (And the men. Acknowledging that abuse happens.) Believe the women sometimes means believing that something serious happened and recognizing that for many purposes the details don’t matter. A power imbalance and something bad, something sexual, something controlling, something manipulative–from the victim’s point of view that’s enough.

    It is important to acknowledge, even anonymously, that at the level of “power imbalance and something bad, something sexual, something controlling, something manipulative” I was guilty. (I suspect that is common, and therefore that many people who have been in the same position don’t want to talk about it.) “Bishop” makes for a power imbalance by definition. And while “something sexual” catches our attention and seems obviously wrong, “controlling” and “manipulative” is almost built in to the Mormon system. For my part, I would like to be judged for my own sins and not for a generalization, but my own are plenty.

  54. eternal graduate student says:

    Thank you, Steve. Important ideas here, especially “a culture of opacity and strict obedience to patriarchal authority, long nurtured, is ripe for abuse.” Somehow I’ve never, in a church setting, heard any discussion of the connection between our (continuously reinforced) reverence for church leaders and, as JKC mentioned, the fact that the warnings in D&C section 121 are “about priesthood leaders specifically.” This is a significant institutional failure.

    Along the same lines as Starfoxy’s multiple interpretations comment, I wonder how many church leaders interpret the third purpose of church discipline, namely safeguarding the purity, integrity, and good name of the church, as meaning they should minimize, as much as possible, public knowledge and discussion of abuse by church leaders. I’m persuaded that covering up such abuses accomplishes the opposite, by undermining and weakening the integrity of the church and tarnishing its reputation. When I learned about the church response to Lavina Fielding Anderson and the Mormon Alliance project, I did not feel the integrity of the church was safeguarded.

  55. The Other Clark says:

    A few comments: A link to the relevant press release and the Dallin H. Oaks quote referenced would be useful. (I suspect I’m not the only reader living outside of Utah and am not thoroughly immersed in the bloggernacle.)

    Layne @ 11:23 comments: “Our leader worship is a huge problem, because it allows predators to level-jump to layers of intimacy really soon in a relationship, when in any other relationship that behavior and unearned intimacy would set off alarm bells.” This is true not only of sexual abuse, but the attitude facilitates financial abuse as well.

    The number of these cases in heartbreaking. And it’s not just women being thrown under the bus. (See, for example, the bishop in Mapleton that was found to be molesting his Aaronic priesthood charges.)

    The suggestions made above at preventing a similar situation extremely practical, and could likely be implemented in a matter of weeks if the institutional fortitute were there. I’m not getting my hopes up, though. Every paragraph in the CHI is built around protecting the institution–even at the expense of members. It’s been that way since at least the mountain meadows massacre.

  56. melodynew says:

    Mark N.: I grew up with Martha Beck. Had lunch with her a few times when she was dealing with the accusations she made against her father and the disturbing and invasive responses from LDS hierarchy. I believed her then and I still do.

  57. In reading anonforthis’s (12:05) comment I was struck by this statement:

    ““Complicated” including that the story is not identical from telling to telling.”

    One would think that the church, if anyone, would be sympathetic to differences in various retellings.

  58. “I’m persuaded that covering up such abuses accomplishes the opposite, by undermining and weakening the integrity of the church and tarnishing its reputation.”

    Yep. I’ve always understood that principle to mean, basically: if somebody did something awful, we need to take action to make it clear to observers that the church does not wink that this kind of thing” not “well, if it would be embarrassing to the church, then we should keep everything from getting out.”

    That said, I think keeping disciplinary council stuff private is generally good policy, even though there might be circumstances that warrant an exception, like where it’s necessary for people to know to protect themselves, or where the details are already a matter of public knowledge.

  59. melodynew says:

    Thanks for this post. The story is so very common: A man in power preys upon a vulnerable person. The person miraculously finds a way to take action (from within her trauma-created cage of anxiety, fear, self doubt) and she is discredited, shamed, vilified, while the perpetrator is protected, defended, made to appear the victim by those who have reason to fear repercussions. This is a time-honored pattern. It is simple. And it is founded in error, evil, and dysfunction.

    The Church itself may not be evil, but the response follows an easily identified pattern of dysfunction.

    Our own church in its early years suffered rapes, murders, violent persecution. Joseph Smith was clear in his description of how to address this:“Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven —“ D&C 123:13

    Here’s my question: Where are the courageous and good men who will wear out their lives exposing predators and holding them accountable? Where are the men who will throw themselves in front of vulnerable individual(s) to deflect or absorb the cruelty, the vile assaults perpetrated by their brethren? Why must women and other vulnerable groups defend themselves in this community where men hold all the power? It’s exhausting for women. It’s beyond shameful for those in power to take cover behind their proverbial pulpits.

    This organization has lived and grown and altered itself to the point where it is very likely brimming with “hidden things of darkness.” This MTC president is the tip of the iceberg. I’m not suggesting there are many such men, but, at the very least, a notable few such men who do worlds of damage to many individuals. Who will stop them? Who?

  60. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I speak here as a (faithful and doctrinally orthodox) Catholic. As readers here will know, my own faith community has been dealing with episodes like these for more than the past two decades. In light of that experience, I offer the following observations, which may be relevant.

    1. The problem with our Church in its approach to sexual violence (and quite a few other things besides, but that’s a discussion for another day) is fundamentally structural. When given the choice between doing the right and the wrong thing, the wrong thing is consistently chosen. This is true at all levels and all across the world, but becomes truer the higher in the hierarchy one looks. It’s not a matter of the human failings of individuals, whether highly or lowly placed. The deficiencies are too consistent. They are systemic.

    2. Intensely painful though it is to me as a Catholic to admit, all too few of our leaders appear truly to have internalized our own teachings. They do not conduct themselves as though they genuinely believe they will be accountable to God “for what they have done and for what they have failed to do.” Nor do they acknowledge any responsibility for displaying love, compassion or concern to the victims. To the contrary, the latter are normally treated at best as social pariahs, and at worst as enemies against whom every tactic that does not actually contravene the criminal law is legitimate.

    3. When forced to act by the civil authorities or the requirements of their insurers—the only things that have ever forced them to act—they treat the problem as one of risk management. Protocols (good and necessary in themselves) are adopted to make it more difficult for predators to gain access to victims. No examination of conscience, however, is carried out to discern why the Church was so friendly to predators and so hostile to victims in the first place. Still less is done to consider what duties and obligations are owed by the Church and its members to the victims today.

    4. Some posters in this thread have asked whether it would have made a difference if the victim had been a man rather than a woman. If the Catholic experience provides any insight, a definitive answer can be given to that question. The great majority of our victims of clerical sexual assault were male. Some were children; the largest proportion were teenagers; a smaller number were adults; a few were even seminarians or priests. All were, and are, treated with equal contempt, disdain and dismissal. Our Church has been an equal-opportunity abuser, in the broadest and most comprehensive sense of that term.

    5. Efforts by the laity to prevail upon their ecclesiastical leaders to achieve the level of moral enlightenment in matters of sexual violence that secular society takes for granted are foredoomed to failure. The Catholic clerical-rape scandal broke first in Ireland in the early 1990s, then in many other countries (the United States in the early 2000s; Australia in the early 2010s; Chile at present). A quarter of a century’s worth of effort has been invested in trying to educate our spiritual leaders, and to give them any reason to care two hoots about any aspect of the question that does not come with a legal writ, a summons or an indictment attached. That effort has borne no fruit whatever.

    6. It follows from this that the way forward for faithful LDS members, in my view, is not to dissipate their energies in waiting for enlightenment to dawn upon the heads of the Church. The task before them is an urgent one, and cannot wait upon (or be off-loaded onto) the leadership in Salt Lake City. In the world of advocacy and social organization, a frequently-quoted rule is: “Lead from where you are.” Those followers of Christ who wish, from a spiritual perspective, to make life a little less intolerable for victims of sexual violence have immense scope for fruitful work in their own communities. They need not—indeed, they must not—wait for instructions, or permission, from either the Vatican or the Presidency before doing so.

  61. melodynew says:

    The $64,000 Answer: This is beautiful. Thank you for taking time to respond.

  62. Steve,

    1. How? Lay ministeries have real weaknesses. One of them is vetting.
    2. This already happens
    3. I simply dont see this with local leaders. They are simply second guessed and judged all the time. This case is a bit different cause its the mtc pres.
    4. What do you propose?

  63. Kevin Barney says:

    $64,000, thank you for your very useful perspective from your Catholic tradition.

  64. eternal graduate student says:

    @JKC Yes. Good point about confidentiality. I have in mind a distinction between the duty to confidentiality of leaders convening a disciplinary council, which seems appropriate, and the use of church discipline to stop people from speaking to others about abuses they have experienced. It is likely that uninvolved people will be troubled when the person speaks, but using church authority to silence the abused seems like further abuse. I’m sure this feels more complicated to a church leader who thinks the accuser is being dishonest, but I think there is a better way.

  65. Am I the only local ph leader who runs background checks on people in callings that dea l with youth/kids?

  66. Bbell: having to ask that question suggests to me that your laudable efforts are bottom-up (internally driven), and not top-down (not required by the church, or at the very least not verified by higher leadership), which is part of the broader discussion of what the Church can do differently on this subject moving forward.

  67. Michael H. says:

    Selfish of me, but this is what I would like to see:

    Several general conference talks, per conference–conference after conference after conference, with no end in sight, all repeated in our rehashed sacrament meeting talks, and rehashed again regularly in priesthood and Relief Society lessons–devoted to the problem of masculine identity and male sexual expression off the rails, effectively replacing the war against homosexuality with a war against a REAL threat.

    I have no expectations whatsoever that it will happen. My expectation, rather, is that we won’t see anything beyond that feeble press release. (“If true.” It doesn’t get much more feeble and clueless than that.) I was waiting and waiting and waiting to see the church say something about the Rob Porter case, but– Did I miss it? Maybe I just missed it and the church said something really inspired and revelatory . . .

  68. Michael H.: I think the Newsroom re-posted an earlier statement on abuse. It was non-specific to Porter in particular, but the timing seemed such that it was a response of sorts. But it seemed more focused on child abuse than spousal abuse, so it was kind of a response that didn’t really hit the mark.

  69. Lindsay Johnson says:

    Awesome article!! Good on you for hitting all the major talking points in this case!!

  70. I didn’t read the derision into “former member” and “served briefly as a missionary” that so many people seem to. Those are both statements of fact and seem entirely relevant to the question of how an MTC president would be in such close proximity to assault her in the first place. The statement is very clear in condemning abuse and expressing the necessity of holding abusers accountable. Nowhere do I see a shred of victim-blaming. Some people seem to assume everything the Church says or does is in bad faith.

    Joseph Bishop’s son claims that the accuser has falsely accused at least ten men in the past, without filing charges, trying to get money. She has admitted to a criminal history but it was unclear from the article I read whether this included the alleged accusations or just the death threat against Bishop. But this certainly may have something to do with why people wouldn’t believe her. We do have an obligation to believe alleged victims but we also have an obligation to treat the accused as innocent until proven guilty, and that doesn’t change just because this particular crime is so emotionally charged. Many innocent men have had their lives ruined by false rape accusations. If there was no way to prove this accusation until now then I can see why he wouldn’t have gone to prison or been excommunicated. Of course, since Elder Asay is dead and can’t offer his side of the story, we can’t know for sure what happened or whether he actually knew about it as claimed. If he did then he certainly was wrong to not even talk to Bishop. But I don’t want to bash on a man who can’t defend himself.

    Agree that sexual relations between an MP and a missionary can never be consensual because of the power dynamic. Agree that something needs to be done about this. One occurrence is too many. We need to get rid of any notion that Mormons, even high-ranking Mormons are somehow immune to doing bad, even terrible things. We need to stop putting our leaders on a pedestal. We need to make sure bishops, mission presidents, etc. are never alone with women or children in a situation where abuse could happen. I think also that we should rely on law enforcement first and the Church second in these cases. If the police had originally been contacted instead of the Church they might have gotten results before the statute of limitations was up.

    Sorry if this is redundant with things that have already been said; I don’t have time to read through the comments, though I would love to.

  71. You don’t know that the leak came from “people that hate the church”. The leaker could have been someone inside the COB for all we know. She had provided a copy to her lawyer and to the church. If she didn’t leak it and her lawyer didn’t then it was probably a mole in COB, and we know there are moles in COB because of previous leaks.

  72. Christopher Nicholson, amazing that you “don’t want to bash on a man who can’t defend himself” but your entire post is bashing on a female victim who can’t defend herself. Your comments are indicative of how entirely backwards our thinking can get in the church. Perhaps you should consider who should receive the most aid: victims or abusers.

  73. Bart, since the recording comes to us from Mormon Leaks, we can say with certainty that it comes from people that hate the church. Move along.

  74. Anon Former Bishop says:

    As a bishop, I was confronted with a report of a scout leader who had inappropriately touched some of the boys in our scout troop. (It makes no difference, but the accusers were both non-member scouts in our troop, and our troop spanned two adjoining wards). I called the church hotline, and it became immediately evident that they were there to protect the reputation of the church, and specifically told me that if anything went to court, I would have to have my own counsel, as the church’s law firm would not defend me. There was also a “heard-it-all-before” routineness about that conversation that made me very uncomfortable.

    I got better counsel from my stake president, who was very supportive. I did a couple of things right. We released the scout leader immediately, and cooperated with the police as much as possible. I believed that there was something to the accusations, and I also had interviews with each of the boys in the troop from our ward with their parents present to ask what they had seen or observed. All said no, but several of them told me the scout leader in question was “weird.”

    Later, one of the boys recanted, and with only one accuser, the detective investigating, who had hundreds of other cases on her desk, declined to pursue it further. I was just uncomfortable enough with the situation that when I was released, I had a conversation with the incoming bishop and disclosed everything I knew, along with the suggestion that despite the investigation being dropped, the accused should never, ever, have another calling that would put him in close contact with the youth of our ward, both for his protection, and the protection of our ward members.

    To sum up, there was enough smoke to me to indicate at least a potential future fire, and I had great support locally. And I am convinced that I did the right thing by removing the accused from any contact with youth, and to share the facts with future leaders.

  75. “we also have an obligation to treat the accused as innocent until proven guilty”

    No we don’t. Neither the revelations on disciplinary councils nor the handbooks, as far as I’m aware, impose a presumption of innocence. I’m not saying that we do or ought to have a presumption of guilt, but a presumption of innocence is not a feature of church discipline.

  76. I think it is past time that we let one on one meetings between people of opposite sex happen behind closed doors. I can’t understand not wanting to end this as it puts a lot of pressure on a Bishop or other leader in the case of a false-accusation as well. Why are we letting our leaders and their flock be so vulnerable? Women anoint other women in the temple, women should be leaders and temple recommend givers to other women. Stop asking children sexually based questions. That just opens up all kinds of trouble for everyone. There has to be a better way to protect our members.

    Predators are excellent at hiding, they are the very people who often rise to the top. They lack the conscience and guilt that lets others subconsciously realize they are full of it. They are great at looking the corporate part and gaining trust, saying all the right things. They think nothing of serving in demanding callings because they care little about their family at home, they feed off of the power. They are wolves in sheeps’ clothing, hidden among us and after our lambs. Often the very lambs who are the most vulnerable and go in to counsel with their religious leaders over sexual sins and assaults. 99% of Bishops and other leaders are wonderful people, but I for one am not comfortable with the slim chance of my children meeting one of the other 1% behind closed doors.

    I really don’t understand how the church is still conducting these interviews. It isn’t like they are scriptural or from some revelation. They are just how they have always been done, and that really isn’t a good enough reason to make everyone vulnerable.

  77. The $64,000 Answer– thank you for your comment. The weight of this: “They do not conduct themselves as though they genuinely believe they will be accountable to God…” kind of takes my breath away.
    We so often hear people saying things like “just follow the prophet and God will bless you” or “God won’t punish you for obeying your leaders.” Seeing ourselves as ‘just following orders’ as a cog in the unstoppable kingdom of God keeps us from feeling the full weight of our individual capacity to act, both for good and ill. The weight of that burden must be immense for people with any sort of authority– it’s no wonder so many attempt to dissociate from it.

  78. From an active member and law enforcement pro:
    I have tried to read all of the comments on this which are many so I apologize if what I have to offer is repetitive. I’m a 17 year law enforcement professional. The last 4 plus years I have specialized in special victim cases which this incident would fall under. I can speak to some the questions you have posed. First of all you mentioned an “ineffective law enforcement system” that is “heavily influenced by the church.” This is a very subjective statement which is rather misguided and generalized. Perhaps a better way of classifying this would be an “inefficient judicial system.” I have engaged my whole soul in sexual assault cases to help women victims of sexual abuse, only to lose several of those cases at a jury trial level. Why? Not because of crappy evidence, not because of crappy police work and not because I didn’t believe the victim but often because citizens on the jury failed to have the spine to convict a monster. Defense attorneys craft language and spin fact into reasonable doubt. People buy off and the abuser walks. It is gut wrenching and it happens….ALL THE TIME. To your second point, I have worked for more than one agency in my police career and I will tell you that police are not “influenced by the church” to a level you suggest. On the contrary I and others I have worked with have at times been at odds with Bishops and other church leaders educating them on the reporting laws in my state (UT), as they don’t seem to have a clear picture and are often caught in the middle. (We expect a lot out of volunteer clergy that mean well the majority of the time.) The church doesn’t influence how I do my police job at all and I believe most police officers would tell you this.
    Lastly I will tell you….I do believe the victim in this case. I read the transcript, I listened to the audio. I think Mr. Bishop abused his authority for his own pleasure which is a damn shame. I’m ok with things going public but let us be real….are we going to seriously put this back on the “church” as a whole and all the leaders? That is ludicris. Mr. Bishop is one man, one man in an organization of millions. The church is administered by human beings….men and women, who like me aren’t perfect. That is why we should not put our trust in men and women alone. The “facts” surrounding sexual assault cases in general as a whole are very difficult at best to prove in a court of law. That is not all on law enforcement. There are lots of moving parts here. As stated above I have had what I felt were rock solid cases be dashed to pieces in courtrooms. (I’m talking cases with strong physical (DNA) and testimonial evidence.) The prosecutors were good, the defense attorneys were good, (maybe even better,) and the Judges were good, the jurys….well you get my point. Let the blame of this land on Mr. Bishop….not his leaders. Good men turn bad….good men can and do become bad men and do bad things. We live in a world of free agency. Will God interrupt that to keep disasters from happening? I don’t believe he does or will do this. I have witnessed terrible things the past 17 years and I don’t blame God. It would be easy to say that God would not allow bad things to happen. It just isn’t the case. Remember….AGENCY.
    Sorry for the rant….that is my two cents.


  79. Neon beige says:

    Whatever the outcome of this situation, I hope that it creates enough churn that a) more people who have experienced abuse at the hands of priesthood leaders come forward with their stories and that b) ecclesiastical leaders learn that there might come a day when their abusive actions have consequences.

  80. Tom Irvine says:

    JKC, Is a presumption of innocence even a feature of temple recommend interviews?

  81. Anon Former Bishop: I applaud your efforts, I really do. I wonder though, people who move into the ward later may not have been part of the whisper campaign and be willing to let this man into their lives. 20 years from now, he may move away and get called back in. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s frustrating that the only thing that shows up on a background check is a conviction.
    My husband volunteers to go with our son on all scout trips, partly to keep him safe. I volunteer to go to girls camp with our daughters for the same reason. I feel bad for people without the resources or connections to protect their children the same way. I can’t imagine just dropping your child off to go camping with adult men that you barely know, trusting in background checks and power of discernment to keep them safe.
    It is so rare for people, especially children to come forward with accusations of abuse in a timely manner, and shocking at how rarely they are prosecuted. I wish there was a better way.

  82. “No we don’t. Neither the revelations on disciplinary councils nor the handbooks, as far as I’m aware, impose a presumption of innocence. I’m not saying that we do or ought to have a presumption of guilt, but a presumption of innocence is not a feature of church discipline.”

    This is so, so important. “innocent until proved guilty” is the standard for criminal trials. It is a very, very high standard to meet, and intentionally so, since what is on the line is a person’s freedom or possibly even their lives. Imposing this standard on a sexual assault case in anything other than a criminal trial is completely inappropriate, as it requires the assumption that the victim is lying. This is exactly the reason that colleges and universities hear these cases using a “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is, roughly, the difference between 99.9% certainty and 50.1% certainty.

  83. Not sure I understand the question, Tom. A Temple recommend interview (typically, anyway) doesn’t involve an accusation, so why would it involve a presumption of innocence?

  84. Like Christian Kimball states, I too believe that the LDS church is 5-10 years behind the curve on how to handle this kind of stuff.

    The reason why:
    When he was a teenager my dad was sexually molested by his bishop who mixed in all kinds of religious symbolism from the temple with the act of molestation. My dad had a list of some half-dozen other young men in the ward who were similarly molested.

    The sexual abuse took about 20 years to manifest into symptoms of depression, anger, suicidal ideations, and so on. When my dad sought help and guidance from his bishop and stake president (keep in mind that the offending bishop was now in the stake presidency) he was promptly disfellowshipped for continuing to speak out accusations against the leadership.

    15 years go by – My dad went in and out of activity. Mostly out. Then by chance he met up with a stake leader who also happened to be the institute director at the nearby university. He actually listened to my dad, took his story seriously, took up his case with the Stake President, and paved the way to usher my dad back into full fellowship in the church. The stake president even went so far as to arrange a special sit-down meeting with a visiting area authority Seventy, who apologized to my dad on behalf of the Church for all the abuse that he suffered.

    “Interesting” side story:
    The man who molested my dad was released from his stake calling & excommunicated after it was discovered that he never really stopped molesting boys. Some years went by, he retired & moved to Idaho, was eventually rebaptized and somehow became a temple worker. My dad’s “new” stake president was incensed when he heard about it this guy’s calling to work in the temple. So he pulled some strings to get the guy released, arguing that people like this guy always find a way to pollute positions of power & influence.

    I don’t glory in the behind-the-scenes string pulling & releasing of the guy from his temple work calling. I am not trying to revel in his humiliation. I bring it up only to show the marked difference in how two different Stake Presidents approached the issue of abuse by leaders over the course of 15 years.

  85. Anon. Brother says:

    The only experience I have had with his was recent. A sister in our ward was raped by her former Mission president who had hired her to do some work at his business.

    He was promptly reported to the Church and Civil authorities and was excommunicated. My limited involvement dropped so I do not know how the criminal case has proceeded.

    Church Authority does not always protect itself. It does get it right, but getting it wrong one time is too much. The response to the Bishop case has been shocking and disappointing.

    People need to have more faith in the Gospel and less faith in the Church. I do not mean abandoning the Church, but rather having a true view of both its strengths and faults. The Perfect Church is an idol, a fiction, and it is killing us in many ways.

  86. A Friend says:

    Mark N: “Believing women” doesn’t mean ignoring subsequent evidence that disproves accusations.

  87. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    People need to have more faith in the Gospel and less faith in the Church.

    This is so good.

  88. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    J.C., thank you for what you’ve said and what you do.

  89. Michael Austin — You said ““innocent until proved guilty” is the standard for criminal trials. It is a very, very high standard to meet.”

    I agree with the point that I believe you’re making, but I’m not sure that you’ve stated this quite correctly.

    In a criminal case, the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt is on the prosecution, and they must establish that fact beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the “beyond a reasonable doubt” part that makes it a very, very high standard to meet.

    Even in civil cases, however, the plaintiff still has the burden of proof. It’s a lower standard, to be sure — preponderance of the evidence, as you indicate — but the burden of proof still rests with the plaintiff.

    To the extent that you are saying that we shouldn’t use the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in a church setting, I completely agree.

  90. So many great comments here. Thanks. As for “vetting” I can say that my dad was a bishop, stake presidency counselor, mission president, and counselor at Provo MTC. No one ever contacted me or my siblings to vet him. (We would have cleared him for service.) I suspect the only vetting was what is on his Church record. Maybe they run a criminal background check; I don’t know.

  91. Michael Austin, JKC, Tom Hardman, respondents: Whenever the evidentiary standard comes up I am drawn to make a couple of observations:
    1. There is controversy. The right or best answer is not self-evident.
    2. There are a number of standards in use in different places and for different purposes. In some cases there is a constitution to look to. In some there is a statute to look to. In many there is no authority but only reason and analogy.
    3. With respect to ecclesiastical decision making, both criminal law and Title VII rules are analogies, not authority. One may be better than the other for the purpose but neither dictates an answer.
    4. I believe that a systems analysis is more appropriate and useful than a rights analysis. A systems analysis asks about the effect on reporting (encourage? discourage?), the effect on deliberations (too long and too difficult may be worse than too short and simplistic, or maybe not?), the effect on false reporting, the effect on judgments (criminal-level punishments beg for criminal level evidence), collective trust in the system, and the long term effect on victims.
    5. I believe that a systems analysis should take into account the cultural norms around “proven guilty” recognizing that some amount of criminal law thinking will persist no matter what anybody says the rules are. (Probably we all watch too much television.)

    I conclude that preponderance of the evidence (PoE) is a fair compromise in many cases. But if the issue is (for example) whether to call or continue a call to work with a high risk group, I would run the standard even lower. If we get real about this stuff we will deal with cases where the best ecclesiastical answer is in the realm of open apology and confession, and other cases where the best ecclesiastical answer is excommunication, public renunciation, and referral to the legal system. We need smart thinking for all of this.

  92. pconnornc says:

    Just a few thoughts…

    I have to admit, I struggle w/ the balance between “believe the victim” and “assumed innocence”. I know that it is not an either/or situation. The pendulum is swinging and for that I am grateful. I thought the example of the boy scout leader who was immediately released is a great example – they believed the victims, released the leader without jumping straight to a disciplinary council (which had no material impact on him) and then let things play out.

    As a tangent, I am torn by hope and fear. I feel hope that we are in a society where, though not perfect, there is progress in victims having a voice, being encouraged and being believed. We are also in a time where our kids are counseled and strengthened better to recognize and resist manipulation and abuse. My fear though is that we live in a time where the access to pornography and other depravity that titillate and precedes action is more prevalent than ever. So as our kids (and adults) get stronger, the forces of evil get more aggressive.

  93. Shy Saint says:

    What if MTC President had had access to soft pornography? Might that and a bit of masturbation have helped him get the sexual gratification that he needed? Might he, then, have left those vulnerable women alone and unmolested?

  94. Steve Evans,

    Thanks for putting into words how I feel.

  95. Excellent article and comments. Memories are flooding into my mind if all the people and their issues I dealt with as bishop and In a stake presidency. I don’t know that I would be confident to do it again with all the potent liability and issues. I’ve reviewed many experiences I my mind and held them up again the opinions offered. I can state that I was never informed of the gravity of the legal side when called and not enough training was offered afterwards. I wonder if major changes are in the wind if the Church loses to this matter in court? A major rewrite of the handbook. I do agree that a poor side effect of a growing church is the bureaucracy that makes us seem too corporate. At times SLC spokesperson sound like Nabisco, not the gospel. Maybe we’ve gotten too big, too powerful, too rich in the corporate sense.

  96. I just have to have a say I guess. Better judgement might lead me to a different position at a different interval — but here goes and please excuse its length but this is a critical subject.
    There are very few who have submitted a comment here that really understands the mind of someone who experiences abuse from a person of, or in Authority, be it parent, family relative, work, or even in the LDS Church as a position of Ecclesiastical Authority, it is all the same to me. When one goes through the abuse they automatically think they themselves did something wrong and that they (the victim) is responsible for the abuse. It changes their life every day. There is never a day that it doesn’t play into their life. For me it happened when I was very young and being a male I just couldn’t understand why another male would do such to me. I had just started kindergarten and the abuse lasted for years. To this day I remember looking out a car window and asking God to just take me home (to Him) so I didn’t have to go through another episode. But through it all I felt that I was the one who was to blame. Sounds hard to understand but that is what happens to those of us so abused.
    So I can really understand why this poor missionary kept silent for so many years. Silence is not a behavior of guilt it is a behavior of admission of fault….erroneous for sure but none the same true. She probably spent her whole mission feeling like she was at fault for what happened. And her life would never, ever be the same. Please quit judging her for her silence and understand the complexity of her emotional well-being as she tried to deal with the event. Some have criticized her for future falsities that she has told. When you are dealing with a sexual assault that is never processed it can come out it unimaginable ways. No one has a right to call her a liar for what she expresses. The poor girl needed someone to believe her and help her deal with the internal feelings she has had since the event. The Lord has told us to not Judge others and that includes all of us, victims, perpetrators, and yes even leaders of the Church. The Lord will be the Great Judge of all; for each of our hearts and what comes out of our heart. And as for poor Bro. Joseph Bishop no one has a right to judge him. He admitted to some things that were obviously wrong, against the law, and were an assault on this poor lady missionary. He asked her to expose certain areas of her body to him and she did. No one lives in a test tube. My question for all parties that are such involved would simply be to help them to deal with the emotions they are having and how to get them out in the open and worked through. Perhaps Bro. Bishop was himself abused when he was little and so he “learned” how to deal with it far different than another. I don’t know but I will not judge him or anyone else. Why can’t we understand these are very complex, emotional experiential events for ALL PARTIES INVOLVED. I know for me having gone through such an ordeal and not dealing with it until my adult years (it came out in so many ways, but that is for another writing or book) I decided very early in life that when I became a parent I would do all in my power to protect my children from any such occurrence, and with quite a few I have to say I have been successful along with a wonderful wife.
    We get into these he said/she said treatises and seem to forget the persons involved. For those who have never been exposed to a form of abuse then your argument is vacant to me, it is an empty judgement from you. You come from an intellectual position of how to expose perpetrators, help victims, ensure future safety and castigate the Church Leadership for failure. There is something very real when it comes to a Merciful Lord and Savior who can take all of this pain away as I allow Him access to me. When He suffered He experienced everything that I suffered and more as a very young victim. When He suffered He experienced all of the pain and anguish of the perpetrator of my sexual abuse, even his denial of such and his not dealing with the aftermath as such. It’s so very important to realize The Lord has suffered for all these things and more; and if each of us has a repentant heart then is His suffering made available to us personally, yes even Bro. Bishop.
    When The Lord suffered He worked through His Gethsemane and experienced the complete peace that comes when you let it go and your/my personal Gethsemane is no longer there…. every day….a day I hope this young (now old) missionary will soon be able to experience. There is something very real to me when the scriptures say the Lord overcame each of the episodes He experienced in multiple waves wherein even He, the God of All, asked for it to pass and another way be allowed. But He overcame and each of us can as well. But the more we throw blame, accuse, castigate, and demean then we are actually moving away from the peace that The Prince of Peace will allow each of us to have.
    She deserves peace but I know that some of that peace can only come when those responsible come to an admission of what happened, to whatever degree that they can come to. With so many years passing and the advanced age of Bro. Bishop then I can even understand his not being able to recall certain things. I really can and we can not judge him a villain for such behavior. It is plausible that such is true. And not one of us has the right to judge another of our fellow sojourners in this Veil of Tears for those things that they are guilty of…..for each of us have fallen a long ways from our 1st Estate. This earth is full of carnality and sexual depravity and that is what the Adversary is longing for is for all of us to condemn and judge another for their faults. The Lord said He who is not guilty to pick up the first rock….and not one of us could in clear conscience.
    As far as what should the Church do? Let the Church alone and allow them to deal with it. We all feign involvement so we can throw fault at this organization or those in positions of Authority within the organization. I still believe in the goodness of people that over time they will do the right thing. For me and for all of us we should leave it alone. If you have been a victim of any abuse then you know personally of what I speak. I hope for those who haven’t been intimately involved in such things that they can let those who are to themselves whether it be the institution, the victim, the perpetrator, or those closely involved with such people.
    The Church is led by men that are fallible and each has told us they are. But I would trust the collective judgement of them. This is not the Kingdom of Heaven, this is a Church on Earth and as such they obviously have the right to get things wrong, whether in a calling extended to another or any such other event. Some have questioned how can these ecclesiastical leaders even extend a call to another who harbors such ability to hurt another. Well these some must feel comfortable in telling the Lord that they take exception to what He does. The Lord knows the heart and He will judge us all from the feelings of our hearts — and I say that is enough for me. The Lord befriended a prostitute (Mary), He called to the Highest position a liar (Peter who denied Him), He appeared to a murderer (Paul) and called him to preach the gospel to all, He was patient with a doubter (Thomas), and He played a game of cat and mouse with His disciples who were on their way to Emmaus; can you hear it, “take a chill pill” is sometimes a good thing.
    I am grateful for a loving God who see’s me for who my Divinity is and not for where my mortality has brought me….and shouldn’t we extend those feelings to all. And maybe a little extra for those who have experienced some of the most vile of what can happen in a depraved world. I hope so! I pray so!!

  97. Please excuse my typos.

  98. A sister in my MTC district in the late 90’s with significant issues met weekly with the MTC mission president’s wife–and not with the MTC mission president. I wonder if that was just how that MTC mission president did things or if there’s a specific policy (perhaps put in place sometime after Bishop served) involving MTC mission presidents meeting one-on-one with young women.

  99. Wondering says:

    Why would a sister “with significant issues” meet with the mission president’s wife? Was the mission president’s wife a trained and licensed psychologist or psychiatrist?

  100. Shy Saint says:

    “Let the Church alone and allow them to deal with it. We all feign involvement so we can throw fault at this organization or those in positions of Authority within the organization. I still believe in the goodness of people that over time they will do the right thing. ”

    I haven’t seen any evidence of this in the case of the church and their policies on gay Saints and the innocent children of gay Saints. None. Not in the last 20 years. And that’s a l-o-n-g time to wait for common decency let alone assuming responsibility and making the appropriate apologies and making reparations.

  101. The Other Brother Jones says:

    It is a sticky situation from all sides. It seems that the institutional church and the local church may have different interests. It occurred to me during the Rob Porter situation that the church may not be good enough to deal accusations of criminal activity. (rape, physical abuse, etc).

    I would recommend that a victim go to the police FIRST to deal with criminal activities. Realize that professional therapy might be required. The Bishop may have a place in facilitating this stuff, and can certainly show Christ-like love and compassion. But any advice from anybody to keep quiet about a criminal activity, should be prosecuted as an accessory.

  102. Anon for this says:

    There are just as many women in my ward/stake that I would hesitate to be counseled by, women who are as fully marinated in the church’s harmful attitudes towards women as many of the men.

    Wondering has an excellent point. Those called on to counsel others for serious concerns should be professionally trained and licensed. If the church has the resources to build billion dollar commercial enterprises, it can certainly afford better pastoral resources for its members.

  103. Amazing piece! Absolutely love the hard questions.
    Great job

  104. Anon For This says:

    Three weeks ago I had a very “animated” discussion with my bishop and a high counselor (also a ward member) about the treatment of women in the church regarding sexual abuse. The conversation was prompted by the inaction of priesthood leaders with the wifes of the former W.H. staff member and because my wife was sexually abused and pimped out by her priesthood holding father. He lived his life lying to bishops, stake presidents, patriarchs, and mission presidents. Not one had the discernment to turn the liar’s head around to see the other face.

    My takeaway from the discussion was that A. bishoprics and stake presidencies are mandatory reporters and B. we are all imperfect and sometimes priesthood leaders don’t do what they are supposed to do. Given the situation we were discussing, I was surprised to hear A, and while B is true, I was not particularly comforted.

    My thoughts:

    1. The church organization has to change to be less top-down and more bottom up. We can all make lists like this but does anyone listen?

    2. Make Handbook 1 available to all. We don’t know what our leaders are supposed to be doing or not doing. Are all bishops and s.p.’s mandatory reporter or is it just in states, provinces, and countries with such laws?

    3. Hold bishoprics and stake presidencies for following Handbook 1 in regards to reporting physical and sexual abuse, up to and including excommunication.

    4. Please, more women in positions of authority. Make it clear anyone in the church may report abuse to whomever they feel comfortable with, whether that be in Young Womens, Young Mens, or Relief Society. If needed, those leaders are also mandatory reporters.

    5. Survivors are free to choose the ward/stake/branch they attend if the abuser is in the same ward/stake/branch. I know of a situation where a survivor was instructed she must attend the same ward as her abuser.

    6. Yes, stop the invasive questions, by all means.

    7. Windows in all classroom doors. Currently, it is up to the stake president to request windows be installed in the doors.

    8. Background checks for all youth leaders, bishoprics, and stake presidencies.

    9. There must be a whole session of General Conference where it is made clear what the leaders are to do, will and not to do. Until the “church” steps up and officially admits to the abuse problems, not in some general terms, not couched in ‘by imperfect MEN’, with legal and court of love consequences, and initiates new policy nothing will change.

    We live 1400 miles east of the Jello Belt. My wife is not the only LDS woman that my therapist has treated for depression, anxiety, extreme self-harm, and dissociative identity disorder. The therapist told us it is a known in the professional community that sex abuse is a serious problem in the church.

  105. I completely agree that this particular sister missionary should have met with a professional therapist, and for much longer than the nine weeks at the MTC. The point was, however, that in the late 90’s, young sister missionaries apparently did not meet with the MTC mission president alone.

  106. In my ward (and maybe in all wards?) they don’t even let a lone man teach a primary class. Why on earth would we allow a single man to have private, one on one, closed door interviews with adolescent girls/boys and women? If women aren’t going to be receiving the priesthood at least let a woman be the one to talk to another woman about sensitive issues. Don’t we have missionary companionships to protect individuals and the church as well as to have at least two witnesses for whatever takes place?

  107. Per KUTV, Joseph L. B.s memory lapsed. Customized place was not near cafeteria with no VCR but down some stairs and in the basement: “the room was in an otherwise unfinished area in a lower junction part of the building. The area provided access to the building’s water pipes, electrical lines and tunnels connected to other campus structures. It was only accessible after passing through more than one locked door. The employee said the room itself had no windows, but was fully furnished inside. The furnishings included a single bed, similar to those used in the MTC dorms, and a TV and VHS player on a mobile cart. .. The former employee said they were told the room was ‘used by the previous MTC president as a place he would take naps and sometimes pray and also watch [MoTab] to help him relax.'”

  108. Shy Saint – No. Predators are predators. It is NOT about sexual gratification. It about power and dominance. Predators have an almost a sixth sense as they seek the next victim.

    They constantly are testing those around them to find the vulnerable. They groom those they percieve as vulnerable and move on if they don’t make progress.

  109. My apologies if this has already been expressed above. I’ve given a lot of thought to how I might handle a situation like this as a bishop: female ward member comes in and says that ____ (her husband, neighbor, etc.) sexually assaulted her. She has no evidence but her word. I call (the accused) into my office and speak to him and he denies it.

    As an attorney, I have represented plenty of men who have abused their girlfriends/wives and many of them make the claim that the victim is crazy, is making it up, etc. I am a bit jaded, so I have a tendency to believe the men are guilty.

    But as a bishop, what do I do? There is no evidence before me but her claim, and he denies it. I know that claims are sometimes made out of spite, but I also know that claims are made, which are true despite a lack of corroborating evidence.

    In this case, it appears that when it was brought to the attention of the church it was referred to the police. That seems appropriate if the ecclesiastical point of contact had no evidence other than her claim and his denial. Of course now we have additional information, but it seems to me that the “MeToo” movement has people thinking that a claim is enough. Enough to lock someone up, take their job/livelihood and reputation.

    I do recognize that oftentimes the claimant has no corroborating information, and I would personally be likely to believe her if she comes across credible (while a part of me would still recognize that people can act well). Still, I would have a tendency to believe such a person. But without other evidence, what could I do other than refer it to authorities (if a crime had been alleged)? Do I impose some sort of sanction or discipline on the man who denies it (and again, there’s no corroborating evidence)?

    This is not an easy question to answer, yet some seem so dogmatic in their responses.

  110. As a church member, release from calling doesn’t seem like an overly harsh punishment in response to an allegation despite corroborating evidence.

  111. Also, I can’t think of any Me Too cases in which the accused has been locked up as a result of the movement, and I can’t think of any significant case in which the accused lost their job due to a single allegation.

  112. Great post, Steve.

  113. Those folks who are trying to make this about a rogue leader have made a mistake. They think that this is about members who have problems with bad leaders. (That’s the lie of the church’s PR statement.) What it’s actually about is a church that is complicit in the abuse of its members, because it repeatedly fails to protect them and promotes a system that grants prestige and unquestioning loyalty to abusers.

    Now, KUTV is reporting that (a) a former MTC employee verified the existence of the downstairs room with a bed, and (b) the COB has confirmed its existence as a secondary office for Bishop (though it denies that there was a bed). So they knew Bishop had this room all along, a room that she should not even know existed. They have the tape since January. They do nothing until the tape goes public, at which point they pull his books from Deseret and shame her in a press release.

    This demonstrates an important fact. Namely, that the membership of the church means literally nothing to the church’s leaders. LDS members are the demolition cars that leaders crush beneath their monster trucks as they drive over top of them to protect their status, prestige, and livelihood beneath a false mask of virtue.

  114. KLN, certainly a release from a calling should be considered, but should not be an easy decision. If a false accusation is made and the accused is immediately released from his calling, that signals to all who are aware the he has been found guilty. I’m not saying I would not release such a person, but I think it would require a lot of thought beforehand.

  115. Carlos Gonzalez Buss says:

    I know Joseph L. Bishop. He was my second Mission President in the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission in the years 1978 and 1979. He is a great man, a man of God, and I have a personal witness of the Holy Spirit about that. His leadership of the mission was inspired, and he was the greatest influence in my life besides my mother. As to the accusations against him, I have no way to know if they happened or not, or if he is being taken advantage of now, in his old age, when his memory and understanding are in decline. This looks like an attempt to trap him, taking advantage of the current political climate and his age. Having known his character and spiritual influence, I am inclined to be skeptical about these accusations.

  116. Take advantage of his old age? He’s 8 years younger than the prophet.

  117. Carlos, sorry but you are mistaken.

  118. Carlos Gonzalez Buss says:

    You give no evidence that I am mistaken. I know the man.

  119. So do his victims.

  120. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Mike, that whole “believe women” thing? You’re not doing it. And it’s infuriating. Here is a post talking about a man who has admitted on tape to sexual assault and you are running off into hypotheticals about how a man’s reputation might be ruined IF she’s lying. And that you would tend to believe her IF she was credible. What about how her life could be permanently scarred if she isn’t credible but her husband is? We know that many, many abusers are excellent liars, well respected in their communities, and even PRESIDENTS OF THE MTC!!! Believing women is not going to lead to the downfall of law and order. Men are not going off to jail after a single accusation. For crying out loud as far as we know Rob Porter doesn’t seem to have even been disciplined for his actual abuse.
    I can appreciate that you don’t want black and white thinking to take over as regards the MeToo movement, but that is not what is being asked. It is asking you to believe, “credible” or not. Start by believing and work your way from there.

  121. Carlos Gonzalez Buss says:

    and you know that how?

  122. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Carlos Gonzalez Buss, go away. If you’ve come here to defend a man who has already admitted to police to asking a sister missionary to show him her breasts then you have said your piece and can move on, sure in the knowledge that history will vindicate him, and by extension you. The real question though is can you mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who will need comfort if you are not vindicated? If so please come back at that time and we will be here for you then.

  123. Carlos Gonzalez Buss says:

    TheHarbourlessSex, I know Joseph L. Bishop’s character, and I feel the need to state it here, as I see a number of people speculating and judging by hearsay. I don’t believe that he admitted any such thing, I do believe that his old age and infirmity are being taken advantage of by individuals who are trying to trap him and the Church. I don’t condone any kind of sexual abuse, and I realize that there are circumstances that are difficult to prove, but the solution is not to just believe the accuser by default, as it is becoming the fashion these days. It wouldn’t be the first time that a Church leader is falsely accused.

  124. TheHarborlessSex whatever – I’m just trying to say . . . nevermind. You’re right. Whenever an accusation is made we should assume guilt and look no further. It is the right way. Amen.

    In case you didn’t notice, the case of Mr. Bishop is no longer a she said/he said. Because he also said. But that is often not the case at first.

  125. the other Marie says:

    I think that those hearing the accusations (as one of his bishops noted in explaining why he didn’t believe the accuser) see the long string of high-profile callings he’s held and conclude that they don’t need to consider the situation carefully because obviously if he were a bad actor multiple high-level church leaders would not, presumably under inspiration, have continued to call him to positions of great authority. As with the continuation of the priesthood ban, they assume that prior leaders must have been inspired, so they don’t have to give it much thought. Even Joseph Bishop was unconvinced that he was really very guilty. I was surprised in reading the full transcript of the interview at how often he tried to circle the conversation back to his sufferings and how often he talked about his patriarchal blessing–that it had all come true and therefore it was proof that he was basically good with God, despite having never fully repented of his many admitted sins/crimes against many women. He and his ecclesiastical leaders were both looking to the wrong places for evidence of his righteousness. I think these are widespread tendencies in the church.

  126. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Carlos Gonzales Buss- the great thing about police interviews is that they are recorded so you don’t have to believe that he said such a thing. You can read it with your own two eyes!

  127. the other Marie says:

    And there’s maybe also an Arthur Dimmesdale thing going on? He says that in past years he confessed to a bishop that he’d had numerous sexual transgressions–he claims he confessed “everything” at some point–but I wouldn’t be surprised if in such situations ecclesiastical leaders, seeing what a giant he’s been in the religious community, assume that he’s so very righteous that he really only has tiny sins but feels them keenly and so exaggerates them in his confessions. If this sort of belief is in play when church leaders hear confessions of men in positions of authority, it could help explain why he was allowed to (allegedly) confess fully and then “repent” without any church discipline.

  128. Excerpt.
    Interviewer: “So do you remember the room in the basement.
    Joseph Bishop: “I do.”
    Interviewer: “Do you remember the movies in the basement, the DVD [no,…] the VHS player and the TV. No. Do you remember tearing my blouse..”
    KUTV’s Don Kauffman: “Eric Hawkins, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, ‘Yes, Joseph Bishop had an secondary office in the basement of the MTC.'”

  129. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Mike, contrary to any assumed tone in my post my point is not to bully people into agreeing with me (Or dismissing me like a petulant child or the hysterical woman i am). My concern is with the fact that you seem to require credibility from the accused. I think that perhaps because you are a lawyer and I am not we may have different ideas about what that means. The way I read it is that you only believe an accusation if you have good reason to. And the problem with that in the church is twofold. One, you are working with laypeople who have no idea of how victims may react and that oftentimes perfectly normal reactions will paint the victim as less credible. Second is that women in the church automatically have less credibility than their male spouses by virtue of a lack of priesthood. Any melchizedek priesthood calling > any calling held by a woman. Nobody wants to believe that a righteous priesthood holder could do such a thing so surely the wife was mistaken, didn’t understand, etc.
    So what I mean by believe women, believe the victim is not automatically assume guilt on the part of the accused, but rather do assume truth on the part of the victim. Again, start by believing and proceed from there.

  130. Ned Quimby says:

    This would be a great time to call two female apostles.

  131. Hey Carlos. I would like to testify that, over the course of my life, several people who once seemed to me to be great men of God actually turned out to be hiding horrible secrets, and had literally ruined lives. Not most, but a few.

  132. I love the Gospel, I don’t love the church.

  133. Wondering says:

    The discussion overnight reminds me that it can be a hard lesson to learn that we cannot, as the scripture says, put our trust in the arm of flesh. (See 2 Nephi 4:34, Doc & Cov 1:19, etc.).

    I was much disturbed one Sunday evening after a very strange BYU multi-stake fireside given by a stake president with all the right family connections and a long and distinguished church resume. I called my parents and they listened to my concerns, and then my father explained that sometimes people are given callings for their own benefit, sometimes for the benefit of those they serve, but sometimes callings are given to the condemnation of those who are called. Whatever I think about that sentiment, it was freeing that my trusted, faithful father didn’t buy into leader worship, and neither should I. It’s been a lesson that has helped carry me through some disturbing situations in the intervening years.

    So how do we move forward when we realize that our idols have feet of clay?

    Perhaps a good first step may be to realize that they are idols, and then do what the scripture recommends and turn to the real source of our strength. (See again 2 Nephi 4:34, etc.)

  134. Paul Ritchey says:

    Three thoughts:

    1. The Newsroom should save its legalism for briefs, and keep press releases more compassionate (as they had been until recently). Who knows – maybe we’ll see some compassion in Conference.

    2. Bishop’s professed (though apparently not lived) standard of sexual morality is not the same as the generally accepted American standard, which may be causing some confusion in the way his admissions are interpreted. Clearly what he has confessed to amounts to unlawful harassment at best, but the word “molest” is misleading when there’s such a difference in mores.

    3. I believe most people who allege sexual misconduct. Their stories are compelling. But would-be false accusers here, as in other socially electrified contexts, DO have something to gain by lying. They gain social power, empathy, a sense of justice, understanding, trust, and love, which we ought to reserve for the honest accusers who deserve those things, and more. Liars don’t, and let’s not pretend that the latter category is an empty set.

  135. A church that uses an institution called the priesthood, the ultimate authority in Mormonism, and denies that authority to women has set up an unequal relationship. How many times have I’ve been told to “follow the priesthood”, “the priesthood will decide”, the “priesthood is God’s ultimate authority”. An institution that relies on an authority that is merely given, with no requirements to 12 year old boys, has set up a system for male superiority and abuse directed toward the female who has zero authority in Mormonism.

    As someone who was not believed by my bishop, he was a good guy just brainwashed into his own male/priesthood authority, after being the victim of a violent, brutal attack by another priesthood holder (yes, I realize that it was him and not all priesthood holders!) when I was a young woman, I KNOW that it is not God’s way to assign authority merely because of gender. Women have been pushed into a belief that their worth is what they can give males/priesthood holders. Until that fallacious, harmful belief is changed, these occurrences will keep coming to light. There are so many more I PROMISE you. I never came forward because I was so ashamed. My bishop told me it would be better if no one knew about the horrible thing that had happened to me. I remained silent like so many others that I know.

    I don’t know how to fix this broken system but if God really speaks through the prophet then why isn’t He? The highest level of “moral authority” ‘s first reaction is to call their lawyers and deny that a priesthood holder would do such a thing. This particular story is big news but this stuff happens all the time, Victims are just shamed into silence. if they speak up they are labeled liars, mentally unstable, criminals, someone trying to punish a poor innocent guy……the list of slurs goes on and on. The church instantly goes into damage-control mode when something happens because they care about how the church looks rather than how, or if it is really acting as God would want it to.

    If you think this is a rare occurrence, you are wrong.
    —I know most commenting on this site would never behave this way. My intention is not to slander men, just the method of assigning authority based on nothing more than gender.
    —my husband is the best. I am not being abused by a creep. I married the most wonderful guy ever because I understood that priesthood was a bogus qualifier when dating.

  136. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Ritchey (you have a distinguished namesake, by the way):-

    “[W]ould-be false accusers here, as in other socially electrified contexts, DO have something to gain by lying. They gain social power, empathy, a sense of justice, understanding, trust, and love…”

    I fear you are mistaken. Such a response is anything but typical. Disclosure of rape usually entails extreme social isolation (even well-wishers tend to avoid the victim, who arouses anxiety in them); being the subject of malicious gossip; endless second-guessing (“why didn’t she/he scream/fight back/go to the police/avoid that situation altogether”?); suspicions of infidelity on the part of spouses; and an effortless assumption of superiority on the part of almost everybody who has not gone through it her- or himself (“well, *I’d* never have let that happen, because I’d have screamed/fought/gone to the police…”).

    The kind of supportive responses you describe are not unknown, but they’re all too rare. Unless the victim has the good fortune to be in a supportive subculture—which, incidentally, is almost never to be found in faith communities, as many of the posts in this very thread serves to underline—she or he is likely to discover that speaking out is far more painful than remaining silent. This is why, according to every single survey of the question ever taken, the majority of those who have suffered in this way remain silent.

    That they do so is not in dispute, nor is it a coincidence. Followers of Jesus Christ would do well to reflect prayerfully on that fact, and its implications for what He wants and expects them to do in response to it.

  137. Not a Cougar says:

    Mike, I understand the dilemma you pose and I believe some of the initial responses to your comment were less charitable and engaging than they could be. That said, change the hypothetical to the wife accusing her husband of embezzlement or drug dealing or some other serious felony. Would your position on whether to release that brother from his calling change under those circumstances? In asking this, I recognize that there are no consequence-free answers here.

  138. Not a Cougar: I don’t think that change in hypothetical would affect my response, though I would take much more seriously her claim that she or others were being abused by her husband because of the nature of the claim. Having said that, I would certainly want to offer her any support I could, but I would not automatically move for excommunication of the accused. Note that this is a hypothetical for me. If I were to actually find myself in that situation who knows what my response would be. I would certainly hope I would receive some inspiration that would help me to help her.

    As I noted above, I deal with these situations all the time as a criminal defense attorney and have a tendency to believe the abuse is actually taking place. There is usually some additional evidence other than just her word, however. Otherwise, the prosecution doesn’t normally file charges.

  139. Not a Cougar says:

    Mike, sorry if I wasn’t clear. I tend to agree that reflexively pushing for excommunication based on a single accusation without further corroboration probably isn’t appropriate; however, do you agree that releasing that person from a calling for a period of time is appropriate or arranging for the victim and accused to attend different wards?

  140. Kevin Barney says:

    The other Marie, I liked your comparison to assumptions church leaders in the 20th century made to the effect that if the priesthood ban was wrong, then OF COURSE God would have taken the initiative and affirmatively revealed it to his prophets. The reality is that in 1879 John Taylor (very much to his credit) convened an inquisition to try to figure out whether Joseph had originated the practice of not ordaining blacks. Abraham Smoot and Zebedee Coltrin either flat out lied or misunderstood comments Joseph made in the context of not interfering with slaves and testified that Joseph was the source, which Joseph F. Smith in turn denied. (Hell, Coltrin had signed Elijah Abel’s certificate of ordination as a Seventy!) Joseph F. Smith consistently denied that his uncle Joseph was behind the ban, until 1908 when he inexplicably changed his position. From that time forward there was very little if any further inquiry into the matter; especially as time went on, church leaders simply assumed that prior leaders had fully vetted the ban and the Lord would have taken the initiative to correct them if they were wrong. Similarly, we tend to assume that a man given a long string of high callings has been fully vetted in every respect and could not possibly be guilty of gross crimes. It’s human (or should I say Mormon?) nature to make those kinds of assumptions. Surely, all those previous high church leaders could not all be wrong about something or someone.

  141. Not a Cougar: Those are things I would definitely look at. I would have concern about the message a release would send to those in the know, but it would just depend on the circumstances.

    Years ago we had a woman and her children come live with us for a month or so because she was being abused by her husband and needed to figure out what she was going to do. We were very glad we were in a position to help out like that (but I wasn’t asked to do anything as their church leader).

  142. The $64,000 Answer
    Exactly. The shame from faith communities when a victim accuses someone in her own community is unbearable.

    Mike, years ago I should have pressed charges against a man who brutalized me. My bishop (I loved him!) told me that I might want to keep that quiet as it would affect how others looked at me. The man who assaulted me was so skilled and suave that he must have had many other trusting victims before me and after me. I should have done something but I felt so much shame. Your response Is one of the things I feared. Maybe there are false accusers but I don’t know any. I only know others like myself, people that stayed silent out of fear and shame.

  143. As ever, too many people are more concerned about hypothetical harm done to men than actual harm done to women.

  144. Eric Facer says:

    Kevin & The other Marie,

    I think the institutional mindset you describe is attributable, in part, to the misguided notion that (i) the leadership cannot lead us astray (the modern replacement for infallibility), and (2) the Savior is continuously at the helm, never allowing the church to veer off course. This attitude also contributes to anti-intellectualism since it discourages the questioning of ideas, doctrines and policies approved by past ecclesiastical officials. Who knows how long the Priesthood Ban would have continued if Lester Bush hadn’t published his article in Dialogue in 1973, thereby precipitating a paradigm shift in Mormon thought on the issue. Sadly, he paid a huge personal price for his “heresy.”

  145. Removal from a calling could be done in at least reasonable secrecy. If someone is being investigated by law enforcement for a felony or any violent crime, I think that the potential safety of members who may interact with them in callings is more important to preserve than their potential reputations. I am very surprised to see that be on any level controversial. I am also surprised to see that linked explicitly with excommunication in later comments, which has not been part of my suggestions.

    Removal from a calling happens all the time for a myriad of reasons. Only widespread knowledge of the accusations against an individual would lead to the circumstance you fear, and Joseph Bishop and all similar Christian church abuse stories provide ample heartbreaking evidence that keeping those secrets is plenty possible.

  146. Anon. Brother says:


    “sometimes callings are given to the condemnation of those who are called.”

    Refreshing and chilling as a water from a winter stream. I am in a position of a small bit of authority now and it chills me to the bone thinking about this and my own calling.

  147. A surfeit of lawyers at BCC (including me) can get us thinking that “believe the women” and “convict the men” are the same thing. As I see it, there is a certain amount of symmetry but not a one-to-one relationship between believing the victim and what to do about the abuser. One can (and I advocate) “believe the women” for purposes of advice and counsel and empathy and comfort, and taking these matters very very seriously, but at the same time be smart and wise and critical and judicious regarding the abuser.

    Furthermore, in my limited experience the two are often separated. I know and have counseled with and mourned with victims, and count a distressing number among my friends. But it happens that in my direct experience the abuser has always been a step or two removed–somebody else’s problem.

    (I am a lawyer–at least in Illinois I am a lawyer. But my professional work is very far removed from these matters. Most of what I know about abusers comes from friends who have been victims, from my father who was a criminal law/evidence/sex crimes expert, and from my daughter-in-law who is a leading light (bragging on her) in the area of what to do about abusers on campus.)

  148. In response to Wondering, March 23, 3:45am:
    Your father was a very wise man and I believe what he said is true.
    The B of M gives a wonderful explanation of this and probably applies to Bro. Joseph Bishop et al, namely there is a God in Heaven and the hosts of heaven are more numerous than all the people on earth so why do these Eternal Beings allow such occurrances here?
    The answer was articulated in your response you learned from a wise parent: Alma 14 is the story of horrendous depravity where women and children were being burned because their husbands/fathers acted in a certain way that the people didn’t agree with. Alma and Amulek were required to watch the horror because it was their preaching of the gospel that brought all of this upon the people (see desolation of abomination, Last Days).
    The question Amulek asks of Alma is instructive and applicable to your comment as to why such things are allowed by the Lord. Those who suffer these things are extended an element of Mercy from the Lord Himself because He paid the price for them and His Mercy is His to give to His children.
    Perhaps this Sister Missionary will have extended to her some extra servings of the Mercy that the Lord so clearly and fully paid the price of and purchases her out of condemnation for her many faults as well, and will receive her unto Himself, in Glory.
    For Bro. Joseph Bishop we can allow that perhaps he was called to those positions for his benefit. These many years later he appears to have dealt with his “devils” (I’m not minimizing their existence and involvement here). Even though he has admitted to many faults we can’t throw stones because then we are at fault for the very thing we despised in him, sin and depravity.
    The Lord allows or “suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgements which He shall exercise upon them in His wrath may be Just”.
    All acts here are recorded in Heaven and can we give both parties the consideration that they will be judged according to their repentance and the amount of Mercy they have gained with those things they suffered from the hands of others (especially in position’s of Authority) and/or the amount of mercy they extend to others.
    There are many who post here who vilify so many things when it’s really between this Sister Missionary, Bro. Joseph Bishop, and the Lord. I don’t agree with those posts that are using this event to throw stones at the Institution of the Church, the Brethren, and the whole of Priesthood it seems, I hope I’m wrong here though. The adversary works his will until the Lord shuts him down.
    Sorry for the extended words but I loved your post.

  149. Re ““sometimes callings are given to the condemnation of those who are called.”

    1. I don’t believe it. Although I do believe that sometimes callings condemn those who are called.
    2. I do believe that extending a calling despite evidence to the contrary, or continuing a calling despite evidence to the contrary, condemns those who extend or continue.
    3. I would accept the original as an after-the-fact rationalization for those who need to make sense of the world. But never as a before the fact rationale for extending a calling in the first place.

  150. Well, that’s certainly one way to look at theodicy.

  151. Holeeee crap.

    You’re suggesting, ‘callingmichael’, that God put Joseph Bishop in place knowing he would abuse women? Look, I want no part of a God like that. Your effort to completely whitewash the situation and absolve the church of all responsibility is ridiculous and offensive.

    I mean, just go back and read what you’re suggesting. It’s repulsive.

  152. For the record, I do not believe that the Lord calls abusive people to positions of authority to condemn them or to reform them. That suggests that he puts a higher priority on the spiritual well-being of an abusive leader than on the spiritual well-being of the many people he can harm. I can’t believe that.

    I do believe that the Lord can and does give callings to people that may not have been worthy–that is, he calls whom he calls based on his grace, not as a reward for past worthiness. But I believe he does it because he is able to make them worthy if they will repent and he knows they can fulfill a particular mission, not so they can abuse people so he can condemn them for it.

    When a leader abuses people, it is because that leader has betrayed the trust that the Lord put in him when he called him, or because the Lord did not call that person and the ones who extended the calling made a mistake in discerning the Lord’s will, not because it was all part of the Lord’s plan to condemn that leader.

    In my opinion.

  153. Arguing that callings are given in order to condemn those who are called. Reducing “believe victims” to the equivalent of “punish perpetrators.” Talking about “no tolerance for abuse” but giving no attention to healing the victims.

    These are ways of pretending, again, that it’s all about the men. If we stop the bad man from being bad, then everything will be ok. If we figure out how the men in authority should be good punishers, then everything will be ok. That way, we won’t have to worry about how to make victims whole, or how to fix the imbalances in our community that lead to abuse.

  154. Question for the “go to the police” crowd: Does someone in the MTC even have the ability to contact the police? I thought they weren’t allowed to make phone calls and that their movements were tightly controlled. Wouldn’t they have to explain the situation to multiple parties and then get permission? While out in the field they might have better flexibility, but even then there’s a lot of strong conditioning to get permission before doing anything outside the norm, plus you constantly have a companion with you so very little confidentiality. What if you don’t feel it’s safe to confide in your companion?

    (And that’s leaving aside that it often takes victims a while to process what happened, especially if they’ve been conditioned to accept abuse, and that many populations of people do not have good evidence to suspect that police will help them in any case.)

    It seems like missionaries, especially while in the MTC, are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. I don’t know that that’s properly considered when making mission presidency callings. Anyone with even a hint of abusive behavior in their past should be prevented from getting these callings…and they need a reporting option that’s entirely outside their leadership chain (as everyone in the church should have).

  155. KLN —
    Theodicy is a complex question and has no singular answer.
    Why did the God of the Old Testament seem so dogmatic and yet this same God came to earth as The Lord and spoke of Mercy, Love, Forgiveness, and doing good to all. Why was an Apostle called by the Lord Himself when that same man was a murderer (Paul or Saul)? Why did Nephi of old commit murder (in our day if you chop off the head of a person in a drunken stupor you could be prosecuted for aggravated murder) and yet it was an Angel sent from Heaven who commanded just such behavior and he (Nephi) has appeared in his glory in these last days?
    Not a single one of us knows how the God of Heaven looks at things unless He reveals His will to us. And that is why so many stories in the scriptures are instructive.
    Obviously God allows evil to occur as it’s all around us. And His judgements are always just because He knows us with an Eternal and Divine nature; that is here in this mortal probation where the Adversary has his mighty chains around all of us at some time.
    I have enough of my own chains to worry openly about how Bro. Joseph Bishop deals with his chains. I can have a measure of mercy as he is a fellow sojourner here, as is the Sister Missionary in the event, wherein we all have to face our monster, big or little, at some time.
    I love how the Lord let’s us know that He will judge us out of the complete picture and not some singular event.
    Maybe I still have some hope in arriving….eventually.

  156. Steve Evans —
    Be careful what you wish for.

  157. Hey friend, I know what theodicy is – that’s why I used the word – but thanks for the unnecessary instruction.

  158. JKC —
    You are correct and I agree. And if you think I was saying something else then please forgive me. As I said in my post — we are all fallible in those things we do…from the top to the bottom. To think otherwise is just naive.
    Extending a call or accepting a call is fraught with the possibility of error. Would Bro. Joseph Bishop been called to his positions of authority if he had confessed that he was addicted to sex. How repugnant! But then why did the God of Heaven even allow such to occur?
    Mistake or is it just as simply put as the scriptures in Alma 14 quoted, “suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgements which He shall exercise upon them in His wrath may be Just”.
    But if he has repented then we have an obligation to forgive…even if he hasn’t. I just don’t understand all of this vitriol and hatred that comes out in these posts.
    I know that this poor Sister Missionary deserves more than what we are giving her here, blame — she said, he said — how do we deal with masculinity in the Church — Call 2 women to be Apostles — and so forth. As far as that last post I personally believe that the women in my life hold a higher calling than an Apostle. They are the truest of Saints and I would think that a call to the Apostleship would be a downgrade (without villifying the call).
    How many here have ever dealt personally with the items discussed? If not their comments are so empty, intellectually empty.

  159. callingmichael2050: Your musings are offensive because they distract us from our present responsibilities. You and I can do nothing to influence any of the scriptural events that you refer to, but it is our responsibility to help people who are suffering now from abuse. Your speculation about the final judgment gives comfort to the perpetrators of abuse and does nothing to help their victims. Can you see that this might create a personal problem for you when judgment time comes around?

  160. KLN —
    I wasn’t correcting…just expanding on what I meant. Please don’t take me as correcting you. Thanks friend and fellow sojourner in this Vail of Tears —

  161. I used the word instruction, not correction.

  162. callingmichael has some interesting musings, but since he isn’t God, nor does he speak for him, they are moot. As well as a threadjack, and an offense to victims in general. And since the church is also run by fallible mortals, and constrained by the gospel of the New Testament, and the various judicial systems in place in the world, the elders of the church responsible for this case could not possibly abide such fanciful philosophies. We can play God all we want but that will not make us so, especially when we’ve done such a crap job of being decent human beings.

    Amen, Loursat.

  163. Applause for MDearest and Loursat.

  164. Loursat —
    Why must you take offense? How does any of these musings help this poor missionary sister deal with the fact that she was abused by an Authority figure? NOT ONE DOES, not even mine!!
    She has spent these many years feeling shame for something she had no shame in. Do you really understand what it feels like to be abused? Do you understand the complexity of the emotions, over decades, that one so insulted has to deal with? If you haven’t been there, like I have, then your posts mean nothing to me as a victim.
    Your answers will do nothing to help me or her deal with these devils.
    Why did God allow an adult male in my life abuse me horribly for years that started when I was four? Please allow me to work out my salvation in my own terms and not with your fake offense.
    You have zero responsibility to me or to her for what we have experienced. And how do any of these posts help us to deal with these things, how? And how are you being responsible here?
    For me there is a God in Heaven that has told me that He will understand my life from my beginnings, as a Divine Being, sent here in this cesspool of sin, to grow and to overcome those very things.
    I am doing well at most times but these posts do nothing to help me or her.
    I hope she finds peace as no one knows what she has gone through….not one post here.
    Please forgive the heat here but your “fake offense” had to be dealt with.

  165. I can’t speak for Loursat, but I’ve been abused. I’m terribly sorry that you’ve had the same experience. As a victim, I found your posts upsetting. I understand why you have processed the experience the way you have.
    You post an awful lot for a person who thinks these posts do nothing to help.

  166. Those who understand Mercy and apply it in the lives they live will hopefully be extended an extra measure of it in the judgement….something absent in these posts.
    I appreciate all of the corrective or instructive hyperbole here but not one helps me with the complex issue of Abuse. For the most part you have no idea of the monster this causes in ones life and these oversimplification treatises are so very empty.
    Sorry if you take my posts as offensive but I am comfortable with how I have addressed these issues in my own life — I just hope that this Sister Missionary will find peace at some point in her life. Please allow us to live our lives the best we can and I will allow you the same measure of Mercy.
    The Peace that comes when I truly understand and internalize that the Lord experienced all of my pain and more; He experienced the pain that the perpetrator caused, which is very different and is not parcel to my pain.
    “And with His stripes [We are] healed”.
    And with this post I will leave because I don’t feel even 1 of these posts understands the complexity of what is being discussed.
    Just empty “Intellectualism”!

  167. KLN —
    Forgive the extra post. My last post was offensive because I assumed a great error.
    I am sorry you had to deal with this monster. I didn’t know. And thank you for saying that you understand how I have processed the abuse in my life the way I have. Our paths are quite different — divergent and yet convergent in many ways.
    I can only hope and pray that she and all of us finds peace —
    How can I find anger and fault at another (Bro. Bishop) who perpetrated this vile thing on her and yet I have my own sins to deal with? Too much judgement of another here is all I’m saying.
    May the perfect one in us please throw the first stone.

  168. “But then why did the God of Heaven even allow such to occur?” I don’t accept the premise of the question. I don’t believe that God exerts control over church leaders extending callings such that it’s fair to call a lack of divine intervention “allow[ing]” them to call abusive men to leadership callings.

    Church leaders are not robots or puppets controlled by God. They have agency and they are free to follow the guidance of the spirit, ignore it, try to follow it and miss it completely, or try to follow it and only partially get it. Discerning the holy ghost is not easy. We get it wrong all the time and having a church calling doesn’t make it easy. Given the choice between on the one hand attributing failure to stop abusive leaders to church leaders and accepting that God doesn’t dictate every decision church leaders make and on the other hand attributing failure to stop abusive leaders to God and theologizing about how that failure fits into some cosmic design, well, to me that choice is a no-brainer.

  169. callingmichel2050, I understand what you’re saying about focusing on our own sins and not the sins of others, but we can’t let that important principle result in failing to stand against abuse. I agree that it’s not healthy to constantly indulge in anger, but I also believe that in some cases–especially cases of the powerful abusing the weak, or leaders betraying the faith and trust of those they’re supposed to lead, outrage is nothing more than the result of a healthy conscience–remember that the story you’re referring to from John is the story of Jesus protecting a woman who was likely a victim of abuse from a mob that let her abuser go to punish her. I don’t think it’s applicable in the same way to a conversation about preventing abuse. And that’s really the point, you’re chiding us to not stone Joe Bishop, but that’s not the focus of the conversation. It’s not about punishing him, it’s about preventing other abusers from having the opportunity to do what they do.

  170. Sitting not far in the background of the theodicy musings is D&C 100:15: “let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the sanctification of the church.”

    I know this has been recited to victims. [insert a string of angry curses] I believe it lies at the foundation of the Church’s official responses. For the record (and with no apology), the inappropriate use of this scripture is damnable heresy. I name it only to make this last point.

  171. ” And that’s really the point, you’re chiding us to not stone Joe Bishop, but that’s not the focus of the conversation. It’s not about punishing him, it’s about preventing other abusers from having the opportunity to do what they do.”

    “I know this has been recited to victims. [insert a string of angry curses] I believe it lies at the foundation of the Church’s official responses. For the record (and with no apology), the inappropriate use of this scripture is damnable heresy.”

    I deeply appreciate and concur with these statements.

  172. callingmichael2050:

    Point of order: Your assertion that “it was an Angel sent from Heaven who commanded [Nephi to slay Laban]” is incorrect. Refer back to the text. No mention of an angel.

    There was also no angel in the MTC President’s basement “secondary office” commanding him to sexually abuse young women over whom he had tremendous ecclesiastical and logistical power. And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t “constrained by the spirit,” to do so, either.

    Men who were unaware (but who maybe should have been) that Bishop was a sex addict (his words) used their intellect, along with prayer, to decide that Bishop was worthy and the right choice to be called as MTC president. Their ignorance of the facts and their failure to receive or to heed whatever warnings God tried to get them to hear led them to make a horrific error in judgment, and allowed them to believe that the spirit had led them to make that call. Then Bishop, knowingly acting contrary to God’s will, chose to commit atrocious acts while acting in his official capacity as MTC President, abusing his authority and position to take advantage of someone vulnerable and weak and who he correctly surmised would be considered an unreliable witness if she ever tried to reveal the crime he committed.

    I have strong faith that God intervened at every turn to constrain those men to not make the choices they made. But they made their choices – the wrong choices. And God let them make those wrong choices.

    And God will let us make the mistake of questioning the credibility of the victim, turning a blind eye to a sexual predator and criminal because he also did good things or helped some people feel the spirit or whatever. God will let us continue on as a church and community even if we don’t make the incredibly obvious sweeping changes that are needed in light of this. And we won’t make those changes. And it will happen again – as it is surely already happening right now under our noses. And then we’ll discover it again and some of us will say, zen-like, that it’s all part of a grand plan where God stays out of mortal affairs because that’s what’s for the best. And then it will happen some more. Because we’re so good at convincing ourselves that our failure to recognize and heed incredibly obvious wisdom both from God and from the world is actually just God sitting back and letting horrible things happen because it’s for the best somehow.

  173. I think the value of a forum like this is to show each other, as members of a community, what kinds of change might be possible. Maybe these discussions will contribute to systemic change, but each individual here has practically no control over that process. What we can do as individuals is a better job of recognizing people around us who are suffering. These discussions can help us see what those people need from us–both in the interior process of dealing with trauma and in the ordeal of navigating organizations.

    callingmichael2050, thank you for explaining the way you have dealt with terrible experiences. I understand the comfort that comes from putting myself in the Savior’s merciful hands, and I hope that all might receive that blessing. That hope must never lead us to marginalize the suffering of others or turn away from our responsibility to prevent it.

  174. I’m in favor of mercy too, as all fallen, damaged mortals should be. The problem at hand is that Joseph Bishop has had plenty of mercy already from church leaders in charge of oversight for his egregious offenses, and the single woman we know of (and those women we don’t) have survived his abuse alone, not only without mercy, but with scorn and disbelief and being ignored and shunned due to compounding damage, from the various church leaders to whom they have sought redress. It’s on us, and especially the church to work towards a fair balance now, and God will do what They will in the hereafter. Aren’t we told that in the scriptures too?

    My compliments on this post and the comments that followed. As is typical at BCC, the majority of commenters were male, but I felt comfort in reading mostly men taking a thoughtful look at this failure of church government, and expressing sorrow and sometimes outrage at the abuses, etc. exposed by this incident. I was especially gratified to see the comments remain mostly thoughtful and on topic for a long while. Well done; a good start.

  175. g2-46fa907b3e30ab60a16617735c3686bb says:

    “Why did it take a leak, against the woman’s wishes and by those who hate the church, to have this discussion?”

    I would disagree with the “hate the church” line, but the “why did it take a leak” is spot on. The needs for openness is paramount here.

  176. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Thank you Loursat, for being far more eloquent than I am. Believe victims does not equal punish alleged perpetrators, but even if I did I find it frightening that so many logical and good men still argue that the risk to their reputation of being falsely accused is more important than the physical, mental, and spiritual well being of 25-35% of women. Real life is messy and it’s not an either/or but if it were is that really the choice these men would make? Because that is what I hear in so many of these conversations and it angers and frightens me to belligerence. I will have to learn from your calm. For now thank you for your bold and steady approach

  177. I’m in the middle of a situation similar to the one discussed here. The man in question currently serves in a stake presidency and at the time of some of his offenses, he was the bishop of his ward.

    I’ve alerted church leaders and offered witnesses and documents. After two months of hearing nothing from them, they finally told me it was a case of “she said/he said” and that the stake president of this man spoke with him but that the man denied it. So, the stake president believed him (and naturally so because they’re close friends and serve together) and close the “investigation” without even speaking with me or the witnesses. So, it’s been painful to read this woman’s story and come to terms with the fact that this man is getting away with what he did simply because he’s in a leadership position and the church only cares about protecting the “divinely called.” Oddly enough this man works at one of the same places Bishop did.

  178. And the Church just issued a statement about a second missionary’s allegations against Bishop.

  179. Not a Cougar says:

    Liz, if you have the ability to obtain legal representation, I’d recommend doing so (some states have pro bono services for survivors). While I’ve never been involved in litigation with the Church per se, I can personally testify to the fact that a phone call or demand letter from an attorney can get through in many cases where lay people cannot. If nothing else, it may get the stake president to rethink his position.

  180. If there was a hotline, for abuse and misconduct, and I could speak to a woman whom I trusted, I would call it today. TODAY.

  181. Liz, I am so sorry. I very much hope that you file a police report. I understand if you don’t want to be under that level of scrutiny, but maybe then they will know you are serious. I believe you.

  182. Rape victims bear the burden of proof in any case. The sad fact is that it’s always the victims word against the perpetrator, and the system will typically rule in favor of the perp, unless there are witnesses or physical proof.

  183. Liz, did you report this to the police?

  184. Bryan Todd says:

    “…he has clearly done some horrible things…?” That may well be true, but perhaps we should still wait to convict until we have actually given due process a chance. Under our Constitution individuals are still presumed innocent until proven guilty. We have become a nation that convicts simply based on allegations. While it may generally be true that “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” I would encourage everyone to watch the documentary about the Duke lacrosse team “rape“ scandal titled “Fantastic Lies.”Untold numbers of lives are being ruined by mere accusations. The guilty should absolutely pay the consequences, but we need to make sure the “guilty“ are in fact guilty, by actual legal proof.

  185. Hey Bryan, why not just type, “I haven’t read any of the comments”? It’s shorter!

  186. whizzbang says:

    @Liz, my suggestion, document everything, names, dates, keep any and all paperwork or emails or anything like that and tell everyone, that way you’re covered should this come back on you. I too have been involved in a sexual abuse situation in the Church, gratefully for me the person was excommunicated but still, document everything and keep on it. I wish there weren’t these situations but it’s how it is.

  187. Bryan, did you not see the church has now come out and said there is at least one more victim, too? Did you not see the police report where he admitted some involvement to police? How many young women does a Mission President have to molest before a woman is to be believed? False reporting of rape is so extremely rare, that it’s a statistical impossibility for any given case. You are why victims are afraid to come forward. This brave woman has been seeking justice since the 80’s. Her bishop at that time says he didn’t believe her. No one believed her, until he admitted it to another man, a police officer, and a second victim came forward. The burden of proof shouldn’t be so high. Choose a better cause to champion than than a man accused of being a sexual predator.

  188. Mormom: I recognize that BCC is not really a place for free expression, but what exactly does “statistical impossibility” mean? I recognize false rape claims are rare (likely around 5-6%), but they do happen. I tried just such a case and the jury, led by a retired police officer, agreed it was a false claim. Obviously, the overwhelming majority are legitimate claims, but the fact that there are false claims complicates the issue, at least in the abstract.

  189. Bryan has made it eminently clear that he hasn’t read the available evidence. He has also made it clear that he believes that anyone calling Joseph Bishop guilty is coming to hasty conclusions without counting the facts.

    This says a great deal about where Bryan thinks the facts are likely to point were he to read about the case in detail.

    That makes for a nice segue into Mike’s comment: sure, false rape claims happen. The fact that we as a culture treat every single accusation as more likely to be false than not is definitely related to Bryan’s confidence that people discussing Joseph Bishop’s guilt – guilt admitted directly by Joseph Bishop himself and recorded both by police and laypeople – are biased and wrong. If false claims are statistically rare, then our default assumption (especially as individuals not personally conducting the investigation) emphatically should not be that every claim is false. Every claim deserves scrutiny and fact finding, but if less than 50% of accusations are false, then the way we talk about that collectively needs to reflect that.

  190. Mike, by your own statistics, you should 96 percent believe every woman. When the man admits to it,and another victim corroborates, that should go to 100 percent. Bringing in the few times someone has lied in other cases, makes you look like an ass who refuses to look at actual evidence.

  191. Why is it so hard for some to believe there are wolves in sheeps’ clothing among us? When a lamb calls someone a wolf, why do we waste so much time trying to protect the wolf instead of the lamb? This guy was protected at every level when he left the victim’s life in tatters. We need to be ready to throw the wolves out, or we are complicit. If you are so scared of falsely being accused of rape, maybe don’t be alone with women or children. That seems a lot easier than defending an admitted sexual predator with evidence from some other case that has nothing to do with this one.

  192. Or maybe all is well in Zion, there are no wolves in sheeps’ clothing, no whited sepulchers. Women and children are all liars. I feel like someone hasn’t been reading his scriptures to find out which of these cases is most likely

  193. Eric Facer says:

    Mike, I genuinely appreciate your noble efforts to restore some semblance of balance and perspective to this discussion. When I see comments like “I tend to agree that reflexively pushing for excommunication based on a single accusation without further corroboration probably isn’t appropriate”—”probably”?!?—I have visions of torches burning and the noose being tossed over the nearest tree limb. As a fellow member of the bar and a passionate believer in the wisdom of due process, I am grateful for your measured response and your willingness to subject yourself to vilification (which, now, I have also likely done).

    In a vain effort to avoid the misconstruction of my comments, I would like to make it clear that my observations are made in the abstract and not with reference to Joseph Bishop or any other particular case. In the Bishop situation, there is considerable and compelling evidence that warrants careful scrutiny and, if found credible, should result in the maximum possible punishment.

    The abuse of women and children—and men—is unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, both criminal and ecclesiastical. And, at the very first signs of abuse, steps must be taken to protect the affected individuals. But prosecutions must be accompanied by procedural safeguards and along with a careful assessment of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. When these protocols are not followed, irreparable harm is done, as Kern County, California learned in the 1980s when it succumbed to the day care sexual abuse hysteria and wrongfully convicted many innocent individuals.

  194. “a vain effort to avoid the misconstruction of [your] comments?” Forecasting being misunderstood before it happens is not from my perspective a particularly strong position from which to argue.

    I haven’t seen comments saying that legal proceedings – prosecutions – should not be accompanied by procedural safeguards or without a careful assessment of evidence and credibility of the witnesses. This discussion has been almost entirely focused on a community and
    ecclesiastical response to abuse, including potential safeguards for victims on an institutional level. You do appear to support such things: “at the very first signs of abuse, steps must be taken to protect the affected individuals.”

    It appears everyone else’s attempts to make themselves clear as to the subject of this discussion were ah, in vain.

  195. Here’s my issue with the judicious “now let’s not get the pitchforks!!!” posts in threads like this one.

    We are (apparently, and tragically) members of a church that has a demonstrated problem with believing victims of abuse and violence. We are not members of a church with a demonstrated problem harshly railroading innocent people at the whims of vindictive, lying women.

    So in that environment, to spend multiple paragraphs complaining that people are not vehement enough about defending unproven abusers is pretty telling. Is it because of your deep love for due process and procedural safeguards in hypothetical future church courts? Or is it because you read about so-called “he said/she said” situations and, on some level, automatically identify with the Mormon men rather than the women? This is to be expected; you have decades of life experience as a Mormon man. But that doesn’t mean your “What if even one of these accusations is false???” is the most important thing you could add to the discussion. It’s the wrong problem. It’s like finding a “Best Burger in Town?” thread and repeatedly dropping in to remind everyone that hey, what if undercooked burgers starting making people sick?

    Good news, we have no shortage of Men Online saying, “Sure, THIS claim seems to be true, and false reports are rare, BUT STILL”? Why is that the priority, in a thread about corroborated sexual abuse? Are you really worried about a not-too-distant future where the LDS church is swept with Kern County-style paranoia and starts a wave excommunication of innocent men? I feel pretty confident that’s not going to happen.

  196. Thanks Kenzo and KLN

  197. Like I alluded to above, a balanced discussion is not really welcome here. And because the thread gets so long, and passions are high, some either don’t read or don’t remember other comments I’ve made. I may well be an ass, but I indicated previously that in my work I have a tendency to believe that the women who claim abuse are telling the truth. I guess it’s damnable to to try to explain why I won’t grab pitchforks along with everyone else.

    I know abuse happens; it’s happened in my immediate family. My immediate, visceral response to it is to grab ropes, tape and baseball bats and do harm to the abusers. I want the abused to find solace, comfort, help, relief, etc. But I think I can also recognize that these issues can be complex, and I guess because I don’t just put blinders on and ignore the complexities that makes me an ass. I’m ok with that.

  198. Mike, I think it’s very telling that you characterize this discussion–most of which has been about how to repair the structure of the church so as to make it more difficult for abuse to proliferate and how to better succor the people who have been abused–as unbalanced, or as a call for people to metaphorically grab pitchforks. No one is advocating for unwarranted, unsubstantiated public shaming, and it’s willfully obtuse of you to characterize this discussion as such.

  199. Layne: Perhaps it is obtuse of me. Perhaps I was just reacting to being called an ass. It’s interesting that I attempt to introduce comments here without calling anyone names and yet . . .

    Too often if the comments posted here don’t agree with the majority, the majority resorts to name calling. Not sure that’s a way to have an intelligent discussion, but perhaps that’s not what people are looking for.

  200. I’m intrigued that you consider your actions here as evidence that you stand for justice but are simply more judicious than most other commenters. You could not be persuaded that a temporary release from a calling – not disfellowship, not excommunication, not a disciplinary hearing – would be a prudent safeguard for those being investigated for felonies and violent misdemeanors, citing one man’s reputation as the reason for this hesitancy.

    This reflects a poor mathematical understanding of risk, not judiciousness. When calculations of risk are made, they take into account both severity and likelihood of negative repercussions are simultaneously.

    Take the risk of loss of reputation due to false accusation first.
    The severity of man’s loss of reputation may to him as an individual be high, but the number of individuals affected would be small – either the man alone or the man and his family. If we borrow, say, the American Chemical Society’s equation and rubric (, we might rate the consequence value at 2 on a scale from 1-4 = minor injuries.
    The probability of this occurring would have to reflect both the probability that others know about it and the probability that an individual who stands accused is innocent. Given that that would involve multiplying the likelihood of a false report (2%-10% based on available evidence) by the percentage of ward members likely to know and disseminate this information (anywhere from very low to all of them), this is a difficult number to estimate, but I would put it at the highest at 10% likelihood that word would get out to the entirety of a single ward that an INNOCENT man had been released from his calling connected to an accusation. Using the same rubric for ease, that’s an occurrence value of 1. Multiplying the two together gives a resulting consequence value of 2.

    Now we take the risk of damage if the accusation is true but the person is not removed from their calling. First: severity. This would be much higher, because it has the potential to affect any number of people, and the effect would be that of sexual abuse. This often results in expensive therapy and/or lifetime difficulty with issues like depression, anxiety, attachment, and interpersonal behavior. The severity of this happening is unequivocally and considerably higher than the severity of a lost reputation. This has a consequence value of 3 on a scale from 1-4: “moderate to life impacting injuries.”
    Second: probability. This would be the likelihood that the accused is guilty as accused multiplied by the likelihood that this person will abuse others. The inverse of our 10% likelihood of false accusations is 90% likelihood of an accurate one. That would be multiplied by the likelihood of preying on others. This varies between crimes, but let’s use a 40% likelihood that a guilty person will prey on another person, based on a report determining likelihood of sex offender recidivism: “When recidivism rates for sex and nonsexual violent crimes were combined, 51 percent of untreated and 32 percent of treated subjects reoffended.” (The Characteristics of Persistent Sexual Offenders: A Meta-analysis of Recidivism Studies. R. Karl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 73, No. 6, pages 1154–1163; December 2005.) 40% * 90% = 36%. This from the same rubric is a possibility of 2.
    Multiplying severity and probability gives this situation a consequence value of 6.

    The risk inherent to keeping a potential perpetrator in their calling is indisputably higher than the risk inherent to removing them. A refusal to see that is evidence of greater consideration for an individual than for a congregation.

  201. KLN – who said I would refuse to release a person from his/her calling? I just don’t think I would take a “check the box” mentality into this type of situation.

  202. It’s a minimal solution to mitigate risk with few consequences if implemented and you think your hesitance in signing off on it generally is evidence of prudence. It is not – the risk in failing to implement it isn’t higher than the risk in doing so. None of your responses acknowledge that.

  203. Indeed, your perspective is that there is no one solution you are comfortable applying across the institution. As this discussion is focused on proposals for that very thing, I am not surprised that you are met with resistance. I am not content with the institutional status quo. I believe that the institution could take reasonable measures to mitigate risk moving forward. I have provided on example with a back of the envelope calculation showing its risk. You have made no such proposals for change.

  204. My apologies, Mike. I should have used a better word.

  205. KLN —
    My accursed email (didn’t change the settings yet) alerted me to return.
    I absolutely loved your comment here (actually the whole post):
    “Second: probability. This would be the likelihood that the accused is guilty as accused multiplied by the likelihood that this person will abuse others. The inverse of our 10% likelihood of false accusations is 90% likelihood of an accurate one. That would be multiplied by the likelihood of preying on others. This varies between crimes, but let’s use a 40% likelihood that a guilty person will prey on another person, based on a report determining likelihood of sex offender recidivism: “When recidivism rates for sex and nonsexual violent crimes were combined, 51 percent of untreated and 32 percent of treated subjects reoffended.” (The Characteristics of Persistent Sexual Offenders: A Meta-analysis of Recidivism Studies. R. Karl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 73, No. 6, pages 1154–1163; December 2005.) 40% * 90% = 36%. This from the same rubric is a possibility of 2.
    Multiplying severity and probability gives this situation a consequence value of 6.”
    Your supposition, although based on solid research, is still quite low. The discoverable occurrences of the recidivism is always low in many of these cases, so I would put the consequence value higher….an 8.
    But this is still not pertinent because in the real world these abusers are put in positions by known acquaintances (not all obviously). That action alone would bring the “probability” factor, multiplied by a “confirmation bias” near zero (“I know this person and he/she would never do what the accuser is saying”) that changes the resulting number, always.
    Some one else said, “I wish it wasn’t the case but in the real world this is what we have to live with”….and I agree.
    For the better result — focus on believing the abused, determining what help can be provided; not only offered but acted upon, leaving them to their free agency to construct their own path. We need to break the vicious, ugly cycle that the abused enters into as soon as they are left alone to consider what just happened to them — it’s called self-blame with all of its exit emotions as they process that self-blame.
    I loved the article in BCC, that I believe you commented on, where a trained therapist put forth some ideas on what we can do to help the victim (Domestic Abuse Resources for Bishops).
    I wish all who post here could read that article instead of throwing stones, including me.
    I have come to the conclusion that if we can continue to educate ourselves about the occurrances of the reprehensible act of abuse, and determine actionable steps to help the victim, that there is hope.

  206. I know this may sound crazy, but I think I would also include asking the Lord his opinion in deciding whether to release an accused from his calling. If I had to use a checklist, I would likely include that.

    Mormom: No apology needed. I recognize this is an emotional issue for many people, and it is extremely difficult to have a discussion via this forum and fully understand each other and be understood. I suspect if we got everyone together and had a face-to-face discussion there would be much agreement.

  207. Gretchen Lambert says:

    The church lives and dies upon the idea that it is directed through revelation. If Joe Bishop was called to be the MTC president through revelation, then God is a sick pervert!

  208. Gretchen Lambert says:
    March 24, 2018 at 3:31 pm —
    May I ask just how does what you claim do any good to those of us who have been abused? What possibly can I take from your comment to help these poor victims find repair, solace, and a source of help?
    There are so many mercurial vectors coming from your short response it would be impossible for me to find a common starting point. I truly wish we could…

  209. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    So basically use personal revelation to determine if a potential abuser should be released from a calling? You realize this is the status quo? And its failing miserably.
    If a policy of releasing an individual suspected of abuse were to become the norm then with time it likely wouldn’t even have much effect on an individual’s oh so sacrosanct reputation. It would just be standard protocol, like police officers automatically going on administrative leave after the use of a firearm. Nobody even bats an eye at that or assumes the cop used the firearm inappropriately.
    A similar policy for the church might go a long way in actually demonstrating to victims that their voices are at least taken seriously, while still mitigating damage to the inviolable reputation.

  210. Reading comprehension seems to be an issue here. Above I indicated I might INCLUDE asking the Lord. In most circles that implies that it would be one of several or many tools to be used. While I know from personal experience that the Lord does not always intervene, I also know that he occasionally does.

    Consider me fringe, but I actually believe a) there is a Lord, and b) he is at the head of the LDS church. I really don’t think it’s so far out there to consider asking him to weigh in, even if we know he often allows us to make decisions on our own.

    I’ll also throw in there that agency plays a big factor in all of this. While that may be of small comfort, I don’t offer it for comfort.

  211. Here’s a thought experiment for the men in the audience who can imagine being a church leader.

    Suppose the rule was that whenever there’s a repeat offender, the situation is made public and any bishop or stake president who failed to take action on the first offense is immediately released and possibly–depending on circumstances–subject to some additional discipline. (Not completely hypothetical–I would argue for something like this in real life.)

    If that’s the rule, what kind of process would you like to work with? What kind of evidence? How much do you trust inspiration? How are you going to deal with the he said/she said dilemma? Are you even willing to take the job in the first place?

  212. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Mike I think your last line is the biggest problem. You are not offering much of comfort to anyone.
    And insulting my intelligence as well as my faith is uncalled for and and hugely hypocritical, as you have already called out others for doing the same to you. Why do you think these issues are so damn important to me? If I didn’t believe a and b then what on earth am i doing in this thread?
    And yes, by all means, INCLUDE asking the Lord in your toolbox, but at least propose some other tools because I’m sorry but occasional intervention doesn’t cut it in situations of abuse. We have got to have a higher standard.

  213. TheHarbourlessSex says:

    Also Mike, I want you to know that as a woman raised in a church where anyone in authority was not to be questioned I have spent my whole life doubting my (legitimate) doubts. Questioning my faithfulness and intelligence any time somebody with authority (aka the priesthood aka most men) told me something that conflicted with my lived experience. The problem must be me. It has taken me a long time to learn to trust myself and my intelligence, so while you may have thought that your comment was just flippant, to me and to far too many women like me it is far more damaging.
    I don’t say this to condemn you but in the hopes that perhaps you can see the ways in which experiences for men and women are vastly different in the church and do better in the future.

  214. We’ve wandered way off the original subject, but:

    TheHarbourlessSex, As a man raised in a church where anyone in authority was not to be questioned I spent a good share of my formative years (and maybe my [multiple?] mid-life crises) doubting my (legitimate) doubts. Yes, there are ways in which experiences for some men and for women are vastly different in the church. There are also ways in which those experiences can be very much the same — at least for men who are neither ecclesiastical climbers nor yes-men, and who have a tendency to take ideas and individuals seriously. There may be a greater difference from women’s general experience for those men who treat the church as a social club in which position is important or who have authoritarian tendencies or who think that being called to a leadership position means that the entailed “entitlement” to revelation means that whatever occurs to them in their position is revelation or that being called to a leadership position means they are all right with the Lord.

    Christiankimball, Am I willing to even take the job in the first place? No, I’m much happier and more useful in a counselor role and, in the church, I don’t want that either – at least not in any formal sense. Been there/done that. I’m quite happy with sharing my thoughts and suggestions with church leaders when asked (and sometimes without being asked). I don’t need any calling to do so.
    How much do I trust inspiration? That varies, but generally, not much. It is rare that I have known that I had inspiration/information from a divine source. I suspect, but don’t expect to know, that such clearly identifiable inspiration is also not as common for others as some vocal traditional Mormons seem to represent.
    I am curious to hear of the results of the suggested thought experiment for men in the audience who are not from the same mold as I. I don’t expect to hear any such results.

  215. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I’ll make this my last contribution on the subject. There are now two threads in progress on this site. Each has many comments, and—like almost every thread on the question of sexual violence, here or elsewhere—nearly all of them are about what to do with, or to, the perpetrator.

    Nobody on either thread has addressed the question of what ought to be done about, and for, the victim.

    She’s off in the corner somewhere, being ignored. As are her sisters and brothers who have experienced the same thing, in the LDS Church and in every other church.

  216. $64,000, I wanted to say thank you for the contributions you have made to this blog, both in this post and in the past. I’m always thrilled to read one of your insightful comments. Thank you so much for your participation and wisdom.

    I was thinking today about your earlier comment about different religious sects learning from each other when I ran across this article from a Christian blogger that I follow:

    It’s heart-wrenching to see this show up in so many different places.

    Granted, in this particular article Sheila Gregoire focuses more on the perpetrator, but in the last year or so she’s become more and more outspoken about victims and what to do to help them. She’s gotten some real push-back from (mostly male) commenters who feel she’s leading Christian women astray because her definition of submission isn’t suck-up-and-be-silent.

    To illustrate, here are some of her recent posts under the heading “abuse”.

    Steve, I don’t know if you’re still reading this far down in the comments, but have the BCC bloggers ever considered doing a post about how different faiths are grappling with this right now?

  217. $64k – Thank you, thank you. I’ve read every one of these 200+ comments and another several hundred other places and have felt deeply disturbed that no one is talking about a specific outline and plan by the church/ church members for the woman who has been harmed. I am absolutely for prevention, but in many, many cases it is too late for that.

  218. Callingmichael: “But this is still not pertinent because in the real world these abusers are put in positions by known acquaintances (not all obviously). That action alone would bring the “probability” factor, multiplied by a “confirmation bias” near zero (“I know this person and he/she would never do what the accuser is saying”) that changes the resulting number, always.” This paragraph suggests that you are not following the purpose of my exercise, which may well be my own fault. Confirmation bias is not part of this calculation (as evidenced by the link). It is a measure of severity of negative outcomes multiplied by the probability of negative outcomes – actual, not perceived. Perhaps you are suggesting that the probability that abusers will both be put in positions of power and harm others is higher than I have estimated? If this is your intention, I will state explicitly that I erred on the conservative side in an effort to give both scenarios (release/don’t release) a fair shake.

    Mike: “I know this may sound crazy, but I think I would also include asking the Lord his opinion in deciding whether to release an accused from his calling. If I had to use a checklist, I would likely include that.”
    That’s a universally understood expectation of every deliberative process in the entire church. You might as well suggest that the best way to prevent car crashes is to make legislation requiring that drivers be licensed. “I know this may sound crazy”? You act like no one’s suggesting it because it’s been overlooked. No, no one’s suggesting that because that’s how the system works already and quite literally everyone involved in this conversation knows that.
    We been praying, man, and Joseph Bishop still happened, so your suggestion, while certainly necessary, is not a change. Furthermore, the church is without question of the position that asking the Lord is not incompatible with having a “checklist”. The existence of Handbook 1 is definitive proof of that. Institutional rules are something you personally have a problem with, but the LDS church – and therefore from your statements, the Lord – does not take issue with them. You should consider adjusting your resistance to general rules to reflect your statements of belief.

    $64,000/ReTx: Strong agreement on the importance of discussing means to heal those wounded by previous failures. I don’t love seeing that turned into a dichotomy, though. Clearly, both healing those for whom it is too late and protecting the rest are necessary conversations.

  219. People are respectors of authority, and that is why in life, those with power and influence do not face justice like commoners do. In my life of more than 50 years, I have seen this repeatedly in the Church. Our system needs urgent improvement. Two ideas – 1. Any accusation of a bishop or above goes to an independent review board, outside of the stake. 2. As already mentioned, a hotline for members, not just bishops.

  220. Di, I’m always reading.

  221. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    What a timely and important post about a terribly tragic issue. Echo everything that’s been said about believing women. It’s difficult to not be filled w a certain amount of despair that there is no great way to solve these problems. Many in the comments have suggested good-sense ideas too numerous (and redundant) to rehearse again here… Many have offered great suggestions.

    Though I would applaud many of these policies/efforts were they to actually be implemented, in fact, I remain privately skeptical that any of them would ultimately matter very much. In my view there is a strong underlying feature of our community that is pervasive and relatively intractable. And it’s not defacto horribly sinister, necessarily… but I think it lies at the root of nearly all of these problems.

    The problem is this: within the church there is an almost unshakable tendency to avoid conflict and ignore/bury cognitive dissonance. In years past, i tended to view this as just a social norm of “politeness” in the church. What I’ve instead come to realize is that it’s more than that, it’s a kind of tribalism. A fundamental belief that the church (or leaders) can never be “wrong”. The focus here (in this case, with the MTC president abusing scandal) on vicitm-blaming and allowing predator leaders to avoid detection due to them receiving the “benefit of the doubt” reminds me of the continued evangelical/Mormon political support of President Trump… it’s been “decided” in many people’s minds that he’s their man, and that’s that. Actual disconfirming evidence doesn’t matter. I just think the same dynamic persists in the church and pervades it socially, and motivates the “brother so and so wouldn’t do that” mentality. It’s about identity with one’s tribe.

    So quite honestly, it is this very dynamic – and the fact that it runs so strong in our pews – that is in my view a bigger issue than, say, the church legal hotline being concerned primarily w preserving the church reputation, vs protecting victims. That policy only exists BECAUSE the “circling the wagons” tribalism is so natural for us, not the other way around. Things like the hotline or the opaqueness of the handbook etc are merely symptoms of the underlying social tribalism. Its that same dynamic (of worshipping leadership, valuing conformity and “sunday school” answers, wrapping ones identity and worth into one’s beliefs about the infallibility/nobility of the church) that ultimately facilitates things like inaction with respect to predatory leaders. Anyone who questions or points something out that’s strange is socially sanctioned. Bad news about church members is unwelcome.

    (As an aside on another related topic, it’s also what causes the proliferation of “affinity fraud” in Mormonism, where the well-known problem of exploiting LDS community “trust” causes Utah to lead the nation in this problem, a dubious honor. I first learned of this issue just this past week at a conference held at BYU, listening to the state attorney general and lead SEC and FBI investigators describe the predatory tactics of these financial abusers — how they dupe ward members by asking to start the pitch meeting with a prayer and referring to the bishop or other leader who has invested w them previously etc. It’s fascinating. Google “affinity fraud mormon” for yourself.)

    And of course we see it in so many other trivial ways and examples. Here’s a personal (relatively trivial) anecdote: last year a youth in our ward behaved dishonestly in order to circumvent dating rules with our own child, culminating in the complicity of that youth’s own parents in assisting in the deception, as well as ringleading the involvement of other youth in the cover up – all to conceal things from my spouse and me. Did I mention that we were the early morning seminary teachers? So yes, we interacted w all these youth on a daily basis — necessitating a fairly elaborate scheme of deception, all in the service of flaunting the Stength of Youth standards. When we became aware of the situation, we of course disciplined our own child (who wasn’t blameless) and discussed the problem with ward and stake leaders.

    But the upshot of all this, in the end, was that WE were the ones socially sanctioned, including being released from our callings and put to work in the webelos den… while meanwhile the offending youth + family have been embraced/supported. (At one point in the saga the offending family had even asked for us to be released… and in the end got exactly what they wanted.) The sanctioning even persists in subtle ways, which aren’t worth elaborating on here. At this point the underlying youth relationship issues have dissolved, so everyone has sort of moved on — but at least several of the youth have been rattled by the legacy of this experience: the nagging feeling that the “church” cares less about the standards themselves than about the appearance of getting along and not rocking the boat. Things might not be ok, but we seem to place a premium on bravely pretending things are ok.

    This is of course a trivial instance of something that isn’t comparable at all to truly horrible situations involving ecclesiastical abuse and sexual assault… so why share it? Mainly to illustrate that the fundamental problem that underlies these really serious abuse issues also underlies more trivial things that happen in the church, and also (by the way) explains why gospel doctrine class is often so vacuous. Preserving the “tribe” – and especially, the public face of the tribe, is something that seems to be valued at a fundamentally grass roots level, rather than existing merely as some sort of leadership failure or conspiracy from the top. The fact that the official channels reinforce this idea doesn’t help, of course, but I remain skeptical that policy changes will move the dial much. Tribalism runs strong in Mormonism, and making waves (even if you’re making them in support of church teachings or standards) really isn’t welcome.

  222. In may 1984 I was in the MTC and needed to be set apart. President Bishop asked me to come into his office without my companion. He then proceeded to ask me about temptations I faced in high school. He also asked me if I ever drank alcohol. I told him no . I told him I had a good sense of right and wrong and that I had good parents. Strange for Him to ask me to come without my companion. Inappropriate of him to ask me about temptations I faced in high school. I had just completed my 3rd year at BYU. I was needing to be set apart. I didn’t ask for or need a worthiness interview. I was definitely not a girl who could easily be taken advantage of and he obviously saw that. He had no business to interview me alone and ask those questions . I just needed to be set apart. When the story broke I read my journal from May 1984 because I knew I had been alone with him at his request. There must be others who had these same unwarranted interviews.

  223. What I don’t get is how people can accept that God allows terrorists to murder children and malaria and Donald Trump to exist, but their faith is shaken by this episode of abuse and good-old-boys patriarchy. (Which my iPhone tried to correct to good-old-Boyd’s!!!) As bad as this is, it doesn’t even register with my problem of evil angst.

  224. Not a Cougar says:

    Owen, I was never raised to believe that Donald Trump and terrorists are specifically chosen by God, are rarely fallible, certainly righteous men who serve as God’s mouthpiece and are to be obeyed, generally without question. When you find out that one of these sorta demigod Church leaders is actually a rapist (and sometimes also a pedophile) and had been called to serve by other sorta demigods who are supposed to have been instructed to issue the calling by God Himself, it certainly shakes my faith in the God I have been taught to believe in by the Church.

  225. @ Mormom: I cried when I read “I believe you” from you. Thank you! I just wished I had at least been validated by the church and given due process.
    @Sheryl: I didn’t know I could file a police report because my case doesn’t involve rape. I was molested by my therapist. I only alerted the licensing division of his profession.
    @Not a Cougar: Thanks for the advise :)
    @Whizzbang: I’m happy you things worked out for you!

  226. Kevin Kartchner says:

    Bishop’s elevator clearly doesn’t go the top floor anymore. If the accuser came to me spewing profanity and threatening murder, I’m not sure how credible ~I’d ~ find her accusations, either. I know one thing: I wouldn’t knowingly come within a half-mile of her understand ~any~ circumstances.

  227. You may want to read the few papers that are sharing both sides of the story. The Republic, an Arizona newspaper does a good job of showing all the facts. This woman was arrested in February for identity theft, using her boyfriend’s information. She has accused several other men of sexual assault, and those incidents were proven false. Mr. Bishop is 85 years old. One in three people over 80 has some kind of dementia, which often includes saying things that are shocking and untrue. He had just had heart surgery and was on medication, not at his best. The church investigated the charges when received, but it is hard to prove anything 30 years later with no evidence and one person’s word against another’s. It’s sad that the media is so quick to destroy someone’s life before things have been completely investigated.

  228. Kristine says:

    Viola–it is not one person’s word against another’s. There are other women coming forward. You may want to refer to the Church’s updated statement.

  229. Kristine,
    The article you referenced mentions one other woman who made allegations in 2010. From another article, I learned that the other accuser is a friend of the woman who made the interview tape.
    If you read the “Republic” article I referred to above, you may understand why I don’t believe this woman unquestioningly. She has repeatedly and falsely accused other men of sexual assault in the past, one time even claiming to have been pistol-whipped and put in the trunk of a car. She stole her boyfriend’s identity, using his social security number to get things under his credit. Her ex-husband and her own family members suggest caution in believing her. This is not a frightened woman who is up against a powerful man. This a woman with a long history of mental health problems accusing an 85-year old man whose memory is declining. She does need help and understanding, but not by accepting her word without evidence. If she doesn’t get help, she will continue her desperate attempts at getting attention.
    It is shocking that so many are willing to condemn someone without proof. What if you or your family member were the accused?
    The biggest problem of women like this is that they make it harder for real victims to ask for and get help. People keep quoting unsourced statistics stating how low the percentage of false accusations are, but they don’t give the details of the research they site.

  230. Viola, do you have a link to the Republic article?

  231. Mike – This is the one I read. It does shed a different light. I am not determining anything from it, just passing it along.

  232. Tyndale25 says:

    I feel for this woman. She clearly has issues that have followed her all of her life, even before coming in contact with Bishop, and for that my heart bleeds for her. Did her experience with him exacerbate the issue, or not? I have no way to judge. The abused need a voice certainly, and they need ways to be believed, but waiting 20-30 years and then trying to get money from the church is suspicious to me, and it is not the way to gain closure. I do not think it helps her cause at all. I am sorry to say it but I have to wonder if she is accurate in her portrayal. Time will tell. At one time she says “you attempted to rape me”. Later she says he did more than attempt. Bishop is 85 years old. My brothers and sisters and I could get my own father to admit to anything we said he did when he was 79, and I mean anything, so I am not one to judge too quickly on this coerced confession. I feel for Mr Bishop too because whether or not he did rape her, he behaved in ways that were certainly unbecoming of a person in his level of trust. But with his level of trust he certainly would be trusted more in a “he said she said” confrontation.

    People who want to blame the church are also suspect in their damning. For me, I am just grateful that the Savior is the judge of all, and he knows. May they each receive the reward He has prepared for them.

  233. Tyndale25 says:

    In the article referenced above it quotes the ex-husband of the accuser as saying: “This is an insult, especially, to women who have gone through something like that and really have been hurt.” In other words, he does not believe his wife’s allegations, and he knows her. I am sorry for her, but I do not place blame where it does not absolutely belong. The #metoo movement is an interesting sign of the times.

  234. Ryan Mullen says:

    “But with his level of trust he certainly would be trusted more in a ‘he said she said’ confrontation.”
    “quotes the ex-husband of the accuser … and he knows her”
    so…you’re willing to take what any man in the story says at face value while disregarding the victim. The OP asks “What does it mean to ‘believe women’?”; are you trying to miss that mark by as wide a margin as possible? As for any “coerced confession”, Bishop independently corroborated his sexual misconduct regarding this victim to BYU police. But I’m sure this ex-husband is the *one* person in the world who wouldn’t let feelings of animosity color how he interprets and talks about his ex-wife. There’s no reason to be suspect of what he’s saying, for sure.

    “trying to get money from the church is suspicious to me”
    I had a BYU prof tell me the Church limited the amount of grant money he could bring in reasoning that if the church spent less on BYU, church leaders would naturally pay less attention to it. If you want an institution to change, a million-dollar settlement will get their attention and initiate change.

  235. bbytheway says:

    More news coming out tonight. This is certainly not a good look trying to smear the victim AND releasing all this stuff to the Bishop’s son:

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