general handbook of instructions – Stay N Alive

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 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 and the 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?