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, says Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 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, the AP reports.
Hamula's removal is surprising because he was well-regarded and was even considered by some scholars as a possible candidate to join the high-level Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when the church was filling three vacancies in 2015, says Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and history professor at Henderson State University. "He had a promising future," Bowman says. The last leader to be excommunicated was the late George P. Lee in 1989 after Lee, a Native American, called Mormon leaders racist. The church said then that Lee was removed for "apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church."