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Dear Gramps,

Does God have a sense of humor?





Dear Sebastian,

To attempt to answer that question, it would seem appropriate to first come to a consensus of what humor is. Let me try a little development on that point.

In the first place we could say that humor tends to make us laugh, or at least smile in mirth. But that is not the only thing that makes us laugh. Some laugh out of embarrassment or nervousness.

There is a base sort of humor which is no more than the elocution of filthiness–prominent in our society today, and used frequently by entertainers. When people laugh at such corruption, they either revel in the filthiness displayed or laugh out of embarrassment. The entertainer, hearing the laughter, thinks that he is funny and is emboldened in his filthy display.

But if one examines the humor that makes people laugh, one finds that it is almost always associated with surprise. As the humorous account unfolds, the listener is led to a given conclusion, but at the very end of the account a different conclusion is voiced, which surprises, delights the listener and tends to evoke laughter. Humor may be subtle, as a function of wit, or it may be an outright surprise ending. Let’s try a couple of examples—

Seen on a T-shirt– Wheat for man, D&C 89:17; Chocolate for woman, M&M 24:7.

Here, the abbreviation for Doctrine & Covenants, leads to a second supposed abbreviation, since it has the same visual or audible form. But once considered, it becomes quickly apparent that it is the name of a brand of candy, rather than the anticipated scriptural reference. Secondly, the reference in the Doctrine & Covenants is to verse 17 in Section 89, that actually states wheat for man. However, the parallel supposed reference following M&M, is a phrase which means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which gives specific emphasis to the importance of chocolate for women, comparing it to the importance of the scriptures for men.

Now let’s try another type of humor in which there is a lengthy build up of expectation of a given type of conclusion, only to find in the very last word a completely different and unexpected kind of conclusion, and one that to those familiar with the situation, reveals the logic and the commonality of the situation described. This is a poem by Richard Gorton, called

“The Great Archeological Find”

It’s a small round ring with a hole in the middle,

And it crumbles in your hands.

Exactly what it was used for

No one quite understands.

It was found in many churches

Where congregations were known to sit,

But no one has discovered yet

Just what they did with it.

We have studied all the evidence

Found down at the site,

And we’re certain it was part

Of some religious rite.

Yes, that much we do know,

And though there is no proof of it,

We think it’s called a ‘‘Cheerio.’’

The Cheerio, of course, is a brand of breakfast cereal that many mothers use to keep their children quiet in church, and the little pieces are frequently found following the church meetings on the pews and scattered on the floor. In this poem the reader is led to believe that the account relates to some archeological dig uncovering something of the ancient past. But the very last word reveals that the poem talks of some future archeological dig exploring our own contemporary civilization, and trying to give significance to something that is completely inconsequential to all that the site evidence would stand for.

Now, with that background, let’s explore the question, “Does God have a sense of humor?” In the first place, God knows everything. From 2 Nephi 9:20

O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.

So if surprise is an essential part of humor, then God would not have a sense of humor by that definition. However, we still view humorous accounts as humorous, although the punch line is no longer a surprise–so much so that we enjoy telling the humorous stories to others and laughing with them at the circumstances or unexpected conclusions that they invoke. In this sense I would think that God does indeed have a sense of humor, and may enjoy with others that which delights the intellect.

It may be well to consider that we are made in the image of God and are the literal children of God. We possess the qualities of godhood in embryo. So it may be possible to project the qualities of which man is possessed to their perfect state, and relate them to the qualities of the Father of all men. We know of the various intellectual characteristic of God, among them such qualities as delight, pleasure, sympathy and love; all of which would be consistent with a sense of humor.






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