This lesson reminds us that although wickedness surrounds us, we must be righteous.
Background on Abraham’s Travels: Abraham was raised in Ur of Chaldea before being led by the Lord to settle in Haran. The Lord later led him from Haran to the land of Canaan (Palestine or the part of it between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea) and promised. “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7). Famine in Canaan prompted Abraham and his family to migrate to Egypt (Genesis 10:10). At the beginning of Genesis 13, Abraham and his family return to Canaan from Egypt.
Abraham settled his family in Hebron, while Lot and his family settled near Sodom.
Genesis 13: 5-9. Prosperity—abundant flocks and herds—made it difficult for Lot and Abraham to live in the same area, so Abraham gave Lot the choice when it was decided that they must separate to avoid conflict between their herdsmen or themselves over the land. Here, we have an example of how to resolve conflicts with family members or others.
Genesis 13:10-13 tell us that Lot chose to settle in the cities on the plain and pitched his tent toward Sodom, even though the people of Sodom were exceedingly wicked. He seems to have chosen the spot because it was like a well-watered garden. Later, Lot chose to move into the city of Sodom. Just as Lot decided to locate himself in an evil environment, we too may choose to associate ourselves with evil rather than shunning it. We may begin by becoming guilty of small sins without realizing or acknowledging that this may lead to large, more grievous sins. Before that happens and we graduate to the larger sins, we need to change our behavior and/or our environment to remove the temptations and the opportunity to choose evil over righteousness.
In contrast to Lot, the people of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon chose to pitch their tents in the direction of the Lord’s house—the temple (Mosiah 2:6). As Latter-day Saints, we need to assure that our homes are properly positioned toward holy rather than worldly places.
Genesis 14:1-2, 8-9 – nine kings and their followers began to war among themselves while Lot resided in Sodom.
Genesis 14:10-12 – In Sodom, Lot was taken captive after all of his goods were taken during a successful invasion by the soldiers of the enemies of Sodom.
Genesis 14:13-16 – When alerted to Lot’s kidnapping, Abraham took his 318 followers and pursued the enemy until he was able to overtake them, smite them, and drive them off into Jordan. Lot was rescued along with his goods.
Genesis 14:17-18 – Welcomed by the kings after his victory, Abraham met and was blessed by Melchizedek, king of Salem and “the priest of the most high God”.
Genesis 14:20 (JST 14:36-40) – It is recorded here that Abraham paid his tithing to Melchizedek.
Genesis 14:21-24 – Rather than have it said that the king of Sodom had rewarded him, Abraham refused to take the recaptured goods that were offered to him for his service. He utterly refused to take anything—even a thread—from the wicked king. This is an example of extreme righteousness that should cause us to think about our actions in our day. Do we accept a “thread” of immorality? A “thread” of dishonesty? Do we sometimes accept a certain amount of unrighteousness in our entertainment choices rather than forego the viewing of a movie or TV program? What is the level of compromise that we are willing to accept? Abraham was unwilling to compromise at all—not even a little. It tells us a great deal about Abraham when we see that he was anxious to pay tithes to Melchizedek, who represented the Lord, while he was absolutely opposed to accepting any riches from the unrighteous king of Sodom.
Genesis 18:20-21. Seeing the iniquity that had taken hold in Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord decided to destroy the cities.
Genesis 18:23-32. Being disturbed that some righteous ones might be destroyed along with the wicked, Abraham proceeded to bargain with the Lord to spare the cities if at least 10 righteous could be found. He had bargained down from 50, through 45, 40, 30, and 20 to arrive at 10.
Genesis 19: 12-13, 15 records that the “holy men” told Lot to leave Sodom because it was about to be destroyed.
Genesis 19:14 makes us ask why someone, Lot’s sons-in-law, would reject the warning and chose to stay among the wicked even when a promise of imminent destruction is pronounced.
Genesis 19:17 –Lot and his family were counseled not to look back as they to fled to the mountain. The Lord gave similar counsel in Luke and the D&C. He wanted his disciples to understand that “looking back” demonstrates either a reluctance to sacrifice that which is asked of us, or a lack of complete commitment to following the Savior and his teachings. In class, you may wish to suggest some ways that we might “look back”.
Genesis 19:26 – Lot’s wife, lagging back and looking back toward Sodom, paid a high price. We learn from this that sometimes when we need to repent and change our lives, we may need a fresh start—a new place, new surroundings, an improved environment, and new associates.
Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom”. He put himself in an environment of temptation. Surrounded by evil, he was tempted just as we would be if we allowed ourselves to be surrounded by wicked influences. Even if we do not succumb to the enticements and actively participate in the prevalent sins, we become polluted from such an environment.
Genesis 19:29 indicates that Lot was spared because he was Abraham’s brother. We too can have a saving effect on those around us when we chose righteousness and obedience to the Lord.
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Our world is now much the same as it was in the days of the Nephite prophet who said: ‘…if it were not for the prayers of the righteous…ye would even now be visited with utter destruction…’ (Alma 10:22.) Of course, there are many many upright and faithful who live all the commandments and whose lives and prayers keep the world from destruction” (Ensign, June 1971, 16).
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of grievous sexual sins, but those sins were not the only sins that contributed to the destruction of those cities. Other sins of the people included pride, fullness of bread (gluttony), abundant idleness, selfishness and lack of charity, and arrogance. (See Ezekiel 16:49-50). From this we should realize that seemingly small sins can destroy us just as surely as large ones.
Elder Russell M. Ballard: “In the Church, we often state the couplet, ‘Be in the world but not of the world.’ As we observe television shows that make profanity, violence, and infidelity commonplace and even glamorous, we often wish we could lock out the world in some way and isolate our families from it all…
Perhaps we should state the couplet previously mentioned as two separate admonitions. First, ‘Be in the world.’ Be involved; be informed. Try to be understanding and tolerant and to appreciate diversity. Make meaningful contributions to society through service and involvement. Second, ‘Be not of the world.’ Do not follow wrong paths or bend to accommodate or accept what is not right…
Members of the Church need to influence more than we are influenced. We should work to stem the tide of sin and evil instead of passively being swept along by it. We each need to help solve the problem rather than avoid or ignore it” (Ensign, May 1989, 80).