Jul 14, 2008

Elders, Keep Your Shirts On!

Most of you have probably heard of the shirtless Elder calendar by now. If you haven't, you can read about "Men On A Mission" here:
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/07/11/shirtless.mormons.ap/index.html

The creator was excommunicated this past weekend, as you can read here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080714/ap_on_re_us/shirtless_mormons

When I first read about the calendar, I sort of chuckled at it. But I do see the seriousness of it since the missionary image was being used in rather distasteful way. Had it been a calendar of just shirtless Mormon men in general, it probably wouldn't have bothered me so much. Just as some Miss America contestants have been LDS and paraded on national TV in a bikini, most of us don't really care. But, because it pictured them in their missionary suits and badges, it did seem to me to be inappropriate. The creator of the calendar was obviously trying to see how far he could push the envelope and I think he had probably crossed the line. Thus, I felt that a disciplinary hearing was justified. But I was very surprised to see that he had been excommunicated.

I just want to hear different viewpoints from everyone. What do you think about the calendar? Do you think it was grounds for excommunication? Let's remember that none of us were at the hearing, so we don't know exactly what transpired. The calendar's creator had been inactive for several years and he didn't seem in the least bit apologetic or willing to pull his creation. Personally, I was expecting disciplinary action (which I would have felt was appropriate) but not excommunication. I feel that excommunication is too harsh. But then again, I know much about the grounds or process of excommunication, so perhaps I'm wrong. I generally thought that excommunication was generally for murderers, adulterers, rapists, those who teach false doctrine, or perhaps a few other very grievous crimes.

Anybody care to fill me in?

13 comments:

Cliff said...

He wasn't just making an inappropriate calendar. He was also interviwing with various media outlets and explaining how "nipple shots" and other bare chested photographs are ok because they "show the world that really we aren't that different from anyone else."

ie: They were expressly spreading a message that "soft" pornography is ok, and they were doing it while posing as the Lord's representatives. That's actually pretty darn heinous.

I might have expected just discliplinary action myself, but I'm not suprised at this either - and it also suggests to me that there is much more going on here than others will ever know - as your post suggests a complete unwillingness to repent. That kind of scenario doesn't leave a church court with much choice...

Sanford said...

Hey Faithful D,

I’ve been in the Mississippi Delta discovering my inner Southerner but I’m back home now.

I guess I am not surprised by the excommunication but I wonder what purpose it serves. There are a lot of people who leave the Church and openly and publicly conduct themselves in a manner which is at odds with the Church’s teachings but we don’t cut them off. Is the difference that Hardy got a lot of press? He certainly was polite and congenial in how he discussed the church. Is the excommunicable offense that his behavior was too public?

And now that he has been cut off what has been gained? Are we better off? Is he? I guess I don’t fully understand when, why and what excommunication is supposed to accomplish. Is it perhaps better to simply ignore such behavior? Isn’t it better sometimes to shoo a fly away than squish it? I don’t know. I get pretty hot under the collar when an excommunication involves matters of conscience like Danzig but I’m just kind of scratching my head on this one.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I'm not sure whether I would go as far as to call it "soft porn." These men weren't showing any more than one would see on the beach or in a gymn. I haven't seen the calendar myself, but from what I've read it doesn't appear that the poses were sexualized any more than by the fact they were shirtless (which is sexual enough for some of us). And like I mentioned in the post about LDS Miss America contestants, different members will have different opinions about what immodesty is. The problem here was the missionary image that was being used.

I agree with Cliff that there is perhaps more going on here than we realize. In the article it says:

"Hardy has been inactive in the LDS Church for the past six years. He no longer pays tithing or wears the religious undergarments considered sacred. In an interview last week, Hardy said he had always struggled to fit in and live up to the expectations of membership."

Not one of those factors are grounds for excommunication, that I know of. However, in one of the articles I read, it was mentioned that there were 3 factors involved in the decision, but only 2 were mentioned by Hardy. I'm wondering if he confessed to a greater sin during the hearing (like perhaps adultery or similar) that was grounds for excommunication and he has just declined to tell the media about it so that the Church looks too harsh. And the Church won't release the private details of course. So, I don't know, but it's just a theory of mine. The calendar itself, even if he is totally unwilling to repent (which was obvious), is it enough to be ex-ed? It makes me think that, like Cliff said, there is much more going on here than we will ever know.

Like Sanford, I wonder if the excommunicable offense was that his behaviour was too public? Sort of like Danzig? (OK, Danzig withdrew his membership, but he was probably headed towards being ex-ed.) I would have been all for some sort of discipline, like disfellowship or whatever, but excommunication seems kind of extreme to me IF there isn't a hidden factor that we don't know about it. If there isn't a hidden factor, it just sort of makes you wonder where the consistency is. I've known of adulterers who have been to the temple who for some reason aren't ex-ed.

But is the willingness to repent the only factor? If I commit adultery and am ready and willing to repent, can I/should I escape excommunication?

Schlange A. Taube said...

1.) I don't have any details besides the ones given on this post, and as the original post says, "Let's remember that none of us were at the hearing, so we don't know exactly what transpired." I'm also going to assume that the statement "he didn't seem in the least bit apologetic or willing to pull his creation" is true.

I would expect excommunication or at least disfellowship. Had he been repentant and willing to submit to the instructions/discipline given by the church I would expect something less. Open defiance is the the key. Asid from that, it was mentioned that he doesn't wear his garments. That means one of three things - he has previously had church discipline; he doesn't feel worthy to wear them; or he doesn't feel the need or desire to wear them. The underlying reasons for any of those things have potential to move a hearing in the direction of excommunication.

2.) I wouldn't say that this man is cut off from the church in a damning way but in a saving way. He apparently (assuming the former assumptions are correct) doesn't have the desire and/or dicipline to keep his covenants. He has now been removed from those covenants and shown just how serious the church is about those covenants. He has opportunity now to repent if he will and enter again by baptism. Excommunication isn't the end. It's a chance for a fresh start if he won't let his pride get in the way.

3.)In answer to the question "But is the willingness to repent the only factor? If I commit adultery and am ready and willing to repent, can I/should I escape excommunication?" I think it would depend on several factors: was the offence commited frequently? How many partners were there? Were you caught and dragged into a disciplinary council or did you go tell your bishop that you needed help repenting? I think it's all about how sincere you are in both recognizing/admiting that you have offended God and in feeling regret and sorrow with a desire to repent.

Schlange A. Taube said...

I ended up having more time than I thought so I read those articles. This line stands out to me:

"'I have no ill feelings toward any of those people,' Hardy said of the church council. 'They did what they believed was right and I really do feel it was the best decision for both of us.'"

It sounds like Hardy agreed with the decision for whatever reasons, and that's good enough for me.

Christine said...

ow my. Yes that certainly will make you look at missionaries in a whole new light!

It does send a big message like "in your face" type thing which I think when you are actively participating in a religion and representing it (such as a missionary) you are not doing justice parading yourself like this.

I have to say that looking at these images makes me realize that it's just as distasteful to see men doing this as it is when women do it.

Christine

Fifthgen said...

The stake president (appropriately) declined to comment in the local SLC papers, except to say that there were other issues involved beyond the calendar. I doubt the calendar itself would have resulted in excommunication. What I personally found most distasteful was the fairly blatant trading on the church image and reputation to make this guy a buck. This is true even of the disciplinary proceeding itself - - you know that the Church did not go to the press with it. In my most cynical moments, I even think that the calendar guy's measured response to the excommunication was a calculated effort not to piss off his greatest market segment (i.e., Mormons). Of course, he is not the first to use his church membership and connections for economic gain. My bet still is that there were more serious transgressions at issue (but he talked up the splashy calendar angle for $$$).

Cliff said...

(no relation to the Cliff above)

What kind of surprised me about this guy is that he gives the impression he didn't realize that the Church wouldn't be okay with him sexualizing the missionary image. What do people think the Catholic church would do if one of its members published a calendar of nuns in bikinis or priests in Speedos?

Mormon Heretic said...

I don't know all the details either. I expected disfellowship, and was surprised at excommunication. There is probably more to this story than meets the eye, but not necessarily.

I am aware of some church members who likened their excommunication to getting the death penalty for shop lifting. It seems that there is quite a bit of latitude for stake president's to follow regarding excommunication/disfellowship. I'm not sure church leaders are always consistent in meting out punishment, but I'm sure they all are doing the best they can, and trying to follow the spirit.

With this guy's seemingly flippant attitude, it would seem logical to me that he was probably flippant to the stake presidency, and they probably wanted to send a message.

Cliff, a more appropriate analogy would be shirtless monks, and nuns in one-piece swimsuits. None of the missionaries wore a speedo, at least that I'm aware of. Yes, even with this, I can see the Catholic church getting upset about the image it portrays, and I wonder if they would react more harshly to the monks than the maker of the calendar.

What's interesting to me is a conversation I had with a jewish friend once. He said it is impossible to get excommunicated from Judaism (even for murder, or apostasy). Jews simply let God be the judge. I must say I was quite surprised to hear this, but I find the rationale interesting.

Team Laws said...

I blogged on this one too (A Terrible Trade)

http://teamlaws.blogspot.com/2008/07/terrible-trade.html

The YouTube video he produced plays too much on the connection to the Church and the missionary program which is not about calendars or beefcake but all about bringing souls to Christ. The angles used and the concentration on certain parts of the anatomy is salacious as well. This guy is going for reaction and using the Church as a springboard for attention for his calendar which is but one of hundreds like it without the "Missionary" angle. A real shame and a real huckster IMO.

Clearly Chad didn't follow the council given him prior to the convening of the Disciplinary Council that led to his excommunication. His wording abt "those people" (brought out by Schlange) seems distant for anyone who considers their fellow members as brothers and sisters and fellow Saints. He has been gone in his mind for years and living the ways of the world (in Vegas?) will help you to rack up all sorts of offenses that might bring you before a D-Council. Unfortunately Chad H didn't seem the least concerned about the loss of his membership. (He is working on upcoming editions). One site said he had sold 10K copies. That seems like a huge price to pay (or receive if you will). I consider my membership above price. I feel sorry for Chad.

Steve said...

I think a big part of the decision to Ex vs some other discipline has to do with the amount of notoriety the calendar generated. The church goes to great lengths to burmish its image in order to produce greater outreach. My hunch is if the calendar had flopped and hadn't generated any press, the powers that be would have either let it go or disfellowshipped him at worst.

Referring to Mormon Heretic's comment, I'm a little surprised the church didn't go more harshly after those individuals who actually appear in the calendar. From what I've read, it sounds like a few were brought before their bishops, but I'm not aware of any facing any formal discipline. I would have expected a coordinated effort to ensure all who participated were dealt with consistently. It'll be interesting to see if any female members who participate in Hardy's upcoming "Hot Mormon Moms" calendar face any discipline. If they do, I can already hear the double-standard charges coming.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I feel he was probably excommunicated for more than just the calendar. We're not privy to all the details of what occurred at his church court, but from what I read he seems okay with it, so I'm too overly concerned.

Anonymous said...

On his web site, he had male models wearing the "I heart Mormon boys" t-shirts. I can't find those pics on the web site now. If he's catering to a homosexual audience, maybe that says something about him, and therefore the reason for the council.

Come to think of it, did he really intend his beef-cake calendar for just female customers in the first place?