Meek is one of the most important words in scripture. It is one of the few words the Savior uses to describe himself and as we will see, meekness is an indispensable condition to salvation.
Meek comes from the root soft, to soften, pliable, and gentle. The Oxford English Dictionary defines meek as gentle, courteous, kind. A meek person is free from haughtiness and self will, is humble and submissive. A meek person is not violent or strongly assertive, but mild. A particularly important aspect of meekness relates to persons in positions of power or authority over others. In this context meekness implies mercy, compassion and sometimes indulgence. A meek person, particularly one in authority, is patient and unresentful under injury and reproach.
For example, we are taught that "no power or influence can or ought to be maintained ... only by persuasion, by longsuffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned." (D&C 121:41)
The only two persons described as meek in the Bible are the Savior and Moses. "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all men which were upon the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3) The Savior described his entrance into Jerusalem to two of the disciples saying, "The King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and the colt of the foal of an ass." (Matthew 21:5)
It is no accident that meekness is used in connection with two such powerful figures, for meekness is not only willing submissiveness, but also forbearance of the exercise of power when not required.
In a wonderful book by Deirdre J. Good, "Jesus the Meek King," we learn that the further we go back in understanding the word meek, the more we learn that the connotation of meekness is a "disciplined calmness and a rejection of force."
Another important lesson of this book is that meekness is separate from humility, gentleness and weakness. When we look on the Savior's life, we see that he "demonstrates (his meekness) ... by becoming humble and weak." Hence "the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones." (D&C 1:19)
Paul teaches us that while Jesus was in the form of God and even "equal with God: (he) made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, ... he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:7-8)Ultimately, while humility is horizontal, that is how we treat our fellow beings, meekness is vertical in that we show our submission to God's will in our life. The chief example of this being the Savior of the world whose own will was "swallowed up in the will of the Father" (Mosiah 15:7) in that his entire life consisted of "not my will but Thy will."
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News. E-mail: email@example.com