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Mormon Church Goes After WikiLeaks 1172

An anonymous reader writes "The Mormon Church has instructed its lawyers to gag the Internet over WikiLeaks' release of the 1968 and 1999 versions of its confidential handbook for Church leaders. Apart from attacking WikiLeaks, legal demands were sent to Jimmy Wales of the WikiMedia foundation for a WikiNews article merely linking to the material, and scribd.com has also been censored. WikiLeaks has (of course) refused to remove the documents."
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Mormon Church Goes After WikiLeaks

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  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:59AM (#23401484)
    First as tragedy, then as farce. The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was a disgusting anti-Jewish complete fabrication, but it still gets reprinted by right wing nuts from time to time. This Mormon handbook appears to be genuine, and the Mormons are trying to suppress its publication.

    There's a lesson there, but I suspect you can't recite it on the Internet without invoking Godwin's Law.

  • Silly Lawyers... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:01AM (#23401498)
    As a lifelong Mormon and legal professional, I would just like to note how disappointed I am in the "business arm" of the Church, including its lawyers. This is an unnecessary stab at keeping "secrets" that haven't been secret for decades. When you have a lay clergy, there's always someone willing to discuss ostensibly "proprietary" information about church administration.

    These handbooks contain nothing more "damaging" than can be found all over the Internet, in most bookstores, et cetera. I hope the Church's spiritual leadership is swift to address what was likely a foolish bureaucratic decision.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:10AM (#23401590)
    The funny thing is, from a quick look at the Wikileaks summary (I didn't read the handbook itself), the handbook doesn't even seem that bad. Pretty standard Christian stuff, the Catholic church generally sticks to the same standards.
  • Where is wikileaks? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:16AM (#23401666)
    Is wikileaks run outside the USA? How are they able to withstand legal injunctions based on USA copyright law?

    Don't get me wrong. I love wikileaks. I'm just wondering how it is set up to withstand the long haul of attacks that will keep coming from powerful people and organizations who get their nose bloodied by documents there.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EMeta ( 860558 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:17AM (#23401686)
    ...Which makes you wonder if they wanted it to Streisand. When was the last time you think they got so many non-Mormons reading about them. Another poster said it is rather innocuous. On the heels of the FLDS blowup, I think lots of people reading stuff that shows your church in a good light is a great plan.

    Well played, sirs.
  • Re:Silly Lawyers... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:26AM (#23401784)
    I agree. I am also Mormon. There's really nothing in there that everyone doesn't already know about. In fact, there are probably half-truths and lies spreading around that the information in that book would clear up. But really, I don't think there is anything in that book that anyone would really be interested in anyway. It's just alluring because it's marked as "confidential".

    I also understand the LDS church's perspective on this. They have a right to keep certain information confidential. But, everyone knows by now that once it hits the internet, there's no stopping it.

    It seems like they should be able to sue the hosting website for copyright infringement or something along those lines for posting it on the web, though.
  • Re:Cult. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:44AM (#23402056)
    The difference between a cult and a religion is that cults have to keep their texts secret religions just keep them private ....

    See: Freedom fighters and Terrorists

    As some one above said the text is freely available but only to members ... i.e. it is private but not secret
  • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:46AM (#23402108) Homepage
    From wikipedia:

    Wikileaks is hosted by PRQ, an internet service provider in Sweden.

    FYI, PRQ is run by the guys behind The Pirate Bay. They're not likely to cave in that easily. :)

  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gamdang ( 1044048 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:52AM (#23402168)
    You're right that the Church Handbook of Instructions isn't very "bad." I'm a Mormon, and I've read it while serving in leadership positions in the church. It describes standard church procedures and policies, but focuses on the spiritual principles that motivate said policies, citing lots of scriptural sources along the way. If leaders who have the books would apply all the ideas in the handbook (e.g. about delegation, and helping others become more self-reliant) the church would be much more responsive to individual and organizational needs, and the leaders wouldn't have to work nearly so hard. I have to agree that I can't see why the church is so secretive about it. One reason might be that they don't want members to use it in order to criticize their leaders when they see that they aren't following the handbook perfectly (I've certainly seen members that would do this, but most people like this are _quite_ capable of doing so without help from the handbook). Bios_Hakr makes a good point that the church may not like people comparing the two versions (see http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=552624&cid=23401796 [slashdot.org] ), and I'm sure some of the leadership don't want the general public (members or not) reading the chapter on church discipline (which is not as juicy as one might expect). I think their attempts at secrecy are a bit silly and, ultimately, unnecessary.
  • by WheelDweller ( 108946 ) <WheelDweller@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:02AM (#23402296)
    Very funny! And you're really close to the truth, actually.

    One of their leaders, circa 1800-something went to Ejypt, and brought back a document he claimed would explain how Mormons were based in truth, the connection to [the current] Jesus Christ, etc to the new world, as soon as he was done translating it.

    Trouble is, it was nothing. Some kind of funerary manifest or something- had nothing to do with Christ, or even religion. (And why did he go to Egypt for it?) It was hidden for a long time, but recently it not only surfaced, but was translated. It's just another example of how this religion, despite it's really good people, is founded on human vanity, not evidential nor historical.

    It's sad, really, but they'll try to hide that document again, say it never happened, but it's one of dozens of re-thinks on the base of the religion that falls. Adding three words ("other" to be specific) to the Bible has turned it upside down- there's a current, living Christ, and a current, living Satan, but they're somehow spirit-brothers and live until they die. (Gods die?)

    There's more wrong with it than fish soda, but the people are nice folk...and that's what makes it sad. :
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:06AM (#23402362)
    Funny you mention that, as the first excerpt from the Wikileaks summary covers elective transsexual surgery, and it's actually somewhat forgiving:

    "Persons Who Are Considering or Have Undergone a Transsexual Operation

    Persons who are considering an elective transsexual operation should not be baptized. Persons who have already undergone an elective transsexual operation may be baptized if they are otherwise found worthy in an interview with the mission president or a priesthood leader he assigns. Such persons may not receive the priesthood or a temple recommend."
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:15AM (#23402508) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately that's not how it works. For the educated masses who have the time and interest, it does. They/we would know better because we're aware or can make ourselves aware of Buddhist beliefs and tenants. But the educated masses with the time and interest are much, much smaller than those who just believe what they hear. I haven't looked into this handbook, so I haven't a clue what it could possibly say that would cause them to not want it publicized.

    Being a Christian (and pretty well educated about the origin of the LDS) I very much commend them for the work they do, but pity them for the screwed up nature of their beliefs. Make no mistake, LDS/Mormans are not Christians. Similar values, though. There is a lot of easy to obtain info and such if you're interested. I'm not trying to flame or troll. Ask one, they don't typically associate themselves with your 'typical' Christians.

  • Re:Please explain (Score:2, Interesting)

    by explodingspleen ( 1267860 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:16AM (#23402518)

    (1) If you make divine attribution to your material, you de facto cede the copyright to it, because you've admitted you are not the actual author. Without a legal document signed by God, you just don't have any grounds to restrict it.

    (2) In fact, it violates my religious freedom because how am I supposed to observe the dictates of the text (which I plausibly believe in) if I'm kept from reading it? It's one thing to ex-communicate people (which LDS actually has some court-ordered restrictions on now) but it is another to say they can't setup their own copy church either.

    (3) If someone seriously has the secret key to salvation, it's unthinkable that the rest of us should perish in the fires of hell for lack of access to it. I'd saying doing so should open them to all sorts of lawsuits on behalf of the deceased for causing grievous post-mortem suffering.

    (4) Copyright law is designed to encourage the authorship of works by creating an opportunity for profitable return. It is not designed so the feds can watch over your little secret society for you.

  • by just_forget_it ( 947275 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:22AM (#23402622)
    Jehovah's Witnesses went through a similar ordeal when their "elder manual" was leaked. What got people up in arms was their requirement that in order to pursue any judicial matters regards child molestation, there had to have been two witnesses to the act. Without two witnesses or a confession, the elders were told not to even report the accusation to the authorities. The backlash led to a change in policy.

    Perhaps the mormon handbook has something similar, but I have nothing to base that on.
  • Re:Cult. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:32AM (#23402802) Homepage Journal
    But the line isn't cut that clearly between black and white.

    For example, my mother converted from catholicism to protestantism. That fact is dully noted in my birth certificate. Why? From what I heard, this will make it more difficult for me should I ever want to marry or get other service in a catholic church. In other words: While it's not the same as re-education, they certainly actively discourage you from leaving, even going through your children.

    It's not really a problem, I didn't marry in a church at all and they can shove their whole god nonsense where the sun don't shine, but it does irk my mother and her entire arm of the family isn't too pleased. There is certainly some soft force at work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:42AM (#23402988)
    the factor that breaks mormonism from traditional run of the mill christiian church of what ever flavor is the mormon end goal.

    "the ultimate goal of the church, as stated publicly by its early leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (but not mentioned so publicly by more recent Mormon leaders), is to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America, and to govern the world as God's appointed representatives. The church is already influential in the making of secular policy, as was proven not so long ago when the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated with decisive help from the Mormon church."

    just because it is not mentioned, does not make it go away. this is clearly stated in the book of mormon, along with the earth being only 6000 years old. not included in the offical book of mormon, but in the Journal of Discourses, a book of Brigham's sermons, the belief that Adam was in fact God, and all followers could become gods as well...

    not christian ideas in any way shape or form. the LDS has since run a major PR campaign to change how it is perceived, but not what it actual teaches or believes.
  • by Crane Style ( 1196643 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:43AM (#23403006)
    I happen to be one of the bleeping mormons in the world. The funny thing about all of this is that wikileaks makes this document to be super secretive, trying to make it as controversial as the scientology leak. It's not. I have read the entire handbook, there's nothing inside that is controversial. The handbook materials are freely available for anyone that wants to know what it says, you just need to say the magic words. Given the stark number of lies that are published about the LDS church on a given day on the Internets, I can see why they'd prefer things to not be published. The wikileaks reference a well known website that tries to debunk "mormonism" as it were. That particular site has been known on many occasions to doctor materials and post them as if they were official documentation, often in the forms of scans or pdfs as to look more authentic. If anyone wants to know what the churches stances and policies are, they can visit lds.org and find whatever they'd like to know directly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @12:00PM (#23404256)
    You know... mormons aren't the only religion to wear clothing to symbolize things. The only difference I see is that they don't try to show it off (since it's underwear, not outerwear). Jews have yamakas, Catholics have crosses, etc... "The clergy and many of the committed in almost all major faiths wear special clothing. For Latter-day Saints, among whom there is no professional ministry, men and women from all walks of life share in the callings, responsibilities, and blessings of the priesthood. Their sacred clothing, representing covenants with God, is worn under rather than outside their street clothes." (http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/temples/mormon_underwear.html).

    Why do the mormons get picked on so much?
  • by Goliath ( 101288 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @12:22PM (#23404720)
    Actually? The more context you have about the LDS church, the weirder it seems. To an observer who doesn't know anything about the church's history, it just seems like a sect that is strict and conservative, but not that strange.

    I'm not saying that there haven't been lies and things taken out of context, but an awful lot of the time, Mormons exposed to actual historical facts assume that they're just lies.

    The more you learn, the weirder it gets.
  • by Woundweavr ( 37873 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @12:53PM (#23405338)
    First, again weird != wrong || bad.

    Second, if three dudes and two chicks or five chicks and dude or two dudes and a transvestite want to shack up, more power to them. Polygamy as a recognized civil marriage/union is only problematic in that it allows chaining and isn't very scalable.

    If Jim wants to marry Jane, everything is cool (and eventually Jim and Joe will be cool outside my home state)
    If Jim wants to marry Mary then, does Jane have to marry Mary, or can he be married to two people who have no official relationship? The problem becomes apparent when one realizes the traditional special privileges involved with the marital bond (in terms of testimony, economic rights, etc). Having the mafia all "married" to each other would certainly cause some issues.

    There's also the connection between communities of polygamists and child abuse but on an individual family scale one would think this wouldn't be an issue.

    Third, allowing polygamy wouldn't make it unweird. After all, Furries are allowed to exist.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:27PM (#23405976) Journal
    Well, keep in mind that legal age and underage is an arbitrary age value. Naturally, having sex after puberty which could happen as early as 11-13 years old would at some time in history been the norm. So would the parents arranging marriages and selling women as brides. I'm not sure I remember any teachings of Jesus talking against that. I'm not even sure he mentioned the one man one wife concept either.

    Your pretty much right at least I want to think that it isn't very Christian like to do things like this. But remember, we have placed the age limits there artificial for various reasons. We have stopped the practice of arranging marriages and so on for various reasons. I'm not sure that the bible addresses arbitrary limits and procedures man has put in place outside expressing the desire to follows man's law when it isn't in conflict with God's law.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:06PM (#23406808) Homepage Journal

    Hard to be Christian when you aren't monotheistic


    Is it really that much easier to believe in one god with multiple personality disorder? That Jesus prayed to himself?

    It's really funny that many modern Christians raise this issue against Mormons, given that Jews made the same argument against early Christians.

  • But seriously, last I heard the mormon church still refuses to take responsibility for their part in the massacre.

    From Sep, 2007:

    CEDAR CITY â" The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a long-awaited apology Tuesday for the massacre of an immigrant wagon train by local church members 150 years ago in southwestern Utah.

    Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve read the church's statement on assignment from the church's governing First Presidency during a memorial ceremony at the gravesite of some of the massacre victims at Mountain Meadows, about 35 miles northwest of St. George.

    The statement also places blame for the Sept. 11, 1857, massacre on the local church leaders at the time and church members who followed their orders to murder some 120 unarmed men, women and children.

    "We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today, and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time," Elder Eyring said.

    "A separate expression of regret is owed the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre," he said. "Although the extent of their involve- ment is disputed, it is believed they would not have participated without the direction and stimulus provided by local church leaders and members."

    Seventeen children survived the massacre that culminated a four-day standoff between local Mormons and a wagon train of Arkansas immigrants making its way to California.

    Elder Eyring said that research by church historians, who are writing a book about the massacre that is to be published next year, found that church President Brigham Young's message "conveying the will and intent ... not to interfere with the immigrants arrived too late."

    The research also found that the "responsibility for the massacre lies with the local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the regions near Mountain Meadows who also held civic and military positions and with members of the church acting under their direction."

    Several hundred descendants of the victims traveled across the country to attend Tuesday's ceremony. Many of them had sought an apology from the church since the dedication eight years ago of a monument marking the burial site of some victims.

    Some have also petitioned the church to transfer to the federal government stewardship of the monument and surrounding lands the church has purchased to preserve the site that church President Gordon B. Hinckley has described as sacred ground.

    In addressing that proposal, Elder Eyring said, "The church has worked with descendant groups ... to maintain the monument and surrounding property and continues to improve and preserve these premises to make them attractive and accessible to all who visit. We are committed to do so in the future."
    http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695209359,00.html [deseretnews.com]
  • by rs232 ( 849320 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:29PM (#23407220)
    "Marriage in a Temple for Time Only"

    'Couples may be married in a temple "for time only" if all the following requirements are met:'

    '1. The woman is already sealed [sunshinepress.org] to a previous husband who is deceased or from whom she is divorced'

    "Many Mormons assume that all these marriages will be valid in the eternities [wikipedia.org] and the husband will live together in the afterlife as a polygamous family with all wives to whom he was sealed"

    I guess this provided the ecclesiastical justification for polygamy. An examply of working backwards from first principles. Want to have sex with lots of women, Elohim makes it OK .. :)
  • by HannethCom ( 585323 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:40PM (#23407406)
    We try very hard to make sure that other members do not know about things like disciplinary hearings to protect the member that the hearing is about. If you have read the handbook, you will know the procedures that are used in that process. This makes them easier to spot.

    For those who have been in the position to read the book, they can spot these things, but also have a better understanding of reasons why something is occurring and will hopefully be less judgmental and not jump to the wrong conclusions.

    We do our best to help the transgressor repent and become a fully active member in the Church in good standing. We don't claim to be perfect people. We strive constantly to become better. Thus some people might unrighteous shun someone if they knew they'd been in a disciplinary hearing. In a way we are also trying to protect the people that might make unrighteous choices if they knew about it.

    If something involves legal matters then I think the 12th article of faith properly covers that:
    We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <Mog007@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:44PM (#23407472)
    If you're allowed to be tax exempt because you're a religious organization, then you should also sacrifice the ability to copyright any of your works. You don't pay taxes, but you're still allowed to call the cops if there's a break in, or the fire department if there's a fire, and on top of that you want to get copyright protections too?

    Fuck that, I declare myself a tax exempt entity, but I'm still allowed full access of the perks that those very taxes fund.
  • I say... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by larpon ( 974081 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:56PM (#23408718)
    Poor Brett he who leaked it (accidental or not)

    Look where the links in the pdf is pointing:

    C:/Documents and Settings/Brett/Desktop/Mormon/Main Utah Church/Official/Primary Source Documents/20th Century/Church Handbook of Instructions/chi99.htm#general1

    Am I a god damn detective or what? :P
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:48PM (#23411210)
    "The church copyrights stuff not to make a profit (the leaders of the church do not make money based on how much the church makes), but so that things aren't taken out of context."

    Disclaimer: I am superstition-free.

    Those of us who do not share your faith have ZERO logical reason to trust that explanation, and every reason to want ALL religions exposed completely. We will then judge based on exposed evidence, rather than just what leadership chooses to show us.
  • List of organizations who wanted to censor WikiLeaks:

    - US Department of Defense
    - Swiss Bank Julius Baer
    - Church of Scientology
    - Church of Latter-Day Saints
    - China

    List of organizations that have succeeded:

  • by Pendersempai ( 625351 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:40PM (#23413330)

    If you're referring to the 1826 trial, Joseph Smith was not convicted. The sole complainant actually defended him at the trial (for whatever reason) and so Joseph Smith was acquitted. Then there was a lawsuit in 1827 involving the lost 116 pages (so clearly involving Mormonism) and then the next trial didn't come about until after the BOok of Mormon was published.

    Joseph Smith was convicted in 1826 in Bainbridge, New York. Check out Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence and a New History. The Book of Mormon was not released until 1830.

    This is patently absurd. Archeology can not, and never will be able to prove that such an advanced civilization did not exist. First of all, there's nothing more advanced in those people than the S. American civilizations that we know. It's not like we're talking gun powder and light bulbs. And secondly the Book of Mormon narrative can easily be confined to a small (100 miles X 100 miles) region that ended at least 1600 years ago. Are you honestly going to tell me we know *every* such civilization that has existed?

    YES, that is EXACTLY what I am telling you, at least in North America. We know this land. Even small civilizations leave footprints. We can track individual Indian tribes by their remains. The South American civilizations left towering ruins that still stand to this day. Mysteriously, the civilization that Joseph Smith claimed existed left no such remnants. Any civilization that knew how to build anything from stone would have been found by now, even if confined to a plot of land of 10,000 square miles.

    Sure. A neutral third party. In upstate New York. About a claim involving angels and gold plates. You think that's likely? There weren't a whole lot of neutral parties to be found.

    What the hell does this mean? Because they're rural, they don't have trusted third parties? He was so off the deep end that even the most staid of his rural village elders was too biased by his antics to be neutral? Even if so, it seems to me that this cuts against his case rather than for.

    The interesting thing is that Joseph Smith had 36 or 37 wives. I forget how many. His first wife, Emma Smith, became pregnant many times. Not a single one of his plural wives ever became pregnant. The historical record seems clear that Joseph Smith was not actually sexually involved in a single plural marriage. (Don't get me wrong, subseqent practitioners of polygamy definitely were.) So the motive of sex doesn't work either.

    Yes it does. First of all, there are some 11 or so claimed offspring of Joseph Smith allegedly begotten by his other wives. Genetic tests, funded by Mormon activists, have demonstrated that five of them were not his. The rest are inconclusive. This is hardly proof to me that sex was not a motive, particularly since even in those days primitive contraception existed, and like in modern times, a relatively small proportion of sexual encounters resulted in pregnancy. Let me put it to you: why, exactly, did he marry a 14-year-old? True love?

    I'm not asking you to believe that Mormons are right, but there's a long, long way to go between being opposed to homosexuality and actively persecuting homosexuals.

    The attitude that "homosexuality is a sin" means that families are sundered, immigration rights are denied on account of the sex of the partners, visitation rights are denied, tax penalties are inflicted, and there is no federal anti-discrimination law on the basis of sexual orientation -- which means that plenty of loving, stable, child-bearing families with parents of the same sex can and have lost their jobs, benefits, citizenship, hospital visitation rights, and so on, because they have the audacity to be born with the ability to fall in love with the same sex and the inability to fall in love with the opposite sex. That's persecution. No, it's not as bad as being murdered or raped -- although plenty of that happens to gay people in other count

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2008 @01:23AM (#23414334)
    State involvement in marriage = weird

    I think you put your finger on it. Same sex marriage and/or polygamy would be a non-issue if it was simply between the partners and THEIR community

    The States involvement in marriage is an anachronism.
  • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by workindev ( 607574 ) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @11:47AM (#23418726) Homepage
    Fine. That may well be true. But what does that have to do with anything? As you should probably already know, dismissing his teachings or doctrine because of that is a classical logical fallacy [nizkor.org].

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl