Chad Hardy’s sinfully sexy all male, all topless calendar -“ Mormons Exposed: Men on a Mission -“ has proven to be a double edged sword for the Las Vegas based entrepreneur. On the one hand, the calendar has sold 10,000 copies and shown Mormon Missionaries in a whole new light -“ albeit one which depicts them in traditional black pants minus the traditional white shirt-¦but plus racks of muscles. The models not only bare (nearly) all in front of the camera, but also share their religious beliefs in accompanying biographical notes. But on the other hand, Hardy’s infamous calendar has now led to the 31 year old being excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Hardy took time to out to chat with OUTinPerth’s Scott-Patrick Mitchell about the original goal of the calendar, the church’s reaction and what’s in store next -“ from a tell-all book to a mountain of Mormon muffins.
What was the original goal of the calendar?
The original goal of the calendar has a deeper story -“ one that can reshape perceptions, heighten awareness, and perhaps encourage and inspire a broadened acceptance of human and religious diversity. Twelve young Mormons posing shirtless has certainly raised eyebrows, but it has also helped sort out some common misconceptions about Mormons. The shock value of what these traditionally conservative young men has done is a powerful progressive step to build a dialogue that encourages people across every belief system and walk of life to defy stereotypes, step out of judgment and embrace. The calendar also raises money for various charities around the world.
How did you settle on your models?
They had to fit the criteria -“ Mormon, returned missionary, great shape, good looking and open minded. They had to be willing to take the heat, and embrace people of all faiths and lifestyles. We searched everywhere for these guys -“ from MySpace to Church dances.
Did any of them express concern in posing topless as it would mean they would have to take off their temple garments?
That was never a concern to any of them. These men have great bodies, and they take their shirts off whenever they can. They also know that there is nothing wrong with modelling -“ some of them have modelled professionally without their shirt on, so the thought of taking the garment off for a photo shoot was acceptable for them.
Did you at any point during the production of the calendar think that it may lead to you being excommunicated?
I thought the church would never touch our project because of the positive reaction from the media and people from around the world. I know how media cautious they are -“ they never want to look bad, and I thought they would never want to do anything to give my project any more energy than it already had. Never did I think they would excommunicate me over this, and unfortunately for them it has caused them to suffer a couple of black eyes, and fortunately for me, it has raised awareness for my project and its message around the world in a way that I could have never done by myself.
Do you plan on rejoining the church?
I will not return to the LDS church until the church leaders and members start living up to the fundamental standards of being a -˜Christian’, which is to live a life based on love without gross judgment and theocratic dictatorship. The church acts too much like a corporation than it does promoting values of acceptance and tolerance, which is why I wanted to have a voice on this matter.
Will there be more Mormon Exposed merchandise in the future? If so, will you stick with just calendars or explore other forms of media like coffee table books or such?
We will be coming out with a tell-all book about the project and the reactions from people and the church. We have also explored the idea of coming out with a table top book after the calendar has a couple of good years under its belt.
A calendar of this sort would obviously have appeal to gay men. How do you feel and how do you think the models feel about a gay man purchasing this calendar?
This was one of the questions we asked the models during their interview if they were OK with having gay fans. No one had a problem with it, and they understand that this type of product will appeal to men. I often joke that this is the tamest calendar a gay man will own.
What is your opinion of the Church’s stance toward homosexuality?
I think the Church has hurt a lot of people because of their stance on homosexuality, especially with their recent involvement in California politics to support Prop 8 [An initiative measure, proposed for the 2008 election in California, which would effectively ban same-sex marriage] and publicly asking their members to do the same. They claim that this lifestyle is not ordained of God -“ which in my opinion goes against the fundamental law of love. They have been wrong a couple times before on these kinds of civil rights issues -“ like women’s rights and blacks and the priesthood. [African-American men were banned from -˜holding the priesthood’ -“ spiritual and religious authority within the church and family -“until 1978]
What do you plan on doing next?
We have the 2009 calendar ready to launch in a few weeks. We are also working on the 2010 Men on a Mission calendar, as well as launching a female version that I think will appeal to gay men, straight men and women. It’s called Mormon Muffins: A Taste of Motherhood which will be a pin-up style calendar with favourite Mormon recipes. We are also working on the book as well as coming up with more products and brands outside of Mormons Exposed brand for the upcoming years.
Visit www.mormonsexposed.com for further information on how to purchase a copy of the calendar. Alternatively, if you wait until the holiday season, Mormons Exposed will be available from all good Calendar Club stores which you can find in all major shopping malls or online at www.calendar.com.au.