1. Church Should Clarify Cook’s Comments
By Connor Richards
In a lawsuit filed in federal court earlier this month, McKenna Denson alleged that she was raped by an LDS Missionary Training Center president, Joseph L. Bishop, in 1984. According to the Denson, Bishop pushed her onto a bed in a “secret room” he had at the MTC, tore her skirt and penetrated her, before Denson was able to get away, as The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
In a secretly recorded interview that surfaced on MormonLeaks, Bishop admitted he had asked a young female missionary to show him her breasts, which she did. When he is asked in the interview, “When did you molest her?” referring to a sister missionary who he admitted giving a “frisky” back rub to, he responded, “When she was living with us.”
But Bishop is not at the center of the lawsuit. Denson is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alleging she told church authorities what happened, yet the church kept Bishop in positions of power. Denson said she went to local leadership in 1987 or 1988. Later, the lawsuit alleges Bishop confessed some sins to general authority Robert E. Wells.
Whether or not church authorities knew about and ignored allegations against Bishop, it now appears the LDS church may be trying to discredit Denson. The church hired a Salt Lake City attorney, David Jordan, to investigate Denson’s allegations and communicate with her attorney. Jordan looked into Denson’s past and sent a nine-page letter to Dawson’s attorney detailing incidents in the woman’s past and “inconsistencies” in her story. Jordan shared this letter with Greg Bishop, Joseph Bishop’s son and acting attorney, who cited parts of Jordan’s letter in a five-page dossier he sent to various Utah media outlets to defend his father.
As KUTV reported, “On March 20, as a sexual assault scandal was exploding around former Missionary Training Center President Joseph Bishop, his son, and attorney Greg Bishop sent an email to 2News unsolicited. In the email, he unspools a five-page dossier about the past of the woman who had accused his father of rape. The email included the woman’s criminal record, alleged false allegations she’d made in the past, and jobs she’d lost.”
If only the church would consider putting similar investigative resources towards looking into Bishop and finding out whether the allegations were true.
There are also troubling elements to how some church leaders are choosing to address sexual assault. During the April 2018 General Conference session, Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said about sexual assault and abuse, “It is commendable that non-consensual immorality has been exposed and denounced. … However, those who understand God’s plan must also oppose consensual immorality, which is also a sin.”
This is highly harmful. Phrases like “non-consensual immorality” make victims feel guilty for being abused, and make it difficult for assault victims to come forward.
Cook’s remarks received widespread scrutiny, and an Associated Press report about them was republished by The New York Times, The Washington Post and other national outlets.
“They [the church] need very clear language from leaders that places the onus of the responsibility on the perpetrator, not this indirect, kind of vague language,” Natasha Helfer Parker, a Mormon sex therapist, told AP.
Another standout moment from April’s General Conference that received significant media attention was when Crystal Legionaires yelled “Stop protecting sexual predators” three times as newly elected church leaders were sitting down.
Of Cook’s “non-consensual immorality” comment, Legionaires said, “It can very much be construed as victim shaming. Instead of saying things like sexual assault or rape, they’re using euphemisms as a way to try [to] deliberately mask the truth. I find that really problematic and really frustrating.”
Also during his talk, Cook rightfully praised the #MeToo movement that has exposed sexual abuse across various institutions in this country. He should clarify his comments and make it clear that the LDS church is willing to protect victims of sexual assault.
2. Prevent Falsity with Perspective
By Kelcy Jensen-Coon
When situations are taken out of context to capture an audience’s attention, the situation becomes skewed. This happens more than I would like to admit in our world through news, media sources and even in our personal lives. We seem to have a knack for glamorizing stories.
As an opinion writer, I try to have objective opinions, though I know objective and opinion sound contradictory. What I mean is that I observe, learn and discern all sides of the story before forming my own thoughts and ideas to put into articles. You’re free to disagree with the conclusions I draw. I say this because I am going to address a topic many feel strongly about, and you may want to defend opposing positions.
My desire is to say our outlook on some topics could use a fresh view, a different understanding and more information. This is particularly true of outlooks connected to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because there is so much persecution against it, especially in the state of Utah. I grew up outside of Utah. Now here, the frequency of the LDS church being openly attacked in news and posts on social media is shockingly higher. It seems regardless of whether people are members or not, people outside of this state can hold their peace more.
Some have recently claimed the LDS church is perpetuating rape culture, and this has fueled openly hateful opinions towards the church. This is not accurate. In a religion that holds sexual purity as one of its highest standards and reveres the power that comes with procreation, it is hard to believe its leaders would perpetuate a rape culture. The recent anger comes from a criticism of Elder Quentin L. Cook’s talk at the most recent General Conference due to his word choice. Instead of explicitly saying rape, he found a more eloquent way of saying it, using the term “nonconsensual immorality.”
Morality and immorality are words used regularly by the church, so it only seems fitting that this term was used. Cook said, “It is commendable that nonconsensual immorality has been exposed and denounced. Such nonconsensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society. Those who understand God’s plan should also oppose consensual immorality, which is also a sin. The family proclamation to the world warns ‘that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring [or, for that matter, anyone else] … will one day stand accountable before God.’”
The rape culture that has been “exposed and denounced” is a reference to the #MeToo movement, which is exposing predators and helping victims of rape see that there are others in similar situations. How Cook’s statement, which exposes and condemns rape to the world, perpetuates rape culture is simply confusing. Not to mention the fact that he then condemns all those who inflict such actions upon someone to God’s judgment, truly showing that he is not taking the topic lightly. It is only infrequently that the Elders of the LDS church explicitly say God will condemn certain people.
This isn’t the only relevant incident. In 2016, there was a controversy at BYU because of the way reports of rape were handled, an rightly so. If victims felt mistreated, they should speak up. Thankfully, they did in this case. The school responded by creating an entirely new department focused on making sure that these cases were being treated with respect and privacy. They hired a new staff to manage this new section of the Title IX Department. If that does not show accountability, a desire to change and an apologetic attitude, then what actions do? The church made a statement apologizing for any misunderstandings of how these issues should be handled. It is difficult for the church to monitor every person that works on its behalf. Its leaders try to teach correct principles, but not everyone makes the right choices.
With there being so many sensitive topics in the world at this time, it is easy to offend. Justice should always be served, and I salute those who are willing to stand up for these important causes. However, affected parties and those supporting them should distribute some forgiveness and gratitude for what is being done.