In Mosiah (Found in the Book of Mormon), chapter 3, we read King Benjamin’s address to his people. In verse 19, he says “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
My thoughts will center on the idea of putting off the natural man by becoming meek, like a little child.
Jesus was with his disciples when they asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoseover therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
I love this object lesson. Jesus called a little child over to him and explained the worth of that child in front of all adults around him. In addition to teaching a lesson, he was teaching that child and every child, “You are important. I see you and I value you.”
Clearly, we can not literally become little children again. But, we can develop meekness, which is a trait that leads to godliness. What is meekness? Jesus described himself as being “meek and lowly in heart.” Meek, according to the Greek rendition in the New Testament, is gentle and humble. Neal A Maxwell said that “Meekness is more than self-restraint; it is the presentation of self in a posture of kindness and gentleness, reflecting strength, serenity, and a healthy self-esteem and self-control.”
I believe that meekness is an attribute that needs to be practiced over the course of time. Like any godly attribute, we can’t just set a goal and achieve meekness at the end of a certain time frame. Meekness is a state of being that we can practice, gradually understanding how it feels to BE meek.
We are meek when we don’t take offense. We are meek when we see or hear a flawed argument and choose not to engage. We are meek when we are slighted and choose to retire gracefully instead of doing battle. The meek are more concerned with God and his purposes than their entitlements. They are less easily disappointed because they make fewer demands. The meek are able to check in with themselves on a regular basis and deflate an ego that is quickly ballooning or weed out the selfishness that grows as quickly and easily as crabgrass in the South.
Meekness has a place in the secular world, as well as the spiritual world. Meekness is not just for church. There was a time in the life of George Washington when he experienced near mutiny.
The following comes from an excerpt from The Revolutionary War: America’s Fight for Freedom by Bart McDowell.
“Washington called together the grumbling officers on March 15, 1783… He began to speak—carefully and from a written manuscript, referring to the proposal of ‘either deserting our Country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our Arms against it…’ Washington appealed simply and honestly for reason, restraint, patience, and duty—all the good and unexciting vitues.
And then Washington stumbled as he read. He squinted, paused, and out of his pocket he drew some new spectacles. ‘Gentlemen, you must pardon me,’ he said in apology. ‘I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.’
Most of his men had never seen the general wear glasses. Yes, men said to themselves, eight hard years. They recalled the ruddy, full blooded planter of 1775; not they saw a big, good, fatherly man grown old. They wept, many of those warriors. And the Newburgh plot dissolved.”
So, the natural man is an enemy to God, while little children are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. The natural man, in contrast, is prideful, selfish and entitled. I think that as we strive to put off the natural man and become as a little child, an important aspect of meekness is submission.
In yoga, one of my favorite poses is child’s pose. Sitting on your heels, you then bend forward, resting your chest on your thighs, bringing your forehead to the floor, making yourself as small as possible. It is a pose of complete submission. Yoga is just a physical exercise that I like to participate in. The spiritual exercise of submission is the most difficult.
Jesus Christ is the supreme example of submission. The New Testament records in both Luke and Mark, when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even in the process of the Atonement, Jesus prayed saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” A child submitted to His Father that mankind may be saved. We also know from Luke that the Father, who loved His son, sent an angel from heaven and strengthened him.
We become like little children when we say to our Heavenly Father, “I don’t know exactly what the best thing for me is. I don’t know the outcome of this situation. I know what I want, but I realize that the plan for me may be different than what I would decide for myself. I accept Thy will.”
Meekness and submission are not attributes that I excel at. I struggle, like many of us, with pride, ego, and a strong will. But, in the times in my life that I have prayed in absolute earnestness and then finally come to a place where I submit my will as an offering to Heavenly Father, those are the times of my deepest connection to my Creator.
Little children are willing to submit to their parents. They want to please their parents and they crave the love and approval of their parents. I believe as we strive to be meek and submit to the will of our Heavenly Father, we will become as little children. How do we know the will of our Heavenly Father? – We ask Him in prayer. We call to Him, as our Savior did.