A woman who accused the former head of Provo’s Missionary Training Center of sexual misconduct told a federal judge Tuesday she might drop her lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
McKenna Denson’s lawsuit has been in limbo since May, when her lawyers quit the case. She has told U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead over the past few months that she had been working on finding someone new to represent her.
But on Tuesday, Denson said she might be ready to just dismiss the case.
“I’m not sure I want to secure counsel at the time,” Denson told Pead over the telephone from her workplace in Colorado.
But Denson didn’t seem like she had made up her mind quite yet. She peppered the judge with questions about whether she could refile the suit if she discovered “illegal activity” that happened during the course of the litigation.
Pead sidestepped most of the questions, telling Denson that he could not give her legal advice and that those questions should be brought to an attorney.
Denson was given two weeks to either file a motion to dismiss the case, express interest in mediation or decide to go forward to trial. Her previous lawyers have not publicly discussed why they quit the case.
In her lawsuit, Denson accused Joseph L. Bishop, who lives in the Phoenix area, of raping her in 1984 at Provo’s MTC, where he oversaw the faith’s flagship Missionary Training Center.
Bishop has denied raping Denson, but in a recorded police interview obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune, he recalled going into a small storage room with her and asking her to expose herself because she had recently had a breast augmentation.
“I wanted to see her breasts," Bishop said, “how the operation [went], etc."
He has also said he touched another female missionary inappropriately during a back rub. He told police detectives from church-owned Brigham Young University that he immediately reported his behavior to his ecclesiastical lay leaders and was allowed to keep his position at the MTC.
Bishop last year was dismissed as a defendant in Denson’s suit, along with part of the case against the church. A fraud claim alleging a cover-up remains pending against the Utah-based faith.