Have you ever noticed Mormons praying with their arms folded over their chests? As a common practice, this posture intrigues outsiders and insiders alike. Where did this custom originate, and what purpose does it serve? Grab a pretzel to munch on as we unravel the story behind those crossed arms.
A History Rooted in Reverence
Mormonism arose in the 1820s during the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant religious revival movement. The culture at that time valued demonstrations of piety. Folding arms across one’s chest while praying appeared reverent.
The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, had Masonic ties. Freemasonry traditions likely inspired some early Mormon rituals. Masons use an arm position called the “sign of the good shepherd” during prayers. This probably evolved into the crossing arms prayer stance in Mormonism.
Cultivating Reverence in Primary
Over time, the posture was popularized through the Primary program for Mormon children. Teachers emphasized folding arms to maintain focus for little ones during prayer. Images in manuals and magazines showed kids praying with crossed arms. This instruction stuck, planting the seed for a broader cultural tradition.
Prayer Preparation with Purpose
Crossing arms serves a practical function — minimizing external distractions to enable internal reflection. The gesture signals an intention to commune with the divine.
Bowing Heads, Closing Eyes
Just as bowed heads and closed eyes orient one inward, so too do folded arms. The combined physical movements direct thoughts to spiritual channels. You create your own sacred space despite external environments.
Directing Intention to God
The ritual fosters mental alignment with God. Your external self calms while your inner self awakens to divine presence. Rather than just going through habitual motions, prayer preparation guides your consciousness closer to Christlike connection.
How Does the Practice of Compassion in Eastern Spiritual Traditions Compare to the Gesture of Crossing Arms in Mormon Prayer?
Not a Doctrinal Demand
While crossing arms appears consistently in Mormon prayer practice, the posture carries no scriptural weight. The custom serves religious utility but remains culturally constructed. Prophets proclaim fundamentals, not hand positions.
Scriptural figures demonstrate varied prayer postures — standing, kneeling, bowing, prone, and more. Mormons utilize prayer benches, clasp hands, hold circles, and sometimes just sit compliantly while another voices hopes heavenward. There is no stringent standard.
Focus on Attitude
What matters most is your attitude, not your arms. Heartfelt humility pleases God more than formulaic folding. Cultural norms serve when they enhance spiritual connection but personal prayer positions depend on individual circumstance.
A Practice Passed On
Children inherit the crossing arms tradition early on. The posture sticks as it gets transmitted to new generations. Yet the culture remains flexible for outliers.
Modeling in Primary Persists
Primary materials still depict appropriate prayer mannerisms for children to mirror. Reverent role modeling aims to ingrain spiritual reflexes which aid future worship. Teachers utilize the tactic trustingly, believing folded arms foster focused connection with the Divine.
As young adopters mature, some maintain the customary crossover stance while others feel free to fold hands or clasp a neighbor. Families demonstrate diversity during dedications as different postures direct minds meditatively heavenward. For adults, adaptations abound without judgement.
The story behind Mormons crossing arms demonstrates how religious rituals evolve over time yet retain spiritual purpose. Temporary teachings aim for eternal truths. The posture is not perfect nor set in stone. Yet for many kneelers today, the simple act of folding arms facilitates prayerful peace within.