New website plans to showcase leaked Mormon documents

First Published      Last Updated Mar 21 2017 09:12 pm

Mormon WikiLeaks » Founder Ryan McKnight plans forum to feature purloined papers about the Utah-based faith.

Ryan McKnight hopes to become a Mormon version of Julian Assange, the Australian whistleblowing hacker who has published tens of thousands of secret government documents.

On Monday, McKnight, a former Latter-day Saint in Las Vegas, plans to launch Mormon WikiLeaks, an online website where anonymous tipsters — including those who work for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — can post purloined papers by and about the Utah-based faith's programs, policies and policymakers.

He and his former Mormon team — including a website designer, two cybersecurity experts and a social media developer — have not decided whether the debut will include any new finds.

"We received some documents and are still authenticating them and assessing their value," McKnight said in an interview Saturday. "If that gets done by Monday, we may release them on the site."

The LDS Church declined to comment, but critics of the new enterprise cited concerns about legal issues — church employees sign nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements — the ethics of violating an employer's trust, and the one-sided view the leaks may provide.

McKnight burst onto the scene in October, during the church's fall General Conference, when he facilitated the posting of 15 videos showing Mormon apostles privately discussing topics ranging from gay rights to politics to piracy to, as he said, simply offer "a peek behind the curtain" of the faith's burgeoning bureaucracy.

The videos, whose veracity the church did not dispute, went national. McKnight said he was inundated with queries from insiders wanting to make private Mormon information public, but needing assurances of anonymity, given the potential to be fired from LDS Church employment.

That's when McKnight, serving as a publisher, not the source of internal LDS documents, began to feel an urgency about providing a means whereby disgruntled or disillusioned members could post their work without fear of discovery.

Of course, there's always the question of authenticity.

If a document is unredacted — has all the names still listed — it's credibility is easier to determine, McKnight explained. If all the names are blocked out, there is little way to verify it.

In an era awash in fake news, McKnight expects to receive invented documents. Defensive Mormons may go on the offensive and send false material in an attempt to discredit the site, he said, and anti-Mormon zealots may concoct false items to discredit the faith and dismay the faithful.

But McKnight is determined to do all he can to weed out the good stuff from the bad. He has done it before.

Last September, a previous leaker sought McKnight's help in bringing to light LDS information he promised would be even more explosive. After working with him for some months, McKnight said, he concluded that the man was exaggerating what he had.

"I have no reason to believe," said the Vegas man, who goes by Fearless Fixxer on the Reddit website, "that any more information will come from him."

But McKnight is betting that solid, newsworthy leaks will emerge, and that Mormon WikiLeaks will be the repository of choice.

Not that he expects to make any money from the undertaking. He has no plans to sell ads on the website. He also harbors no illusions that his labor will bring down the church nor — as anti-Mormon activist Fred Karger aims to do — cost the global denomination its tax-exempt status.

McKnight just hopes it will give Mormons a more realistic view of their church — that it is a business, not a religion, and that the apostles and governing First Presidency don't "sit in a room all day talking to Jesus."

Mormon writer and researcher Jana Riess is no fan of McKnight's approach.

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