SALT LAKE CITY - The creator of a 2008 calendar that featured shirtless Mormon missionaries was excommunicated Sunday after a disciplinary meeting with local church leaders in Las Vegas.
Chad Hardy says he bears no ill will toward the council of elders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says an official letter severing his ties with the 13 million-member Salt Lake City-based church should arrive in about two weeks.
Sunday's meeting lasted about two hours and the 12-member council deliberated about 45 minutes before making its decision.
"I felt like I spoke my truth," the 31-year-old entertainment entrepreneur said. "Bottom line, they still felt the calendar is inappropriate and not the image that the church wants to have."
"Men on a Mission," which has sold nearly 10,000 copies at $14.99 each, included pictures of 12 returned missionaries wearing black slacks, but not their trademark white shirts, in modest poses. The men are also photographed in traditional missionary garb and share their religious beliefs in biographical sketches.
Some of the 12 models have also been called to disciplinary meetings, but none was punished.
"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."
Frank E. Davie, the senior leader of a group of Mormon congregations in the Las Vegas area, confirmed the council's decision in a telephone call to The Associated Press. He declined to comment further.
Regional church leaders who called the meeting raised three concerns with Hardy during the meeting: the calendar and his failure to keep some church covenants.
Hardy has been inactive in the Mormon 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.
Hardy said he considered resigning his membership to avoid the hearing, but decided against it out of respect for his family. Hardy is a sixth-generation Mormon. His parents live in Utah.
"I really feel sorry for my family," said Hardy. "They are going to be so sad. But I feel empowered and free and I feel like I no longer have to apologize for anything."
Hardy insists that the purpose of the calendar has never been to tear down the church or its 13 million members.
"The project is about stepping outside the stereotypes and stepping outside of the image," Hardy said. "Not everybody fits the image, and I let them know we're not trying to portray an image for the entire church."
Since its debut last year, the calendar has generated plenty of buzz on the social networking Internet sites MySpace and Facebook. Some have criticized Hardy for painting missionaries as "sex symbols" and contradicting church teachings that promote modesty. Others have rejoiced at his attempt to give young Mormon men a new image.
The Mormon church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person's behavior or actions are openly incompatible with the faith's teachings and could potentially damage the church.
On Friday a church spokeswoman declined to comment on Hardy or the calendar, but said that "any church discipline is the result of actions not beliefs." Decisions are made at the local level and are based on individual circumstances and merits, spokeswoman Kim Farah said.
Council hearings are designed to help members, not simply punish, and are considered a necessary step in repentance and part of a process of returning to full fellowship in the church, she said.
An excommunicated person is removed from official church rolls, although they are still welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can't perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.
The 2009 calendar — which drew 100 inquiries from interested missionaries — will be released in September.