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To turn it around, why didn't the church just ignore the calendar man, knowing that bringing him up for excommunication would inevitably give him a lot of free press and them a lot of negative press?

Couldn't agree more, Dave.

"Music man" resigned, he was not excommunicated.

I would be curious what the more orthodox take is on the discipline of Hardy and of LaBute a few years ago. Is portraying the Church or Church members in a calendar or in a play in a way deemed offensive by Church leaders a form of apostasy, and therefore excommunicable? Or is there some other principle operating here--e.g., though the calenar was nonpornographic, is the offense that the calendar portrayed return missionaries without wearing the upper portion of their garments? (I do not have a clue what other operating principles were involved in the discipline of LaBute.)

Gauntlet thrown....

If I was attending LDS church these days I'd be so tempted to try to get myself ex'd over Prop 8 (Just for fun and for the ensuing media frenzy! Just think how many bloghits I'd get for that one!).

The problem with this, as with all publicity-receiving excommunications, is that we have Mr. Hardy's version of events, but not the Church's. The Church treats disciplinary councils as private (unless the subject is a threat to members of the Church or the community at large). They don't discuss it.

Hardy, but his own admission, hasn't attended church since 2002, no longer wears the garment, and is not a believer. What else came up during his disciplinary council? Were there serious transgressions brought up? We'll never know.

Hardy took one of the best-known images associated with the Church -- the white shirt, tie, and name tag Mormon missionary -- and turned it into a sexualized display in order to make a quick buck. I'm not surprised he was excommunicated. That should be a no-brainer for anyone even remotely familiar with the Church.

Addendum: The Church also sometimes discusses disciplinary council results if the subject makes an issue about it in the media in an attempt to beat the Church.

And hi, Jana. Fancy running into you here.

If you consider the photos "sexualized," Mike, that tells us more about you than it does about Chad Hardy.

There was a time when I thought no LDS leader would be stupid enough to discipline an LDS member for opposing Proposition 8. Between the Hardy case and other things I'm seeing lately, I'm no longer confident that's true.

Nick,

That has got to be the dumbest claim I've ever seen you make. If the photos aren't sexual in nature, then what is the appeal of the calendar?

If the calendar had photos of former sister missionaries in bikinis, would you consider that sexualized?

Obviously sexuality has a range that starts somewhere around this calendar and ends somewhere around tentacle pοrn. It could have been a lot worse. But to claim its basis of popularity isn't sexual at all? Wow. Just ... wow.

Nick said: "If you consider the photos 'sexualized,' Mike, that tells us more about you than it does about Chad Hardy."

Actually, it doesn't. These are Chad's words, from his website: "Usually seen riding their bicycles and preaching door-to-door, these hunky young men of faith explode with sexuality on each calendar page." (See http://mormonsexposed.com/info.php)

-Allen

Thanks for the correction, David H. Here is a quote from the linked Newsroom article: "In December 2007, Mr. Danzig voluntarily withdrew his membership in the Church by his own formal written request. He was not officially disciplined by the Church ...." (He was "counsel[ing] with his local bishop and stake president" for a year and a half prior to his resignation.)

I would note there's hardly a hint of remorse in Mr. Hardy's remarks, nor is he personally troubled by the result of the disciplinary process. It's obvious he has little concern for how his activities impact the Church or its public image but much concern over how much financial success he can derive by exploiting LDS symbols. Not really a sympathetic client, folks.

LDS disciplinary proceedings do sometimes raise fairness issues -- I have raised them before in prior posts -- but this proceeding is not one of them. The interesting question here, I think, is the media coverage. Do all LDS excommunications now qualify for broad media coverage, or just those with nice photo shots and a sexuality angle?

"explode with sexuality on every page" indeed. What's that again, Nick? ;)

Hiya Mike Parker! :-)

Small world, my (old) friend. You still in SoCal?

IMO, anyone buying this calendar is a ninny (what a waste of a few good trees). The church being so upset about it is just as silly.

What's that again, Nick? ;)

Hey guys, all I'm saying is that I'm the gay guy here, and I absolutely do not find those photos "exploding with sexuality." Skinny, hairless twinks? No thanks! Those boys should put their shirts back on, and at least give the illusion that they're of legal age! ;-)

Glad to see we all at least agree that we don't like the calendar. Even the gay guy won't buy it. ;-)

Dave: The media coverage was started by Hardy. He received a letter notifying him of the scheduled disciplinary council and contacted the media. The sex angle, religious repression, the gay thing — all of that combined, I'm sure, to make a juicy story. "Sexually repressed Mormons excommunicate man over shirtless calendar," and so forth. Funny how Mormons have gone from being castigated in the 19th century for being sexually permissive, to being castigated in the 21st for being sexually repressed.

Jana: Finally gave up trying to make it in SoCal and moved to southern Utah about a year ago.

Come on, Fox News, at least, simply HAD to run with this story. Fox never, ever, passes up an opportunity to run a news story with skin in it - particularly young and sexually attractive skin.

I know this is not really "news" to us "responsible" media consumers who listen to NPR and wouldn't touch CNN with a ten foot pole. But come on, there's no way the MSM could pass this up. Skin! Puritanism! Church court!

It's really a no-brainer.

Which is why this story is getting more coverage than Proposition 8 at the moment.

I understand why church members might disagree with Hardy's choice to exploit LDS symbols for personal profit, but I'm still not sure why that conduct would constitute an excommunicable offense.

Other Mormons exploit their religion in the name of financial gain all the time--think of Halestorm movies, Missionary Mall, Living Scriptures, and Book of Mormon action figures. I don't think the excommunication was merely about this guy "manipulating [the Church's] public image for fun and profit," because Mormons clearly do that all the time.

I'm guessing it has more to do with the suggestive nature of the calendar, even though its content seems rather tame. Labeling the calendar as "pornographic" stretches that term to the point of meaninglessness. Would we excommunicate a young woman for posing in a one-piece swimming suit? The boys in the calendar certainly aren't showing any more skin that they would be if they were spending the day at the beach.

The Church hasn't exed Julianne Hough for this magazine cover shot yet. It's just as (if not more) risqué than the missionary calendar, and I'm sure Ms. Hough was paid generously for the photo.

I'm not trying to defend Hardy; I think the calendar was tasteless (although, not inherently more tasteless than The Book of Mormon Movie or other Mormon kitsch ). However, if we're going to excommunicate someone, I think it's reasonable to insist that we do it on principled grounds. "[C]onduct unbecoming a member of the church" sounds pretty nebulous, in my opinion.

(Disclaimer: For all I know, there may have been other, more private grounds for Hardy's excommunication. I'm merely saying that, based on information that is publicly available, I'm unconvinced that excommunication was justified in Hardy's case.)

Steve M., I'm happier not speculating about other grounds -- no such hints have been given by any of the players -- and just concluding that the action came as a result of him knowingly debasing LDS symbols for pecuniary gain. Other merchants might traffic in Mormony stuff, but most of it is fairly innocuous vis-a-vis the symbols or images employed.

The other thing to note is that local leaders talked with Calendar Man for several weeks. Had he valued his membership, he obviously could have changed his business plan and avoided this outcome.

The effect of a calendar like this, if it actually caught on and sold well, on the missionary program and the individual lives of the Elders serving would be disastrous. That alone is an excommunicable offense. Would you listen to a religious message from two Chip-n-Dale dancers on your doorstep, even if they were dressed in a shirt and tie at the time?

This really isn't that hard to figure out.

The effect of a calendar like this, if it actually caught on and sold well, on the missionary program and the individual lives of the Elders serving would be disastrous.

Could you elaborate on this? I have a hard time seeing how things would be "disastrous."

It seems that AP had talked to Hardy's Stake President, who said that there were three issues discussed. It was reported in several news sites.

I assume he said that much despite Church confidentiality policy, because Hardy had made the letter he got a public issue.

So it wouldn't be baseless to speculate that the calendar issue alone wasn't what led to the end result. I myself think that around the calendar issue, his way of bringing this to an international news agency was worse than the calendar itself.

I am a parent of a current missionary and at least one future one. I don't like the idea that because of Hardy, the Mormon Missionary image is sullied to some extent. My son who's going on a mission in near future is pretty well built, and it's hard enough being taken seriously as a young man without associating his image with Chippendales shows.

I think the image of missionaries is sullied just by the fact that two clean-cut guys hanging out with each other 24/7 looks totally "gay." At least in SoCal it does (I can't speak for how it might be perceived elsewhere). And I think it would be totally groovy to have two Chippendale dancers show up on my doorstep with a religious message--I'd invite them in(!), but that might just be me...

MikeParker:
Congrats on escaping to SoUtah. I expect to leave the OC in a couple of years when I (finally) finish the PhD and get a real job.

Perhaps our paths will cross again sometime? It's been a long time since we last shared salad, eh? ;-)

I thought it was extreme to excommunicate the guy until I decided to visit his website and learn more about it. the mormonsexposed site is selling not only the calendar, but tshirts with men holding hands with 6 women, mocking the word of wisdom and family, and another shirt that portrays the missionaries as submissive and ignorent because they are kneeling in prayer with the tag line "Standing Tall." I don't think the calendar was the issue. This guy has it in for the church and he's creating a name for himself with his calendar. Check out his website and you'll see what I mean.

I agree. This is back page news at best. I guess it's a little more newsworthy than "Mesa 23rd Stake Youth Reenact Pioneer Trek," but not by much. The guy clearly played the Fourth Estate like a fiddle.

I couldn't find the details, but a few years ago, a moderately obscure author who was an inactive member received a letter from his (or her? I don't recall) stake president inviting the author to a meeting. The letter gave no indication that a disciplinary council was contemplated, but the author needed only call the press to initiate a media feeding frenzy about an impending excommunication. I never heard any more about it, so I assume that no disciplinary council was ever held. You'd think some reporter would stop and think, "Hey this is just a story about a clergyman inviting a church member to chat. Call me again when we have a story."

There is a big difference between not living up to LDS standards as a public figure and purposely misrepresenting the standards of the LDS Church. The first is ultimately about an individual. The second is about the reputation of the Church itself.

It would be nice if such rules were written down somewhere. Absent that, it hardly seems surprising, though.

Comment #1 is one the money. Hardy played the church like a fiddle. It's so f-ing embarrassing to be a Mormon these days. We are so long overdue for a new generation of leadership. I think we are witnessing the incredible shrinking church before our eyes.

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