James Hamula released, no longer a member of the church

From James Hamula’s biography at lds.org:

August 8, 2017: This morning James J. Hamula was released as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following Church disciplinary action by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins provided the press no details about the removal. But the church did confirm Hamula was no longer a member of the church and that his ouster was not for apostasy.

This is the first excommunication of a LDS General Authority in the social media age. The most recent excommunication of a General Authority prior to today’s announcement involved George P. Lee, who was cut off in 1989 and admitted in court circa 1994 to touching the chest of a 12-year-old girl. The most recent excommunication of an LDS General Authority prior to 1989 occurred in 1943, when Apostle Richard R. Lyman was cut off for a long-term affair with a woman he considered to be his secret plural wife.

I urge readers to reach out in love and compassion to the Hamula family and their friends during this unprecedented public readjustment.

Update: The Deseret News has also published an article about this announcement, which discusses the reasons why the Church excommunicates individuals and the circumstances where they might explain the reason for the action.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

37 thoughts on “James Hamula released, no longer a member of the church

  1. I am surprised. He was a law school classmate of mine, and was always one of the good guys.

  2. Sometimes an abundance of compassion lines the path to indiscretion.

    I see that James Hamula was Mission President in my area (1994-1997), so I’m sure I had seen him speak at various events. I and my family will be praying for the Hamulas.

  3. President Hamula was my Mission President. He was a good man then and he is a good man now.
    I dont think we have heard both sides of the story yet. I also find it very coincidental that he was an executive member of the Church History Department from 2014-16.
    I will wait to hear President Hamula soeak about all of this……

  4. On the other hand, in the absence of any details (which we may well never know), I’ll choose to assume that this all happened with Elder Hamula’s cooperation and consent, meaning that this is working the way it’s really meant to work, as part of the repentance process.

    Good for him! Nobody is perfect, and I hope people will see this as an inspiring opportunity to witness repentance in action 🙂 Any sacrifice he has to make today will be worth it in the long run. The bad news is that his life may never be the same again because of this, but the good news is that his life may never be the same again because of today! 🙂

    P.S. I met him about a decade ago when he came to do a priesthood leadership training in our stake, and it was awesome–he gave a deep and detailed lesson on the doctrine of the gospel.

  5. Just a general question. Do members facing excommunication have the option to resign? Could their resignation be used as a partial fulfillment of the repentance process? It would seem that resigning would spare the LDS Church some potential negative publicity. It would also be considerate of the leaders who would otherwise need to make a potentially agonizing decision.

  6. Hi Tom,

    James Hamula was one of roughly 90 persons who are considered “General Authorities” who serve until death. They are roughly equivalent to Cardinals and the Pope in the Catholic faith. However where Pope Benedict stepped down prior to death, no Mormon General Authority has ever stepped down prior to death. The only way to get out of being a General Authority is either by transgressing, apostatizing, or dying.

    The publicity would have been worse had James Hamula “resigned,” as that would have implied that he had lost faith in the Church. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were James Hamula who wished it stipulated that he had *not* apostatized.

    Had James Hamula been in poor health, he could have stepped down under cover of illness. But if there is a party who is served by this action, then an excuse of poor health would be seen as a cover up. And given that truth has an annoying habit of being uncovered eventually, it likely wouldn’t have been wise to attempt to cover this up.

    General Authority Seventies, while anonymous to most of us, have vast networks of people who report to them and who have interacted with them in past assignments or social or family or professional capacities. Thus while it would seem a quiet hush up would serve in the face of the 7B inhabitants of the planet, it would be a great disservice to the tens of thousands who known James Hamula well, and even the tens of millions who would bother to look into James Hamula’s identity on the LDS.org website.

  7. The terrible thing in this case is that it is Twitter-worthy, in a day where the LDS Church has gone to some lengths to make sure Church is smart phone friendly. In a prior age it would be only the minority who would ever know about the matter, and these would learn about it over the course of weeks, months, and years. And when they’d learned about it, they would not have a venue for talking about it at length. In one forgotten case, a man who’d erred was simply allowed to slip away into obscurity. The position the man had held was allowed to simply cease existing, which was probably no harm as the duties were delegated to the local level, but certainly the end of that office at the general level meant there would not be continued scrutiny of the prior holders of that office.

  8. I want to echo the final paragraph from Huston. Elder Hamula came to our stake a number of years ago. His teaching in the adult session was very memorable and he spoke with power and authority. I suspect that many people could slowly distance themselves from the center of the church, but a GA who is teaching like he did must continue to strive for the spirit else it is noticeable to many that something is amiss.

  9. I’m struck by the final thought in the DesNews article. Hamula’s father died in December. That’s a pretty major life event, and I would completely understand that dealing with such an event could cause a person to do something regrettable. Still, whatever the reason, if this process does what it’s supposed to, then more power to him.

  10. I suspect that when we all know as we are known the significance of the death of the older Brother Hamula in this situation will be understood. Unfortunately, mention of such things fuels the natural human tendency to see patterns, as admittedly I did in mentioning the particular reasons for prior excommunications of LDS General Authorities in the past century.

    I note the obituary for Joseph Hamula indicates that his death was sudden, rather than occurring after a long battle with disease. Such a sudden loss would be devastating for an oldest son, as James is. However I would not say that anything “caused” a person to do something regrettable. It may have contributed, but we are free to choose.

  11. Hi Tom,

    I realize you were simply asking if a normal person could simply resign rather than be excommunicated.

    The excommunication of a normal person will typically not be disclosed by the Church. Thus most excommunications you will have heard about in the press are being disclosed by the person who was excommunicated for their own purposes, and may not reflect the total situation. When people cooperate with the process, the discipline is often reduced to disfellowship, where a person remains a member but is not allowed to take the sacrament, pray, or serve in callings. As plenty of people don’t participate and all are permitted to attend worship services, it isn’t hard to “hide” the fact that one is excommunicated or disfellowshipped.

    Church records are maintained centrally, allowing the record of a person who has known problems to be flagged to prevent that person from being allowed to participate in ways that emperil others. For example, spouses who are known to be particularly abusive will not be permitted to remarry in the temple.

    Updated protocols have been put in place to minimize opportunities for an unknown predator to be in a position where they could harm others. There is an 800 hotline for leaders who feel a need for advice on how to handle difficult situations.

    Excommunication in most cases is intended to be a stage of healing where the person is still engaged with a journey towards full Church participation. Thus excommunication is to be preferred over mere resignation. The public examples are typically cases where the individual has decided to use this decision to rage at the Church. However in James Hamula’s case, I expect that he fully cooperated with the discipline and may have been the one to voluntarily come forward with a matter he felt was not consistent with his position of trust.

  12. My grandfather, John W Taylor, was an apostle who was excommunicated from the Church because he persisted in practicing polygamy. “Follow the Brethren” was his consistent counsel to his family until he died at a relatively young age of 58. Many online comments on the excommunication of brother Hamula indicate that people think he should have been quietly dismissed without any announcement. Commenters feel that the public announcement brought unnecessary attention and shame to the Hamula family. As individuals we are responsible for how we react to this news, particularly if we had some association with
    Brother Hamula as a mission president or otherwise. This is when we discover whether we are more driven by curiosity or respect. Some here have pointed out several good reasons to make this public announcement. Except in the eyes of the general public, he was not an obscure person who could simply disappear from the rolls of LDS General Authorities without notice. Reassuring us that he was not excommunicated for apostasy was very important even if it opens the gates of prurient speculation. As Joyce recommends, the best response is to pray for him and his family.

  13. (I post this for information purposes only).

    From the Mormon Stories Podcast Community facebook group:
    Raymond Anderson
    21 mins
    “I am Jim Hamula’s brother-in-law and have known him since 1983. He is married to my sister.
    I’m posting this by request, in order to quiet the speculation. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I have not been to church in 10 years. I do not believe in the church or in organized religion, for that matter. Needless to say, it has been hard on my family. Many prayers have been offered on my behalf. I’m sure this is a familiar story to many of you out there.
    That said, I’ve been grieving and processing with my sister about all of this. I have even spoken with Jim directly for several hours. I can tell you, that his faith is still intact. He does not have a problem with the brethren or with his faith. In the past, he has been very open with me and non-judgmental when it comes to difficult matters of church history and doctrine. In fact, we once had a three to four-hour conversation on the subject. He’s offered to give me access to the best historians in the church to quiet my doubts.
    In speaking with him in recent days, I didn’t hear anything different. He expressed the same level of faith he always has. This issue has to do with something else entirely. There is no conspiracy within the church to quiet him or cover anything up regarding him.
    That’s all I will say out of respect for my sister and her kids. Their well-being and privacy is utmost in my mind.”

  14. Patricia,

    I had a spiritual experience involving your grandfather John W. Taylor. Details are too personal to share in this post. But please contact me if you would like to know more.

    Thank you,
    Tom Irvine

  15. Hi Geoff,

    Thank you for posting that. I infer there were those suggesting that James Hamula was actually disciplined for apostasy, despite the public announcement?

    I do wish the Hamula family peace as they adjust to the new reality in private.

  16. Its a sad day to hear the news. I am a tradesman who went to do work at their home 5-6 years ago. I received a call from his wife to do some work on the sabbath day. She was very rude to me and my associate and he introduced himself with his title. Very odd. I am a lifelong member of the church and things seemed a little odd in their household. Either way I pray God will bless them as only he can and help them iron out any and every thing that they need help with. Amen.

  17. Touching post by his brother-in-law. I recall a disagreement we had with him when he served as mission president in the Washington DC South mission. That said, our hearts and prayers are with him and his family during the aftermath of this ordeal. Not sure why it was important to announce his excommunication. A simple release would suffice in my opinion. Church discipline should be kept confidential.

  18. Meg, last I read, the 70’s in the 1st and 2nd Q of 70 serve full time until age 70, when they retire, and become “Emeritus Seventies”. They are often called as Temple Presidents after that, such as Elder F Burton Howard.

    It’s the Apostles (Prophet, his counselors, and the Q12) who serve until death.

    3rd through X(?) Quorums of 70 are full time, (ie, can’t have another job) but can be released prior to age 70.

    Then the Area Authority 70’s are part time, no? Or are the AA 70’s full time? Do they keep their regular job? Either way, they only serve for a certain period and can expect to be released.

    But mainly I wanted to counter your point of GA 70’s serving until death. They get to keep the 70 title as “emeritus”, but are essentially retired, unless called to something else.

  19. Ah, my error. As James Hamula was only 59, however, he wouldn’t be transitioned to emeritus status for another decade, and people would notice his release as something other than the normal age-related emeritus retirement.

    I guess I was thinking that service in the new quorums of seventy is of a relatively short duration (~5 years?).

  20. To Meg Stout, If a person resigns, and it happens a lot due to health or what not, the church may never tell you it is resignation, so you would never know. Leaders at general level and local level are released often, and I have noticed some released before the age of 70, which is usual age for those in the Seventy (no relation to retirement age and name of the Quorum). I just assumed it was health reasons. Church would never tell you it is resignation. And nobody is excommunicated for resignation.

  21. To Meg Stout, if someone resigned, you would never know because the Church would never say that. Some people are released as a Seventy before the age of 70, (though no relation to retirement age of 70 and the name of the quorum Seventy) and at local level people are released because of health issues, yet you never really know that they asked to step down themselves. One does not get excommunicated for resigning. Rex Lee had cancer and wanted to be released as BYU president, (in the mid 1990’s) though this was not technical spiritual calling, I don’t know if, while dying, he resigned or church released him, (died young in year 1996) Elder Oaks while president of BYU asked to move on (he knew he could do academic work elsewhere while still under BYU umbrella) around year 1978 or 1979, (he humbly thought it time for someone else—-he had been there nearly a decade) and leaders above him said, “Interesting, but we will let you know when” He stayed on. He didn’t resign, yet asked senior leaders to release him. Didn’t want to stay on. Yet stayed on.

  22. Hi Christopher, I think you are using the term “resign” to mean “please let me out of this calling, but I’m still a member and GA.” I read Tom Irvine as asking whether it might not have been better from Hamula to simply withdraw from the Church, as in resign his membership.

    It’s absolutely OK to ask out of a calling that no longer suits for whatever reason. And sometimes the answer is no, but sometimes the pertinent leader just didn’t know about the circumstances that make the calling a problem.

  23. That was a sweet post by his brother in law. I believe, however, that the brother in law was trying to put to rest two rumors about his excommunication. One being that he really was excommunicated for apostasy and the other being that he may have done done shady business deals with the church’s building project in New Zealand. I think his post puts to rest those rumors and it’s very admirable that Brother Hamula wanted it to be known that the church wasn’t covering anything up. I wish the best for the Hamula family during this difficult time.

  24. I think this serves as a reminder that no matter what our position is in the church, we’re all human and no one is immune to the trials that could befall any one of us at any time. My prayers to the Hamula family.

  25. Hi Meg, you’re certainly right that “caused” is the wrong word. I caught it right after I posted, but there’s no edit button or I would have fixed it right then. Darnit.

  26. To me it is very telling that Raymond Anderson ends with “out of respect for my sister and her kids.” (Showing some anger for Hamula’s moral turpitude.)
    I do think, at the end of the day, full transparency would be better. Too much speculation is going on. I know some folks who were part of the congregation when he was a Bishop and they are wondering if he did anything untoward to their young daughters in interviews.
    I say clear it up.

  27. @ S Taleb,

    People often don’t understand what they betray in seemingly bland statements like that. But whatever it was that caused James Hamula to be distanced from the Church at this time, it’s a bit like lightning. Awful at the point where it occurred, but unlikely to have damaged everything of a related nature on the vast area. So the likelihood of any given possible error is low until there is reason to think otherwise.

  28. S Taleb,

    Why don;t they just ask their daughters instead of publicly speculating? Sounds like they are trying to gain sympathy for themselves, even if nothing happened, by taking advantage of someone else’s true sorrows. I mean really, how hard is it to ask your kids first? Shallow.

  29. @Mike,

    I would suggest the same thing, but one needs to be careful in the asking.

    Example in point, I have a non-Mormon relative (by marriage if it matters) who was inappropriate with local children, including their own relatives. This came to light when my cousin attempted suicide. The police were bound to withold details from the parents of the children in the neighborhood who might have been affected. But my parent, who was simply an interested member of the public, was able to find out the extent of what had occurred. It was not good, but it wasn’t what these parents feared. In that case, the parents questioning their children may have done more harm than my inappropriate non-Mormon relative.

  30. Scriptural examples of faithful leaders confessing unspecified sins…

    2 Nephi 4 – Nephi’s Psalm

    17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
    18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
    19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

    Romans 7 – Paul

    14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
    15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
    16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
    17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
    18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
    19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
    20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

  31. Mike,

    not that I concur with anything in S Taleb’s comment, I would like to address your question about directly asking a daughter such a question.

    Unless approached with professional level psychological skill, and sufficient “lead up” to prepare them, people of all ages will generally lie if they are questioned about sex abuse and they were indeed abused.

    Children are often taught to revere various leaders, esecially in the church. “Sustain”, “always accept callings”, “they are inspired”, “don’t backbite” etc, gets interpreted by kids as “never say anything bad about them, even if they do something bad”. If they can’t prove it, the child fears being called a liar if they make an accusation. And kids generally don’t want the responsibility of “taking down” a respected person, especially if they can’t “prove it.”

    How do you think all those Catholic priests historically got away with child abuse? Shame on the part of victims, intimidation, fear of not being believed, publicly accused of lying when they do go public, shame at not having said something earlier. Unbelieved victims get treated as bad guys.

    Similarly with sibling-on-sibling abuse. Lessons and examples of “Family first” and “stick together” “family is everything” “family is the most important thing” tend to prevent a younger child from telling mom and dad what an older sibling did to them. Kids don’t understand the exceptions at an early age. Then as years go by, and they eventually understand, they are ashamed for having delayed, and too ashamed to come forward so late.

    Again, this is in reply to your particular question, and not in response to the OP or other comments.

    If you suspect any of your children have been abused, I strongly recommend that *YOU* first consult with a professional psychologist before approaching your child with the matter. Without laying the proper groundwork first, without being “prepared”, a victmized child will LIE when questioned directly, because the non-professional questioner will not understand the situations and childhood misunderstandings that cause the child to believe they -have- to keep it a secret.

    And most adult sex abuse survivors lie about it too.

    So, no, you can’t “just ask your daughter”.

  32. Another anecdote, my autistic daughter at some point in time started being obsessive about patting chairs before she sat down, and moving her hands about her own person as though to ensure there was nothing untoward present.

    Frustrated by this behavior, I asked her once about it. She alleged that years earlier a classmate had stuck his hand down her pants. Given the situation, a classmate would be relatively “innocent” of any intended harm. And my daughter’s concept of what is and what isn’t is sometimes looser than I’d wish (e.g., angry arguments where she insists we forced her to go to restaurant A for her birthday when it was actually restaurant B, as she had requested).

    But I now have more patience with my daughter’s incessant ritual behavior.

  33. With regards to resigning to avoid excommunication… I recall some talk about this possibility a few years ago. Perhaps in relation to John Dehlin’s case.
    If there is a reason to hold a disciplinary court, possibly resulting in excommunication, then the accused cannot just resign of their own volition to avoid church directed discipline. The church’s action must be resolved first.
    At least that is my understanding.

  34. A year ago my youngest daughter had a horrible experience in a Bishop’s interview. She was desirous of a patriarchal blessing before she went off to college. So the Bishop began to give her the typical interview questions. He asked her the chastity question and she answered that she did keep that sacred law. He then began a series of follow up questions getting more and more explicit. She was stunned and finally shouted “No, I don’t do that!” She was embarrassed and humiliated for several days. She finally talked to her mother. My wife made an appointment with the Bishop and the sparks flew.

    We took the issue all the way to the Area Presidency. The Stake Presidency backed up the Bishop. We were pretty brow-beaten when it was all over.

    My point is this: I can completely understand why faithful parents can grow fearful about a leader’s interaction with their daughters during interviews. Many young women do not have the backbone to stand up to an adult male when alone in a closed room even when the leader is just being awkward and stupid. A pedophile could serve as a Bishop for years and never get caught.

    My heart goes out the Hamula family.

  35. Sexual abuse is rampant in society. And I’m not talking the Taylor Swift kind. Her experience is a symptom of the porn crazed culture we have, and you can bet dollars to donuts that children and adults alike are suffering real effects from this pernicious sin metastasizing into sexual abuse.

    I’ve seen the effects in members lives where they let their porn habits influence them to become the one being abused (and accept it, all the while reviling it and themselves) to actually abusing their own children.

    It’s happening outside the church as well; presumably more often. Just had a coworker relate to me his sister is grown and now accusing the father of sexual abuse. It’s everywhere.

    So when I read about Clinton in the oval office, and job kobing with his pals in the private jet rape plane, I’m not exaggerating to say the problems affect all walks of society.

    All sex outside of marriage is illegitimate. Until we latter-day saints have the courage to say simply that whenever the discussion comes up we will continue to face the consequences as society. And tragically, the consequences of sexual sin never just affect one person. It can have generational impact.

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