Unraveling the Tape

In 2017 Joseph L. Bishop, former President of the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, met with a woman who claims he attempted to rape her while she was a missionary in the MTC in 1984. The meeting was recorded and the audio begins with the accuser interviewing Mr. Bishop for what he thinks is an interview about leaders in the church. At [40:30] the accuser transitions the conversation to her discussing what she claims he did to her in the MTC. A long conversation ensues in which the accuser not only discusses what she claims happened to her, but also prods Mr. Bishop into discussing his interactions with other women. While Mr. Bishop never affirmatively acknowledges any specific actions, he admits that he has molested at least one woman and has been inappropriate with many other women. At one point he claims if the full extent of his sins were to be revealed he would be excommunicated and the Mormon Church would be embarrassed.

Joseph Bishop doesn’t explicitly admit to rape, but here is a long sample of what he does admit to (transcript excerpts, including author commentary)

Page 26

Victim: But you also kind of groomed me, a little bit, and you took me down into the basement, it wasn’t really a basement, but it was downstairs, a little storage room.

Joseph Bishop: Mm-hmm.

Victim: I’m not angry with you, because I think …

Joseph Bishop: You ought to be …

[commentary]: he has said he doesn’t remember her but when she mentions he took her down to the downstairs storage room, he knows that she ought to be angry at him for something and lets that slip out

Victim: Well maybe, but I’m not. I’m over a lot of things that have happened to me. But you hurt me. And I need an apology.

Joseph Bishop: Well I apologize, from the depths of my heart, I can’t remember what it was but I’m …

[commentary]: right after telling her that she ought to be angry with him, he says he can’t remember why he needs to apologize but that he is sorry. Seems fishy

Victim: You were never disfellowshipped, had a counsel?

[commentary]: victim is confused. The church publicly claims that they have no tolerance for sexual abusers so the victim assumes that if his actions were known, he would have had church discipline.

Joseph Bishop: I felt I’d repented. I’d confessed.

[commentary]: If he did not know what she was talking about, still claiming to not remember details, what is he telling her he’d repented of or confessed for?

Victim: Oh.

Joseph Bishop: That time.

[commentary]: What? It seems he is saying that he confessed to what he did to the victim but that he had other instances that he hadn’t confessed.

Victim: You confessed about me?

Joseph Bishop: I don’t know about… I confessed all of my sins to Elder Wells when I was in the mission. But anyway, let me apologize.

[commentary]: Not willing to say that he’d confessed to what happened with this particular victim, but acknowledging that he confessed sins of this sort to the area president, Robert E. Wells. The timeline doesn’t work out for him to have confessed to what happened at the MTC because he worked there after his confession to Elder Wells while he was mission president in Argentina, which the victim points out on page 71.

Page 30

Joseph Bishop: But I have this thing about, I have this sexual addiction, what can I say?

Victim: But, did you get treatment?

Joseph Bishop: No.

Victim: So what did you, how …

Joseph Bishop: I kept fighting, and I kept trying to pray and this and that and everything else to get over it. I’m now, I now feel healed in the sense that I am not tempted … Did you notice what I did when you came in?

Victim: Shook my hand?

Joseph Bishop: No, I opened those so … [presumably motions to blinds]

Victim: Oh, I yeah no, I didn’t notice that they look fine.

Joseph Bishop: Well I, just so you know, I don’t put myself in …

Victim: In a position to … [victim pauses and changes the subject]

[commentary]: Joe has learned over time that if he doesn’t do things such as open the curtains when he is alone with a woman that he has a tendency to do things he regrets. It seems unlikely that he learned this only through his one interaction with this one victim.

Page 31-32

Victim: Yes, and she was, you liked it when she pulled it down over her breasts and exposed her breasts at dinner.

Joseph Bishop: Yes.

Victim: Okay. But, okay, so, your addiction was the problem. I understand that. I understand that more than you know, only because I worked in substance abuse, addiction.

Joseph Bishop: From the other side of it was, was not …

Victim: You know what, we don’t need to talk about [wife]. The fact that I was a missionary, and you were my mission president and you were sharing that was the problem.

Joseph Bishop: That’s true.

Victim: Yeah. So, but you had that storage room. Why did you take me down there? And why would you do what you tried to do?

Joseph Bishop: I think at that time I was still very much addicted.

[commentary]: Notice here he doesn’t act like he can’t remember what happened or seem confused about what she was referring to. He gives a reason to her for why he did what he did.

Victim: You were really struggling?

Joseph Bishop: Oh my. I have struggled. I have struggled my whole life on this very issue.

Victim: With no counseling, no way of making a change of behavior?

Joseph Bishop: How could you, how could even … I used to say to myself all the time, I’m a hypocrite.

Victim: You were.

Joseph Bishop: Yeah, of course.

Victim: Yeah, damn right you were.

Joseph Bishop: Okay now what can a hypocrite do.

Victim: Oh, yeah. So you tried to change your behavior …

Joseph Bishop: Tried to solve it myself. I’m not going to do this anymore, I’m not going to do this anymore, I’m not going to think about this, I’m not going to, you know …

[commentary]: Joe’s son is claiming that his father’s “sexual addiction” was impure thoughts. Joe mentions thoughts here, but he also says “I’m not going to DO this anymore”. He admits to actions and it doesn’t sound like he feels like it was one isolated bad action, but something that he repeated many times.

Page 33

Victim: So did you, when you talked to Brother Wells and you repented, did you talk about this?

Joseph Bishop: Yes.

Victim: You talked about what you did with me and other women?

Joseph Bishop: Yes.

[commentary]: as stated previously, he can’t have confessed to Robert Wells about his actions in the MTC if that confession took place while he was mission president in Argentina, as he claims.

Victim: How many other women are there?

Joseph Bishop: 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.

[commentary]: Joe admits to sexual acts with at least three women, yet the church statement says they have nothing to go off of to discipline him. He doesn’t specifically admit to sexual abuse yet, just to things he did with women that he felt he needed to repent of.

Page 34

Victim: Do you remember the other girl with me? The other one you were grooming? Her name was [first name]

Joseph Bishop: [first and last name]

Victim: Yes, that’s her last name.

Joseph Bishop: l remember

Victim: Did you molest her?

Joseph Bishop: Yes.

[commentary]: Joe shows his memory of that time period is good by remembering the last name of the second victim and he admits to sexual abuse. The church still doesn’t have enough to go off of to have a basis for discipline.

Page 35

Joseph Bishop: Anyway I was stressed unwittingly and unwantingly into a work with …

Victim: Women like me?

Joseph Bishop: Women who had been harmed.

Victim: Traumatized.

Joseph Bishop: Traumatized. And I was not strong. The last person who should have been in that situation was me. I shouldn’t have been in that position.

[commentary]: Joe was given that job as MTC president after confessing to Robert Wells to past sexual acts.

Page 36

Victim: Well when did you molest her?

Joseph Bishop: When she was living with us.

Page 37

Victim: You were never called into a church council, church court, even after you confessed to Elder Wells, there was never a fellowship, nothing?

Joseph Bishop: No I hadn’t confessed all those things before Elder Wells, but wanted to redo it. I struggled to make sure that everything was taken care of.

[commentary]: Again, his confession to Wells was of past deeds prior to his sexual abuse of at least two women while he worked as MTC president.

Page 39

Victim: You just … 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. True?

Joseph Bishop: I would be.

Victim: Yes you would be.

Joseph Bishop: I would be.

Victim: How many women have you apologized to? At least obviously [other MTC victim]. Is she still alive?

Joseph Bishop: I haven’t… she contacted… she did what you did, appropriately so. She made an attempt to find out. I did [inaudible – presumably “apologize to”] her. Anyway. I had a conversation with an authority called me –

Victim: Who?

Joseph Bishop: Somebody in the church, I don’t remember their name.

Victim: Okay. It was a long time ago.

Joseph Bishop: Yeah. Years and years ago. And she had made the same thing you had done. I confessed. She had her problems, too. Poor [other MTC victim]. But. Mine was the big problem.

[commentary]: The church contacted him “years and years ago” about his other victim when she apparently also went to the church authorities to find out what they had done about this abuser. He says he was contacted by the church and confessed at that time. The recent official statement from the church claims to not have known about any abuse or had any indication that it was true.

Page 41

Victim: If this goes public, how many women are going to come and say oh my god, me too? How many?

Joseph Bishop: Point well taken.

Victim: Okay, I know this point is well taken. I want to know how many. I want to know that I am not the only one,. I want to know that I am not the only one.

Joseph Bishop: You are not the only one.

[commentary]: Joe knows what the victim is accusing him of, and though he has maintained that his memory of what happened is different than what she says happened, he acknowledges that it was abusive and he acknowledges that there are other victims. Still not enough “evidence” for the church to consider discipline.

Page 46

Victim: No. Hell no. There is no excuse. In a criminal sense, for you, would … no.

Joseph Bishop: I would be excommunicated and the church would …

Victim: What? The church would be what?

Joseph Bishop: The church would be embarrassed

[commentary]: Joe has been in church leadership for many years of his life. He knows what acts will get someone excommunicated. He hasn’t specifically spelled out any of those acts in the interview so far, but here he admits that if he confesses to what he has really done he would be excommunicated and the church would be embarrassed. He is not talking about having dirty thoughts, as his son suggests.

Page 47

Victim: I do. I want compensation. I want somebody to say, oh my god, all these years we thought you were nuts, but you weren’t.

Joseph Bishop: You weren’t.

Victim: No I wasn’t.

Joseph Bishop: Well. Here I am, recording it.

[commentary]: Did he know he was being recorded? Sounds like it.

Victim: Well okay. I hope you have a good criminal attorney. Cause you’re gonna need one.

Joseph Bishop: I’m sorry to hear that.

Victim: Well, I have no other choice.

Joseph Bishop: Well you do, but I understand.

[commentary]: He acknowledges that what she has been telling everyone for years about what happened is true (that he sexually abused her, tried to rape her) and that she isn’t crazy. He even goes as far as to say he understands why she feels she might need to press criminal charges. If his only recollection of the night (as is being reported through the police) is that he requested her to show him her breasts and she complied, why would he say he understands that she wants to press charges or that he would be excommunicated?

Page 48

Joseph Bishop: My big concern is the pain that’s going to take place. With all of my family, who love me. I have five sons who would be devastated. Their wives will be devastated. My grandchildren will be devastated. My great-grandchildren.

[commentary]: Is he really saying that his whole legacy will be ruined because he asked one lady to show him her breasts and she complied? However inappropriate that request would be, his admission here shows that he knows what he did was more significant than that.

Page 55-56

Joseph Bishop: I asked myself the same questions you’re asking. All the time. Why? Because I have a lot of problems.

Victim: I’m sure you do.

Joseph Bishop: I do. And in this process, I have a lot of the other. I found a lot of women, but alot of bad thoughts. Masturbation, took me a long time to get over that. I don’t even know if you accept that or not. I don’t know.

Victim: I think there are a lot of women, and I think there are a lot of bad things, and if you have forgotten, at least, that small part …

Joseph Bishop: I did, which makes me wonder what else I might have forgotten?

Victim: So it doesn’t surprise you that you may have done that?

Joseph Bishop: Oh, no.

[commentary]: Young men and women are kept home from missions for admitting to masturbation. The MTC experience is full of guilt producing talks about how you need to confess and forsake such things to be worthy to carry the spirit. And this guy was the president of the MTC and a mission president while admitting to the same thing that everyone else in the whole church is shamed for.

It is also telling that in this part of the conversation she is implying that he has abused more women than he is admitting to and he keeps insisting he can’t remember the details, but he does remember enough to say it wouldn’t surprise him if he had actually harmed more women.

Page 57-58

Victim: Well, the fact of the matter is you didn’t really tell everything that you told, everything that you did. You gave little bits and pieces, and you covered yourself in a shroud and you walked along. And each time that happened, you carried something heavier with you each time you went because you never told the whole story when you confessed. If you did do it, then excommunicate it. So did you repent? No. Not the way that the Lord tells us to repent. You didn’t say you were sorry. You didn’t even tell the whole story. And so there are women like me out there struggling, and you defecated all over us. And you just walked along and you continued serving in the church like we were nothing. We were nothing. We are nothing.

Joseph Bishop: I think you’re right.

Victim: I think I’m right too.

Joseph Bishop: I wish you weren’t. But I think you are. I didn’t think of it that way. I thought I was doing everything that I possibly could do to overcome this sexual addiction, and well …

Victim: [tells story of ex-husband’s deeds and how he never fully admitted to church authorities of what he did]…So, did he repent? Not to what I understand the Lord considers repentance. So, you do the same thing, but it’s the way that it is. You are not special this way. You are not singled out this way. If you are not transparent, if you do not really tell the whole story, you carry it with you. Once you tell the whole story, you can let it go because the Lord takes it away. You’ve never done that. That’s why it’s still with you. That’s why you walk around with this heavy burden. It’s a ball and chain, and it’s strangling you.

Joseph Bishop: Yes, it truly is.

[commentary]: Joe admits that he never fully confessed to all his actions to priesthood leaders and that his past actions still haunt him. I will say again and again, Mormon guilt is heavy, but this level of guilt can’t possibly be about impure thoughts or seeing someone’s breasts, which is all that he has explicitly admitted to. So what weighs so heavily on him?

Page 62

Joseph Bishop: I feel for the first time in those 30-something, longer than that for me, that I have been successful, at last. I no longer have those feelings. I don’t have the stuff that sleeps with me bugging me all the time. I don’t. It’s gone. I don’t know how long. It’s been like alcoholics anonymous where they get up and say, “Hi, I’m” …

Victim: “I’m Bob. I’m an alcoholic”.

Joseph Bishop: Yes. I’m Joe. I’m a sexual predator.

[commentary]: A straight forward admission of what he is. Yet again, not enough evidence for the church to consider discipline.

Page 63

Victim: Taking a missionary down into the basement, to the storage room, is not normal. Trying to rape a missionary is not normal.

Joseph Bishop: No. (…) I think of that night and what in the world what could ever possess me to do that?

[commentary]: I cut out a couple sentences of the exchange here, but I don’t think the above can be said to be taken out of context. He doesn’t correct her accusation of rape. He agrees it is not normal. And he remembers that night and that what he did was not right.

Page 66

Joseph Bishop: I could have been great. I know that. I was one time Bob Wells told me that .. .and it was about the same time this other was going on.

Victim: Which other?

Joseph Bishop: When you and …

Victim: Oh, and [other MTC victim]

Joseph Bishop: Yeah. When he had put my name in the hat to become a Seventy, I was never called. I know why. I know why. Because Carlos Asay may not have done what he should have done with you, but he did what he should have done with me.

[commentary]: If this is true, that Carlos Asay didn’t talk directly with Bishop about the accusations of the victim but did tell higher authorities who made sure Bishop was never made a seventy, then the Church is again lying about how long they have known these details. So the Church protected itself by quietly distancing itself from Bishop and never putting him into other high positions, but it ignored the people he abused and has now even tried to discredit them when this scandal broke.

Page 66

[commentary]: There is some back and forth discussion about avoiding situations that you know you aren’t strong enough to be in and stay out of trouble

Victim: It’s not necessarily a bad thing to do when we’re weak in that whatever area that is. For an alcoholic, it would be absolutely just avoid it, those triggers, those things that cause you to have that-

Joseph Bishop: That’s very true for me. That’s where it started with all females. I don’t-

Victim: Yeah.

Joseph Bishop: I was concerned today when you said, “Come to my hotel.” I’m not gonna put myself … Then you said, do you remember? Glass enclosed conference room.

Victim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joseph Bishop: Okay. I can do that, but I’m trying to be wise.

[commentary]: Joe has told the victim several times that he has worked through his “addiction” (predatory behaviors) and doesn’t have those problems anymore, but here he is admitting again that even the idea of meeting with a woman alone made him nervous because it would be placing him in a position that he knows he has taken advantage of in the past and done things he regretted. It is good he is to the point that he can avoid those situations where he will get himself in trouble, it is telling that he doesn’t fully trust his actions even now.

Page 73

Joseph Bishop: We’ve been pretty clear today about this thing true repentance. I thought I’d been doing it. I don’t think so now. I think I need to do some … I think I need to go to my bishop and lay it out.


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