For the first time in decades, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated a top leader Tuesday for reasons that were not immediately revealed.

Reports said James J. Hamula was released by the church from his high-ranking position in the First Quorum of the Seventy after a disciplinary action was taken against him by a board of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

According to Deseret News, the removal and excommunication — which is the severest penalty that church leaders can get — was rare. The grounds on which the Utah-based church excommunicates leaders include gross iniquity (involving transgressions such as murder, adultery, sexual perversion, and felony conviction) involving in or advocating plural marriage and apostatizing from the teachings of the Church.

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

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The website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(LDS) says Hamula was a member of the General Authority Seventies — a group of around 90 leaders whose designation is below that of the church president and two other levels of leaders — since April 2008.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Hamula had served in many positions with the Mormon church, some of them being: bishop, stake president (overseeing a number of LDS congregations), as a full-time missionary in Germany, mission president, and Area Seventy.

The biography on the LDS website stated Hamula worked as an attorney before taking up full-time church service. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy in 1981 from church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He also earned a master’s degree in philosophy and studied law at the Brigham Young University, Utah. He married Joyce Anderson in April 1984 and has six children.

Addressing Mormons worldwide during one of the faith’s twice-yearly general conferences in October 2014, Hamula talked about communion and Christ’s atonement. He said: “With a small cup of water, we signify that we remember the blood Jesus spilled and the spiritual suffering he endured for all mankind. In taking the water to ourselves, we acknowledge that his blood and suffering atoned for our sins and that he will remit our sins as we embrace and accept the principles and ordinances of his gospel.”

He added that humans had become “soiled with sin and transgression”. “We will have had thoughts, words, and works that will have been less than virtuous. In short, we will be unclean,” he said.

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In another speech in Salt Lake City in 2008, he urged teenage boys to remain faithful to Jesus. Speaking about transgression at the time, he said: “Satan is marshaling every resource at his disposal to entice you into transgression. He knows that if he can draw you into transgression, he may prevent you from serving a full-time mission, marrying in the temple, and securing your future children in the faith, all of which weakens not only you but the church,”

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

The Mormon church allowed the removed members to rejoin by getting baptized if they showed sincere repentance, the Salt Lake Tribune said in its report.

The report added that there were two other instances of excommunication of a high-ranking Mormon official. 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, Mormons excommunicated George P. Lee for conduct that was “unbecoming a member of the church.” He later admitted to attempted child sex abuse.