Meekness in Marriage

In Alma 7, we can learn how to live a life of meekness. Alma taught his followers,

And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandment of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things you do receive.

And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works (Alma 7:23-24).

Perhaps these verses in Alma teach us what true meekness implies. Think of how the attributes of humility, submission, gentleness, compliance, patience, and diligence could strengthen any marriage. If couples could apply these attributes into their marriage, they would become a powerful couple! Their power would come from the Holy Ghost, which would strengthen their connection and love for each other. When a couple has the Holy Ghost as their guide, they have the strength to be patient, forgiving, gentle, respectful, nurturing, and healing.

Putting the Savior at the center of the marriage ensures that each spouse will seek to be meek and lowly of heart. Stephen R. Covey spoke of meekness, and becoming Christlike in marriage, when wrote,

If the God/Christ centered person is offended, he blesses in return. He returns kindness for unkindness, patience for impatience. If he is afflicted, he chooses a response which enables him to grow and learn from the affliction, to suffer with meaning and nobility, a response which will have a greater influence on others than perhaps any other value….If the person is praised, he gives thanks. If he is blamed, he appraises the matter to see whether there may be some blameworthiness in him, and if there is he plans self- improvement. But he does not overreact and either accuse or blame in return, or condemn himself. …. [Instead] he seeks to identify with Christ. Christ is his model. For instance, he studies scriptural accounts of the Savior’s earthly life, and as he does so he visualizes each of the situations recorded. He empathizes with the people involved, seems himself as part of the action, feels himself in the more positive, disciple-type roles. He creates in his mind his response to present day situations based on living by the principles represented by the scriptural accounts….Gradually, as he comes to see the Savior as the perfect model and mentor, he identifies with that mental image and vision. In this way he acquires “the mind of Christ” and thus gradually learns to respond to life situations as He would have responded.[1]

In short, to become meek is to think the way the Savior would think, to act as he would act, and to do the things that Jesus Christ would do. Especially in our marriage and family relationships! Perhaps one of the finest examples of meekness in marriage comes from a conversation between Lehi and Sariah in the Book of Mormon. The account in I Nephi chapter 5, describes some problems that Sariah and Lehi were having. Up to this point, Sariah had been a good camper. However, she ultimately reached her breaking point as she laid out four major complaints: 1) she accused Lehi of being a visionary man (if it weren’t for his visions, they wouldn’t be out in the wilderness in the first place), 2) the family estate was gone (they had literally left everything to escape Jewish persecution), 3) their boys were probably dead (they had be sent to get the brass plates), and 4) they were probably going to die next.

How Lehi handled these issues is a testament of his Christ-like nature, and demonstrates how meekness can strengthen our marriages. It also serves as a model of how we should handle our own disagreements and treat each other. Regarding Sariah’s first concern of being a visionary man, Lehi essentially said, “Dear, I know that I am a visionary man. If it weren’t for the vision I had, we wouldn’t be out here. However, I am grateful for the vision because if God had not warned me, we would all be destroyed” (see I Nephi 5:4). Notice there was no attacking Sariah’s family, or any weaknesses she may have had in the past. Lehi doesn’t even pull rank by saying, “Hey, who’s the prophet here anyway?” There was no temper tantrum or threats to sleep outside the tent. In fact, there was no defensiveness whatsoever. Lehi graciously and humbly listened and showed empathy as he responded, “Sweetheart, you have a good point. I can see that you are concerned and I don’t blame you in the least. I can only tell you what I know and what I have experienced; and I know that I am sure of my inspiration. In fact, I’ve never been more certain. The Lord has shown me what would have happened had we remained in the city and it is not pretty. I would have not believed it myself if the Lord had not been kind enough to show it all to me in a vision.” In short, Lehi demonstrated true meekness.

Sariah’s second objection concerned the loss of their family estate, their comforts, resources, wealth, and possessions. Lehi responded to this concern with “I know that we have lost everything of a material nature. But, we are gaining a land of promise, a land that has everything we could ever want. It will be a great blessing to our family if you can be patient until we get there. It may not be easy, that I admit. But, we will become wealthy again– perhaps not as we were in Jerusalem – but we have an important mission to accomplish. We are on the Lord’s errand, and he will compensate us well for the loss of our property and home.” Once again, no defensiveness, no criticism, no withdraw. Lehi deals with Sariah’s concerns patiently and humbly. Remember, people who complain need comfort—and Lehi was comforting Sariah by sharing his witness and testifying of the truth to the very things she was concerned about.

Her third objection was that their children would probably be killed if they were not already dead. Lehi responded with his testimony: “I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness” (I Nephi 5:5). It is as if Lehi said, “Yes, dear, your right. It is dangerous. I know that their return may not be easy and fraught with danger. But remember, Nephi and Sam are pretty level-headed. I know that the Lord will inspire them and they will return unharmed.”

Finally, Sariah feared that the rest of the family would be killed as well. Once again, Lehi reassured Sariah that all would be well. He didn’t retort with “Why don’t you ever listen to me? We’ve just been through this.” Lehi was compassionate and in tune with his wife’s needs. In Nephi’s words, “And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us” (I Nephi 5:6). And therefore, Sariah’s concerns were resolved. Lehi resolved her concerns with his faith and testimony. He did not give her a lecture or talk down to her. Consequently, she did not attack Lehi again because she had been comforted; meaning that the Spirit of the Lord assured her that everything would be alright.

When their sons made it back to camp, Sariah “was exceedingly glad” (I Nephi 5:1); in fact, Nephi later records that “their joy was full, and my mother was comforted” (vs. 7). Because Lehi practiced meekness, the spirit was able to attend their conversation and attest to his words. Subsequently, Sariah received her own witness: “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness.; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them” (I Nephi 5:8).

It is a credit to Sariah that she never again wavered or questioned Lehi’s revelations. From that point on, she was totally committed to the cause of Christ and to her husband. In fact, later the Lord spoke to Lehi and commanded him to have his sons go back to Jerusalem, again, this time to find women to marry. A lesser woman than Sariah might have said, “Look, Lehi, once was enough. I let you do it once, but now I’ve had it. You were lucky the first time, but this time could be a disaster.” No, there was none of that. There was never a word of complaint, ever again.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41). First, notice how gentleness and meekness are coupled together in this verse. Indeed, gentleness and meekness are twin virtues. These virtues also seem to describe the Savior as well as any other words in our Christian vocabulary. Second, this passage reminds us of a truth that Lehi knew. His power and influence with Sariah could not come by harsh words, manipulation, or force. Instead, Lehi’s power and strength was in the Holy Spirit which attended him because he spoke with gentleness and meekness. Perhaps the next time you and your spouse find yourself getting into a heated discussion, remember Lehi and the way he comforted his wife, inspired her, and taught her doctrine. This is the Lord’s way for handling disagreements. Lehi is meekness personified.

If you need to repent and make some changes in your marriage—take heart—even the very best couples need work and improvement. If the Prophet Lehi and Sariah had to work through marital disagreements, then none of us are immune from marital challenges. For example, consider the marriage of the Prophet Joseph and Emma. Although their marriage was strong, from time to time, like all couples, Joseph and Emma had to work through challenges. For example, David Whitmer reported,

One morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife had done. Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, and asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.”[2]

Even though Emma had done something to upset Joseph, or cause him provocation, Joseph took responsibility for his contribution to the disagreement, prayed to the Lord for forgiveness, help, and strength. Then, Joseph took the high road and apologized to Emma. With that, the Spirit returned, and he was able to continue the Lord’s work. Joseph understood what it meant to ask, “Lord, is it I?” Because of his meekness, he was able to function as a husband with the power of the Holy Ghost.

[1] Stephen R. Covey, The Divine Center, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 148-149.

[2] As quoted in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:130–31.