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7 former Mormon mission presidents publicly accused and/or convicted of sexual abuse or other sex crimes during their lifetimes
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #27: Joseph Layton Bishop

    • Joseph Bishop was a Mormon church member and president of the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center (MTC) in the 1980s; allegedly sexually abused multiple sister missionaries.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a Mission president, Other leader, .
    • Was a Other leader, at the time of alleged or confirmed criminal activity.
    • When Joseph Bishop was the president of Weber State University, a sexual harassment charge was brought against him, which the state settled.

      from the Salt Lake Tribune on 2018-03-22:

      “The former president of the Missionary Training Center for the LDS Church has admitted that he took a young woman into a small room at the Provo campus and asked to see her breasts in 1984, according to a December report released Wednesday by Brigham Young University police.

      The woman told BYU police in November that Joseph L. Bishop had sexually assaulted her at the center in 1984. After her initial report, but before she spoke in detail with officers, she flew to visit Bishop in Arizona after telling him she was interviewing former mission presidents.

      During the Dec. 2 conversation, which she secretly recorded, the Colorado woman accused him of attempting to rape her in January 1984 in a downstairs room at the center. A nearly three-hour audiotape of their conversation and a transcript were released Monday by the group MormonLeaks.

      Bishop, 85, told her he did not remember the alleged assault. But when speaking with BYU officers on Dec. 5, Bishop said he had gone into his small preparation room with the woman. “Then while talking to her he asked her to show him her breasts which she did,” the police report said.

      The day earlier, the woman had told officers that Joseph had attempted to kiss her in the room, and she resisted. She said he ripped her blouse and skirt, pulled down other clothing and raped her, the report said. She said she then pushed him off and left the room, it said.

      When officers asked Bishop why his account was different than hers, “he said he either can’t remember it or that [she] was exaggerating her account,” the report said.

      Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said he could not pursue charges against Bishop because the statute of limitations had expired. In 1984, the legal deadline for filing a rape charge was four years, he said.

      “I have no reason to doubt the victim’s disclosure, and would have likely prosecuted Mr. Bishop, but for the expiration of the statute of limitations,” Sturgill wrote.

      The woman was not immediately available for comment on the newly released report. In the recorded conversation, she told Bishop he had destroyed her faith in the church and her trust of the priesthood.

      “I have carried this, and it has destroyed my life,” she said.

      In an interview earlier this week, she told The Salt Lake Tribune she did not release a copy of her recorded conversation to MormonLeaks. She had shared the recording with several people, she said, and someone gave it to MormonLeaks without her consent.

      Mormon bishops are told to ‘believe the sisters’ when they learn of marital abuse — but they don’t always do so Mormon bishops are told to ‘believe the sisters’ when they learn of marital abuse — but they don’t always do so.

      She said the release may have undermined settlement negotiations she was having with Mormon officials. She asked not to be named, and The Tribune generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

      Greg Bishop, Bishop’s son, said Wednesday that his father’s admission to police was not entirely at odds with what the elderly man had told him in private conversations. The elder Bishop told his son and police that “that there was no sexual contact between them, no rape and that she exposed her breasts,” Greg Bishop said.

      In the recording, Joseph Bishop admits to giving another female missionary a back rub that became “frisky.” When the Colorado woman asks: “When did you molest her?” He answers: “When she was living with us.”

      Greg Bishop concedes that his father did not challenge the woman’s use of the word “molest.” But he points out that his father, when explaining the incident in his own words, says he rubbed her back and does not describe any other contact.

      Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the woman’s allegations of sexual assault “are very serious and deeply disturbing,” and would result in discipline “for any church member who was guilty of such behavior, especially someone in a position of trust.”

      Hawkins said Bishop denied her allegation in 2010 after she raised it that year with church leaders and again after her lawyer provided a copy of the recording to the church in January. The church is continuing to investigate, he said.”

      from the Daily Herald on 2018-03-23:

      “On Friday afternoon, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released additional information concerning Joseph L. Bishop, former president of the Provo Missionary Training Center, who has been the center of sex abuse allegations in the 1980s.

      “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,” the press statement said. “Such behavior is repulsive and sinful. The Church is looking into all aspects of the assertions on the recording of Joseph Bishop. This includes the work of outside legal counsel, who are interviewing priesthood leaders, family members, law enforcement officials and others with knowledge of these incidents.”

      The statement indicates the church is now aware of another woman, who informed her local ecclesiastical leaders she was sexually abused by Joseph Bishop while he served as president of the Missionary Training Center.

      “When she reported the alleged abuse to her local Church leaders in 2010, they provided emotional support as well as professional counseling services,” the church statement says. “Mr. Bishop’s local ecclesiastical leaders were contacted and they confronted him with her claims, which he denied, and local leaders did not feel they could pursue church discipline for Mr. Bishop.”

      Earlier this week, the first woman that contacted police last year about Bishop’s reported conduct in 1984 also told police about another female missionary that may have been assaulted at the same time. Initial reports indicated attempts to identify and locate this other woman were unsuccessful.

      The Utah County Attorney’s Office reviewed the first woman’s initial Nov. 28 report to police, but closed the matter on Dec. 23 because the statute of limitations had expired for the reported acts in 1984.

      The first woman told BYU University Police that Bishop reportedly tried to kiss her in an MTC room before he forcibly undressed her, pushed her on a bed and engaged in intercourse without her consent.

      Reports indicate that Bishop’s account of events is similar to the woman’s, except for the reported rape and some details about the room where the reported acts occurred.

      On Wednesday, the church received the unredacted police report from BYU police, which included an admission of inappropriate sexual conduct.

      “We are committed to bringing accountability for what has occurred,” the church statement said. “Sexual abuse cannot be tolerated in the Church.”

      The statement continues, “We continue to urge our leaders to take reports of abuse very seriously. Leaders should call the Church’s abuse helpline, which has been established to assure that victims are cared for and that abuse reporting laws are strictly obeyed.”

      It is anticipated a civil suit could be filed against the church by the first woman alleging abuse within the next few days, according to Craig Vernon, attorney for the original woman.”

    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a027
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #209: George Patrick Lee

    • Born in 1943.
    • Died in 2010.
    • Also known as George P. Lee.
    • George Lee former LDS general authority; pleaded guilty to attempted sexual abuse of a child, a third-degree felony.
    • Connection to Mormon leaders: George P. Lee was a member of the LDS church's First Quorum of Seventy from 1975 to 1989.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a General authority, Mission president, Other leader, Seventy, .
    • Was a Seventy, at the time of alleged or confirmed criminal activity.
    • Lee turned himself in in 1993.

      raised in the LDS Indian Placement Program

      excommunicated in 1989

      divorced in 1996

      “George was the first Native American General Authority in LDS church history.”

      “the first general authority in 46 years to be excommunicated”

      “He was the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships that helped him earn his B.S. from BYU, Masters from Utah State University and finally his Ed.D. in Educational Administration from BYU. He was the first Native American to get a Doctorate degree from BYU and later served as the President of the College of Ganado and Principal at Tuba City High School in Arizona.”

      mission president, Arizona Holbrook Mission, served for three years, ~1970s

      1st Quorum of Seventy from 10/3/1975 to time of arrest in 1989

      date of alleged crime: 1992
      alleged victim: 12-year-old girl

      “charges of molesting a 12-year-old girl, a friend of his daughter, a court official said Friday.”

      “He was arraigned on one count of first-degree felony child sex abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of five years to life in prison. Prosecutors said the charges were filed as a first-degree felony because Lee ‘occupied a position of special trust to the victim’ as a church leader.”

    • Latest update: 2010: died.
    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a209
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #247: Gerald Elbert Mortimer

    • Born in 1943.
    • Also known as Gerry Mortimer, President Mortimer.
    • Gerald Mortimer Former Mormon temple president OBGYN in Idaho; admitted in 2019 to secretly using his sperm to artificially inseminate multiple women; a civil suit against him was dismissed with prejudice in 2021, possibly because of a private settlement agreement.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a Mission president, .
    • Was an LDS missionary in United States from 1962 to 1964 .
    • Was married in an LDS temple in 1967 .
    • Gerald Mortimer was an LDS church member and obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) in Ammon, Rigby and Idaho Falls, Idaho who served as a Mormon mission president (San Pablo Philippines, 2005-2008) and temple president (Cebu City Philippines, 2010-2012). He admitted to secretly using his own sperm to artificially inseminate one of his patients.

      FLOODLIT has chosen to include Mortimer in this database because we believe that the crime he admitted to was of a sexual nature.

      Mortimer was bishop of the Ammon 5th Ward in Ammon, Idaho in 1992.

      He delivered his biological daughter in May 1981 – without her parents knowing that he had supplied his own sperm to her birth mother, according to a lawsuit filed by the biological daughter and her birth mother against Mortimer in 2018.

      In 2016 or 2017, the woman Mortimer had secretly fathered took a DNA test and was surprised to see that it matched her with Mortimer, a man she didn’t know, the lawsuit says.

      Her mother checked the test results and was devastated, according to the lawsuit.

      Her mother and her mother’s ex-husband grappled for several months over whether to tell their daughter who Mortimer was, the lawsuit says.

      In the fall of 2017, the biological daughter was helping her father clean his house, she found her birth certificate – and on it, Dr. Gerald Mortimer’s signature.

      from the Church News on 2009-10-03:

      “Gerald Elbert Mortimer, 66, Ammon 5th Ward, Ammon Idaho Stake, called as president of the new Cebu City Philippines Temple. President Mortimer’s wife […] will serve as temple matron. President Mortimer is the area medical adviser for the Idaho Pocatello and Idaho Boise Missions, and serves as a Sunday School teacher and temple ordinance worker. He has served as president of the Philippines San Pablo Mission, stake president’s counselor, bishop, bishop’s counselor and ward Young Men president. A retired physician, he was born in Payson, Utah […].”

      SL Trib article

      Allegedly, this case ended in an undisclosed settlement.

      Boise, Idaho • An eastern Idaho fertility doctor accused in a lawsuit of secretly using his own sperm to inseminate a patient nearly four decades ago says he did nothing wrong and doesn’t remember using his own sperm for the procedure.

      Dr. Gerald Mortimer, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist from Idaho Falls who once served as president of an LDS Church temple and a church mission in the Philippines, filed his response to the lawsuit in Idaho’s U.S. District Court on Wednesday. In it, he contends his patient agreed to let him select the “anonymous donor sperm” as long as he judged it to be appropriate and safe.

      Kelli Rowlette and her parents Sally Ashby and Howard Fowler filed the lawsuit against Mortimer in March, contending that the doctor committed medical malpractice, breach of contract and fraud when he carried out the artificial insemination procedures on Ashby over several months in 1980.

      At the time, the couple was told Ashby had a tipped uterus and Fowler had a low sperm count. They say Mortimer told them he could attempt to inseminate Ashby using a mixture of genetic material, with 85 percent of the sperm coming from Fowler and 15 percent coming from an anonymous donor. Ashby and Fowler maintain that they agreed to the process, as long as the donor sperm came from a college student who resembled Fowler: more than 6 feet tall with brown hair and blue eyes.

      Rowlette was born the following year, and her parents never told her how she was conceived. It wasn’t until Rowlette took at DNA test through the genealogy company Ancestry.com and got an unexpected result — the company predicted that Mortimer, who had also apparently submitted a DNA sample to the company at some point, was her father.

      The couple says they wouldn’t have agreed to the insemination procedure if they’d known Mortimer was going to use his own semen.

      Mortimer, meanwhile, denies the allegations.

      “Dr. Mortimer admits only that Ms. Ashby decided to use anonymous donor sperm/semen in an artificial insemination process as long as, in Dr. Mortimer’s judgment, the anonymous donor sperm was appropriate and safe,” Mortimer’s attorneys Raymond Powers and Portia Rauer wrote on his behalf. “Dr. Mortimer has no recollection of having utilized his sperm/semen in the artificial insemination process with Ms. Ashby, and therefore, denies the allegations.”

      A news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dated Oct. 3, 2009 announced Gerald Elbert Mortimer and wife Linda Gay McKinnon Mortimer as the president and matron, respectively, of the then-new Cebu City Philippines Temple, The Tribune has reported.

      Gerald Mortimer previously served as president of the Philippines San Pablo Mission and was the area medical adviser for the Idaho Pocatello and Idaho Boise missions. Mortimer is originally from Payson, Utah, and his wife was born in Logan.

      IDAHO FALLS — A retired Idaho Falls gynecologist sued last year for allegedly using his own sperm to inseminate a woman admitted to the wrongdoing in sworn testimony.

      Dr. Gerald E. Mortimer, the accused physician, previously denied having any memory of using his sperm to inseminate the eggs of patients seeking fertility treatments. But now Mortimer has confessed not only to inseminating one patient in this way, but multiple, according to court documents recently discovered by EastIdahoNews.com.

      Kelli Rowlette, a Washington resident and Mortimer’s biological child, filed the initial case in March of last year. Rowlette is the child he fathered with one of his patients, Sally Ashby. Ashby and Howard Fowler, who were married in 1980 when the incident took place, sought fertility treatments from Mortimer when they were unable to conceive a child. Fowler and a donor both provided sperm for Mortimer to use in the insemination process. However, Mortimer, without Ashby or Fowler’s knowledge or consent, used his own sperm instead.

      RELATED | Idaho Falls doctor artificially impregnated patient with his own semen, lawsuit claims

      When attorneys involved in the case initially deposed Mortimer, he denied having any knowledge of using his sperm to inseminate Ashby or any of his other patients. However, in December 2018, Mortimer changed his story, according to court documents.

      Rowlette’s attorney, Shea Meehan, questioned Mortimer while he was under oath. Meehan asked if Mortimer previously lied about not being able to remember using his own sperm to inseminate Ashby, and Mortimer admitted to the fabrication.

      “I was ashamed,” Mortimer said. “I regret the fact that I was a sperm donor; that I did those things in the past. I guess I feel bad about that. I wish I hadn’t done it.”


      In his deposition, Mortimer admits to masturbating at his office and giving a nurse the semen samples that were to be used. Mortimer confessed to using his own sperm at least twice, but less than 10 times to inseminate patients. He said no one else in his office knew about the practice, and he doesn’t recall when he began or stopped using his own semen.

      He was employed at Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates of Idaho Falls from 1977 to 2005. Court documents indicate he left the practice because he feared he would be caught.

      Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates is listed as a defendant in the Rowlette case. The lawsuit claims the clinic is vicariously liable for Mortimer’s alleged actions and for “failure to exercise due care to control Mortimer so he would not injure patients.” None of the doctors currently at the clinic were working there when Mortimer was practicing.

      RELATED | Fertility doctor denies using own sperm to impregnate patient

      Mortimer remained Ashby and Fowler’s physician through and after the delivery of Rowlette. Mortimer admitted to knowing Rowlette was his child at the time of her birth as he was delivering her, according to the deposition.

      “How violated I felt by the doctor, knowing what he had done, and that he continued to see her (Rowlette) every appointment that we had when I was pregnant for Nick (Rowlette’s half-brother). And I was in a state of shock for quite a while,” Ashby said in a video deposition recorded in August 2018.

      Neither Rowlette nor her parents knew about Mortimer’s role in Rowlette’s conception until she completed a DNA test on Ancestry.com. Through a family search function, the website linked her DNA with Mortimer’s — a man she didn’t know and couldn’t remember ever meeting. At first, Rowlette assumed that the website made a mistake.

      “I thought the test was incomplete or wrong,” Rowlette stated in her deposition. “I thought it was impossible.”

      In fact, it wasn’t until Rowlette got a copy of her birth certificate and saw the doctor who delivered her was Gerald E. Mortimer — the same man Ancestry.com had identified as her father — that she believed the DNA results were accurate. At that point, with the support of Ashby and Fowler, Rowlette decided to file suit against Mortimer.

      RELATED | Doctor who allegedly used own semen to impregnate patient wants case dismissed

      Although the case has been active since March 2018, Mortimer and his attorneys, Portia Rauer and Raymond Powers, filed a motion for summary judgment in April 2019. Summary judgment is when a court enters a judgment for one party without a full trial. Both parties presented oral arguments to Judge David C. Nye in September, and the court will issue a written decision when a conclusion is reached.

      Rowlette and her family are seeking an undisclosed amount of more than $75,000 in damages.

      Neither Mortimer’s attorneys nor Rowlette’s have responded to requests for comment. However, no further formal court proceedings are expected to take place until January 2020 at the earliest, according to court documents.

      Nonetheless, Rowlette and her parents are not the only family impacted by Mortimer’s actions. Mortimer’s admission of using his sperm to inseminate multiple patients creates the possibility that although Rowlette is the only biological child of Mortimer’s to sue him, she may not be the last.

    • Latest update: 2021: civil lawsuit dismissed with prejudice.
    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a247
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #273: Spencer John Palmer

    • Born in 1927.
    • Died in 2000.
    • Spencer Palmer was a Mormon temple endowment ceremony actor, BYU professor, mission president, temple president, LDS church area authority; posthumously accused of child sexual abuse by his grandson.
    • Connection to Mormon leaders: was a mission president, temple president, LDS church area authority, and personal friend of Mormon prophet Gordon B. Hinckley.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a Bishop, BYU professor, Mission president, Other leader, Sunday school teacher, Temple president, .
    • Was married in an LDS temple in 1956 .
    • Spencer Palmer was a former BYU professor of religion, mission president, temple president, LDS church area authority, and personal friend of Mormon prophet Gordon B. Hinckley.

      FLOODLIT recognizes that Spencer Palmer was never publicly charged with a sex crime during his lifetime. Our goal is to provide transparency and accuracy to this topic.

      Palmer was posthumously accused of child sexual abuse by his grandson Matt Purcell on Mormon Stories Podcast.

      In a 1969 film version of the Mormon church’s temple endowment ceremony, Palmer played the role of a Christian minister hired by Satan.

    • Latest update: 2000: died.
    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a273
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #290: Byron Lloyd Poelman

    • Born in 1934.
    • Died in 2014.
    • Also known as President Poelman.
    • Byron Poelman was a bishop and stake president in Utah and partner in a law firm that represented the LDS church; arrested in 1994 for soliciting a prostitute; pleaded guilty to a class B misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute.
    • Connection to Mormon leaders: was a partner in the Mormon church's law firm Kirton, McConkie and Poelman; the firm dropped Poelman's name shortly after he was caught doing a sex crime; Poelmans' brother Ronald was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a Bishop, Bishopric counselor, Mission president, Missionary, Stake high council, Stake president, Sunday school teacher, .
    • Was a Stake president, at the time of alleged or confirmed criminal activity.
    • Was an LDS missionary in Netherlands .
    • Was married in an LDS temple in 1963 .
    • Note: Most of the cases in FLOODLIT.org’s database involve sexual abuse. While Poelman was not found guilty of abuse, he was found guilty of a sex crime involving a young woman, and he was a prominent LDS church member at the time of his arrest.

      In 1994 in Salt Lake City, Byron Lloyd Poelman, a Mormon stake president and partner in a law firm that represented the LDS church, was arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

      He paid a 19-year-old woman $30 to give him oral sex in his car, and was caught by a Salt Lake City police officer.

      The woman was taken to jail for the night, while Poelman was released immediately.

      In a stake conference held on August 14, 1994. LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer presided over a “special” stake conference wherein Poelman was released with a vote of thanks. Poelman was permitted to speak, and address the youth – a marked departure from the norm for an LDS church member.

      “President and sister Poelman’s lives need to be private now. […] We are a family. A family keeps things private. A family draws close together. These things are to be kept private,” Packer said, according to notes taken by two people in attendance.

    • Latest update: 2014: died.
    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a290
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #306: Lowell Robison

    • Born in 1944.
    • Died in 2018.
    • Lowell Robison was a mission president in Mexico in the 1990s; accused in 2018 of sexually abusing missionaries; two months later, committed suicide.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a Mission president, .
    • Was married in an LDS temple .
    • During the 1980s and 1990s, Lowell Robison allegedly engaged in predatory sexual behaviors with several male cousins/BYU students. In 1995 Lowell Robison was called to serve as a mission president to the Mexico Leon mission (1995-1998). Christopher Swallow and his brother were two of his alleged victims. When Christopher and his brother learned that Lowell Robison had been called as a mission president, they met with Elder Earl C. Tingey (LDS General Authority) at LDS church headquarters to report Lowell Robison’s sexual abuse. Allegedly, zero support was given to them as abuse victims. No change was made to Lowell Robison’s assignment, and he served out a full term as mission president.

    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a306
  • FLOODLIT.org Mormon sex abuse case #328: Philander Knox Smartt

    • Philander Smartt was a Mormon mission president; accused of sexually manipulating some of his sister missionaries.
    • Worked in the LDS church as a Mission president, Other leader, .
    • Smartt was not charged with a crime; however, an LDS church spokesman said, ““The sister missionaries who had been deceived and victimized were provided with ecclesiastical and emotional counseling, which continues to be offered to this time,” Hawkins added. “The wife and family of the mission president have been assisted by the church with the legal, emotional and personal consequences resulting from the immoral and sinful behavior of one man.””

    • More details at FLOODLIT.org/a328