McKenna Denson asks a judge to keep lawsuit alleging rape against ex-MTC leader alive

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman who accuses a former Missionary Training Center president of raping her is asking a federal judge to keep her lawsuit alive.

McKenna Denson speaks to reporters at a news conference alongside her attorney, Craig Vernon, over her lawsuit against the LDS Church on April 5, 2018. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

McKenna Denson is suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accusing it and ex-MTC president Joseph Bishop of culpability for her sexual assault. She alleges Bishop raped her inside a room at the MTC in 1984, when she was a young sister missionary.

The LDS Church and Bishop have asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing it was brought too late and the statute of limitations has expired.

In court documents obtained by FOX 13 on Tuesday, Denson’s attorneys acknowledge that the alleged assault took place 34 years ago. However, they argue that it wasn’t until December 2017 when she discovered allegations of prior bad conduct by Bishop.

“However, because of Defendants’ ongoing concealment of the truth, McKenna only recently discovered what Defendants had been hiding — that prior to ever being called as MTC President in 1983, Defendant Bishop had engaged in sexual improprieties and acts of sexual predation — and Defendant COP (Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) knew about it,” Denson’s attorney, Craig Vernon, wrote.

Vernon wrote that several years earlier, Bishop had disclosed sexual misconduct to church officials in South America.

A photograph of McKenna Denson as an LDS missionary (photo provided by her attorneys).

“Instead of informing McKenna of the truth about this self-proclaimed, lifelong sexual predator, Defendants represented to McKenna, the public, and members of the Church that Defendant Bishop was a safe, honorable, and trustworthy leader. This fraudulent representation was bolstered by Defendant COP’s Apostle, Gordon B. Hinkley, calling and elevating Defendant Bishop to the position of MTC President in 1983.”

Denson’s attorneys argue that when she discovered prior bad acts, the statute of limitations truly began. She has insisted that over the years she repeatedly reported her abuse to LDS leaders, who did nothing about it. Last year, she went to Brigham Young University police, whom she said told her she had been raped.

Denson confronted Bishop, now 85, about the alleged abuse and recorded him acknowledging some misconduct last year. However, he has denied any rape occurred. The recording wound up on the website MormonLeaks, where it has spawned criticism against the LDS Church and whether it has done enough to protect victims of sexual abuse.

A federal judge will have to decide whether Denson’s lawsuit moves forward in the courts. No hearing on the motion to dismiss has been scheduled yet.

Read the court filing here: