Dear 100 Hour Board,
Why do Mormons always pray with their arms folded? It appears to be a stubborn and closed posture; it seems unusual for prayer.
Good question, I'll do my best.
I would say that the most likely reason is that it's cultural; however the idea behind folding your arms and bowing your head is to pay respect to Heavenly Father. That being said, Mormons (or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- LDS) are not required to fold their arms when they pray and more often than not I simply clasp my hands together or when I am saying my personal prayers I usually kneel, lean forward and rest my forehead on the palms of my hands. Why do I do this? Because I feel like it is still giving Heavenly Father as much respect as folding my arms, but is much more telling of the actual humility I feel when praying to my Creator, my God, and the loving Father of my Spirit. But to get down in my pseudo-child's pose prayer form during a church meeting wouldn't be very feasible. In this sense, folding my arms is just simpler.
If we were to get super technical, members of our church are counseled to always have a prayer in our heart and since most people don't walk around with their arms folded, their heads bowed, and their eyes shut, it would follow that the folding of the arms technique is actually not the most common. Rather, it is the most widely recognized prayer posture simply because of its frequent utilization in public.
Yeah, honestly, I hardly ever fold my arms. You are correct in that a majority of church members do this, but as Watts said, I suspect that's largely cultural.
Your question seems to infer that there's a "correct" posture or position for prayer, which seems wrong to me. Just like you might be thinking that Mormons get caught up in the physical posturing, make sure you don't do the same.
- Commander Keen
Keep in mind that God knows whether or not we are actually being stubborn when we pray. Jesus also had a few things to say about people who pray and worry about how they are seen by other people. In other words, it's a perfectly fair question, but keep in mind that it's not really a good idea for any of us to criticize or judge how others pray.
Don't kill me.
- The Messenger
I believe it's to keep kids reverent. It's much harder to squirm or poke other kids when you've got your hands tucked away.
I'll just throw in a couple quick thoughts. The Google search "folding arms to pray" brings up a whole slew of people asking basically your same question. While most people who ask are probably just curious (I mean, seriously, are we the only ones?), many of them include observations like yours: "It seems closed-off," it's not the "traditional" way to pray, etc. What is implied (or straight up stated) is that this is "wrong" or "non-Christian." Interestingly, this is also a debate between the Sunni and Shiia sects of Muslims - Sunni pray with their arms/hands folded and the Shiia pray with their arms at their sides. There are some pretty in-depth analyses as to why that tradition might have started, but apparently, like in Christianity, there is no strict instruction in scripture (Bible or Qur'an) that specifies the proper way to hold your hands or arms to pray. In every case, it seems to be a matter of tradition - someone started doing it and now everyone does it. But as long as your attitude is respectful and reverent, it really doesn't matter. And since nobody has mentioned it yet, allow me to refer you to Board Question #2209 which addresses the same question.
- Rating Pending (who thinks that people who pray in General Conference seem to have a tradition of gripping the podium tightly with both hands. Traditional and practical!)