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Mormon Church investigating second sexual assault accusation

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    A 2017 photo shows the outside of a new Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. The Mormon church is investigating a former missionary training center president who is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the 1980s.

SALT LAKE CITY >> The Mormon Church said today it is investigating a second accusation of sexual assault against a former missionary leader dating back to the 1980s and vowed to “bring accountability” for what has occurred.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t say in its statement whether discipline will be taken against Joseph L. Bishop. At the time of the allegations, he held an important position of authority over hundreds of young Mormons as president of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

The religion said it’s investigating all assertions made by Bishop in a secretly recorded conversation with the first alleged victim that was made public this week and in a police interview that was released this week about her complaint.

In the recorded conversation in December, Bishop acknowledged molesting a second woman and described it as a back rub that he says got “too frisky.”

The church said that woman reported the abuse to local leaders in 2010, but no action was taken after he denied the allegation. Church leaders provided the woman with emotional support and professional counseling, the statement said.

It is unclear who the woman is, whether she has an attorney or whether she’s filed a police complaint.

Bishop’s son Greg Bishop said earlier this week his father denies any wrongdoing in either incident.

Greg Bishop, an attorney, didn’t immediately return a phone message and email from The Associated Press today.

He said Wednesday that his father gave the second woman, who was living with the family during a difficult period of her life, a back rub at her request but quickly realized it wasn’t a good idea.

Joseph Bishop told police investigating a rape claim from the first alleged victim that he asked her to expose herself, but he denied raping her. When police asked him to explain why his account about the rape differed from the woman’s, Bishop said “he either can’t remember it or that (the woman) was exaggerating her account.”

Bishop is heard apologizing to the first alleged victim during the conversation she secretly recorded with him while posing as a reporter doing a story on Mormon leaders. He doesn’t say what happened, though. The recording was made public this week by the website MormonLeaks, a church watchdog.

Craig Vernon, an attorney for the first alleged victim, said his client never exposed herself and that Bishop ripped off her blouse and raped her. He said she is prepared to sue the church and Bishop if they can’t reach a settlement.

Church officials offered a strong tone in the new statement Friday about an incident that has led to questions about past handlings of the allegations.

“We share the anger and distress church members and others feel to learn of incidents where those entrusted with sacred responsibilities violate God’s commandments and harm others. Such behavior is repulsive and sinful.”

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