For the first time in nearly thirty years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints removed one of their church leaders from his post, and then they excommunicated him.
The leader, 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, reports NBC News.
While Hawkins wouldn't say exactly why Hamula, a lawyer and father of six from Long Beach, California, was suddenly ousted, he did say that it was not for apostasy. Apostasy refers to teaching the doctrine of the church in question inaccurately or openly defying guidance from church leaders.
From 2008 onward, Hamula was apart of the "General Authority Seventy." This group is composed of 90 leaders that sit below the church president, his two counselors, and two other levels of leaders. The general authority aid the upper authorities in running the church 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."
If you'd asked authorities on Mormon church structure, they wouldn't have pegged Hamula for excommunication.
"He had a promising future," said Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and history professor at Henderson State University.
NBC reports that Hamula was even considered a candidate to join the "high-level" Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when there were three vacancies to fill in 2015. However, even after he was passed over, scholars still expected him to play an important role in the church.
"In recent years, Hamula served in important roles as assistant executive director of church history and executive director of a department that reviews all documents published by the church," adds NBC.
In 2016, Hamula was even chosen to give at a Mormon conference watched by millions. During the speech, he warned Latter-day Saints about the dangers of being lured by Satan. Although given his excommunication, he may not have paid enough attention to his own warnings.
"Satan is marshaling every resource at his disposal to entice you into transgression," said Hamula. "He knows that if he can draw you into transgression, he may prevent you from serving a full-time mission, marrying in the temple, and securing your future children in the faith, all of which weakens not only you but the church.
The last time a Mormon church leader excommunicated in the Mormon Church was charged with apostasy, In 1989, George P. Lee, an American Indian, said other church leaders were racist. He was excommunicated for "apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church," reports NBC News.
Before Lee, it had been 46 years since a Mormon church leader had been excommunicated. At that time, it was Richard R. Lyman, who was excommunicated on the charge of adultery. However, he was baptized again only 11 years later.
Because it is the first excommunication of a leader in decades, Hamula's removal will probably be talked about among the 16 million Latter-day Saints worldwide. However, because Hamula's name was not widely known, it may not cause too much uproar, adds Bowman.
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