Choosing the Left

I’m left-handed. It’s something I’ve always thought was kind of fun, despite the inconveniences of rooms with only tiny right-handed desks (think the JSB at BYU), getting ink smudges on my hand when I write, and the concern about risking my life should I ever attempt to use power tools.

Growing up, I heard that left-handed people were more likely to be geniuses, insane, and criminal– all of which sounded like deliciously exotic possibilities. My brother introduced me to baseball card collecting when I was around eight years old, and I smiled to see the advantage of being a left-handed batter (you’re a step closer to first base). Is anyone surprised that I turned out to be somewhat left-leaning in my political views?

I once read an interesting study in which right-handed children were much less likely to know the handedness of their parents than were lefties. It made sense to me– I suspect that most people are much more aware of any characteristic they possess which places them in a small minority. It’s something I often find myself observing; I love watching Theoden fight left-handed in Return of the King, and always find it a bit disconcerting that in the scene in which he rides down the line of his men, hitting their swords with his own, he does it right-handed.

I don’t know if this is at all related to my left-handedness, but I also have real problems with left-right confusion. If you give me a minute to think about it, I can discern left from right– but off the top of my head, chances are I’ll get it wrong. Many years ago when I was a suffering driver’s ed student, my instructor had to repeatedly say “No! Your other right!” as I failed to follow his turning instructions. Some part of my brain has simply connected what is commonly labeled “left” with “right,” and try as I might, I’ve never been able to undo it. Left simply feels like right to me.

Church, I find, is a place where I’m likely to be aware of my left-handedness simply because there is so much handshaking going on. I always carry my scriptures in my right hand, in order to leave the left one free for opening doors and so forth. This puts me in an awkward position, however, when someone wants to shake my hand; I have to either quickly shift the scriptures, or simply do a left-handed shake.

I won’t even touch the profound theological question of whether it’s acceptable to take the sacrament with one’s left hand, or to sustain someone. But I do wonder about all those scriptures which state that the wicked will find themselves on the “left” hand of God. I just have to ask– are lefties more likely to be left behind? 😉 Because the way I see it, choosing the wrong is clearly a problem, choosing the right is somewhat better, and choosing the left is best of all.


  1. Kim, Yikes! Now that you’re an adult, do you use your right hand, or your left, or both?

    Lynnette, As the family’s other lefty, I hear you. I remember feeling disconcerted during lessons on the left and the right hands of God. For years I had to force myself to think hard when the sacrament came down the aisle to overcome my natural tendency to reach for it with my left hand.

    My only complaints about being left-handed now have to do with the tiny right-handed desks you mentioned and computer labs that don’t give mouse cords enough play to be placed on the left. I absolutely cannot use a mouse with my right hand.

  2. Thanks for your post. It made me smile because I’ve been taking the sacrament on and off with my left hand for years, and no one has ever made a remark. So I’ve been sinning all this time?

    I’d occasionally hear someone ask the question about taking it right or left handed but assumed it was just another one of those silly bits of Mormon lore.

    Even more amusing–I’m right handed. Basically it was just more convenient to take with my left and then pass and hold the tray for the next person with my right, (particularly if they were sitting a few seats away).

    I’ll just assume this is another bit of zealousness passed around the community until I see otherwise. Have church leaders actually commented on this in the last 20 years, or even in the last 175? Because I feel fine about it either way.

  3. Touchstone, I’ve never been able to find anything official, but someone laughed at me when I was a kid for taking it with my left hand, which caused me to police myself in the matter quite vigilantly (I didn’t want to be laughed at again). But just today I noticed the person in front of me taking it with her left hand. I’m wondering if the whole idea that you should take it with the right hand is fading.

    This conversation is making me remember with guilt the things that happened to Kishkilil as a result of having two older left-handed sisters (being told that left-handers were better and knew secret things, etc.). I’m going to spend the rest of my adult life repenting of my nasty childhood, which will likely mean I’ll have to spend some serious time in a nether region repenting of my nasty adulthood.

  4. I’m a koolaid drinking Mormon, so it feels deliciously wicked to be lefthanded.

    I really hated French class when I found out I was gauche.

  5. So what I’m about to say is completely apocryphal, but, one of my profs at BYU Jerusalem told us that in Middle-Eastern cultures the left hand was always used to um…wipe one’s behind…back in the day when there were no flush toilets or TP. People always used the left to wipe, so that they could be assured that the right was clean for eating, embracing, etc.

    So, to partake of something with your left hand, or to use your left hand really for anything, was considered to be highly offensive. Like, “this is what I think of you–my poopy hand is what I think of you!”

    My prof told us that this tradition had been passed down somehow through the ages, and that it was one of the theories about why taking the sacrament with your left hand was allegedly wrong.

    Anyhow, someone with *real* knowledge of Middle Eastern culture/history should get on here and refute what I just said, but the explanation the prof gave has always stuck with me. (Not that I think there is ANYTHING wrong, whatsoever, with taking the sacrament with your left hand).

  6. Mark, I know! And sinister in Italian. The untold suffering we endure….

    Maria, I’ve heard that theory too, but I’m afraid I’m not the person with the knowledge of Middle East cultures and cultural influence to confirm or disconfirm it.

  7. Yes–Muslims do not eat with their right hands for this reason.

    I frequently take the sacrament with my laft. I think the idea that we should not is a youth Sunday School kind of idea.

  8. “this is what I think of you–my poopy hand is what I think of you!”


    I’m left-handed too. Spiral notebooks are not for our people.

    In the military, you salute with your right hand, but you can use your left if your right is encumbered.

  9. My wife lived in a village in southern India about 5 years ago and told me (since I’m left-handed) that it’s considered ill-mannered to eat w/ the left hand b/c it is (still) used for self-cleansing there….

  10. Good to hear from some other lefties out there! I have to say, I’m grateful that no one in my life has ever attempted to make me switch. And Mark, I agree that it’s fun to have something about which to feel “deliciously wicked.”

    gst, it actually took me a long time to realize why spiral notebooks caused me so much trouble! Now I usually just write on the “back” side of the page. I have to confess, however, that unlike Eve, I’ve gone over to the dark side and I’m actually more comfortable using a right-handed mouse than a left-handed one.

  11. Although I’m right-handed, I can eat left-handed, I prefer to use a mouse with my left hand, and in college sometimes I would take notes with my right hand while doing the crossword puzzle with my left.

    And let me tell you, being “more ambidextrous than the average right-handed person” has really done wonders for my resume.

  12. Russel M. Nelson had something in the Ensign perhaps 25 years ago where he speculated that the right hand was the covenant making hand. It was when he was a 70. If I remember right, he prefaced it with the disclaimer that he’d never seen revealed doctrine on it.

    I also wonder, if the whole wiping with one hand and taking with the other is true, why most of us don’t take with our left hand. Without being too descriptive, I simply can’t go to my left in that area; I’ll bet most right-handers can’t.

  13. At the risk of offending the ZD admin, and commenting on a thread that is 2 years old, I just want to say “Yeah for lefties!”
    I clicked on the link on the sidebar (is that new?) because me and my husband are both left handed.
    But, our three sons* are all right handed. What are the chances?
    *Baby Fin is only 6 mo, but he sucks his right thumb, so we think that’s a good indicator.
    I do think lefties have learned to adapt to varying degrees. I do more with my right hand than my DH (like use scissors, a mouse, doorknobs, etc) but in a right handed society, some adaptation is necessary for those of us who are “deliciously wicked” lefties.

  14. Hey Jessawhy! I’m glad you resurrected this thread to chime in–always nice to hear from more lefties. That’s really funny that you and your husband are both left-handed, but none of your children are!

    I was recently in this cool left-handed shop where they had these funky-looking pens that angled things so that when you wrote left-handed, you were kind of pulling the pen instead of pushing it. They were pretty neat. I also picked up a set of playing cards with markings on all four corners, so that when you fan them out in your (right) hand you can actually see what they are–something I’ve been wanting for a long time. My sister-in-law always laughs to see me hold face cards, because I do it in this weird vertical way so that I can see them.

  15. Just an interesting note for all of the left handed people out there. I did a review of the literature, in my post graduate work, which gave some interesting facts on left handed people. In sonogram studies, when the hand by the face is the left hand, 90% of the time, that is the dominant hand. Just because you are left handed, does not mean that your brain dominant side is the right side, as most people are brain dominant on the left side. In animal studies, many identical twins are started, but somewhere along the line, one of the twins is lost, usually within the first few weeks. Identical twins come in various forms, one of which is called a “mirror identical twin”. That means that the twins are formed as if looking in a mirror. One twin will be right handed and the other will be left handed.
    The animal study theory is that most left handed people, like most left handed animals, are the result of being a mirror twin. If twins run in your family, you are more likely to be left handed. Left handed people often have more left handed people in their family tree.
    It is recommended not to switch a left handed child to being right handed. In second grade, I had a teacher, who decided I shouldn’t be left handed and would strike the back of my left hand when she saw me holding a pencil or crayon with it. On Monday’s, I would have to look for the ruler cuts on the back of the hand that I wasn’t supposed to use. Her explanation was that I couldn’t work in a factory, if I was left handed.
    I was delighted when I could word process and won an award in high school for being the fastest when typing. As a school pyschologist, I have had to counsel families on allowing left handed children to remain left handed. Some families have strong resistance to allowing children to be left handed. Most teachers are educated enough to allow children to use their dominant hand when writing. Working against that just raises the child’s anxiety, which blocks learning. My sister advised me once in church, to not take the sacrement with my left hand. Is this a “rule” or just some myth left over from the dark ages?

  16. Very interesting stuff! That’s outrageous that your second-grade teacher tried to make you a right-hander so you’d be fit for a factory!! Unreal. As to taking the sacrament with your right hand–I think that’s probably a relatively unofficial policy?

  17. Here is a way to spot some right handed students or adults who were switched from being left handed in school. They will sit and write with their left hand tucked under their left hip or leg. It is odd to see this pose, when the person is writing, and asked about it, the person had been switched and this was the strategy used to not use the left hand, when writing.
    I don’t work in a factory, unless you can call public education a factory. I was educated in a public school in the Northwestern US. It was the mid 60’s and yes, they used those metal edged, wooden rulers to swat students writing with their left hand. They do not currently practice that technique in public schools to address left handed behavior.

  18. Like Jessawhy 3 years ago, I too clicked on the sidebar to read this and wanted to say “hi” to my fellow lefites. I am married to a righty, but my oldest son is definitely left-handed and is in kindergarten probably discovering the woes of scissors.


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