Mormon church excommunicates leader for first time in almost 30 years

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It is the first time in almost 30 years that the LDS Church has had to discipline a top leader through excommunication and sources told both The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News that the 59-year-old married father of six was not dismissed for "apostasy or disillusionment". "Though they are no longer a Church member, their local leader may offer continued counsel and guidance".

The grounds for Hamula's ouster were not revealed, however, reports denied that the reason was not apostasy, abandonment of religious beliefs or principles.

After disciplinary action by the Church's top leaders, James J. Hamula, who had been serving as a General Authority Seventy, was released and excommunicated on August 8.

Hamula, 59, held the rank of General Authority in the church, which has 15.9 million members worldwide, although more than a third are based in the United States.

The biography on the LDS website stated Hamula worked as an attorney before taking up full-time church service. In 1985, he received both a master of arts degree in political philosophy and a juris doctorate degree from Brigham Young University. He married Joyce Anderson in April 1984 and has six children.

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People walk past Salt Lake temple as they arrive to attend the biannual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 5, 2014.

"Satan is marshaling every resource at his disposal to entice you into transgression", he said, later adding: "Make no mistake about it - the focus of his war is now on you - you who seek to keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ".

Hamula did not comment on his excommunication Tuesday, reports said.

Mormons view excommunication as a way for offenders to get right with God and the church, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The first was in 1943 when the then-apostle Richard R. Lyman was ousted for adultery but was baptized again a year later.

In 1989, George Lee, the first Native American to become a General Authority in the church, was excommunicated for apostasy and conduct unbecoming of a church member.

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