This is the first time a leader has been excommunicated in nearly 30 years.
The Mormon Church has excommunicated a leading official and they are not saying why.
Elder James Hamula was a member of the Quorum of the Seventy, an authoritative body of the LDS church. Excommunication is not generally done but is exceptionally rare for church leaders. The last case was George Lee for sexual abuse of a minor in 1989. Before that was in 1954.
The LDS church has not stated why Mr. Hamula was excommunicated, beyond saying that it was not for going against the teachings of the church.
Why does excommunication happen? When a Mormon commits a serious “transgression” such as sexual violence, homosexuality, and ignoring/speaking out against the teachings of the church. That person has to go before a council that determines their punishment, which can include excommunication.
— Unpacking Mormonism (@unpackingexmo) August 9, 2017
Recently Mormons have been excommunicated for criticizing the church or suggesting that women should become priests.
Excommunication is not permanent in the LDS church. After a period of time, those that ask for forgiveness and are accepted back are allowed to be re-baptized. During that time they may only attend church meetings. They cannot do anything in or with a Mormon church nor preach in public until re-baptized.
There are 15.9 million Mormons in the world, and more than a third are based in the United States.