On Laughter

More than ten years ago, now, I went through the most brutal emotional experience of my life—one that still haunts me on an almost daily basis. Under the circumstances, I was temporarily numb to almost any emotion.

The next Sunday, before Sacrament Meeting, a friend of mine in the ward came over to say hi and cheer me up a bit (although he knew nothing about my situation). In the course of our conversation, he made a joke and, for the first time in days, I laughed.


My roommate immediately shushed me and rebuked me for not being reverent.


If whispers and soft music and seriousness float your boat, I don’t mind and I really will do my best not to disturb you. But I come from a family that’s been through all kinds of hell, and we’ve learned to laugh, because it sure beats crying.


  1. I assume your referencing Elder Scott’s conference talk here. I was also perplexed by his strong admonition to avoid loud laughter–it just seems like a bizarre thing to take a stand against. It reminds me of Pres. Monson’s criticism of the Beatles’ song, All You Need is Love–of all the things a prophet of God could take a stand against he chose a song about loving people? Really? In a world filled with so much heartache and evil it seems to me that there are more important things to warn against than love and laughter.

  2. I agree, Katya. I’ve endured some horrific experiences and sometimes a loud, hearty laugh is the best therapy ever! I celebrate everyone who can make their friends and family members laugh (loudly) when times are tough–and when they are not.

  3. mraynes – I’ve known a number of very kind bishops and stake presidents over the years, who were very willing to extend themselves as much as possible to see where someone else was coming from. My hope is that if I actually had a chance to sit down and talk to Elder Scott about his comments, we would ultimately come to the same sort of understanding. (That or perhaps clarify that he was actually referring to a more specific type of laughter, perhaps mocking laughter?)

    In the absence of such an opportunity, I thought I’d take the chance to explain where I (and some other loud laughers) may be coming from.

    Chris – Thanks!

  4. “loud laughter, evil speaking of the lord’s anointed, the taking of the name of the lord in vain and every impure …”

    I think that is different from the we’ve learned to laugh, because it sure beats crying you are writing about.

  5. It would be wonderful if general authorities defined what they really mean. Is loud laughter another term for derisive, cruel, mocking laughter or is it hearty laughter? Most people when they hear the term “loud laughter” think of the latter, especially if they not been to the temple.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with loud laughter. It’s derisive, rude, spiteful laughter that needs to be condemned.

  6. another term for derisive, cruel, mocking laughter or is it hearty laughter?

    How can it be anything but the first if it is an unholy practice on par with the other practices it is listed with?

  7. Stephen, there is a real-world example in this thread of someone who apparently came to a different conclusion than the one you think is self-evident. Did you see it?

  8. Katya — people reach different conclusions than I do all the time.

    I should have been clearer. I don’t think the answer is self-evident outside of the context I suggested.

    I only asked, that given the suggested context, is there a better interpretation or one that seems natural?

    Chris points out that if you don’t have the context, you come to a different conclusion, I only asked that once you have the context, does any other conclusion really make good sense?

  9. Stephen – In light of the fact that different people are coming to different conclusions about the meaning of this phrase (with sometimes painful effects), perhaps it would be nice if those in authority who use this phrase would pick a more precise phrase or otherwise clarify what they mean by it. That way we don’t have to rely on everyone having some background contextual knowledge.

  10. I think you have to take into account the humor of the ancients. Scriptural phrases like “dig a pit for thy neighbor” indicate to me that they were bigtime practical jokers. Having fun at someone else’s expense. Even into the 20th century, slapstick was a staple of comedy. So the admonition to “avoid loud laughter” comes from a time when people got their yuks from other people’s misfortune.

    I’ve rarely heard a Prez Monson talk that didn’t include a little humor to break the ice.

  11. Bradley – That’s a fascinating theory and I’d love to learn more about it. Can you point me towards your sources?


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