From Violent Opposition to Creative Opportunism : Humor-driven Positive Affect and the Mormon Cartoons of Calvin Grondahl and Pat Bagley
Iowa City, Iowa
University of Iowa
In 1844, Mormon Church leader Joseph Smith and others acted against disparaging media coverage by destroying the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor Today, the Church reacts differently to disparaging media such as purchasing full-page ads in the playbills of the controversial Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon;" telling viewers now that they have seen the musical, they should read the book, because the book is always better. The ads include an offer for a free Book of Mormon. Clearly something has changed. This paper demonstrates that the Mormon cartoon books of Calvin Grondahl and Pat Bagley, published from 1978 to 1987, had a significant impact on the general membership of the Church and were influential in changing the Church's negative, guarded stance to a more positive, transparent one which is manifest in the Church's recent approach to dealing with disparaging media coverage. These cartoon books had short-term and long-term positive affect on the Church's general membership which served to decrease situational stress while increasing creativity in dealing with this stress. Using the humor models put forth by Eric J. Romero and Anthony Pescosolido in their 2008 study and Christopher Robert and James E. Wilbanks in their 2012 study this paper suggests that the psychologically-safe, humor-supportive environment created by the Mormon cartoons books of Grondahl and Bagley helped the general membership of the Church cope with tension caused by negative media content and facilitated risk-taking behaviors that have led to a creative opportunistic approach to disparaging media. Furthermore, this case study of Mormon humor demonstrates the efficacy of the humor models put forth by Romero, Pescosolido, Robert and Wilbanks and expands their findings by showing that the additional humor events spawned by the initial event are multi-faceted and much more complex than was implied in the studies.