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Hot, Steamy Mormons: Are the Latter Day Saints Getting Sexy?

Calendars and videos featuring scantily clad Mormons are helping redefine images of the Latter Day Saints -- but not everyone in the Church is happy.

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"In getting involved in California politics they forced the hand of all the gay people in California to not have the same equal rights as they have. I don’t believe that a God that created such an amazing, perfect planet would really care," Hardy says. Later he tells me, "The people are there to serve the church when the church should be there to serve the people -- that’s why we pay into it." Gay people, he says, feel unsafe to be themselves, "and that is not what a religion should be. That’s not who God is."

Asked if a lot of Mormons and Christians are frustrated with the extreme image the far right has given them, Hardy says "Yes, and a lot of them are afraid to say anything because they’ll be ostracized like I was."

"The church has always taught us that we’re a peculiar people. We’re supposed to set a standard for the world, we’re supposed to be better than you," Hardy says simply, a mindset similar to another religious group, the Puritans.

In her book The Wordy Shipmates, NPR commentator Sarah Vowell writes "...the country I live in is haunted by the Puritans’ vision of themselves as God’s chosen people, as a beacon of righteousness that all others are to admire." She describes how our inherited attitude of elevated caretaker has gotten us into situations like the war in Iraq. As Americans, having this as a national legacy can give those of us who aren’t in the church an idea of what it feels like to have this notion of elevated status spiritually.

But not everyone, Hardy says, wants to be above the pack.

"A lot of people want to feel normal, we want to feel sexy," Hardy says, adding that "Most of the people I’ve met who are the most spiritual are the most sexual." He feels the two need not be mutually exclusive. He tells the story of a born-again Christian girl he dated in high school. "Everything she did she did for Jesus and she was the most sexual person I’ve ever met." (Indeed, in casting about randomly for some Mormon reactions to the calendars I found a site called "Mormon Mommy Wars" on which the contributors, circa 2006, were overwhelmingly grossed-out by the Men on a Mission calendar, except one who found it "hilarious" and said the slogan of her mission was "Flirt to convert.")

"I understand it’s something that should not be abused," Hardy says about sexual behavior. "I believe in moderation in all things. If you decide that you’re going to go on a diet and all you eat is soy you’re going to get sick because you’re out of balance. Sexuality is the same – if you’re not feeding your natural body and only trying to feed your spirit," he says, the imbalance takes its toll. Noting that this goes way back to the early days of the Christian church, he says "Sex is a powerful way to control people – especially by withholding it."

He also cites the irony of teaching "Sex is bad, it’s awful, it’s dirty – save it for the one you love."

Another Mormon recasting the stereotype, albeit in a different way, is Stephenie Meyer, author of the "Twilight" novels. Women of all ages are, pardon the phrase, totally batshit about Meyer’s vampire romances, and according to Lev Grossman's 2008 profile of her in Newsweek "she has never seen an R-rated movie."

"The characters in Meyer’s books aren’t Mormons, but her beliefs are key to understanding her singular talent," Grossman wrote, going on to describe, among other things, the vampire’s constant, vigilant resistance to bloodlust and what Grossman called the "erotics of abstinence."

So while Meyer’s work seems to be giving a sex-saturated mainstream audience the erotic joys of restraint (not restraints; that’s another story entirely), Hardy is going a totally different route and giving a sex-saturated mainstream audience a dose of sexiness from a totally unexpected source. Neither are graphic but where "Twilight" is romantic, the "Muffins" are definitely sexy. Some don’t show much skin; most are evocative of the pin-ups of the '40s and '50s, which have always felt more flirtatious than salacious. So do Hardy and his models ever get charged with hypocrisy? Calling for modesty but showing off?

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