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A 'Wikileaks' for Secret Church Documents Launches for Concerned Mormons

The founder of MormonWikileaks says he's not interested in gossip. He wants verifiable "items that have to do with the institution as a whole."
Image:The LDS Church's Mormon Temple in downtown Salt Lake City
The Mormon Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah.Jim Urquhart / Reuters - file

The man behind a controversial YouTube site that publishes leaked videos disclosing the inner workings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has launched a website where members and employees can anonymously submit leaked church documents.

The site, named MormonWikileaks, went live Monday. The first leaked document was a 2010 memo (PDF) discussing how to reduce the number of unauthorized photographs of the interiors of Mormon temples posted online — photos that the memo says could be "anything but helpful in understanding the purpose of the temples."

The site is the creation of a team led by Ryan McKnight of Las Vegas, a former Mormon who began discussing his disillusionment with the church online more than two years ago.

In October, he began publishing leaked videos of meetings among top church leaders on a YouTube channel that has amassed 2,200 followers in just a few weeks.

"The site is built on the philosophy of 'if you build it, they will come,'" McKnight said Tuesday in an interview. "This is a game of patience."

The church said it had no comment on the site.

McKnight said he's not interested in gossip about members of the church — in fact, he said, he's already turned down offers of information about the church contributions of two famous Mormons.

He's interested in "items that have to do with the institution as a whole," he said. "It can be good or bad."

Because disclosing church documents is a violation of non-disclosure agreements employees must sign, the site provides detailed instructions on how to install and use the identity-protecting encrypted software Tor.

And to avoid actively encouraging church employees to breach their secrecy agreements, it doesn't even ask for specific documents.

Image: The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah
The sun sets behind the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah.Douglas C. Pizac / AP

"Our message is if a church employee or former employee comes across information that their conscience tells them should be available to the public, we want them to know there is a process to assist them in that process — and that's all that there is," he said. "We're merely the conduit."

McKnight said his hope was that "there will be no need for lots of leaks, because maybe this will motivate the church to be more transparent."

An example would be the disclosure last year of revisions to the Church Handbook of Instructions — parts of which are supposed to be restricted only to church leaders.

The revisions instructed local church leaders that same-sex couples are apostates and that children living with them can't take part in church activities until they're adults and leave home.

Related: Mormon Church Bars Children of Same-Sex Couples From Baptism, Blessings

A week after NBC News confirmed the authenticity of the documents, the church issued a statement saying it would leave it up to local leaders to decide whether children already baptized and active in the church are eligible to participate in sacred acts if they live with a same-sex couple.

Asked about that controversy in an interview with KKAT radio of Salt Lake City, McKnight said: "These policies should not be secret. They should not be only for bishops and above.

"If you're a card-carrying member of the LDS church, you should know what the policies and procedures are of your church that you're donating to," he told the station.

Asked Tuesday whether he thought his site would spur the church to be more open, McKnight told NBC News: "I suppose time will tell."

But he added: "I doubt that."