Chad Hardy made news last year when he came out with his "Men on a Mission" calendar that took the ubiquitous buttoned-up, clean cut missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (colloquially referred to as the Mormons) and, well, un-buttoned them.
Mr. Hardy made news again a couple of days ago for getting tossed out of the church. Hardy's saying it was for making the calendar, and the Church is saying nothing because they never do about such stuff--trying to protect the privacy of those involved, I suppose. The general reaction from the news media seems to be that of shock, surprise and a bit of snickering. What's the big deal about guys with their shirts off? I mean, they're not even naked, right?
I'm LDS. I'm also female. Sure the guys in the calendar are hot. But here's the thing, while I can't speak for the church leaders, I'm pretty sure Mr. Hardy didn't get ex'ed for making a calendar with hot shirtless guys in it. I'm guessing it was because he published pictures of LDS missionaries (actually returned missionaries) in poses and situations that are not allowed for LDS missionaries and make a mockery of our values.
In a culture where the average 19-21 year-old male juggles education and/or a menial job and is probably shirtless a good proportion of the time, a kid who decides to trade all that in to go and preach religion for two years to people who, if they're really really nice, will only slam the door in his face is certainly an oddity. The truth is that our missionaries sacrifice a lot more than Guitar Hero afternoons to go and get rejected in 108 different languages. Both the boys and the girls (yes, we do have female missionaries) must pay for their missions themselves, an especially difficult task considering they don't work for pay while on their mission. They postpone athletic careers and scholarships. They learn a different language and culture. They have to wear suits and ties (or professional skirts and hose for the girls) even in 110 degree heat. They're not allowed to even go swimming or to the gym much less take off their shirts publicly. They also don't date or have sex.
That isn't easy. They are human, after all. The last thing they need is to be greeted at the door by some woman asking in a sultry voice if they are "Mr. July." Our missionaries aren't sex symbols; they're representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They make these considerable sacrifices because they care that much about the message they are teaching.
What they do after their mission is up to them. it isn't that LDS men can't be sexy or even have professional modeling careers -- just not while serving a full-time mission. And in my opinion that's where Mr. Hardy went wrong.
Follow Charlotte Hilton Andersen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CharlotteGFE