What Prophets & Apostles Have Said About Humor

Brad Wilcox | Jul 13, 2016

My wife is a nurse and is always fond of telling me about the benefits of laughter and humor to our physical bodies: enhanced pain threshold, enhanced immunity, and lowered stress. But did you know that a sense of humor is an important part of our spiritual and social well-being as well?

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The scriptures teach us that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22) and that there is a time for everything, including “a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

A sense of humor can help us maintain a positive perspective about the hard things in life. It can break down the walls and barriers that keep us from connecting more deeply with one another. In fact, modern-day prophets and apostles have spoken to us about the power of humor to bless our lives spiritually and emotionally:

“Don’t be afraid to laugh. A person without a sense of humor misses much of the joy of living” (David O. McKay, Home Memories [1956], 165).

“A wholesome sense of humor will be a safety valve that will enable you to apply the lighter touch to heavy problems and to learn some lessons in problem solving that ‘sweat and tears’ often fail to dissolve” (Hugh B. Brown, in Conference Report, April 1968).

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Not only have prophets and apostles taught about humor, but many of them are great examples of using humor effectively despite the many challenges they face. My family witnessed a great example of the power of humor from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. When we were called to Chile to preside over a mission there, my two youngest children were still in sixth and seventh grades. It was a big adjustment for them and they had a hard transition. Elder Holland, who was overseeing the work in that part of the world at the time, went out of his way to make sure my children felt supported and appreciated.

One day, Whitney came home from school and said, “Dad! Elder Holland is in my math book!” She opened up the book and showed me this word problem:

“Yesterday it took Jeff Holland 1 hour to get to work. This morning, Jeff drove to the train station in 20 minutes, waited for the train for 7 minutes, rode the train for 12 minutes, and then walked 15 minutes to get to work. How long did it take Jeff to get to work this morning?”

Well, I thought it was hilarious. So I made a copy of the page, circled the problem, and sent it off to Elder Holland with a note: “Dear Elder Holland, can you please help Whitney with her homework?”

A few days later, this response came in the mail for Whitney from Elder Holland:

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“Dear Whitney, I was pleased you discovered my day job. I regularly submit math problems for textbooks and sometimes I just don’t know whose name to use. I think I will use yours next. ("If Whitney Wilcox has 5 boyfriends in Provo, and gains one a day for 14 days in Chile, how many of them will be baptized, go on missions, and want to marry her?") Thanks for being here! I am immensely proud of you!”

I’m so grateful for an Apostle who has a sense of humor that allowed him to help our daughter feel loved and valued during a difficult time in her life. We can all follow his example. Humor helps us connect with Church members, nonmembers, friends, and foes alike. It helps us face problems, and ultimately it helps us become more like our Father in Heaven.