Posted by: elderleach | April 24, 2011

Learn to Laugh

Well…hello! How the heck are all y’all?! Really, I miss American slang from time to time, but South African slang is just as twisted and weird, so all’s well!
This topic has been wanting to burst out of my chest since day 1 of my mission, so here we go. Here’s a statistic for you: On average, children laugh 400 times a day, while adults laugh about 15 times. (September 2007 Ensign, “The Power of Laughter”) The unfortunate and seemingly inevitable result of turning into an adult is a more straightforward and stonefaced approach at life. Perhaps understandably so: times get tough, responsibilities increase and stresses turn more from not having enough dinosaurs to play with to providing enough money for food each night. Adding a marriage, children, church responsibilities and work on top of it all doesn’t make life any easier (not that I can fully understand…yet!)
I watched a talk given by Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the Seventy from the October 2008 Conference a few days ago that explained,
“The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. ‘There is an opposition in all things,’everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices.We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?” (“The Way”, Lawrence E. Corbridge, November 2008 Ensign)
I have been serving the Lord and the wonderful people of South Africa for almost a year now. I have observed many missionaries throughout this time. Some are serious and straightforward, others can’t seem to take anything seriously. Some have Christ-like attributes I long to have, others seem to have been pushed onto a plane against their will and sent into a foreign country they know nothing about. But I have been trying to define myself through it all. Which type of missionary am I? Rather, who does the Lord want me to be?
Sometimes I’ve tried being serious. I’ve tried not laughing so much so I can maintain a strict and stern appearance. I’ve tried being straightforward and blunt as to avoid my usual “beat around the bush”, shy way of presenting uncomfortable information. But at the end of the day, and after nearly 12 months of trying to define my missionary service, I have come to the conclusion that while I can change certain bad behaviours about myself, my (and your!) divine inner self is there for good.
What I mean is, we all have different, divine personalities that were far developed before we came here on Earth. Bad habits and addictions can be overcome, but why should I try to be a stone-faced menace if deep down inside I’m a happy, laughy and enthusiastic person? I’m not here on my mission to change as much as I’m here to improve and use the tools that I have to build bigger and better things than before. When I return from my mission, I’ll still be Matthew Leach, I just hope to be an improved version of Matthew Leach! Someone once said: “A little craziness once in a while perpetuates sanity.” I believe in this! 🙂
The Saviour seemed to know perfectly how to distill ill feelings and uncomfortable moments. We don’t have any record of Him laughing or making witty, innocent jokes (though who’s to say He never did!), but we do know by the faithful Gospel writers of the Bible that he was certainly not a stern, serious man. People were drawn to His warm countenance and clung to His garments as He went along His way, simply because He had something about Him others wanted. He loved, He smiled and I am sure He laughed. As difficult as His life was, he made time for others and made them feel far better than they believed they were.
His most stern moments were when people trifled with sacred things. There’s no room for light mindedness or uproarious laughter when we’re in a temple, a church service or other sacred gathering. But oh how sweet it feels to laugh when times are tough and life seems to be reaching the peak of difficulty.
I am so grateful for the Saviour’s example. I have determined that I’m not an overly serious person, so I have stopped trying to be. I’ve determined that I have a sense of humour, so I’ve stopped trying to destroy it. I’ve determined that the good Lord has sent us here with divinely appointed skills and attributes, and it is imperative that we cultivate those gifts. Remember to laugh more, stress less. Nothing distills unrighteous anger like an innocent joke. Heavenly Father loves to see us happy, and gosh darn it let us be more childlike while trying to avoid being childish, and then, and only then, can we inherit the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3)
I love you all! Be happy!
Elder Matthew G. Leach
South Africa Cape Town Mission


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