There are all kinds of handshakes from the fancy, fragile offering of the dainty lady to the firm grasp of the working man.
There is the hesitant contact of those with arthritis. There is also the let’s-get-it-over-with skin touch. There’s the clammy—or the sweaty—junction. There is the here’s-my-mitt, you-do-the-work variety. There is the Wow! and the OK! variety, and there is the what-was-that? handshake.
Some say the handshake originated back in the days when strangers extended right hands to show “Look, friend, no weapons.” Regardless of where or when it originated, the handshake speaks a universal language. Its meaning is mighty, especially when accompanied by eye-to-eye contact and facial expression.
A convert once remarked in a fast and testimony meeting, “The Mormons are the handshakingest group I’ve ever met in my life.” This observation has also been made by others.
Mormons feel that they really have something to shake hands about. The restored gospel is glorious! It is something to be enthusiastic about, something to share. As one Latter-day Saint said, “A good old Mormon handgrip, backed up with a sincere and glowing countenance, speaks loud and clear.”
Depending on the occasion, a Mormon handshake can say, “Congratulations!” At times it says, “Thank you,” or “You are welcome.” Sometimes it speaks compassion, sympathy, or solace. It may say, “Partake of my strength and let your strength flow to me.” Often it says, “I understand.” Always it speaks friendship, love, and goodwill.
There are times when the bishop’s handclasp says, “Will you?” And our handclasp replies, “I accept the challenge. I will.”
Helen Keller, whose hands had to serve as eyes and as ears, said:
“The hands of those I meet are dumbly eloquent to me. I have met people so empty of joy that when I clasped their frosty finger-tips it seemed as if I were shaking hands with a northeast storm. Others there are whose hands have sunbeams in them, so that their grasp warms my heart. It may be only the clinging touch of a child’s hand, but there is as much potential sunshine in it for me as there is in a loving glance for others.”
A Mormon handshake is something special. It beams sunshine and light. It is a promise, a vow, an affirmation of fellowship and testimony. May we Latter-day Saints be mindful of its eloquence and live lives to match the meaning of our handclasp!