In a sad development, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has excommunicated Chad Hardy, the enterpreneur who conceived the MormonsExposed website and who produced the Chippendale-style calendars featuring LDS returned missionaries in shirtless "beefcake" poses. Media stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, KSL Channel 5, and KVVU Channel 5 in Las Vegas (with video). Previous post HERE.
Sunday's meeting, convened by senior Las Vegas-area stake president Frank E. Davie at the Warm Springs stake center, lasted about two hours and the 12-member council deliberated about 45 minutes before making its decision. As Davie himself originally disclosed, the calendar wasn't the only issue; his sustained inactivity also contributed to the decision. He was accused of not keeping various covenants, which is considered more serious for a Church member who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood (the highest priesthood) than for other members. Not only has Hardy been inactive in the Church for the past six years, but he had also ceased to pay tithing or wear the sacred undergarments. In addition, Hardy, as he subsequently admits in this story, not only defended his business, but apparently tendered no offer to change it to meet Church standards or terminate it. All three of this factors combined earned him the supreme penalty which can be imposed by the Church.
Stake President Davie confirmed the council's decision in a telephone call to The Associated Press. He declined further comment. In contrast, Hardy says he bears no ill will toward the LDS Church. He says an official letter severing his ties with the 13 million-member Salt Lake City-based church should arrive in about two weeks.
"I felt like I spoke my truth," the 31-year-old entertainment entrepreneur said. "Bottom-line, they still felt the calendar is inappropriate and not the image that the church wants to have". Hardy posts more of his reaction on his personal website (different than the MormonsExposed website).
"Men on a Mission", which has sold nearly 10,000 copies at $14.99 each, included pictures of 12 returned missionaries wearing black slacks, but not their trademark white shirts, in modest poses. The men are also photographed in traditional missionary garb and share their religious beliefs in biographical sketches. Some of the 12 models have also been called to disciplinary meetings, but none were punished.
Hardy said he considered resigning his membership to avoid the hearing, but decided against it out of respect for his family. Hardy is a sixth-generation Mormon. His parents live in Utah. Hardy insists that the purpose of the calendar has never been to tear down the church or its 13 million members.
Since its debut last year, the calendar has generated plenty of buzz through the Web. Some, including this blog, have criticized Hardy for painting missionaries as "sex symbols" and contradicting church teachings that promote modesty. Others have rejoiced at his attempt to give young Mormon men a new image.
The LDS church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person's behavior or actions are openly incompatible with the faith's teachings and could potentially damage the church. Council hearings are designed to help members, not simply punish, and are considered a necessary step in repentance and part of a process of returning to full fellowship in the church. An excommunicated person is removed from official church rolls, although they are still welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can't perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.
Commentary: The triple combination of the calendar, his inactivity, and his unrepentant attitude was simply too much for Chad Hardy to overcome. He gave Frank Davie and the council none of the mitigating or extenuating circumstances needed to assess a lesser penalty. Had Hardy at least agreed to market the returned missionaries differently, perhaps he would only have been disfellowshipped. In addition, Hardy's sustained inactivity may have convinced the council that he did not value his Church membership, rendering an excommunication decision easier. A record of activity might have convinced them that he actually cared about Church membership.
No Latter-day Saint, active or inactive, who strives to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, can rejoice over the excommunication of an errant member. I didn't even rejoice over the excommunication of Sonia Johnson and Martha Beck, although they revealed themselves to be actual enemies of the Church. In contrast, Chad Hardy was NOT an enemy of the Church; he was simply determined to go his own way, and his philosophical attitude towards his excommunication bespeaks a residual integrity not possessed by the other two who I mentioned.
And let's address one final issue. Some hardline Mormons may speak of excommunicants being "delivered unto the buffetings of Satan". This is bunk; whether or not an excommunicant is "delivered unto the buffetings of Satan" will depend upon the reason for excommunication and his attitude afterward. Sonia Johnson could be said to have been delivered unto the buffetings of Satan for a while; as a result of her excommunication, she lost her family (her husband dumped her), her membership, and her femininity (she turned lesbian). But she seems to have recovered. Martha Beck underwent therapy, emerging to suddenly declare that her father, the distinguished LDS historian Hugh Nibley, sexually abused her as a child. While she left the Church voluntarily, she divorced her husband, then both her and her ex simultaneously turned queer shortly thereafter (what a freaking mess). In contrast, there is no reason to believe that Chad Hardy will be delivered unto the "buffetings of Satan".
Some might speculate that Chad Hardy might become a "son of perdition" because he held the Priesthood and was excommunicated. Such speculation is unwise, unproductive, and unfounded. Here's some guidance on the subject from LightPlanet.com:
First, in order to become a son of perdition, a person must hold the true priesthood of God [Melchizedek Priesthood]. Since only male members of the Church can even hold the priesthood, only apostate Church members have the possibility of being classified as Sons of Perdition. Second, in order to be a son of perdition, a person must rebel against God with full light and knowledge that he is in fact doing so. Succumbing to temptation or a lack of faith is not sufficient. One must defy God with full knowledge that he is indeed God. It is impossible for us to name anyone as a son of perdition, barring any revelation from the Holy Ghost, for only God truly understands the intentions of a person. While most men and women will suffer the pains of hell for their wickedness, precious few have descended to the depths of open depravity which would classify them as Sons of Perdition.
Not only has Chad Hardy NOT COME CLOSE to qualifying, but the only person who ever walked the earth who has specifically been identified as a son of perdition is Cain. We cannot even say for certain that Joseph Stalin was a son of perdition.