Former missionaries remember excommunicated LDS leader as caring, powerful man

James Hamula (Photo: LDS church)

(KUTV) Chris McKay remembers his first day as an LDS missionary, seeing a “tall, imposing man, not quite sure what to make of him.”

That man was James Hamula, president of the Washington, D.C. South mission where McKay spent two years from 1996 to 1998.

“I just remember him as a caring, wonderful man who had a great love for the gospel,” said McKay, who now lives with his family in Woods Cross.

After his mission, McKay watched his mission president become a member of the Quorum of the Seventy in 2008, a high position in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I was very excited actually,” McKay said. “I wasn't surprised.”

But what did surprise him was the news Tuesday that Hamula has been disciplined, removed from his position, and excommunicated from the church. The church won’t say why it happened, only that it was not for apostasy or disillusionment from the faith.

Efforts to reach Hamula for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

“It was very, very shocking,” McKay told 2News in an interview at his home Tuesday evening, reacting to the announcement.

Todd Bradford of Spanish Fork also served under Hamula’s leadership in the D.C. area mission.

“He was so knowledgeable and he just radiated power,” Bradford remembered. He said he kept in touch with Hamula over the years at mission reunions and on Facebook.

Word of Hamula’s church discipline came as a surprise to those who had served with him. McKay was still processing the news.

“Right now, I think, it makes me think of him more as a human,” said McKay. “We all have our faults.”

Bradford said the news doesn’t change his views of the man at all.

“Every one of us can make mistakes,” said Bradford. “If I know him, then this is just a stumbling block and he’ll right himself and be where he needs to be.”

Bradford said he reached out to Hamula to offer support.

“My hope is that he knows we love him, we support him, we understand that things happen,” Bradford said. “Anything he needs, he’s got us.”

McKay echoed that.

“I hope he knows that he's loved and he's touched so many people's lives,” he said. “He touched my life. I don't think I'd be the person I am today without some of his influence.”

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