Mormon News Report: 9 August 2017

Mormon News Report: 9 August 2017

Elder James J. Hamula, First Quorum of the Seventy, Released and Excommunicated (multiple)
Oh boy. Let’s get the big news out of the way first. I’ll note at the outset that I want to cover this as objectively as I can, respecting the privacy of Elder Hamula, but also making sure the story is accurate. At around noon MST, the LDS Church announced that Elder James J. Hamula of the First Quorum of the Seventy was released and excommunicated. In a statement, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said “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.” Both the Tribune and the Deseret News cited church sources saying it was not for “apostasy or disillusionment.” Hamula is the first general authority to be excommunicated since George P. Lee 28 years ago. Lee was excommunicated on September 1, 1989 for what LDS church leaders described as “apostasy and other conduct unbecoming a member of the church” following an hourlong meeting with President Ezra Taft Benson and his counselors, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Tad Walch of the Deseret News writes “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.” Walch also quotes an article on the Mormon Newsroom website which states “In rare cases…the decision of a disciplinary council may be shared publicly to prevent others from being harmed through misinformation.” Peggy Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune noted that Hawkins “provided no details about the removal.” Stack also referenced the excommunication of George P. Lee, writing “Lee insisted the move was triggered by his opposition to the faith’s shifting approach to its Indian members, who Lee believed were meant to be leaders in the church. The former LDS general authority later admitted to attempted child sex abuse, and his wife divorced him. He died in 2010 at 67.” And it’s starting to gain traction – the early outlets picking up the story include Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post, who talked with Greg Prince regarding excommunication. Price said “the average member of the church wouldn’t know Hamula by name, despite his high-ranking job. That is because the leadership network has grown so much in recent decades with growth in the church. Sixty years ago, Prince said, there were seven members of the First Quorum. The number of church members has grown in that period from about 1 million to 15 million.” Regina Graham of the UK’s Daily Mail, and Fox News. Elder Hamula became a general authority in April 2008. From 2009 to 2014 Hamula was a member of the Pacific Area Presidency. Upon returning to Salt Lake City, he served as assistant executive director of the Church History Department from 2014 to 2016. His last assignment before his removal was serving as executive director of the Correlation Department. Be prepared – this is probably going to break tomorrow morning across all outlets (I’m surprised Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times hasn’t reported on this yet). But let me be a broken record – I’m sick of faith politics. I can’t imagine what both James Hamula and his family are going through. To quote my friend Lindsay Hansen Park, “My heart goes out to this man and his family. Regardless of what happened. This has happened to my friends before and they were treated very poorly. Should my name ever make this headline I only hope to receive grace and charity again. I guess that is the only thing is ask of my friends today- to extend grace and charity to a stranger whose situation we know nothing of.”

Top Mormon leader is excommunicated; how much do we deserve to know about why? (Religion News Service)
Friend-of-the-Report Jana Riess covers the release of Elder Hamula, and gets into the question that everyone seems to be asking (and I’m sick of answering) – what’d he do? Riess writes “I can see both sides to the Church’s longstanding radio silence where excommunication is concerned. On the one hand, confidentiality can protect excommunicants and their families from unwanted and unhelpful judgment. It leaves the door open for a potential rebaptism and restoration of blessings…Some things are private and deserve to remain private: loss of faith, for example. Some problems, however, have a community component and deserve to be made known, things like financial misdeeds, predatory sexual behavior, or repeated lying to the community (as was the case with disciplined-but-apparently-not-excommunicated LDS leader Paul Dunn). There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to know what caused the excommunication of Elder Hamula. And there’s another part of me that wishes the Church would be more transparent, particularly insofar as members are now asked to sustain all general authorities during a temple recommend interview. I put my trust in this person. What happened to betray that trust?”

Mormon Church And LGBTQ Youth Focus Of New Film By Imagine Dragons’ Singer (Nevada Public Radio)
Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons and fellow Mormon, talked to Nevada Public Radio about the LDS Church and same-sex couples, stating “That’s one of the policies that I like to allude to especially when I’m speaking with Mormons who say, ‘This will never change. God will never change.’ With that I would say first of all the church has changed policies…think that it starts by members saying, ‘You know what even if this is what the prophet is saying I need to voice my opinion that it doesn’t feel right in my heart’” Reynolds also announced he is creating a documentary film focusing on suicides among LGBTQ youth in Utah who are in the LDS Church.

Mormon high priest Darran Page admits 21 child sex offences (Herald Sun – Australia)
From the “Mormons Behaving Badly” files – Darran Scott – formerly known as Darran Page – plead guilty in Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court to 21 charges of child sexual assualt, “including two of raping a boy aged under 16.” Wayne Flower of the Herald Sun reports that Scott met six of his victims through his “position of authority” in the LDS Church – the lede of the story states that Scott was a High Priest in the LDS Church.

State to pay $4.5 million to buy Deseret Industries thrift store from Mormon church for homeless shelter
State to pay $4.5 million to buy Deseret Industries thrift store from Mormon church for homeless shelter (Salt Lake Tribune)
The State of Utah will purchase the Deseret Industries at 131 E. 700 South in Salt Lake City from the LDS Church for $4.46 million following negotiations on the final of three future homeless shelters to be opened by July 2019. Taylor Andreson of the Tribune writes “Recounting his conversation with Bishop Dean Davies, the first counselor in the LDS Church’s Presiding Bishopric, [developer Kem] Gardner said: “He said, ‘Kem, let’s do it this way: you buy the ground, let me see what I need to do in the whole scope of what you have to do, and we’ll make a very generous donation.” Gardner said of his conversation with Bishop Dean Davies, the first counselor in the LDS Church’s Presiding Bishopric. A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the sale.”

Another MTC open house — this one at the LDS Church’s new Ghana Missionary Training Center (Deseret News)
No tickets are needed for the Ghana MTC open house, which started Monday and runs daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday. The new Ghana MTC in Accra can house 320 missionaries — both young adults and senior missionaries — with possible expansion to accommodate up to 500, if necessary.

Mormon Youth Engage in Interactive Learning About the Tabernacle of Moses (Mormon Newsroom)
HOMER ALERT – this took place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It should be obvious that I’m a big Michigan homer. This took place in my backyard. It’s featured on Mormon Newsroom. That is all.

Polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs wants fugitive charge severed from food stamp trial (Fox13)
Didn’t I tell you all I had a feeling I would be covering more of the Lyle Jeffs story than I wanted to? The latest news – Jeffs’ defense attorneys have asked a federal judge to separate a failure to appear charge from the upcoming trial on food stamp fraud related charges. Defense attorney Kathy Nester also objected to the government planning to use writings of his brother, imprisoned Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs. “In defending against Count Three, Mr. Jeffs must challenge the use and admission of such irrelevant statements in the appropriate motion, in the appropriate time and in the appropriate context. Yet this necessary tact prejudicially presents Mr. Jeffs with a Hobson’s Choice,” Nester wrote. “Specifically, any objectionable religious edicts or otherwise inflammatory materials offered by the government on the failure to appear count could necessarily and unavoidably taint the jury’s ability to fairly weigh evidence of edicts inextricably intertwined with the evidence of Mr. Jeffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs. A strategic decision to defend one Count should never prejudice a defendant’s ability to present evidence in support of other Counts.”


The Mormon News Report Podcast Episode #5: Week of 7 August 2017
Need a Mormon News fix in audio format? Join myself and Brian Whitney as we run down the week’s top Mormon stories, including Elder Jeffrey R Holland​’s retraction of a faith-promoting story, the public doesn’t hate polygamy as much as they used to, the LDS Remnant movement with Denver C. Snuffer Jr.​ and the RLDS Remnant movement gets Brandt all confused, BYU (Brigham Young University)​ wins a major award for the 20th straight year, and the Deseret News​ talks about “kids these days” and their religious freedom views. Plus Loyd Isao Ericson joins us to talk Greg Kofford Books’​ latest collection of essays “Apologetics.”

The Mormon News Report Extended Sessions with Loyd Ericson
Oh, the Mormon News Report Podcast wasn’t enough for you? Want to support the show, and get a perk for doing so? Check out the Mormon News Report Podcast Extended Sessions, where we have a fun debate with Loyd about Mormon Studies and the LDS faithful. All we ask is $1 per month, and you get access to some great interviews and archives.