The Deseret News reported today that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released and excommunicated Elder James J. Hamula, a Seventy, who had been serving as the executive director of the Church’s Correlation Department. The Church made it known that the reason for excommunication was not disillusionment or apostasy.
The disciplinary action was taken by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Such action with a church leader is extremely rare, then, but when necessary, a disciplinary council for a senior LDS leader is comprised of members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Church leaders have said they hold the faith’s most senior leaders to the same standards of conduct as all other members, if not more so.
It has been 28 years since an LDS general authority has been excommunicated. George P. Lee was excommunicated Sept. 1, 1989, for what church leaders said was “apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.” Lee’s was the first excommunication of a general authority in 46 years.
As a general policy, excommunications are private matters. (In the recent widely-publicized excommunications of some dissenting members of the Church, the subjects themselves went to the press, hoping to win sympathy and tarnish the Church.) However, in a case like Hamula’s, “the decision of a disciplinary council may be shared publicly to prevent others from being harmed through misinformation.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve has described disciplinary councils in the Church. “The purpose is threefold: to save the soul of the transgressor, to protect the innocent, and to safeguard the Church’s purity, integrity, and good name.” He also explained that disciplinary action is not intended to be the end of the process but the beginning of an opportunity to return to full fellowship and to the full blessings of the Church.