Calendar Shows Another Side of Mormons

By Lilly Fowler
Religion News Service
Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mormon missionaries can usually be spotted by what they're wearing: white shirt, dark tie, name tag, bike helmet. Lately, they're getting noticed for what they're not wearing: anything above the waist.

Hoping to debunk the popular image of Mormons as strait-laced corporate types, a steamy new "Men on a Mission" calendar features 12 former missionaries, each of them shirtless, sculpted and looking seductive.

There's Jonathan, looking like a Mitt Romney clone, and there he is again, sitting shirtless on a park bench with a sultry come-hither stare. And Shane, holding his Book of Mormon near the Las Vegas Strip and then looking like, well, he's the one going to strip.

Brandon Beckham, an actor and filmmaker who spent his two-year mission spreading the Mormon message in Mozambique, auditioned for a spot in the calendar after his agent told him about the project.

"It was kind of a different type of audition," said Beckham, now 32 and playing the role of Mr. August 2008 in a bathing suit.

Beckham, who was born and raised in Southern California, said that as a Mormon in the entertainment industry, he's used to having to make some tough decisions.

"I made up my mind a long time ago that I wouldn't engage in things I wouldn't approve of, that I wouldn't show my kids," he said.

But he said that after meeting the men behind the calendar, he felt good about the project and decided he could help change some of the misconceptions about Mormons.

They call it "bare chests and handsome faces as a conduit for change." In addition to dispelling the myth of a Mormon sober superiority complex, Beckham hopes the calendar will help create an interfaith dialogue.

"We don't believe we're above other religions. . . . That's what I hope the calendar will do," he said.

Chad Hardy, who produced the calendar, said he came up with the idea about five months ago as a way to encourage a discussion about Mormonism and raise money for charity.

"I didn't want to create the calendar just to create the calendar," said Hardy, a sixth-generation Mormon who also spent two years on a mission. "I wanted it to have a purpose."

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