In the fall of 2015 I went back to school and took two required classes. One class was an academic class, and the other was a religion class. The big assignment for the religion class was a “Becoming Project.” The idea of the project was to choose a Christlike attribute and to work all semester in an attempt to make that characteristic a part of one’s life.
After much pondering and praying, I concluded that I needed to work on the Christlike attribute of meekness. My first big task was to determine exactly what it means to be meek. In my search for a meaning, I came across the following quote.
Meekness is vital for us to become more Christlike. Without it we won’t be able to develop other important virtues. Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control.
I knew that I was on the right track by choosing meekness for my first becoming project, but I still did not know what it means to be meek. I decided that meekness means to humbly submit to the will of God.
Since the completion of my becoming project, I have been eager to learn more about meekness and was instantly attentive to a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar in the April 2018 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without telling us the attribute, Elder Bednar shares examples from the scriptures: (1) The rich young man (New Testament) and Amulek (Book of Mormon): Each man was asked to give up riches and serve the Lord. One went away sad, and the other gave everything. (2) Pahoran (Book of Mormon) was the governor of the land when Captain Moroni chastised him in a letter. Instead of getting angry, Pahoran responded with a “measured reply.” (3) President Russell M. Nelson and President Henry B. Eyring: Both Apostles listened and obeyed when President Thomas S. Monson invited members of the Church “to study, ponder, and apply the truths contained in the Book of Mormon,” and they shared their experiences in the next General Conference. After sharing the above stories, Elder Bednar continues with this statement:
I am not suggesting that the spiritually strong responses of Amulek, Pahoran, President Nelson, and President Eyring are explained by only one Christlike quality. Certainly, many interrelated attributes and experiences led to the spiritual maturity reflected in the lives of these four noble servants. But the Savior and His prophets have highlighted an essential quality that all of us need to more fully understand and strive to incorporate into our lives.
When Elder Bednar says that this is “an essential quality,” he repeats the earlier claim that meekness is vital for our spiritual growth, one that we all need to understand and develop. He quotes numerous scriptures about meekness, but he starts with this one.
Please notice the characteristic the Lord used to describe Himself in the following scripture: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29; emphasis by Elder Bednar).
Instructively, the Savior chose to emphasize meekness from among all the attributes and virtues He potentially could have selected.
A similar pattern is evident in a revelation received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829. The Lord declared, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:23; emphasis by Elder Bednar).
Meekness is a defining attribute of the Redeemer and is distinguished by righteous responsiveness, willing submissiveness, and strong self-restraint. This quality helps us to understand more completely the respective reactions of Amulek, Pahoran, President Nelson, and President Eyring….
Elder Bednar tells us that meekness is “distinguished by righteous responsiveness, willing submissiveness, and strong self-restraint. He then continues with this description:
The Christlike quality of meekness often is misunderstood in our contemporary world. Meekness is strong, not weak; active, not passive; courageous, not timid; restrained, not excessive; modest, not self-aggrandizing; and gracious, not brash. A meek person is not easily provoked, pretentious, or overbearing and readily acknowledges the accomplishments of others.
Whereas humility generally denotes dependence upon God and the constant need for His guidance and support, a distinguishing characteristic of meekness is a particular spiritual receptivity to learning both from the Holy Ghost and from people who may seem less capable, experienced, or educated, who may not hold important positions, or who otherwise may not appear to have much to contribute. [He uses the example of Naaman who obeyed Elisha’s counsel to wash in the river Jordan seven times.]
Elder Bednar gives a much deeper understanding of the meaning of meekness, but I am not convinced that I can actually define it. In addition to “righteous responsiveness, willing submissiveness, and strong self-restraint,” I now understand meekness includes strength, action, courage, modesty, graciousness, and a willingness to learn from the Holy Ghost and from other people. So, as we humbly submit to the will of God, in meekness we respond from position of strength, courage, and modesty and with a willingness to be taught.
I encourage you to study Elder Bednar’s talk. He gives many scriptures and examples that I have not included. Since meekness is a Christlike quality that is necessary for all of us, Elder Bednar’s counsel gives greater understanding of it.