It came to my attention again this past week that some people view us Mormons as strange in the way we approach prayer. A family member who is not Mormon works in corrections. He was taught that the body language of arms being folded is an act of aggression where as we in preparing to pray most often fold our arms and bow our heads, which is really an attitude of submission. Perhaps the difference is in the bowing of the head and closing the eyes, but this got me to thinking.
I remember when we lived in North Pole we had a neighbor's son over for lunch. As we got ready to pray this little boy was surprised to see my children fold their arms instead of clasping their hands or putting them together. I shared with him that it was our way of getting ready to pray, but he could do what he wanted. He went home and told his mom what we did and that started an interesting and rather sad situation of her not letting her son over to eat with us because we were a "cult" and did weird things.
Today I decided to ask our District President what he knew about why we usually fold our arms instead of the hand clasping or so on and he said pretty much what I already knew. It has more to do with helping to keep children reverent during prayer than anything else. Having taught the little ones at church for years I can attest to the fact that it really does help. You are less likely to have Johnny reaching up to poke the back of Suzie's head when all other eyes are closed, or pretending he's an airplane, or Janey won't be shoving her hands into her neighbor's face. President Boatman shared with me a painting he saw this last week of a family around the table praying. They all had their hands clasped, but the little girl had a finger pointing out as if she was shooting her brother sitting across from her, and he was making faces at her while their parents had one eye open watching the whole scene. Sounds like something Norman Rockwell would have painted doesn't it?
My question is this, does it really matter how we fold our arms or hold our hands when we pray, as long as we are showing a reverence and an attitude of respect and willingness to listen?
The saying that a family that prays together, stays together is so true! When we are all working in harmony, following the Saviors example, he who taught us to pray by precept and example, doesn't it help us draw closer as a family? I say yes!
So as we look at those around us who do things a bit differently, remember that it's by their fruits that ye shall know who the true followers of Christ are. Those who are kind, generous, thoughtful, honest, chaste, virtuous, hard working, willing to sacrifice for those who are in need, they are the people who are trying to be like the Savior, no matter what church they belong to.
So yes, we as members more often than not fold our arms, bow our heads and close our eyes to pray. It's not a prerequisite to being a member though as all of the above family photos are of LDS families praying.