Update July 13th, 2008: Chad Hardy has been excommunicated from the LDS Church. See updated post HERE
The operator of the MormonsExposed website will be facing LDS Church discipline for publishing calendars featuring returned LDS missionaries in "beefcake" poses with their shirts off. Media stories published by CNN, the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, KSL Channel 5 (205 public comments), and KUTV Channel 2. Also discussed on TMZ.
Hardy has been summoned by letter to a 3:30 P.M. Sunday meeting at the Warm Springs Stake Center in Las Vegas with a council of elders to discuss what is characterized as "conduct unbecoming a member of the church." A copy of the letter from Stake President Frank E. Davie, the senior leader over a group of LDS Church congregations in the Las Vegas area was provided to The Associated Press and to TMZ. It was sent July 6th, just days before the 2009 version of the "Men on a Mission" calendar went to press.
On Friday, Stake President Davie confirmed sending the letter and the plans for the meeting. He said the calendar was the primary concern. "I prefer not to say anything else about it," he said. "There is more involved, and he and I will have our meeting." The outcome of a council meeting could include disfellowship, excommunication, probation, or exoneration," Davie said. However, none of the returned missionaries who posed for Hardy's calendars are reportedly facing any Church discipline at this time.
Chad Hardy actually began the project in 2007. His calendars feature 12 returned church missionaries in mostly modest poses, minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges. So far, they've sold nearly 10,000 copies. Hardy has always been careful to disavow any official connection with the LDS Church. "You see more in a JC Penney catalog," said Hardy, 31, who once worked for Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and now has his own entertainment company. "I just feel like my right to free speech is being violated." Hardy explains his motivation and objectives on the FAQ page of his website. They also donate a certain percentage of the proceeds to a range of charities listed HERE.
Hardy acknowledged he's not been an active member of the church since 2002. A returned missionary who served in southern California, he no longer pays church tithing or wears the religious undergarments considered sacred. In six years, Hardy has never been contacted by anyone from the church encouraging his return to the fold and he suspects the current inquiry was driven by the church's Salt Lake City headquarters. Despite his inactivity, there is no sign that he has actually apostasized from the Church. "I'm still a good Mormon boy in many ways," said Hardy, who says he bears no animosity toward Latter-day Saints, but never felt he fit in. "I still want to hold onto my heritage."
Public reaction seems to favor Hardy, even among the LDS community. Most supporters do not believe it detracts from the Church's image; some in fact believe it makes the Church look a bit less starchy. However, opponents like A Soft Answer believe it demeans the Church's image. Missionaries in the field are not encourage to present themselves as sex objects; they're out to sell salvation, not procreation. The Gospel does not need to be "sexed up" the way the greater society has been sexualized. How would it look if Relief Society sisters posed in thongs on a calendar? Or, for that matter, how would Catholics feel if priests posed shirtless on a beefcake calendar?
This is why Voice Of Deseret sympathizes with those who oppose the calendar. However, this does not rise to the level of an excommunication, or even a disfellowshipment. In either case, actual harm to the Church has to be intended. It's obvious that Chad Hardy did NOT intend harm to the Church. But if he insists on continuing to portray missionaries in such a un-saintly fashion, then it would be appropriate to put Hardy in a probationary status, which simply means he is denied a temple recommend.