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Woman suing LDS Church for alleged MTC rape may drop lawsuit

AP McKenna Denson 18095670679492.jpg
McKenna Denson speaks with reporters during a news conference Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Denson, who accused a former Mormon missionary training center director of raping her in the 1980s and the church of failing to take her allegations seriously, has sued the man and the church in a move that could bring more scrutiny to the religion's handling of sexual abuse reports. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A woman who accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of covering for a former missionary leader who she says raped her in the 1980s says she may be ready to drop her lawsuit against the faith.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that McKenna Denson said Tuesday during a court hearing that she still doesn't have an attorney and may not want to get one anymore.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin Pead gave her two weeks to make a decision.

Denson of Pueblo, Colorado, accused Phoenix-area resident Joseph L. Bishop of sexually abusing and raping her in 1984 at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, where he was president.

Back in May 2019, Denson's previous attorney, Craig Vernon, withdrew and she's been unable to find a law firm to take her case.

Denson said three firms were reviewing her case, but it's hard to find an attorney because some firms are "intimidated" by the Church.

A judge previously dismissed part of Denson's lawsuit against the Church because the statute of limitations had passed, but allowed a fraud claim to stand because an alleged-cover-up was discovered.

RELATED: Former MTC president says church leaders knew of sexual indiscretions with missionaries

Two women have accused Bishop, who's now in his 80s, of misconduct when he was MTC president. In 2017, he told BYU police during an interview at his home that he confessed to a bishop that he asked to see a missionary's breasts and gave another missionary a back rub.

One of the women was Denson.

“She accused me of trying to rape her,” he said. “I don’t have any, any recollection, anything like that.” Police records indicate Bishop denied the accusations, but acknowledged he asked a woman to expose herself when she was 21.

Denson claimed she told Carlos Asay, a general authority for the Church, what happened to her. In 2017, she recorded a conversation with Bishop that he referenced in his police interview.

“She said, ‘Did Elder Asay ever approach you?’” Bishop said in 2017, “and I said, ‘No, he never did,’ and then I got to thinking later — that, that someone had called me that probably came from Elder Asay’s office, and I had told them about what I’m telling you and that I had taken care of it ecclesiastically.”

These words may have contradicted a statement from the Church in 2018, which said, "We have no record of an interview between Asay and this individual," referring to Denson.

The Church previously said it first learned of the incident in 2010 "when this former Church member, who served briefly as a missionary in 1984, told leaders of the Pleasant Grove Utah West Stake that she had been sexually assaulted by” Bishop.