When praying, many Latter Day Saints will cross their arms during prayer:

Children's coloring book depicting prayer Father teaching son to pray Adults praying in a circle

This appears to be in lieu of folding hands as has been done by protestants and Catholics for centuries:

Virgin Mary Praying Folded Hands

What is the origin of this practice? Why did the LDS church choose to deviate from the practice of folding hands and what was the purpose behind this change?

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    When I was brought up, it was just how my parents taught reverence to us. Folded arms can't be up to anything mischievous.
    – Matt
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 20:21
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    Catholics cross their arms when going in the communion queue for a blessing instead of receiving the Sacred Host. This very posture may have been somewhat more in tradition in the Middle Ages, well before the LDS foundation. Pope John Paul II had the habit of praying in his private chapel prostrated on the ground with his arms extended in the form of a cross. There are many different traditional postures that people take to pray in.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 0:18
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    I fold my hands... It's not like LDS discourage other forms of reverence.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 2:28
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    As far as I am aware there is no doctrinal requirement - this is merely cultural. Yet there is a difference which started and was encouraged by someone for some reason. This question is: "how did this start (who started it) and why." Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 13:44
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    Agreed - there is no doctrinal significance here and no "right" hand posture. For an example on the origins of clasped hands during prayer, this example might be a good start. Obviously the LDS church is much younger than Christianity and (by extension) Judaism, so this may not be an apples-to-apples comparison. I would see a good answer as establishing either A) that this was common to mainstream Protestantism circa 1830s-40s or Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 16:45

2 Answers 2


You'll notice in the second picture (the OP posted) the man does not have his arms folded, and I'll restate the comment that other forms of prayer (clasped hands, or clasping hands with others in a circle) are not discouraged as long as the person is reverent. (see other LDS pictures) 1

Why do LDS cross their arms during prayer?

They are taught in primary how to get ready to pray by folding your arms, bowing your head, and closing your eyes.

There is no official reasoning that I can see other than that with folded arms children can not be as disruptive/un-revenant during prayer. When missionaries teach how to pray there is no mention of what the hands/arms do, leading me to the assumption that it doesn't matter as much as the prayer itself. 2

What is the origin of this practice?

There are legends that the pretzel was invented by European monks in 610 AD as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' ("little reward[s]")... Moreover, the three holes within the pretzel represent the three persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 3

Also, see this Q&A.

Why did the LDS church choose to deviate from the practice of folding hands and what was the purpose behind this change?

See first statement and first answer.

1 https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/christ-praying-nephites-henninger-art-37745?category=category/book-of-mormon-all-gospel-art&&lang=eng, https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/family-kneeling-prayer-889739?lang=eng, https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/quote-andersen-prayer-1173305?lang=eng

2 https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/lesson-1-the-message-of-the-restoration-of-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ?lang=eng#p146

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel#History note there are no primary sources for this legend

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    As I have told many people who ask this: It is all cultural. When I pray, I will either fold my arms, clasp my hands, etc. I usually don't fold my arms in prayer. I used to, but not so much any more.
    – staples
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 13:49
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    @staples - Right, but the question I am asking is why is it cultural. The LDS church has it's origins in 1800s protestant culture. As far as I am aware protestants of that time did not pray in this manner (though depperm may have something here with the reference to the monks - perhaps this was done in 1800s protestant culture and I am unaware and it simply fell out of vogue.). Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 13:54
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    did you look at the other Q&A, it had some more sources on origins of prayer style
    – depperm
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 14:35

This may be necroposting but I’ll post it anyway for those who read this in the future. The founding of the Mormon church and its traditions and ceremonies borrowed a lot from Freemasonry. One of the traditions of Freemasonry is to pray with one’s arms in the sign of the good shepherd. This has evolved, I believe, into crossing the arms with hands tucked in instead of on the shoulders, which then evolved into something optional as the church attempts to distance itself from its Masonic roots.

  • "which then evolved into something optional" do any sources say that it wasn't optional before? Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 17:34

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