Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have often used humor to deal with the pressures that come with their responsibilities, prompting one LDS educator to dub a sense of humor "a gift of the spirit."Lawrence Flake, a professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, told several hundred people gathered Tuesday during the schools annual Education Week that the late President James E. Faust recognized the value of using humor to smooth life's challenges.Formerly second counselor in the church's First Presidency, President Faust thought the ability to laugh was so important, he used to bless new babies with a sense of humor, Flake said.He was able to use his own sense of humor sensitively during the funeral of former BYU President Rex Lee, who fought a long battle with cancer and died at a relatively young age. The meeting was heavy with sorrow when President Faust shared an anecdote in which he and President Lee were involved in a meeting of the schools board of trustees.When someone pointed out how difficult the entrance standards were for BYU's Law School — which Lee helped charter — President Faust, who was an attorney, said he didnt think he could qualify for entrance. "In fact, I don't think Abraham Lincoln could have gotten in," President Faust added.Lee said Lincoln "came by and tried, but he had a beard," and was excluded from the law school because of BYU's dress and grooming code, President Faust related. "That was the turning point of the whole funeral service," Flake said, noting "everyone had a much-needed laugh. Humor at a funeral is difficult to do well but (President Faust) did it perfectly."Elder Boyd K. Packer of the churchs Quorum of the Twelve appreciates humor, Flake said, but taught that "the most important thing about a sense of humor is the sense part." While bawdy humor is common, "there's little sense involved," he said.Many former presidents of the LDS Church had a sense of humor and appreciated it in others, he said. Church founder Joseph Smith "didn't tell jokes but he was light-hearted and not light-minded."Early church leader Parley P. Pratt said Smith "amused and entertained his audience. None listened to him that were every weary of his discourse," and his audience would be "laughing one moment and weeping the next. Even his most bitter enemies were generally overcome if he could get their ears."One of Smith's cousins related the story of a preacher who came to him asking to be convinced of the truth of his teachings. When told he was looking for a powerful manifestation or miracle to convince him, or he would become his worst enemy, Smith asked what the preacher preferred. "Will you be struck blind or deaf? Have your hand withered? Choose which of those you please," he replied, silencing the man.Another minister came to Smiths home on a Sunday afternoon. After conversing for a couple of hours, Smith was showing him out to the front yard, took a stick and drew a line in the dirt. Then he went back to the house, ran toward the line and jumped as far as he could while the minister watched aghast, then asked him to take a turn.When the minister left in disgust, Smith was questioned by his wife about his actions. "That man came to find fault with me and I wasnt going to send him away disappointed," he replied.Flake said Brigham Young also had a sharp sense of humor, more appreciated by some than others. One woman told him that her husband had told her to go to hell and asked what she should do. "Dont go," he replied.When a famous little person named Tom Thumb attended a reception with Young, he tried to embarrass the church president. "Mr. Young, tell me about polygamy. I dont know very much about it," the circus performer said. "Neither did I when I was your size," came Young's reply.During one session of the church's general conference when tensions with the U.S. government were particularly pointed in Utah, Young announced from the pulpit that U.S. President Zachary Taylor — who was no friend to the Mormons — "has died and gone to hell."Federal officials monitoring the conference took Young aside between sessions, Flake said, and told him to publicly apologize or they would make more trouble for the already-beleaguered church. That afternoon, Young took the pulpit again and said, "Zachary Taylor has died and gone to hell, and Im sorry."President David O. McKay also appreciated humor and used it often, Flake said. A long-time friend of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, President McKay received a call from the president one day in his office. "Happy birthday, President McKay. This is President Johnson." Thinking of all the local church leaders he knew with the same title, he replied, "Thank you. What is it you are president of?"While Joseph Fielding Smith was a stern man in public, his wife, Jessie Evans Smith, was vivacious and outgoing, Flake said. When asked by her husband to speak during a priesthood meeting to which she had accompanied him, she opened with, "Brethren, do you know what you get when you grow marijuana on the stake farm?"Startled, the men looked at each other waiting for the punch line. "High priests!" she chuckled.President Gordon B. Hinckley's signature sense of humor punctuated many of his public addresses, including one of his last at the dedication of BYU's Alumni Center, which was named in his honor."Normally they don't name buildings for people who are still alive, but in this case they thought half-dead was good enough," he quipped.