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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 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 Finallyjoined!!! ( 1158431 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:54AM (#23401444)
    That would be as easy as pushing water uphill with a sharp stick :-)

    • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:01AM (#23401508)

      That would be as easy as pushing water uphill with a sharp stick :-)

      "Dum, dum, dum, dum, DUM!"
      • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @12:59PM (#23405444)
        My favorite analogy comes from Joe Rogan on News Radio:

        "Dude, you can't take something off the Internet.. that's like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool."
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:08AM (#23401564) Journal
      That would be as easy as pushing water uphill with a sharp stick :-)

      John Lennon said it:

      Like trying to shovel smoke
      with a pitchfork
      in the wind
    • by thisissilly ( 676875 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:17AM (#23401692)
      Step 1: Place stick in water. Leave enough to hold on to with both hands poking out.
      Step 2: Freeze the water.
      Step 3: Push the frozen water uphill with the stick.
    • by gehrehmee ( 16338 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:29AM (#23401842) Homepage
      "Gag the Internet" I had no idea Mormons were so kinky.
    • by FurtiveGlancer ( 1274746 ) <AdHocTechGuy AT aol DOT com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:31AM (#23401876) Journal

      It's quite easy, if you freeze the water into the shape of a wheel and put the sharp stick through the middle.

      "What do they teach in the schools these days?"
    • by KnightMB ( 823876 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:40AM (#23401990)

      That would be as easy as pushing water uphill with a sharp stick :-)
      Especially since I just made a torrent for the file in question :-) Get the torrent here: []
  • Inevitably.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:57AM (#23401454) Homepage Journal
    Good morning, Mormon Church. Say hello to Ms. Streisand [] for me!
    • 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.
      • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:23AM (#23401758) Homepage
        I concur. The manual seems fairly well thought out, and doesn't have any really good secret stuff I was hoping to read. I don't know why LDS wants it concealed. In fact, I'd argue that manual is strong evidence to the rest of the Christian world that LDS is not an out-there weird cult.

        Perhaps LDS wants it publicized? Threatening Wikileaks is the perfect way to do it!
      • 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 [] ), 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.
        • Re:Inevitably.. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Machtyn ( 759119 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:41AM (#23402974) Homepage Journal
          I think it all falls under the desire to protect copyrights. The question is, "Does WikiLeaks have the right to reproduce the contents." I believe the attorneys for the LDS church would contend that they did not and that WikiLeaks violated copyright.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rickyb ( 898092 )
          The title of this Slashdot post was a bit sensationalist. According to the Wikileaks article, the Church isn't trying to "Gag the Internet." They are simply requesting that the information be taken down due to copyright infringement. The same procedure would likely follow (and has in the past) if any current, copyrighted literary work were posted to Wikileaks.
    • 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.
  • by Reality Master 201 ( 578873 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:57AM (#23401456) Journal
    You'd think after the Swiss bank debacle it'd be pretty well known that trying to suppress this kind of information (particularly when it's distributed by an international organization), just guarantees that it will be more widely disseminated than it'd otherwise have been.

    Someone circulate a memo about the Steisand effect to the lawyers of the US.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:14AM (#23401638) Journal
      See, the thing is, everyone thinks money=intelligence. "If you're so damned smart, why ain't you rich?"

      But there is no real correlation between intelligence and wealth. The wealthy can afford better schools, but education != intelligence.

      These people are used to getting their own way, they're used to the law ALWAYS working for THEM and can't imagine that there's the slightest possibililty that they, spoiled brats that they are, can't have things exactly as they want them to be.

      To quote Mr. T: "I pity the foo's".
  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:57AM (#23401462)
    When heretics try to disperse reading material that the religious deem unsuitable for the public to read, the only choice that comes to mind is to burn and censor.
  • Cult. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThatDamnMurphyGuy ( 109869 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @08:58AM (#23401466) Homepage
    If you even have a "confidential handbook", you're a cult, not a religion...or maybe a good old fashioned pyramid scheme.
    • Re:Cult. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dc29A ( 636871 ) * on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:07AM (#23401552)

      If you even have a "confidential handbook", you're a cult, not a religion...or maybe a good old fashioned pyramid scheme.
      There is no difference between a religion and a cult. Well, a minor one: religion is a popular cult.
      • Egypt (Score:5, Funny)

        by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:12AM (#23401618)
        Interesting, I never thought of the old Egyption religions as pyramid schemes, but I suppose they were the first too.
      • Re:Cult. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:23AM (#23401750) Homepage
        Not really. Most of the major religions will allow you to leave their churches/temples without any problem. You can even convert to another religion with minimum fuss. For example, I'm Jewish. There's nothing to stop me from leaving my temple and joining another. (My wife and I have even discussed this very subject recently.) There's also nothing to stop me from leaving my temple, becoming Christian, and joining a church. (Beyond the fact that the Church's religious beliefs don't match with my own, of course.)

        In a cult, leaving the church is unthinkable and anyone who expresses a desire to do so is forcibly kept from doing so. Were I a member of a cult, expressing a desire to leave the group would likely result in my detention for "re-education" or perhaps in my "disappearance."

        You are kind of right about religions being popular cults, though. Most religions start out as cults and the either die out or ease up on the cult-like behaviors and merge more into society. Christianity was a cult when it first started, but over the years it integrated more into society to the point that it isn't considered a cult now.
        • Re:Cult. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by EvilToiletPaper ( 1226390 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:43AM (#23402052)

          For example, I'm Jewish. There's nothing to stop me from leaving my temple and joining another. (My wife and I have even discussed this very subject recently.) There's also nothing to stop me from leaving my temple, becoming Christian, and joining a church. (Beyond the fact that the Church's religious beliefs don't match with my own, of course.)

          Oh really...

          The Torah states:
          Deuteronomy 13:6-10:
          If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; [Namely], of the gods of the people which [are] round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the [one] end of the earth even unto the [other] end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
          • Re:Cult. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:06AM (#23403372) Homepage
            The Torah also instructs in the proper treatment of slaves and how to conduct sacrifices. There are things in the Torah that aren't actively practiced anymore for one reason or another. I don't know of any segment of Judaism that would seriously consider killing you if you left for another religion.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by pipatron ( 966506 )

          For example, I'm Jewish.

          Stop invoking Godwin's Law!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          A religion doesn't have to physically prevent you from leaving in order to be a cult. I was a Jehovah's Witness for the first 20-odd years of my life. They use the threat of cutting off your friends and family to keep you in line. Since the church requires all relationships to be within the organization, they force you to wrap your entire life into it. It becomes your life. If you leave, you have nothing. In many cases, the families of people who have left won't even speak a word to them.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tom ( 822 )
          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
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rolgar ( 556636 )
        This shouldn't be a troll since the definition of cult can be benign.

        According to the wikipedia dictionary:

        Cult: A group or doctrine with religious, philosophical or cultural identity sometimes viewed as a sect (sect: a group sharing particular (often unorthodox) political and/or religious beliefs), often existent on the margins of society and/or exploitative towards its members.

        Note that the last part of the definition of a cult is optional, which really means that most basic definition of cult means 'a gr
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 )
      Or a Special Forces group. Or any of several classified government groups. Or a (weird but true) philanthropic group such as the PEO.
    • Re:Cult. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:17AM (#23401676) Journal
      I dunno. To some extent, I believe any corporation (church, business, whatever) has the right to some privacy about its inner workings. The Masons protect the privacy of their rituals. Businesses keep private how a product is made. And though I don't even consider it a church, the Church of Scientology even has the right to of privacy with their documents. Not everything has to be transparent and openly available. Even in a church. Those documents are accessible to members of the church, but not outsiders.
      • Re:Cult. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:25AM (#23401774)

        I believe any corporation (church, business, whatever) has the right to some privacy about its inner workings

        Not being persons, they have no such inherent right, only the rights that we the people choose to bestow on them. Since you've voted "for some", I'll register my vote as "for considerably less than persons".
    • Re:Cult. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by eck011219 ( 851729 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:23AM (#23401754)
      Not sure I agree. Many religions have confidential texts -- some are spiritual, some are operational.

      By that logic, a lot of organizations are cults, including corporations and governments. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to keep some policies public and some private -- the content of the policies is another matter, though (public OR private).

      IMO the stuff in this one is pretty dark and unpleasant. And keeping this particular stuff confidential doesn't allow a potential or current member to make an informed decision about their church. But in this case I think it's as much an issue of the policies as it is that they are (or were) confidential.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bios_Hakr ( 68586 )
      The book isn't exactly confidential. There is a distribution list. Every Church building has three copies. There are other copies for Temples and various other leaders.

      All in all, there are about 250k copies of this book provided for 10,000,000+ members.

      If a member wants to discuss a point of Church business (how is the opening song selected, can we use toasted rye bread for Sacrament, could I be excommunicated for having an abortion), the member can ask their leader to show them why and how.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • by Ottair ( 1270536 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:18AM (#23401698)
    I'm no fan of the LDS, either as an institution or as a theocracy, but they have as much right to privacy as any other group or individual. Another organization often under attack by the societal, self-elected correctness monitoring crowd is Scouting USA which sponsors an organization known as the Order of the Arrow. OA also has self published, private material that it wishes remain so. There is also an article on Wikipedia about the Order in which editors have come to a consensus about not publishing those private details in accordance with that groups request, which is within their rights. I suggest the same courtesy be extended to the LDS, it's an issue of fundamental importance to anyone who values freedom of expression in all its forms, internet or otherwise.
  • by Layer 3 Ninja ( 862455 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:26AM (#23401792) Journal
    "You guys are christian, right? So forgive me."
  • Please explain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jopet ( 538074 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:29AM (#23401838) Journal
    This is just a normal case of copyright infringement. Somebody holds the copyright and does not want somebody else to publish the book. Whether it is this book or a bestselling novel does not matter.
    I wonder how those who talk about "gagging" here would actually want copyright laws to work? Abandon them alltogether and let anyone publish whatever they like? Or just allow the publishing of something when some group decides it is "evil"?

    Of course, news media should have the right to publish excerpts from anything that is news or relevant and in most countries this is legal (i do not know about the US). So if you want to report about some weird/dangerous,/ridiculous issues in this book, provide a write-up (your own words of what is in there: legal) and support it with facsimiles of excerpts of the original (small parts: legal).

    What would be the problem with that?
  • by Edward Ka-Spel ( 779129 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:30AM (#23401856)
    I just looked at the excerpts on wikileak and it looks like this is much ado about nothing. Agree with them or not, I find nothing scandalous about a churches stance on transexuals, sperm donations, surrogate mothers, etc. Sounds like something any good church SHOULD have a stand on, one way or another.

    It sounds to me like this really is a pure IP issue. The handbook is a published material with applicable stated copyright laws. I think if you went and asked a Mormon church leader, he would be more than happy to show you his copy and answer any questions you have... ;)

    As for the PR value of this move, that is certainly questionable.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:32AM (#23401884) Homepage Journal
    Ask them how well their campaign of suppression is working out for them.
  • by ianare ( 1132971 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:37AM (#23401950)
    In 'The Gallic Wars' by Julius Caesar, book 6 chapter 14 [], there is a description of Gallic religious practices. The druids would not permit their texts to be written down, they had to be memorized. One reason being that as soon as a text was written it would pass into a sort of 'public domain' where non-druids could read it.

    This sounds like something that should be in place today. Make all religious texts public domain, no exceptions. Religions are not for profit (well in theory) and they are tax-exempt, so they have no reason to have copyright. And they use copyright law to harass and bully their detractors. So take that power away from them.

    Oh, Your religion wants hide something? Fine, memorize it.
  • by PalmKiller ( 174161 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @09:42AM (#23402030) Homepage
    The html version here chi99.htm works better cause it has the hyperlinks, the pdf has link references to it. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:01AM (#23402286)
    I was pretty deep into Mormonism for a while. I served a Mormon
    mission, graduated from the church-run BYU, and was appointed to
    various leadership positions (with 6:00am Sunday meetings to talk
    about other peoples' sex lives and all). I left the Mormon institution a
    few years ago, and based on discussions I have read on various
    Mormon-themed web forums, the main interest in the church's handbook
    of instructions relates to how people can just get the hell out.

    From the handbook:

    > Name Removal and Church Discipline
    > If a member requests name removal and a bishop or stake president
    > has evidence of transgression that warrants convening a disciplinary
    > council, he should not act on the request until Church discipline
    > has been imposed or he has concluded that no disciplinary council
    > will be held. Name removal should not be used as a substitute for or
    > alternative to Church discipline. If a member requests name removal
    > and a bishop or stake president suspects transgression but lacks
    > sufficient evidence to convene a disciplinary council, the request
    > for name removal may be approved. Any evidence of unresolved
    > transgressions should be noted on the Report of Administrative
    > Action form so priesthood leaders may resolve such matters if the
    > individual applies for readmission into the Church.

    I should emphasize that this is pure bullshit, but a lot of people who
    are trying to leave the Mormon institution get caught up in these
    sorts of games. For someone who was indoctrinated into Mormonism as a
    child, this really is a fantastic mind-fuck.

    The trick is not to request name removal, but to submit a formal
    letter of resignation. There is an entire web site devoted to helping
    people in the Mormon institution do just that: []

    The lesson from the handbook is that if you just request name removal,
    if the church hierarchy determines that you are somehow sinning, they
    will still try to humiliate you by putting you through their kangaroo
    court. The truth is, you have a legal right to simply resign from the
    church at any time, and from the instant your letter lands in the
    hands of the local bishop of your church, you are *out*. They
    absolutely cannot hold these disciplinary proceedings for you, since
    you have legally resigned and are longer a member.

    By having access to this handbook, people trying to leave the Mormon
    intitution can learn a lot about what to expect from the leaders in
    the institution when they try to leave, and they can be prepared ahead
    of time to react in a way that serves their own best interests.
    • by HeronBlademaster ( 1079477 ) <> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:33PM (#23407284) Homepage
      You kind of missed the point of that excerpt. The point is to prevent people from doing the following:

      1) Commit some sin that the church disapproves of
      2) Request that your name be removed from Church records in order to avoid the consequences
      3) Get re-baptized, thus obtaining a "clean slate" according to the records of the Church

      By asking leaders to hold off on approving name removals before determining whether there is cause for a disciplinary council is perfectly valid. There would certainly be an uproar if a guy rapes someone, gets his name removed from the church records, moves to another state, gets rebaptized, rapes someone else, and then someone finds out what happened at his last location. It's a protection mechanism for the church. (Disciplinary records are not removed, as far as I know, even if a person's name is removed from the list of members; again this is for the church's protection.)
  • Manual's Content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daimaou ( 97573 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:03AM (#23402312)
    I have three physical copies of the LDS Church's handbooks. One is from the 80s, and two are the most current.

    All they contain are instructions for people who are asked to be leaders in their church, so they'll know what to do. Unlike other religions, the LDS Church doesn't have paid clergy, so people don't go to years of school to learn how to be a minister. Instead, they are provided with these manuals and they can reference them when they have questions.

    If you're looking for some hidden secret about the LDS Church to make you go all jiggy inside, you're not going to find anything here. If you're up for a dry read though, knock yourself out at WikiLeaks.

    Finally, the LDS Church does own the copyrights to these manuals. The law does offer them protection against violators, so I don't see anything wrong with them demanding that protection.
  • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:14AM (#23402494)
    I know I'll get marked as a troll for this, but that is not my intent, so please try to be open minded. :-)

    When someone can prove to me why one god is any more real than any other god, I'll believe. Until that point in time, I regard religion as a silly obsession for the weak and stupid.

    Religion absolutely requires strict autocratic control over the devout masses. Leaking out a behind the scenes handbook thins the wall between Shepard and the flock, and may allow the sheep to think out side their assigned position in life, thus weakening the control the church has over its followers.

    Free thinking and free access to information corrupts belief in god because, "as you know, reality has a liberal bias." (Colbert.) There is no proof of god and there is no universal truth, any belief system that relies on such a fiction crumbles in the light of critical thinking and knowledge. This is why all religions have tried to censor knowledge, burn books, kill heretics, and instigate wars against non-believers.

  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The LDS manual in question instructs leaders to call Church Headquarters in cases of abuse. There is not much information in the manual.

      There is nothing scandalous in the manual. However it is copyrighted. If this were a GPL violation /. would be up in arms. Since it is a copyright violation /. is up in arms, mostly on the wrong side of the issue.

      However the LDS Church should have learned by now that trying to enforce copyright on the internet is counter-productive. If they weren't putting up a fight y

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!