I always enjoy the opportunity to laugh a little bit in general conference. In January, I introduced the General Conference Mirth Index (for the October 2014 conference), which sums up the number of laughs for each talk. As we enter into the next General Conference this weekend, let’s see how much laughing we did last April.
A quick recap. To calculate this, I listen to each conference talk and record the number of instances of laughter that I hear. (Note that I’m not counting jokes or judging what is a joke; I’m only counting what induces laughter.) I listen to each talk in the language in which it was delivered, since the English voiceover often covers the laughter. I then adjust by the length of the talk. This has limitations – it weighs equally Elder Gibson’s chuckle from not eating dinner with Elder Pearson’s medium-sized laugh from #spaciousbuilding.
Big picture. More than half the talks had at least one laugh (57%, to be precise). There was one joke that landed brilliantly during the conducting, when President Uchtdorf started speaking in German on Sunday afternoon: “Sorry, President Monson. … I went into my German native language.”
Last October, Sunday morning had the fewest laughs. In April, the Women’s Session had the fewest. This confirms my previously expressed hypothesis: “Which is the least mirthful session of General Conference?” is “The session in which President Uchtdorf isn’t speaking.” Last fall, President Uchtdorf spoke in the Women’s Session, where he delivered 9 laughs, as compared with just 2 from other speakers in the session. This spring, President Eyring spoke in the Women’s Session with 0 laughs, whereas the other speakers delivered 4. (Go women auxiliary leaders!) You can watch President Bonnie Oscarson deliver two in rapid succession as she characterized her daughter’s presentation of motherhood at Career Day at her children’s school, here.
Priesthood session is still the place to go if you want to laugh. (There are other benefits too, I promise.) Not only did it have the most laughs, it had the fewest talks with no laughs at all (just one).
Who made us laugh the most? Two talks tied for the most absolute laughs. Elder Wilford Andersen’s talk on The Music of the Gospel (here’s a link to a laugh moment) and President Monson’s talk on The Priesthood—A Sacred Gift (here’s one laugh-inducing story) each had about 7 laughs. But Elder Andersen edged President Monson out on the per-15-minute average, since he delivered the same number of laughs in about 3 minutes less time.
President Uchtdorf, as usual, brought on the most overall laughs (11, by my count), 5 in each talk plus the one conducting moment above. Here a few funny moments: looking our best, why we’re at General Conference, and metaphors for grace.
It was also great to see some laughter in one of the non-English talks: Elder Pino made people laugh talking about pizza, as did Elder Zeballos when talking about what happens when missionaries find out that someone already attending church is not in fact a member.
In Memoriam. Since the last conference, three of our leaders have passed on. Both of those who spoke made us laugh: President Packer talked about his courtship (“the rest is history”), and Elder Perry told of a Muslim scholar quoting the LDS Proclamation on the Family. Elder Scott missed this last conference, but I remember a talk in 1999 when he made people laugh with some frank talk about realistic expectations in seeking your eternal companion.
Hopefully, we’ll continue to laugh with them in the future. In this last conference, Elder Oaks recycled a joke (“the gifted pickle-sucker”) from President Hinckley to great effect, as did Elder Neil Andersen with a line from Elder Neal Maxwell.
Round up. As you’re listening to General Conference this weekend, listen for the Spirit, and enjoy the laughs we are given along the way. April’s conference had more laughs than last October’s, so who knows? Maybe we’re riding an upward trend. I hope so, since – like Uncle Albert in Marry Poppins – I love to laugh.
What were your favorite moments?
- LDS Daily lets you vote for the funniest historic moment in General Conference.
- MormonMissionPrep has created a series of awesome video compilations of funny stories from General Conferences over the last few years.
- When should you not joke in General Conference? In the wonderful biography of President Henry B. Eyring, I Will Lead You Along, a passage from his journal (excerpted here) highlights a time he received an impression to omit humor from his talk: “I slept restlessly, still puzzled that the Spirit had told me to drop both humor and stories from my conference talk. During the morning session, I learned that Elder Tuttle, who has cancer, was to speak unexpectedly. He spoke without notes before me, bearing what may be his last testimony. And Elder F. Burton Howard followed me, telling stories directly parallel to the ones that I’d felt impressed to drop from my talk. I learned that God sets the melody for conference and asks us each to play the notes He needs. (October 5, 1986)”