SALT LAKE CITY — The 2012 edition of a pin-up calendar featuring bare-chested former Mormon missionaries will be the last printing of the controversial project which prompted the excommunication of its creator by the church.
“The project has run its course,” calendar creator Chad Hardy said. “We got the message out. It was done to create dialogue between religions and to say that Mormons don’t all buy into the mold that is created for them within that community.”
The “Men on a Mission” calendar debuted in 2008, with glossy color photographs of 12 returned male church missionaries in mostly modest poses — minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges.
Later that year, Hardy, 35, of Palm Springs, was excommunicated from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in part because he produced the calendar.
Weeks later, his diploma from the church-owned Brigham Young University was also revoked, even though he had been cleared for graduation and allowed to walk through an August graduation ceremony. BYU cited the excommunication in its decision to withhold the diploma.
Hardy’s church leaders and a BYU dean said the calendar didn’t reflect Mormon church values.
The squabble gained Hardy temporary celebrity status and a spate of interviews with national and international media, along with appearances in several documentary film projects on Mormonism.
It also drove thousands of emails to Hardy’s mormonsexposed.com website.
The opinions ran the gamut: Some praised the calendar for shaking up stereotypes while others denounced it as offensive for degrading the church and displaying missionaries as “sex symbols.”
A 2010 female-version of the calendar — “Mormon Muffins, A Taste of Motherhood,” featuring young Latter-day Saint homemakers dresses in ‘40s-era pin-up styles — drew similar reactions.
Hardy said he was surprised by the strong reactions and most disappointed that the church leaders could not just laugh it off and let the project be.
“But I have to be grateful for it,” said Hardy, a lifetime Mormon, with long family ties to the church. “Without their harsh treatment, the project would have been over long ago. I definitely sold more calendars because of that.”
Church spokesman Scott Trotter declined comment on the calendar on Friday.
The 2012 calendar features the 12 most popular missionary photographs from previous editions. The pictures were selected by fan votes cast on the website. Its goes on sale this week through the site.
Over four years, Hardy says he’s sold more than 25,000 calendars — most in Mormon-dominated Utah. The project has also raised more than $3,000 for charity.
Calendar model Eric Turner, who has appeared in the second, third and fifth editions of the calendar, said it’s sad to see the project end.
“As much controversy as there’s been about it, it’s definitely helped to get people talking,” the 31-year-old model and fitness trainer from Houston said. “I think it brought to light this idea that in Utah, you have to be a cookie-cutter Mormon ... then fought that mentality in a joking way.”
Turner thinks church officials over-reacted to the calendar, which is tame and tasteful when compared to many others that are sold. But he also said he wasn’t too surprised.
“The church is very aggressive about controlling its image,” said Turner, who also is no longer a Mormon. “I think Chad blew open the doors.”