Standard-Examiner

Joseph Bishop faced controversies, lawsuit during presidency at Weber State

Saturday , March 24, 2018 - 5:00 AM

Photo of Joseph Bishop, center, from 1972-1973.

Photo supplied/Weber State University

Photo of Joseph Bishop, center, from 1972-1973.

SERGIO MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN and MARK SAAL
Standard-Examiner

OGDEN — A former Missionary Training Center president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was publicly accused this week of sexually assaulting two women more than 30 years ago. 

That same man, Joseph Bishop, also spent six years at the helm of Weber State University, back in the 1970s when it was still known as Weber State College. 

The allegations were revealed in a recording and transcript posted Monday, March 19, to MormonLeaks, a website described as a “whistleblowing organization” for sharing documents and private information about the Mormon church.

The recording came from a 55-year-old woman, who sat down with Bishop, 85, in December 2017 under the initial guise of a reporter doing a story about LDS mission presidents.

About 40 minutes into the nearly three-hour recording, she alleges Bishop attempted to rape her in 1984, when she was an LDS missionary at the Provo-based Missionary Training Center. Bishop was president of the MTC from 1983 to 1986. 

A second possible victim, who was also a young woman at the Missionary Training Center, was discussed during the same interview. 

The Standard-Examiner does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without permission. A Standard-Examiner reporter contacted the woman to verify the recording and the woman declined to comment, referring all questions to her attorney. Her attorney could not be reached for comment.

She said only that the last week or so has been a difficult one.

“But I’m OK with that,” she said. “I’m ready to stand up and tell my story.”

WEBER STATE TENURE

Bishop’s stint as president of Weber State — from 1972 to 1978 — preceded his time at the training center. In both jobs, Bishop held a position of power over men and women in their late teens and early 20s. But as far as today’s Weber State administration knows, there were no allegations of sexual misconduct against him during his tenure at the college. 

The Standard-Examiner reviewed 36 boxes of administrative documents left behind by Bishop after he left the post. The boxes are part of Weber State University’s presidential archives. Weber State’s document retention policy complies with the Utah Government Records Management Act. However, during Bishop’s tenure, presidents were not required to retain documents, and they chose what to send to the presidential archives, Weber State spokeswoman Allison Hess said. 

The documents show Bishop was a controversial figure at the public university. In 1980, Jan Tyler, former assistant dean of students, claimed Bishop’s way of handling situations and employees was “almost amoral.” Tyler recalled Bishop’s actions during an oral history interview with the university’s archivist John Sillito.

In the interview, Tyler said Bishop was condescending to her and that he had an enemy list in which her name appeared. She said she was the only woman on that list.

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“The fact that this man was a Mormon — and was doing what was perceived as unethical and destructive and hurtful kinds of things — was just inconsistent with what was being put out as what a good Mormon would do,” Tyler said. “I feel that he was a person without a sense of morality of what was right and wrong.”

She filed a lawsuit under Title IX Executive Order and Title VII, Title IV and Equal Pay. The National Education Association got involved after the lawsuit was filed, Tyler said in the interview. The lawsuit was settled out of court. 

“If I had it to do today I wouldn’t settle out of court,” Tyler said. “I would go public and I would use the media.”

Attempts to reach Tyler for comment were not successful.

According to Richard Sadler’s book “Weber State College… A Centennial History,” issues such as changes in the curriculum, general education, and policies and procedures to make administrative appointments were part of the debacle at Weber State during Bishop’s tenure. 

Correspondence between Bishop and other faculty members also show Bishop’s awareness that he did not have the support of many in the faculty.

Also of note, Bishop contributed to Weber State’s shift from a college to a university. He also inaugurated the Dee Events Center. 

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ALLEGATIONS OF MISCONDUCT        

On the recording, the women tells Bishop he “groomed” her and took her into a storage room where he tore her blouse, ripped her skirt and attempted to rape her.

Bishop also acknowledged getting too “frisky” while giving a back rub to a young woman who was living with his family but did not go into detail.

Bishop repeatedly apologized to the woman during the conversation, explaining that he had a “sexual addiction.”

The LDS Church issued a statement Tuesday, calling the allegations “very serious and deeply disturbing.”

“If the allegations of sexual assault are true, it would be a tragic betrayal of our standards and would result in action by the Church to formally discipline any member who was guilty of such behavior, especially someone in a position of trust,” the statement said.

  > Police: Ex-Mormon official asked to see woman's breasts

A Brigham Young University police report, filed late last year by the same woman, was released to the public Wednesday. During a Dec. 5 police interview, Bishop denied raping the woman but said he asked her to expose her breasts. 

The LDS Church issued an updated statement Friday afternoon acknowledging the second woman from the recording. That woman informed her local church leaders of the alleged abuse in 2010, according to the updated statement.

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“Mr. Bishop’s local ecclesiastical leaders were contacted and they confronted him with her claims, which he denied,” the statement said. “And local leaders did not feel they could pursue church discipline for Mr. Bishop.”

The LDS Church said it was continuing its investigation.

BISHOP’S RESPONSE

Greg Bishop, the eldest of Bishop’s five sons, said his father denies the allegations. As for the tape, he believes his father was confused by the woman’s “forceful” accusations. 

“I would say he’s in pretty good shape for 85, mentally,” Greg Bishop said. “But his memory — he’ll tell the same story a bunch of times, or forget things from the past. And he gets easily confused.”

Greg Bishop said his father suffered a series of three heart attacks late last year, and the meeting with the woman took place within a week of him being released from the hospital.

“She said, ‘Actually, you did something that hurt me,’ and he immediately starts apologizing to her,” Greg Bishop said. “Keep in mind he almost met his maker the week before, so he was over-the-top apologetic.”

          > The Latest: Woman says ex-Mormon missionary leader raped her

Greg Bishop pointed out that his father consistently denied any allegation of rape or attempted rape. He also confirmed that the other female missionary mentioned on the tape lived with the Bishop family for a short time.

While living with the family, “she would frequently ask my dad for a backrub, and he always said no. But on one occasion he said yes,” according to Greg Bishop. He says his father regrets that mistake.

As for Bishop admitting to a sexual addiction, Greg Bishop believes his father simply meant that he struggled to keep his thoughts clean and pure.

“When Dad talked about being a sex addict, it sounds to me like he was just being a male,” he said.

Greg Bishop said he and the LDS Church did their own investigations of the woman’s claims and found that in the decades after leaving the Missionary Training Center, the woman went to police with several claims of sexual abuse, reporting strangers attacking her in parking lots and assaults by partners or acquaintences.

Greg Bishop said he supports the #MeToo movement, saying: “Any person who abuses their power — whether its ecclesiastic, or employment, or whatever — ought to be held accountable. Full stop.”

But he insists his father is being accused by a woman who has repeatedly leveled charges against men over the years.

“If it’s true she was abused from the time she was 4 until she was 14, she’s a victim in this, too,” he said. “But that doesn’t give her the right to go and seek her 15 minutes of fame by making these slanderous allegations against my dad. There’s no way for her to put this back in the box, the damage is done. There’s no way for Dad to get his reputation back.” 

Contact education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán at smartinezbeltran@standard.net or 801-625-4274. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/STANDARDEXSergio.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.