By K. Sophie Will
BU News Service
An audio recording of a former high-level official for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints admitting to sexually abusing multiple women was released Monday.
The near three-hour-long recording was released by MormonLeaks, the whistleblowing organization inspired by WikiLeaks. The tape features an unidentified woman interviewing the 85-year-old Joseph Layton Bishop Jr. as they discuss his life. She also confronts the allegation of her attempted rape while she was in the Missionary Training Center in 1984 during his presidency.
In December 2017, under the guise that the woman was writing an article about leaders in the church, the woman opened with a dialogue about his life’s struggles and accomplishments in the church in the recording; including being both a temple president and missionary multiple times, as well the Provo MTC president.
The woman initiated the conversation because she needed “an apology … an admission and I need to know what was ever done if anything, because I have carried this and it has destroyed my life,” she said.
The LDS church however, has known of this incident for quite some time. The woman said she first brought this to the attention of the church before to Elder Carlos Asay former member of the Presidency of the Seventy, but in 2010, and after some inaction, she threatened to kill Bishop.
According to a statement released yesterday by the church, the police were involved and LDS church leaders met with him but as they were unable to verify the allegations. There was no formal discipline.
However, in the audio recording, Bishop denies ever being confronted by a Mormon church official on the matter.
The statement also said this matter resurfaced in 2016 and in January of this year when the woman’s lawyer contacted the church with the recording. Around the same time, in early February, the church released a statement of support for a bill that would make it a crime to record a conversation without a person’s consent.
Since, there have been interviews with outside legal counsel where the woman has retained her allegations and Bishop has again denied them.
Yet in the recording from December, Bishop admits there were multiple women he had sexually abused in the past. Although he never specifies a number, he admits to at least three in the conversation but as aforementioned, never admits to assaulting the woman in the recording.
“I have this thing about, I have this sexual addiction, what can I say?” Bishop said. However, he said he never sought out treatment and “feels healed in the sense that [he] is not tempted” after he “felt he repented … confessed.”
“It’s not that there’s so many other women, it’s just the two that were there, I remember one when I was in the Bishopric,” he said. He identified another woman in the MTC that he “molested.”
He also spoke at great length about a specific woman who he alleged tried to commit suicide but ended up living with him and his wife and admitted to molesting her during that time. His wife did not know and Bishop said there was no sex in their marital relationship.
The woman in the recording felt Bishop should receive attention for his actions that he has not at this point.
“I don’t know how many women there are but if this story went public, you would be the Harvey Weinstein, or whatever the hell his name is, of the Mormon church,” the woman said.
Bishop was concerned if these allegations came out the “church would be embarrassed” and his “legacy” would be tarnished. He begged her “not to do this to my children.”
“Yes. I’m Joe. I’m a sexual predator,” he said when confronted by the woman.
During the interview, the woman said Bishop touched her hand three times and looked at her breasts three times. He defended himself against this and was adamant that he has overcome his sexual addiction.
Bishop apologizes multiple times during the interview and asked for forgiveness. While his apology appeared to be accepted by the woman, he refused to confess he had attempted to rape her in the basement of the MTC because he couldn’t remember.
“I don’t remember that and now I’m worrying about what else don’t I remember,” he said.
The two discussed another man allegedly involved, Asay. The woman in the recording said she told Asay about the incident but Bishop denied Asay ever confronted him. The statement released by the church confirms that they have no record of an interview between the woman and Asay.
However, Asay knew about the woman who tried to commit suicide and did not appropriate funds towards counseling in the MTC, Bishop said. Bishop also said Asay prevented him from becoming a general authority.
Bishop, as a leader in the Church, has also written religious books that are sold at Deseret Book, the LDS bookstore. However, as of Monday, the bookstore has made all of Bishop’s publications unavailable for purchase.