A former Utah city mayor and Latter-day Saints bishop charged with sexually abusing minors

(For Immediate Release September 9, 2022) 

A former Utah city mayor and Latter-day Saints bishop has been arrested on charges of sexually abusing at least three youngsters decades ago.

According to a probable cause statement, Carl Matthew Johnson, 77, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Davis County prison in northern Utah on suspicion of seven charges of sex abuse of a minor.

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.

Sadly, in the Mormon church and other denominations, church officials still often try to handle serious criminal matters quietly and internally, acknowledging an investigation later and often only under serious external pressure. 

We applaud the victims who bravely detailed their horror to investigators, we stand with them and wholeheartedly believe that other victims will hear them. Given Johnson's age and extended career, we suspect there are many more than six victims. We hope they find the fortitude and confidence to approach law enforcement with their information and get the help they need. We also encourage Mormon church authorities to move beyond brief, carefully prepared remarks and respond to claims of involvement in the most direct way imaginable.

There are two lessons here. First, those who see, suspect, and suffer child sex crimes must report to secular authorities, not church authorities. Second, when church figures suspect or know of child sex crimes, they must immediately contact the police, and not start “circling the wagons.” Johnson had full access to vulnerable children while working for the church and as an elected official. From our viewpoint, the community should be outraged. 

Utah SNAP Leader, Judy Larson shared comments with 2KUTV news, ‘Members of the church just don’t want to believe it, because, in the Mormon church, he lives just down the street.’

This is why at SNAP, we believe the line from the Academy Award-winning film "Spotlight" rings true: "It takes a village to abuse a child." However, we also know that a village with information or suspicions about abuse can also protect others from harm.

 CONTACT: Judy Larson, SNAP Board Member and Utah Leader ([email protected], 801-831-5277), Mike McDonnell, Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

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