Ravell Call, Deseret News
Sister missionaries smile between interviews in Manila, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

It’s crazy and dangerous to try to sum up an entire group of people in just one word.

So let’s do it.

When I say “Mormons,” what word comes to mind?

Sober (as in not drunk)?

Sober (as in serious)?

Here’s my word: Sunny.

The presidents of the church model Mormonism for the world, and President Gordon B. Hinckley was famously optimistic.

President Thomas S. Monson is even more so — if that’s possible.

In the musical "The Book of Mormon," it’s the bright, beaming disposition of the elders that keeps the show from sinking into ugly satire and gets the audience rooting for the boys in the badges against the evil warlord.

(In a daydream at the end, even the warlord shows up in a white shirt and tie, smiling his way through door approaches.)

So, to borrow a line from “South Pacific”: When did LDS types become “stuck like a dope with a thing called hope”?

DNA has been in the news lately. And I think that’s where it starts.

In the 19th century, families who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe believed happy days awaited somewhere across the sea. When they got here and found trouble, they decided happy days awaited somewhere beyond the Great Plains.

Even today, families in Latin America say, “There’s something good for us out there. Let’s find it.” And they come north — not out of greed or desperation, but out of optimism.

Have you attended an LDS Spanish-speaking ward or branch in Utah? You can float around the room on the faith there.

Meanwhile, as the positive-thinking folks head out for better lives, the down-in-the-mouthers never leave home. They simply scowl and make things harder for the people living in their homelands.

Much of the population of early America came from that same sunny stock of seekers.

It’s why the nation has a history of looking for Kermit’s “rainbow connection.”

Yes, I’m sure that the LDS "keep your sunny side up" attitude bugs some people.

They likely see an upbeat attitude as clueless, as a social disease.

They might even figure smiley folks are weak-minded.

But I’m optimistic they’ll eventually come around.

Just as I'm optimistic that Mormons go on, serving with a smile and singing songs such as “Scatter Sunshine” and “When We’re Helping (We’re Happy).”

I remember an old New Yorker cartoon that pictured a happy-go-lucky fellow whistling as he hauls wheelbarrow loads of brimstone around hell. One of the devils looks at another devil and says, “I don’t know. The guy just doesn’t get it.”

I’d bet a gallon of Sunny Delight the dude was Mormon.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com