The Church is often accused of being secretive about its history. My tendency is to think that this is a bit overplayed. No less an iconoclast that Will Bagley (of Blood of the Prophets fame) has stated that he doesn’t think that there is any secret history of Mormonism to be written. This is not to say that there aren’t some documents that I would love to see!
Interestingly, the Church Archives recently did a massive digital doccument dump, putting thousands of pages of documents on DVD. Among the items included are numerous documents discussing church trials for moral infractions in Nauvoo. As much as possible, these names have been carefully blacked out, although the number of documents digitized was large enough that some places were missed and you can probably reconstruct who most of these church courts were about.
The stated reason for this policy was not to save the faithful from unseemly details. Rather, it flowed from the church policy that church courts are confidental and their proceedings are not released to the public. Even when the church court occured over 150 years ago. In his basically laudatory review of the DVD’s in the Journal of Mormon Studies, Gary Begerra — managing editor of Signature Books — said that he thought such a policy was not justified. One’s right to anonymity in ecclesiastical courts lapsed at death or some point thereafter.
It is an interesting issue. Full disclosure now. I am very interested in Mormon legal history, and in particular in the practice of Mormon courts resolving civil disputes during the 19th century. Unfortunately, the primary sources for this research consists almost ENTIRELY of sealed, church court records. A couple of researchers have been given access to this material (see Zion in the Courts), but only on the condition that names be expunged from records. And here we are talking not about sexual misconduct, but two brothers arguing over wandering live stock or a promissory note. On the other hand, there is a certain integrity to the Church’s position.
Still. I would love to see the records…