Mormon church
A flag flies at half mask outside the world headquarters of the Mormon Church for Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (The Mormon church) in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 3, 2018. REUTERS/George Frey

A woman who alleged that a former Mormon leader raped her in the 1980s, filed a civil lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday, accusing the church of failing to take her allegations seriously. She said Thursday that she wants the church to change the way it handles sexual abuse reports.

McKenna Denson, 55, alleged she was raped in 1984 by Joseph L. Bishop, the former president of a Mormon missionary training center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. Denson said she told local Mormon leaders about the assault numerous times over the years, however, the church failed to take disciplinary action against the leader despite reporting the allegations.

Instead, she stated Bishop was allowed to continue holding leadership positions, which made him responsible and in charge of hundreds of Mormon youth.

Denson said that after trying to seek justice through the church for more than 30 years, she is “absolutely prepared” to fight it in court.

“I’m ready for this,” Denson said Thursday during a press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. “I’ve been ready. I think what makes me feel even more confident [is], I’m right. It happened. I was raped at the MTC. The church covered it up, and they still promoted him to higher and higher positions of the church.”

Bishop, the accused, is now 85 years old, and he has denied the rape allegations. In an interview with the police in 2017, he admitted that he had taken Denson to a small “preparation room” at the center and “asked her to show him her breasts, which she did.”

In this representational image, a Mormon holds a copy of The Book of Mormon during an interview with Reuters at the missionary training center of the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the Aragon neighborhood in Mexico City, Feb. 23, 2012. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

"Joseph Bishop sought me out individually," Denson claimed. She also alleged the leader called her out of class and asked her to visit his office. She said the first time he asked her, along with three other sister missionaries, Bishop posed explicit questions about past sexual abuse. Eventually, she claimed, the conversations became one-on-one conversations that were allegedly inappropriate and sexual in nature.

The LDS Church responded on Thursday with a statement after the press conference. It said: "Our hearts ache for all survivors of abuse, and the Church is committed to addressing incidents of abuse wherever they are found. As this is now an active legal matter, we are unable to make further comment at this time. We are confident that the legal system will ensure a just result in this case."

In a previous statement earlier, the Mormon church claimed it was not capable of imposing formal discipline on Bishop because it could not verify the allegations against him. The church however, said it is investigating the alleged rape again and would take strict action against the leader if it found the alleged claims to be true.

Denson’s attorney, Craig Vernon, said his client is seeking to hold Bishop accountable and that he hopes the lawsuit against the leader will also reveal systematic problems in the church’s handling of abuse allegations through the years.

“We want the church to consider whether it makes sense to instruct [leaders], if you find out about one of these crimes ... don’t call the helpline, call the police,” Vernon said during a press conference on Thursday.