Quantcast

Kirby: Is it worse to be too serious or not serious enough?

Published November 7, 2013 7:16 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Last week, I received more than a dozen offers to be a Relief Society president, including one each from Australia, England, Canada, France and two from my own Mormon stake.

There were complaints, of course. Not everyone found it amusing that a guy would solicit the job as head of an LDS women's organization. It was highly irreverent.

"God will not be mocked!"

"Do you even know what 'light-minded' means?"

Yeah, I do. In the religious sense "light-minded" refers to a lack of seriousness regarding sacred things. It's a class C church misdemeanor in modern Mormonism, rude but generally not something requiring forcible eviction from church.

Light-mindedness was probably a felony during Brigham Young's day, back when he announced: "I have seldom laughed aloud for twenty or thirty years without regretting it, and I always blush for those who laugh aloud without meaning." ("Journal of Discourses." Look it up.)

Brigham Young was not, as photographs further suggest, a man given to much hilarity. Had I written then the things I write now, not only would I have been thrown out of church but it probably would have involved a cliff.

Human behavior — including behavior regarding sacred things — is rife with the need for wry commentary. That's because even things that "come from above" have to be put into practice by human beings and we rarely do as good of a job as we think.

Here's the part that gets a little fuzzy. If it's possible to not be serious enough about something, is it also possible to be too serious about it? And which is worse?

It probably depends on your personality. It's all about realizing that you're doing it. And it seems the straitlaced and puritanical rarely see it. If someone can admit to being a bit too light-minded, can a person admit to being a bit of an overstuffed prig?

It's a fair question given that much of the religious excess in the world has been driven by those who take themselves and their sacred stuff way too seriously. You don't see comedians setting off car bombs, building armed compounds or massacring immigrants.

Granted, those are extreme examples of too serious. On a less drastic level, we should probably consider the injurious effect being "too serious" has on those around us — family, friends, etc.

It might be interesting to know what's worse for good fellowship — trivializing gospel conformity or making it the thing that seriously matters most. After all, an inability to laugh at one's own understanding and behavior rarely invites close association.

It would be OK, I suppose, if being too serious was simply a personal matter. Unfortunately, it's far too often parlayed into how we treat one another.

If the first thing you notice about a young woman in church is that she's showing more bare shoulder than she should (rather than the fact that she showed up at all) there's a chance you're a prude. And because prudes rarely recognize being such, you probably won't be careful about what you do and say.

I readily admit to being light-minded. I would only argue about what exactly. There are sacred things that should not be mocked but you're not one of them. Neither am I.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.