LDS cartoonist finds reason to laugh at, celebrate Mormon culture

By Ben Tullis

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, July 9 2014 9:00 a.m. MDT

When Van De Graaff finished "Mission Daze," he had more than 500 strips that told the story of Elder Van Dyke. The story started with Elder Van Dyke's mission call to Laputania and followed him throughout his mission until his homecoming.

Now, Van De Graaff hopes his cartoons can inspire other missionaries as well.

"I think there’s a perception that Mormons are these frowning, unhappy, strict people without any kind of personality, and that couldn’t be further from the truth," he said. "I think anything that highlights the joy of the church is positive.”

Van De Graaff says while he doesn’t think his cartoons will directly lead to someone gaining a testimony of the church, he does hope that people who read his jokes will recognize the joy of the gospel.

“(In) my humor I try to celebrate the gospel,” Van De Graaff said. “We should be the happiest people in the world based on the gospel we have. It’s a celebration of it. I don’t poke fun at the church, but there’s a lot of funny things about our culture, so it’s easy to have some fun.”

Van De Graaff completed the "Mission Daze" comic strip several years ago, but he hasn't stopped drawing. He helped create the LDS Scripture Heroes app, which is designed to help children learn more about the gospel. He also creates single-panel strips for his blog at mormoncartoonist.com and the LDS Laughs app.

In order to create the jokes and funny scenarios that Van De Graaff puts in his cartoons, he has to always be on the lookout.

“I have to be observant,” Van De Graaff said. “I can’t afford to sleep through any sacrament meeting or anything like that because I have to always be looking. … I have a sketch pad with me most all the time where I jot down ideas as they come.”

The hardest part of the cartooning process, according to Van De Graaff, is coming up with ideas that he can actually use. He has sketch pads full of drawings that he says weren’t funny enough to make it into the cartoon.

And while Van De Graaff hopes to one day turn his hobby as a cartoonist into a full-time job, he enjoys being able to do something that makes him happy.

“This is what I love,” Van De Graaff said. “If I didn’t make a penny off of it, I’d still be doing it.”

Ben Tullis is a Deseret News intern and freelance writer and copy editor. He graduated from Utah Valley University in April 2014 with a B.S. in English. He lives in Pleasant Grove with his wife and 2-year-old son. Follow him on twitter @bentullis.

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