The Mormon Church/Wikileaks Fiasco (or not-so-fiasco), A Mormon’s Perspective

Note that I’m not going to provide any links to the mentioned content here – you can go research yourself. Unlike Wikileaks, I respect others’ copyright.

One thing you may notice on this blog is that while I rarely pipe in with religious thoughts and my own personal religious beliefs (although I used to quite often), I will not hesitate to step in when a Social Media-related religious event occurs. An interesting Groundswell is happening today between the Headquarters of my Faith, and the controversial anonymous sharing site, Wikileaks. However, I don’t think it’s occurring in the way people think it is.

This morning on Slashdot you may have seen an article about the Mormon Church (or “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints“, which is the Official name of the Church) sending a Cease and Desist to Wikileaks for posting links to a Copyrighted, yet old version (1999) of the Church’s “General Handbook of Instructions” for others to freely download.

I don’t understand why this is news. Having been in LDS Bishoprics before as a Clerk and Executive Secretary, I am very familiar with this manual. It is simply a guide for leaders of the Church to know how to council and guide members of the Church, and according to my understanding, NOT (fully) DOCTRINE. It is simply a Policy manual, and while Bishops and other Leaders of the church may follow its council, in the end they are left up to their own judgement (encouraged by the Church “to follow the promptings of the Spirit”) to decide how to handle matters in the Church. The Church considers the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Perl of Great Price to be the Official Doctrine of the Church.

The Mormon Church is simply requesting Wikileaks remove the content because it is their own IP, not Wikileaks, and they are removing it as they would any other Church-owned and copyrighted document. Wikileaks and other sites are also portraying the contents of the manual as though it is doctrine for the general membership of the Mormon church, when in reality it was only intended as a guide for Leaders in the first place. The Mormon church has to protect the dissemination of false information as well.

In Charlene Li’s and Josh Bernoff’s book, Groundswell, she starts out with an example that happened last year on Digg.com where a user shared a blog post about how the HD-DVD Encryption standard had been broken. AACS LA quickly sent a cease and desist to Digg.com and the Digg.com founders promptly removed the link. Before Digg knew it, their own users began to backlash against them, occupying the entire front page of Digg with copies of the HD DVD encryption algorithm. Digg had a Groundswell of its own between its own users and it knew it had to do something. What did they do? They listened to their users and put the link back up, stating they would go down fighting rather than ignore their users.

I think with the post on SlashDot this morning some people may be thinking (and some hoping) a similar Groundswell is going to occur with the Mormon Church. Those that think so will be pleasantly surprised – there’s a difference between a Groundswell of your own members and those outside of your membership talking about you. How do you handle a Groundswell of people outside of your customer-base/user-base/member-base? You get in the conversation!

I want to share with you a video from Elder Russell M. Ballard, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of 12 Apostles – religious or not, I’d like to encourage you to read this not just from a religious perspective, but also a business perspective and how you can disseminate correct information about your business:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is getting in the Groundswell through its own members. They encourage their members to blog, Twitter, get on Facebook, and clarify misconceptions. The Mormon Church will overcome this Groundswell (if you can even call it one) via its own membership, correcting misinformation Socially rather than through news releases and other means and letting the general media and blogosphere say what it believes. They have a Youtube channel here. They are on Twitter. They have a Facebook Page.

I encourage other churches and even businesses to take this response – there is a lot that can be applied from a religious, or even non-religious perspective from this. When you get your own followers of any business, brand, or religion to spread correct information about your brand it can overcome any misinformation spread about it.

Wikileaks is wrong in this case – they are sharing copyrighted information, not owned by themselves, and without the permission of the owner. The LDS Church isn’t going after them because the shared links are “secret”, but rather it is copyrighted material, and Wikileaks does not have permission to share it! As a book author and software developer I don’t want people using my content without my permission (which I’m generally pretty relaxed on in my personally owned content). Why would I want Wikileaks sharing the content I personally own on their site let alone others?

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jessestay

Jesse Stay has been a pioneer in the space of social media marketing since before it was called "social media marketing". Originally a software developer, Jesse built a tool called SocialToo.com which helped brands like Pepsi, Brittany Spears, and MC Hammer grow their social media presence, and before he knew it brands were coming to him for help to grow their presence in very unique ways. His tool was featured on almost every tech blog and even mainstream news sites like New York Times, Techcrunch, and Mashable. Jesse also spent a brief period working FOR Facebook, Inc., helping them to build out their documentation to help companies integrate Facebook Connect into their websites and mobile apps. Jesse took his skills and helped the LDS Church kick off most of its social media programs. While there he helped launch the award-winning "I'm a Mormon" marketing campaign with global reach worldwide in the millions of views and followers. Jesse established new global programs at the Church to further grow its reach amongst both members and non-members of the Church, working with every department of the Church, also including entities like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brigham Young University. He also helped the Church navigate its voice and presence during the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign due to the significant attention the Church was getting at the time. He established the social media advertising techniques and strategies employed at Deseret Digital Media growing over 20 million fans across their news properties in just 6 months, and was featured on AdWeek for his success. As founder and Principal of Stay N Alive, Jesse has developed very unique techniques in social media advertising to help organizations grow presences, within months on minimal budgets, into hundreds of thousands of highly relevant and engaging fans and followers. He designed and teaches social media advertising at LDS Business College. He has helped grow sales, and has a belief that yes, you CAN measure social! Jesse has been featured as one of 10 entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter (next to Biz Stone and Ev Williams, founders of Twitter) by Entrepreneur magazine. Jesse has written 9 books on the topic of social media marketing and development, including Google+ Marketing For Dummies and Facebook All In One For Dummies, and eats, lives, and drinks social media with a personal combined presence of over 600,000 followers on his personal social profiles.

0 thoughts on “The Mormon Church/Wikileaks Fiasco (or not-so-fiasco), A Mormon’s Perspective”

  1. LivSimpl, glad you liked it! Someone should submit it to Slashdot as
    another viewpoint (although I doubt they'll post it – they have been pretty
    anti-mormon lately).

  2. Just to clarify a bit, WikiLeaks has a link on their site to another site hosting the handbook. I'm not a lawyer but it seems like there should be nothing illegal about this. They also have a couple of excerpts. Again there may be nothing illegal about that. Sadly “fair use” has become a gray area but I think most of us feel like fair use ought to be legal. Excerpts may be used legally and particular protection is given when the except is used in a critical context.

    Not nice, but not illegal either. At least it doesn't seem so to me.

    The site actually hosting the handbook, on the other hand, is definitely in violation. One of the two sites that had hosted the book has already taken it down.

  3. Andrew, WikiLeaks is still hosting the document – do a search for “handbook
    of instructions” on wikileaks and you'll see the linked document – there is
    one hosted right on Wikileaks servers, along with excerpts from the
    document. Wikileaks is contributing to the copyright infringement, and they
    know it.

  4. Ah, I didn't notice that the alternative link was on their own server, either that or it wasn't when I looked this morning. Shame on them.

    By the way, the handbook has a section on the use of the Logotype. The image at the top of your post violates the trademark policies. πŸ˜‰

  5. Exactly. In the usual fashion, the hypocritical, knee-jerk reaction from the common sites on the Internet (Digg, Reddit and the like) will be as strong as usual and next to none of them will think it through.

    Ars did, to a small extent, but most other's will not.

    Good, succinct post. Random unrelated thing, I got my mission call to the Philippines about 2 weeks ago.

  6. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  7. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  8. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  9. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  10. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  11. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  12. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  13. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  14. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  15. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  16. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  17. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  18. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  19. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  20. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  21. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  22. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  23. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  24. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  25. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  26. Your church is simply a way of extracting money from people at their lowest, wake up and smell the evolution!

  27. Congrats on your mission call anon! I served in Thailand – SE Asia FTW!
    The Church wouldn't be pursuing this if they were afraid of secrecy. It is
    simply a copyright issue, and WikiLeaks is breaking the law and stealing
    someone else's property.

  28. Anon, supported by what facts? Our Church is one of the largest worldwide
    donors in the event of disaster and need. They also have one of the largest
    welfare programs in the world. With their worldwide presence and strong
    understanding of foreign languages they have a unique opportunity to get
    money places it normally wouldn't be accepted. Every penny, even the
    “widows mite” is accounted for, and audited carefully, and tracked with
    great care. I don't get how you can come to my blog, offend my religion,
    and say my Church “extracts money from people at their lowest” without any
    supporting facts or knowledge. Your knee-jerk reaction is the same response
    the likes of WikiLeaks and others are giving to this whole situation.

  29. I was just giving you a hard time. πŸ™‚

    I think you're right. Technically this is an infringement of copyright but it is not just a legal issue. The LDS Church is wishy-washy, at best, about copyright enforcement. There's copyrighted material all over the net being looked-over.

    In this case, the manual is very widely distributed. The post about it on wikileak seems to err on the side of informational. The Church is not impacted financially. And the Church, unless it is embarrassed about the content, should view its publication as innocuous and harmless from an image point of view.

    If they are embarrassed by it, they should say so and change their policies.

    So the question then becomes, what really are they trying to protect themselves from?

  30. To my other point. Your use of the logo on an article in defense of their position would never come under the scrutiny of their legal department. At least that's my guess.

    I'm not trying to be inflammatory, btw. I'm just trying to see the entire picture. At the very least, you have to admit that the situation raises interesting questions.

  31. I'll tell you what they are trying to protect themselves from. They are trying to protect the leaders who use the handbook from a major headache. As Jesse states, the handbook is a “guide.” While most leaders follow its counsel very closely, they do have the authority to make decisions separately and take into account individual circumstances. One reason the handbook is not distributed to the general membership, is to allow the leaders to maintain their decision-making authority without coming under attack every time they don't precisely follow the handbook.

    Another reason is that there are many situations that members should meet with their leaders for counsel. I am sure that many would be tempted to try to resolve or rationalize decisions by simply reading the guidelines in the handbook when they should be seeking counsel from their leaders.

  32. All Excellent points Jared – in a clergy run by the members, a guide like
    this is necessary, but only beneficial to those it was written for. It
    wasn't written for the general membership, nor is it intended to be doctrine
    for them – it is intended to be simply a guide for Leaders, and the
    discussion going on here is the exact reason they don't want it
    disseminated. When it gets into the public hands it gets taken as doctrine
    and scripture when it wasn't intended to be so in the first place. It says
    so straight in the first paragraph of the manual that Leaders are to take
    the counsel within prayerfully – that means in the end it is up to the
    judgement of the leaders, using the book only as a guide. The Guide is not
    doctrine, nor was it intended to be so and Wikileaks is making it appear to
    be as scripture, intended for the public comsumption.

  33. That's because the logo, in its general sense was intended to be for Public consumption. The General Handbook was not – it was written for leaders, and intended to be used by leaders as a guide. Now that it is in public hands it is being misconstrued as scripture and doctrine rather than just counsel for Leaders. The church has an obligation to request it be taken down in this case.

  34. It's curious that you would take an “if they ask me to” attitude toward trademark infringement in the same breath as “Unlike Wikileaks, I respect others’ copyright.”

    In reference to use of the logo there's a discussion on tech.lds.org including an official response from the Church. In particular:
    http://tech.lds.org/forum/showthread.php?t=384&page=2#17

    In short, if you want to use the logo you need to ask permission first. Not being able to find a legal version on the site might have clued you in that they don't want you to use it.

  35. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  36. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  37. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  38. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  39. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  40. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  41. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  42. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  43. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  44. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  45. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  46. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  47. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  48. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  49. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  50. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  51. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  52. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  53. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  54. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  55. Hi nice post Mr. Jesse. Anyway, I hope it is okay to you, I copied part of your blog and posted it in my blogsite and put a link back to your site to read the entire story. http://jbsolis.blogspot.com

    Thanks for this great post! You are right!

  56. Kenjebz, I enjoy your blog! Wow – Mormon Philipinos in Saudi Arabia, that's
    quite a combination! I'd love to continue hearing more of your stories
    while you're over there.

  57. Yea, and look at what they do with that money; they build houses of worship, they are engaged in huge humanitarian aid throughout the world; they help the poor and needy, where basically no one is turned away, in one of the world's most respected welfare programs. In this church, people at their lowest are helped the most and people at their highest give willingly.

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