Mormon leader excommunicated after “disciplinary action”

SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon church leader was removed from his post and kicked out of the religion Tuesday for the first time in nearly three decades.

James J. Hamula was released from a mid-level leadership council based on disciplinary action by the religion’s highest leaders, said Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church told CBS affiliate KUTV such disciplinary actions are “exceptionally rare.”

Hawkins didn’t say why Hamula was ousted, but the Utah-based church said it was not for apostasy, which refers to teaching inaccurate doctrine or publicly defying guidance from church leaders.

Efforts to reach Hamula at listed phone numbers were not successful.

The last leader to be excommunicated was the late George P. Lee in 1989 after Lee, an American Indian, called Mormon leaders racist. The church said then that Lee was removed for “apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church.”

The last church leader removed before Lee was Richard R. Lyman, who was excommunicated in 1943 for adultery but baptized again 11 years later.

Hamula became a member of a group called the “General Authority Seventy” in 2008. It is a group of nearly 90 leaders that sit below the church president, his two counselors and two other levels of leaders.

They help run church operations by serving as a bridge between local lay leaders in Mormon congregations around the world and the top leaders working at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Hamula’s removal is surprising because he was well-regarded and was even considered by some outside Mormon scholars as a possible candidate to join the high-level Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when the church was filling three vacancies in 2015, said Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and history professor at Henderson State University.

Hamula was not chosen, but he was still considered an up-and-comer destined for more important assignments, Bowman said. In recent years, Hamula served…

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