MormonLeaks, a website known for releasing inside information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints, is often at the center of attention-grabbing stories. Recent revelations about the LDS Church’s finances and sexual assault have popped up in headlines. But the site’s founder, Ryan McKnight, has a bigger mission than stoking controversy.
McKnight, who lives in Las Vegas, is in Utah this week presenting at the Sunstone Summer Symposium, an annual seminar devoted to Mormonism in all its iterations. He said it’s a common misconception that MormonLeaks is attempting to discredit the LDS Church.
“With the exception of one or two leaks, everything we’ve published could be easily viewed from a faithful perspective,” McKnight said. “I think a lot of active Mormons don’t realize that - they think that it’s just a big ‘testimony-breaking’ website. But it’s really not. A lot of the stuff reflects well on the church.”
The website has released some controversial material recently though, including an audio recording of a woman, McKenna Denson, speaking with a former president of the Missionary Training Center. In the recording, Denson accuses the former leader of raping her in the 1980s.
McKnight said one of his top priorities with MormonLeaks is to shed light on how the LDS Church handles allegations of abuse.
“The Church obviously can’t stop sexual abuse from happening completely,” McKnight said. But he said he would like to see the Church be more forthcoming with information about the sex abuse cases it’s been involved with, by sharing details about settlement payments or other agreements.
“We are not interested necessarily in the shock value,” McKnight said. “Some of the stuff we publish inherently has shock value, but if something provides insight into an aspect of the church that we believe should be open to the public we’re going to publish it no matter how boring and mundane it is.”
McKnight’s argument is this: tithe-paying Mormons deserve to know how the LDS Church is spending its money and using its resources, like a typical non-profit would. But McKnight understands that as a religious organization the Church is not obligated to do so.
“I’m not optimistic that the Church is going is going to listen to us and make any material changes,” McKnight said.
The LDS Church doesn’t generally engage with McKnight directly, but he’s okay with that. He said his goal is to inspire the average Mormon to become a little more curious about how their Church is run.