A former member of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormon church, has launched a Wikileaks inspired website in an effort to bring the famously private church into the spotlight.
MormonWikiLeaks went live this week and will seek to expose validated documents or videos that anonymous tipsters submit, just like the original WikiLeaks.
The founder, Ryan McKnight, is a resident of Las Vegas and conceived of the idea for the website after he helped an anonymous source leak videos of senior church members at a bi-annual conference.
Since then he has been “bombarded” with people looking to share information.
McKnight says the goal of the website is to show the inner-workings of the church, good or bad. “I’m not interested in exposing a list of members or exposing list of people who go to the temple. It’s all things that are done on an institutional level,” he said. “A lot of it is policy and procedures.”
Vetting the information
There are parameters in place to ensure that all documents and content submitted is carefully vetted. Aided by a lawyer, a team of five volunteer developers that all responded to his call-out in the ex-Mormon subReddit handle these duties.
MormonWikiLeaks™ released four documents at 6:30 EST tonight on our Facebook page.
Here’s the 4th document: https://t.co/QoatQEZpgi
— MormonWikiLeaks™ (@MormonWikiLeaks) December 20, 2016
“The more salacious a doc the higher standard we’re going to put on it,” McKnight said.
Currently the page has a GoFundMe crowdsourcing page in order to cover some of the initial start up costs made out of pocket in order to launch, but McKnight says they are not looking for large sums of money.
The church themselves are yet to make a public statement about Mormon WikiLeaks – church employees sign non-disclosure agreements. However, a few members have expressed their concerns, including a Mormon culture writer, Jana Riess – who is concerned about privacy.
“People in the workplace have the right to expect that intra-office communication and their emails will stay private,” she said.
Far from exposing members negatively for the sake of it, McKnight insists that all he wants is transparency. He left the church himself at 32 after he realised how murky and unclear it’s racist and perverted past is.
“Our goal is, pure and simple, transparency,” McKnight said. “Sometimes people come across information through the course of their jobs that makes them feel uneasy or like it is something that church members deserve to know.”
The church saw a small 1.5 percent membership increase in 2015, despite its 15.9 million strong membership. And if something negative does come out, McKnight says the church only have themselves to blame.
“I would say a non-profit and a religion has a responsibility to be open,” he said. “I don’t think [the LDS church] meet the proper standards. If a website like this can promote that, I think we can do some good.”
Wikileaks is aware of the website and has tweeted calling for a name change (although it is not copyrighted), but McKnight intends to keep it, and has filed to trademark Mormon WikiLeaks.
Meanwhile, he is focused on greater issues at hand. “We’re not looking for specific information, if someone has information and it eats at their conscious and they feel it needs to be shared with the public we’re here to help them.”
There is certainly a hungry audience, especially with those who are thinking of leaving the church, “For someone in the middle of a faith transition, such information is more fuel for the fire,” McKnight said.
It remains to be seen what traction the website will gather, but if it’s bigger brother is anything to go by, it will be a fascinating rollercoaster to observe.