Family playing a board game

Joseph Smith: Life of the Party

Joseph Smith knew when to be serious and when to have fun. We too must find the balance.

“Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:121). This scripture appears to command us to live a fun-free, puritanical lifestyle, yet Joseph Smith, who voiced this revelation, was quite determined to find time to enjoy life.

In the talk “The Looseness of Zion: Joseph Smith and the Lighter View,” Leonard J. Arrington, former Church historian, describes our first latter-day prophet as enjoying himself whenever he could find the opportunity outside his many duties and responsibilities. Joseph loved physical games like wrestling and stick pulling but was also a man of refined tastes, encouraging music, dancing, and theatrical performances.

All of these activities were looked down on by established clergymen of the day as unbefitting of a Christian lifestyle. In fact, Joseph Smith’s insistence that enjoying oneself—including laughing—did not disqualify one as a good Christian may have been as radical an idea as any other in his theology.

So, how can we reconcile the behavior of the prophet of the Restoration with the truth that he restored in Doctrine and Covenants section 88? Joseph’s life provides ample examples of not only how to find balance but also how normal it is to hit bumps along the way. Joseph, just like us, struggled to find this balance. In fact, on the night the angel Moroni appeared to young Joseph for the first time, Joseph was kneeling by his bedside praying for

Let us be as Joseph, unafraid to laugh when it is appropriate, but let us never forget that the Lord comes before a good time every time.

Photo by Frank McKenna

forgiveness because he believed he “was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as [Joseph] had been.”

As Joseph matured, he learned to prioritize spiritual righteousness over personal enjoyment—and when it was appropriate to be serious or lighthearted. He later noted, “The Saints need not think because I am familiar with them and am playful and cheerful, that I am ignorant of what is going on. Iniquity of any kind cannot be sustained in the Church, and it will not fare well where I am; for I am determined while I do lead the Church, to lead it right.”

The prophet enjoyed being “playful and cheerful” but also understood that God’s commandments were of far greater importance. Joseph was a leader, a prophet, and a man of God first—all else second. Let us be as Joseph, unafraid to laugh when it is appropriate but never forgetting that the Lord comes before a good time, every time.

Read more on Joseph’s playfulness in Leonard J. Arrington’s “The Looseness of Zion: Joseph Smith and the Lighter View.”

—Kevin Zalewski, Mormon Insights

Source: BYU Devotionals  

feature image courtesy lds media library

Find more insights

Check out this brief biography of Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley to discover what she said about laughter.

Read “The Gospel and a Sense of Humor, Too,” by John E. Lewis, to learn about the importance of a sense of humor.

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