Former mayor, Mormon bishop accused of sex abuse of children

FILE - The Salt Lake Temple stands at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Oct. 5, 2019. Merrill Nelson, a Utah lawmaker and prominent attorney for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints advised a church bishop not to report a confession of child sex abuse to authorities, a decision that allowed the abuse to continue for years, according to records filed in a 2021 lawsuit by three of Paul Adams’ children. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
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By BRADY McCOMBS

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former Utah city mayor and bishop with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been arrested on accusations he sexually abused at least three children decades ago.

Carl Matthew Johnson, 77, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Davis County jail in northern Utah on suspicion of seven counts of sex abuse of a child, according to a probable cause statement.

Investigators say Johnson acknowledged abusing three victims in 1985, 1993 and 1996 and estimated there was a total of six victims as young as 2-years-old, according to the document. He told investigators he had struggled “controlling his sexual urges” most of his life.

The investigation is still ongoing, but so far Johnson is only booked on charges stemming from three victims. Johnson had not yet been charged as of Thursday afternoon and it was unknown if he had an attorney.

Johnson was in a “position of trust” over each victim, but the probable cause statement doesn’t say what years Johnson was a church bishop or if the alleged abuse occurred while Johnson was in that role. Bishops are lay clergy who oversee local congregations for a few years at a time in a rotating role reserved only for men in the faith known widely as the Mormon church.

Stephanie Dinsmore, spokesperson for Davis County Sheriff’s Office, declined to say if the alleged abuse happened when Johnson was a church bishop, saying in a text that the agency will not be commenting on Johnson’s “affiliation” with the church.

Johnson’s other leadership role was mayor of West Bountiful from 1990-1997, a city just outside of Salt Lake City.

The victims told investigators they were told not to tell anyone, and Johnson used his position to suppress disclosures, according to the probable cause statement.

Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t immediately have comment about the accusations.

The faith has come under scrutiny following an Associated Press investigation that found flaws in how it handles reporting of sex abuse allegations made to bishops. The church has defended the system and alleged AP has mischaracterized its reporting system.

The AP reported Thursday that a Utah lawmaker was the person who advised a church bishop in Arizona not to report a confession of child sex abuse to authorities, a decision that allowed the abuse to continue for years, according to records filed in a lawsuit.