“It’s friendly. It doesn’t tear down the beliefs of the church at all. Underneath, it makes people realize, ‘Oh, they’re sexy Mormons. They’re real.” That’s the position Chad Hardy takes when it comes to defending his prize creation: the “Men On A Mission” calendar of hot Mormon guys. As you might expect, this annual glorification of ripped bodies doesn’t sit well with huge swath of the Mormon community. Depicting Mormons as sex objects? OMG NO!%@#%$! (As you also might expect, the calendar sits perfectly well with gay men, even if the guys featured HATE THEIR SOULS.)
In its third year, the calendar features a “second coming of Christ” for the 2009 cover. Mormon guys are submitting model applications in droves. And sales couldn’t be, well, hotter.
After being excommunicated from the church last year — officially, it was for other reasons than the calendar — Hardy (pictured, below background) says that same month he received $23,000 in orders after all the press from the scandal, up from a mere $440 the month before. (The church has also kept him from getting a diploma from Brigham Young University, which he left a few credits short, but finished the remaining coursework online.)
But the treat of excommunication doesn’t seem to be dampening interest from beautiful Mormons. Says the LAT:
Several brawny models sprawl in the loft, chatting over blueberry bagels and carrots. Brandon Romain [pictured, above and right], a 23-year-old BYU student, heard about the calendar from friends in Virginia. While working for the College Republican National Committee in Ohio last fall, he e-mailed pictures to Hardy. For weeks, the dark-haired, blue-eyed Romain hit the gym twice a day.
“It takes a lot more preparation for the judgment to come,” he says, anticipating criticism after the calendar is published. He has told only a few friends and his sister that he is posing. Hours before his flight to Las Vegas, he woke up wondering, “Man, should I really do this?”
Mr. September 2009 tries to reassure him. “This wouldn’t be noticed without the controversy,” says Ken Church, a 24-year-old former substitute teacher in Utah who was overwhelmed by the fan mail he received. “Our faces are all over the world.”
Romain likes the idea of shattering stereotypes. “People think we have a bazillion wives and think we’re a cult. They think we’re all Peter Priesthood and Molly Mormon.” Still, he didn’t plan to tell his parents until after the shoot.
“Some people think it’s porn,” says Shawn Perucca, the 27-year-old posing as Captain Moroni, who lives in Los Angeles and was a missionary in Paraguay. But models in Abercrombie & Fitch ads bare more skin, he says with a shrug.
“I’m not going to lie, though,” Romain says. “I kind of don’t want to go back to Provo.”
And because you’re now wondering where you can buy the thing, it’s at the suggestively titled MormonsExposed.com — where not only can you read the bios of all the missionaries on display in the calendar, but you can find them on Facebook! If only the Vatican were this savvy. And interested in homoerotics.