Within the past ten days, Mormonism has been rocked by a recoding and transcript released through MormonLeaks that depicts the confessions of a former president of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah—Joseph Bishop—about his improper sexual behavior with at least two sister missionaries, including the one who in an interview with Bishop confronted him about his attempting to rape her. This episode, featuring the wonderful panelists Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, Katie Langston, and Judy Dushku, reflects on this story and the developments that have unfolded since it broke, including the LDS Church’s Newsroom responses to it—responses that many have criticized for their wrong-spiritedness and for actually causing additional harm and trauma for many members of the church community, especially those who have been victims of sexual abuse or who have had any experiences in which the difficult claims they have made have not been believed or have been ignored, leading to no action taken against perpetrators. Host Dan Wotherspoon and the panel in no way offer quarter for the tremendous evils depicted in this story and its aftermath, but they also consider issues of how this public scandal and shaming being felt by leaders who failed these sisters in this and other cases might lead to positive changes in church policies regarding one-on-one interviews behind closed doors, and in many other areas. In fact, later in the evening this episode was recorded, the church indeed did release new guidelines for bishopric and stake presidency interviews.
Finally, the four of them consider these scandals and their effects on the spiritual lives of Latter-day Saints, particularly on those who had already been struggling with aspects of the church and wondering if it is wise for them to continue to associate with it. How do the panelists deal with news like this and other disturbing revelations about church and the human failings of those in key leadership positions? Are they able to separate in their minds and souls such things from their own deeply held spiritual convictions? And if so, how?
This two-part episode is a great discussion, full of compassion, insight, and hopefulness. Please download and listen to both sections!
NOTE: As this is released, it is being rated “explicit” only as a precaution due to the subject matter being discussed, as well as two instances of swearing (not any of the “big” ones, we promise!) and an anatomical term and description that isn’t one that many Mormons are used to hearing or discussing.
Selected Salt Lake Tribune stories:
Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Former Missionary Training Center President Admits to Asking a Young Missionary to Expose Her Breasts in the ’80s, BYU Police Say,” Salt Lake Tribune, 22 March 2018
Peggy Fletcher Stack, “After Watching Missionary Training Center Sex Abuse Scandal Unfold, Some Mormons Say Their Church Needs a Culture Change,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 March 2018
Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Women Accusing Former MTC President of Attempted Rape in 1984 Says She Now Appreciates MormonLeaks Release of Her Explosive Recording,” Salt Lake Tribune, 24 March 2018
Peggy Fletcher Stack and Benjamin Wood, “Mormon Leaders Unveil New Rules Allowing Another Adult in Room for Interviews,” Salt Lake Tribune, 26 March 2018
LDS Newsroom Statements:
LDS Newsroom, “Church Statement About Alleged Sexual Assault By Former MTC President,” 20 March 2018 (also contains an updated statement issued 23 March 2018)
LDS Newsroom, “First Presidency Directs Leaders to Prevent and Respond to Abuse,” 26 March 2018 (includes links to FP letter and the revised Handbook of Instructions pages titled “Preventing and Responding to Abuse”)
I can no longer find on the LDS Newsroom site their statement from a few months ago affirming the Church’s stance on the importance of privacy in interviews with church leaders. Does anyone have the link I can include here?
Information about “March for Children,” Protect LDS Children organization event 30 March 2018
“MormonLeaks Releases Audio of Former Mission President Admitting to Inappropriate Interactions with Women,” MormonLeaks, 19 March 2018 (contains links to both audio recording and transcript)
Judy Dushku, “I’ve Been a Mormon for 75 Years. Here’s What I Know About the Church and Assault,” The Cut, 13 February 2013 (related to the Rob Porter scandal)
Website of the THRIVEGulu Foundation (Judy Dushku, Founder)
Article about Eliza Dushku’s “Me, too” story (includes full text of her Facebook post)
Mormon Matters Podcast Episodes Mentioned in this Conversation or Relevant to the Topic:
“Protecting Ourselves and Loved Ones in Ecclesiastical Situations,” Mormon Matters podcast Ep. 464, 28 February 2018
“The Abuse and Forgiveness Dilemma,” (Encore) Mormon Matters podcast Ep. 420, 25 October 2017
“Revelation,” Mormon Matters podcast Ep. 433-435, 12 December 2017
“Worthiness,” Mormon Matters podcast Ep. 284-285, 29 June 2015
“The Next Mormons,” Mormon Matters podcast Ep. 337, 22 July 2016