Light-mindedness, loud laughter and other such covenants

Don - November 4, 2004

I’m a Mormon (yes I am!) and in being a Mormon, I strongly believe in making and keeping covenants with the Lord. It is one of the foundational doctrines of the church and central to our ability to become like God. Because of this, I take my covenants very seriously.
We make quite a few covenants in this life including the ones mentioned in the title of this post and I do not want to mess them up. The difficult part is knowing where to draw the line when it comes to vague wording such as avoiding loud laughter, light-mindedness, that I never speak guile, or any other unholy or impure practice. How do I know what fits into these categories and what does not?
I ask this question because I live with five other single, 23 year old virgins. One of them is engaged, one has a girlfriend and the rest of us are very single. This type of atmosphere is conducive to a lot of dirty talk and dirty jokes, as well as a growing amount of harsh language.
Part of the problem is a lot of it really is quite funny and easy to feed off of for more laughs, but that does not make it right. These are good, active members who have all served faithful missions for the church who know it is not Christ-like, but there is no incentive strong enough in the church to keep them from continuing; especially in the privacy of their own home. (This kind of ties in Rusty’s post on pornography)
I don’t want to turn this into a debate (much like asking “What’s considered keeping the Sabbath Day holy”) that will be of no good to anyone, but the question begs to be answered. Where is the line drawn?


  1. We have to remember that a lot of what we hear in the temple is symbolic as well as literal.
    When I think of this one I remember the old movie Reefer Madness. So I think the idea here is not to get too carried away.
    Besides, we know that humor and laughter have very strong medicinal qualities.
    John | Email | Homepage | 11.04.04 – 8:13 pm | #

    I would say that when you start to “wonder” whether you should have said that, or whether you should have listened to that, you’re violating your covenants.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 11.04.04 – 9:47 pm | #

    Don, why? What does the “wondering” have anything to do with anything? I often wonder if I said the right/wrong/stupid/smart/witty/funny/gross thing, I sure hope each time I wasn’t breaking a covenant.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 12:27 am | #

    Oh don’t you worry. I have NO problems finding humor in just about everything including when life throws you a rotten tomato! It all comes back to moderation though, doesn’t it.
    Sorry, but I think Rusty has a point on this one. Is it all trial and error though? Or is there a better way?
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 2:18 am | #

    I, personally, have always felt that the harshest laughter is always the kind that is at the expense or the suffering of others.

    I think laughter that makes other people suffer is clearly unChristlike.

    I think that laughter that “makes light of sacred things” is also wrong, but a little harder to define. I think that some of the things I read in “The Sugar Beet” cross the line sometimes, but I’ll still check it out.

    Mark Hansen | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 2:29 am | #

    Usually the funniest jokes are at the expense of others. That’s the problem, just because we shouldn’t be laughing at them doesn’t make them less funny. I mean really, what percentage of jokes we hear are at the expense of others? I’d say most. It’s sad, but I do agree with you Mark.

    You are also correct about the difficulty in defining “making light of sacred things”. I mean, is it okay to joke about President Hinckley’s voice cracking like a teenager? (oops, does that fall into BOTH categories?) How about the HUGE sacrament bread pieces? Etc. Is it a matter of “it’s okay to make fun of Mormon culture, but not okay to make fun of doctrine”?

    Also, what’s “The Sugar Beet”?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 8:39 am | #

    Part of the problem is a lot of it really is quite funny and easy to feed off of for more laughs, but that does not make it right.

    This is precisely why those things are to be avoided. Partaking in them leads to desensitivity with regards to them (hey, it’s fun and it’s not hurting me or anyone else) and causes a general blind-spot or callous to grow in a place that could or should be a spiritual barometer (i.e. our speech and thoughts).
    john fowles | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 12:00 pm | #

    You know, I’ve often wondered about the loud laughter thing myself.
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 2:44 pm | #

    Rusty and Mark bring up very good points that I agree with. My question also, though, is regarding what is considered too DIRTY a joke. Then after that, how do we help someone realize it IS too dirty and goes against what the prophets have told us?
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 2:56 pm | #

    If you laugh so loudly that diet coke comes out of your nose, you are a vile sinner and you will be damned to an especially fiery corner of hell that has been prepared for all those who have enjoyed watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

    Loud laughter is a sin, but snarfing is an abomination … thus saith the Lord.

    Ok, in all seriousness … have you ever laughed so hard that you had tears coming out of your eyes and you had to sit down and catch your breath? Of course you have.

    And how often does that happen? Probably not very often. Most of us aren’t continually in touch with things that are truly that funny. But when it happens on the rare occasion, isn’t it nice? Doesn’t it help throw off some of the weight of the world? I think so.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 3:40 pm | #

    Dan, I agree, it is nice. But that just gets back to the original problem: Is it about the volume of your laughter (as implied in the wording) or is it the spirit in which you are laughing? I would imagine it’s the latter.

    Bret, “too dirty” seems to me to be a matter of context, mostly in the context of my last post about lust.

    John, while I agree that it’s best to avoid those things, I’m not sure I fully agree with your reasoning. Yes it’s best to avoid bad thoughts and speech, that I agree with. But surely there is a positive side to not being offended any time someone says something contrary to the Spirit. What are your thoughts?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 4:55 pm | #

    To me loud laughter invokes images of the few high school parties I attended. It is an attitude that says “Let’s cut loose and have a rip roaring rager and through all temperance to the wind!”

    The folks in the big and spacious building having their grand time…that is loud laughter. It is has something to do with excess and indulgence.

    Snarfing Diet Coke and spitting it all over the keyboard…such moments make my day, and I think we all need more of them.
    Ian | Email | Homepage | 11.05.04 – 5:52 pm | #

    Can you expound a bit on what you mean of “dirty jokes” being in the context of your post on lust? I get what you mean, kinda, but I’d like to know exactly what you’re talking about.

    If it really is volume (which it isn’t) then I really am going to hell, especially after watching “The Icredibles” tonight. (GREAT stuff!)
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 11.06.04 – 5:52 am | #

    Can you expound a bit on what you mean of “dirty jokes” being in the context of your post on lust? I get what you mean, kinda, but I’d like to know exactly what you’re talking about.

    If it really is volume (which it isn’t) then I really am going to hell, especially after watching “The Incredibles” tonight. (GREAT stuff!)
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 11.06.04 – 5:52 am | #

    oops! Sorry about the double! I missed the “n” in “Incredibles” and accidentally hit the button twice.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 11.06.04 – 5:53 am | #

    “If you laugh so loudly that diet coke comes out of your nose, you are a vile sinner and you will be damned to an especially fiery corner of hell that has been prepared for all those who have enjoyed watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

    …not to mention the painful nose inflammation that can come from routinely inhaling d.c. this way

    Still, wouldn’t you rather hang out with those who love Monty Python? The darkest day for me in the MTC was when I made a reference to the knights who say nee, and nobody got it! (well, ok, the second-darkest day)
    Kristine | Email | Homepage | 11.06.04 – 1:23 pm | #

    It’s funny; I’ve never even met you, Dan, but I knew that was your comment as soon as I read the first line.

    Interesting topic, Bret. It makes me realize that laughter, like so many other good things, also has a spectrum of white to black with all shades of gray in between. Yet another reason we need to “always have His spirit to be with” us: to be able to judge those gray areas. It sounds like a “cop-out” answer to your question, but it’s really the best one I can come up with.

    It sounds to me like you may already have your answer, as you’ve called the behavior “dirty talk,” “dirty jokes,” and “harsh language,” as well as saying that while it’s funny, “that does not make it right.” You also mentioned that these RMs “know it is not Christ-like.” I’m not saying there is a clear-cut line visible (or even existent) in every situation, but we ought to be seeking the Spirit’s approval on the possibly questionable things we might be involved in.
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 11.06.04 – 4:54 pm | #

    I try to make a distinction between lightmindedness and lightheartedness. While it is wrong to take sacred things lightly, let’s remember, the worst thing about the pharisees was that they took everything, including themselves, so seriously.

    This reminds me of something a mission companion used to say to me when I did something spectaculary dumb.

    “Elder, flip, use your flippin’ head! I know we aren’t supposed to be lightminded, but flip, you brain only weighs two ounces!”

    Blessed is he who can laugh at himself, for he will always have a source of amusement.
    CB | Email | Homepage | 11.08.04 – 6:10 pm | #

    I suspect contextually it means the ribald joke telling and loud laughter often accompanying men who aren’t trained in gentlemanish behavior.

    However I think that as a principle, it really pertains to not treating sacred things as sacred. While that would include dirty jokes and the like, I think it also includes the temple.

    For instance I can recall back in college making jokes about the temple films and Star Trek and how the old films were the Kirk era Star Trek and the new films were the Next Generation era Star Trek, each more or less following the cheesy sets of those episodes. Now the way I told it was pretty funny and I had everyone laughing rather loudly. However in hindsight I truly wished I hadn’t done it.
    Clark | Email | Homepage | 11.08.04 – 6:32 pm | #

    I like the idea of laughing at yourself. That is the soundest thing I’ve heard all day.

    Gosh, that is funny. Maybe you shouldn’t have RE-told it because I’m now tempted to use your joke and get all the laughs that you got

    I think that’s a pretty good principle though, treating sacred things as sacred. I’ll buy that.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 11.08.04 – 9:18 pm | #

    MUAHAHHHAHHAHAHA!!!! (is it wrong to write out loud laughter on a blog?)


    I have to ask … did you recognize it was me due to the sarcasm, that it was a run on sentence or both?
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 11.09.04 – 3:29 pm | #

    I think it is funny because it is so true. (Even down to the music) Of course most people haven’t seen the old Gordon Jump era films (which overall I liked better anyway). I was fortunate to have gone through the old ceremony in the MTC. I still try to remember the old “ways” when going through as there was a lot to it.
    Clark | Email | Homepage | 11.09.04 – 9:35 pm | #


    It was definitely the sarcasm. Keep it coming! (But perhaps in moderation; otherwise I’ll have to make sure I’m not drinking Diet Coke while I read your comments.)
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 11.17.04 – 9:12 am | #



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    Comment by Comment Restore — November 28, 2005 @ 12:54 am

  2. Simple – If you don’t think the Lord Jesus would act, say, do then don’t act, say or do it the way you would like to, but rather think first on Christ, then act, say and do like him.

    Imitating him is our goal. Being perfect even as he is.

    Comment by Andrew — May 28, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  3. I pray that you would ask of the Father and let the Holy Spirit be your constant companion and guide – then you will bring honor to all that is holy and good.

    If our private and personal actions, speech or dress would repell people from the gospel then we are defeating our purpose in this life as a child of God and member missionary.

    Comment by Andrew — May 28, 2010 @ 7:24 am

  4. That’s a weird first comemnt.

    Andrew, give me a break. If I’m going to err, it’s going to be on the side of the inappropriate laugh over being too pompous and self-righteous.

    There’s a difference between mocking sacred things and having a sense of humor and good cheer. Boy, if you want to be my friend, you better be able to laugh at yourself.

    Comment by annegb — May 28, 2010 @ 8:05 am

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