Dr. Lawrence Flake, professor of religion, gave a lecture series titled, “A Time to Laugh: The Place of Humor In the Church” to a full Pardoe Theatre in the Harris Fine Arts Center during Campus Education Week.
The focus of Tuesday’s lecture was on prophets and their use of humor in their sacred callings. The tone of the lecture was light-hearted, yet reverent as Flake relayed accounts of humorous situations involving modern-day prophets, including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.
Flake told the audience that he did extensive research to find a story that most had not heard about Joseph Smith and then told the audience a story in which the prophet poked fun at a straight-laced and belligerent minister.
After engaging in unpleasant conversation on a Sunday afternoon, the minister got up to leave. The prophet asked him to wait a moment, went out a ways and drew a line with a stick on the ground. Then he ran towards the line, jumped over it as far as he could and marked where he landed.
“That’s how well I can do. Let’s see what you can do,” he said, according to Flake.
“The minister was just scandalized,” Flake said. “The very idea of a man of God on Sunday afternoon engaging in athletics! He just walked away mumbling to himself. Then Emma came and rebuked Joseph by saying, ‘Why did you do that?’ To which Joseph said, ‘The man came to find fault in me and I was not going to send him away disappointed.'”
When speaking of Brigham Young, Flake told the audience that he had a weird sense of humor which he often used to straighten people out.
“One time,” he said, “a lady came to him crying and said, ‘My husband just told me to go to Hell, what should I do?’ and he just looked at her and said, ‘Don’t go.'”
Flake stressed the importance of having personal and family stories as well as stories about leaders of the LDS Church, and then shared a personal story of his own.
“One of my nephews, (who was) not very self-sufficient when he went on his mission, had his mother really worried about him that he wouldn’t be able to take care of himself,” he said. “He wrote her a letter that I think reassured her when he said, ‘Mom, you would be so proud of me! I ripped my pants and I stapled it back together all by myself!'”
Flake encouraged his listeners to recognize what powerful tools humorous stories can be.
“Start making a good collection of humorous LDS stories,” Flake counseled. “It is nice to have a good collection of (them) for talks and teaching.”