Education Week: The place of humor in the Church

Education Week participants laugh at stories Lawrence R. Flake tells during his lecture on the place of humor in the Church. (Hannah Miner)

Jokes about funeral potatoes and funny sayings on gravestones caused the audience to erupt with laughter at a BYU education week session on Friday. Given the title of his remarks, BYU religion professor Lawrence R. Flake began his lecture appropriately — with humor.

Entitled “The place of humor in the Church,” The lecture had nothing to do with what and what not to say in regards to humor in the Church; it instead consisted of 50 minutes of humorous storytelling about different Church members’ experiences.

“We’re going to talk about Latter-day Saint life and a culture that has its own humor and so much good humor,” Flake said. “Elder Packer said, ‘The most important part of a sense of humor is the sense part.'”

Flake presented quotes about humor from past and present members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, making the his point that the Church is led by light-hearted, joyful men.

Flake quoted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who said, “Jesus found special joy and happiness in Children and said all of us should be more like them — guileless and pure and quick to laugh.”

Elder James E. Faust’s said that when he gave baby blessings, he always blessed the child to have a sense of humor to live life happily and not too rigidly.

BYU religion professor Lawrence R. Flake smiles brightly as he shares stories from his life and the lives of his friends and General Authorities. (Hannah Miner)

Flake shared a quote from Elder Marion D. Hanks that read: “What shall we give to our children? Pray for a sense of humor. Laughter leavens heaven and brings a sunny spirit.”

Flake proceeded to tell shares stories from his life and the lives of his friends and General Authorities.

Flake said one of his grandsons came to him with four CTR rings on his hands. The “CTR” on the ring stands for ‘choose the right,’ and the rings often stand as a symbol of Latter-day Saint life. When Flake asked his grandson where he got so many rings, his grandson replied, “I stole them from my friends.”

Flake mentioned a moment at General Conference last October when the First Presidency did away with home teaching and changed it to ministering. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf joked that when they were considering the new name “shepherds,” but then that would make him a German shepherd.

Flake went on to present a slide that read, “Good humor in difficult times is like a ray of sunshine peeking through the clouds.”

Flake told of an experience Elder Jeffrey R. Holland had while getting his doctoral degree at Yale. Elder Holland had gone to the library and while there, went up to the librarian to inquire about a specific book.

Elder Holland described the book: it was written on gold plates and had been in the Earth for hundreds of years and was found by a young farm boy in Upstate New York. Elder Holland asked, “Do you have that book?”

“(The librarian’s) eyes were big and she said, ‘No — but if we did, I’d sure want to read it!'” Flake said. “(Elder Holland) trapped her all right. I haven’t talked to him to see how that turned out.”

There is a special culture in the Church and humor is welcome, Flake said. He explained that humor is an important part of enjoying this life and encouraged participants to be light-hearted, but not light-minded.

“There is nothing like a well-prepared talk, and this is exactly that — ‘nothing like a well-prepared talk,'” Flake joked in closing.

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