“Lesson 25: Genesis 18,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 25,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Three messengers from God visited Abraham on their way to the city of Sodom. They reiterated the promise that Sarah would have a son. They also revealed to Abraham that they had been sent by God to see that Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed because of the wickedness of the cities’ inhabitants. Abraham asked the Lord if He would spare Sodom if righteous people could be found there.
Invite students to think about miraculous events they have read about in the scriptures. Ask several students to report which miraculous events they thought of. Write their responses on the board.
Then ask the following question:
What makes these events miraculous?
Invite students to look for a promise about a miraculous event as they study Genesis 18.
Explain that while Abraham and Sarah were dwelling in the Plains of Mamre, three holy messengers visited Abraham. Invite a student to read Genesis 18:2–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Abraham treated these three messengers of the Lord. Ask them to report what they find.
To help students understand who these three messengers were, point out that Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 18:3 (in Genesis 18:3, footnote a) uses the phrase “My brethren” instead of “My Lord,” indicating that the Lord was not one of the three men. Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 18:23 (in Genesis 18:22, footnote a) clarifies that these three messengers were “holy men … sent forth after the order of God.” In the King James Version of the Bible, the word angels, which was used in reference to these men (see Genesis 19:1), was translated from the Hebrew word malakhim, which can also mean “messengers.” Although we do not know the identity of the three messengers, Abraham treated them as if they were presiding authorities of the Lord’s kingdom then on the earth, and their messages were directly from the Lord (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 3:235; Sidney B. Sperry, “Abraham’s Three Visitors,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1931, 583, 585).
Summarize Genesis 18:6–8 by explaining that Abraham and Sarah quickly prepared a meal for the messengers. Invite a student to read Genesis 18:9–10 aloud, and ask the class to look for what the messengers announced would happen to Sarah. Ask students to report what they find. Remind them that although Sarah had hoped to have children, she was past childbearing age.
If you were Sarah, what might you have thought and felt when you heard this news?
Invite students to read Genesis 18:11–12 silently and look for how Sarah reacted to this news. Ask them to report what they find.
Invite a student to read Genesis 18:13–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Abraham and Sarah learned about the Lord. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find.
What did Abraham and Sarah learn about the Lord? (Students may use different words, but they should identify one of the following truths: Nothing is too hard for the Lord; the Lord is able to do all things.)
When have you seen evidence of this truth in your life or the life of someone you know?
Explain that even though the Lord is able to do all things, He blesses us “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68).
Testify of how you know the Lord is able to do all things. Encourage students to pray for the righteous desires of their hearts and to hope for and trust in the Lord’s wisdom and timing.
Summarize Genesis 18:16–22 by explaining that because the Lord saw that Abraham would be faithful in keeping his covenants, He revealed to Abraham what He would do with Sodom and Gomorrah. Explain that while the Prophet Joseph Smith was working on his inspired translation of the Bible, he learned more about what the Lord planned to do with Sodom and why. Invite a student to read aloud the following excerpt from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. You may want to provide a copy for each student. (The bold-italic text represents material added by the Prophet; the
crossed-out text represents material he removed.)
“And the angel of the Lord said unto Abraham, The Lord said unto us, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will destroy them.
“And I will send you, and ye shall go down now, and see that their iniquities are rewarded unto them.
“And ye shall have all things done
whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me.
“And if ye do it not,
I will know it shall be upon your heads; for I will destroy them, and you shall know that I will do it, for it shall be before your eyes.
“And the angels which were holy men, and were sent forth after the order of God, turned their faces from thence and went toward Sodom” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 18:19–23; bold, italics, and strikethrough added).
Invite a student to read Genesis 18:20 aloud. To help students discover what was included in the grievous sin being committed by people in Sodom and Gomorrah, invite them to silently read Genesis 19:5 and Jude 1:7. (If students have the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, you might also want to draw their attention to Genesis 18:20, footnote b). After sufficient time, explain that these verses in Genesis 19 and Jude 1 help us understand that the grievous sin mentioned in Genesis 18:20 included homosexual behavior. This behavior was widely accepted and practiced among the inhabitants of Sodom and nearby cities (see Jude 1:7). The prophet Ezekiel spoke of additional sins that plagued the inhabitants of Sodom. He declared that they were full of pride and idleness and that although they had a “fulness of bread,” they rejected the poor and needy (see Ezekiel 16:49–50).
Based on verse 20, how does the Lord view homosexual behavior? (As a “very grievous” sin. All violations of the law of chastity, or sexual sins, are very serious. Write the following truth on the board: Homosexual behavior is a serious sin.)
You may want to explain that from the beginning, and consistently throughout the scriptures, the Lord has condemned violations of the law of chastity, including homosexual behavior. Consider inviting students to read Romans 1:24–32.
Note: The topic of same-sex attraction requires great sensitivity. As your class discusses this issue, ensure that it is done with kindness, compassion, and civility.
Explain that in order to understand why homosexual behavior is a serious sin, we must understand the doctrines behind the purposes of marriage and family in Heavenly Father’s plan. To help students understand these doctrines, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (you may want to provide a copy for each student). Ask students to listen for doctrines that can help us understand why homosexual behavior is a serious sin.
“We encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’ (Genesis 1:27–28). ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.
“Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World.’
What are some doctrines that help us understand why homosexual behavior is a serious sin?
In what ways does homosexual behavior go against Heavenly Father’s plan?
Explain that those who experience same-sex attraction can enjoy all the blessings of the gospel as they keep the covenants they have made with God. As they choose to live the law of chastity, they can have pure and virtuous thoughts and avoid lusting. They can counsel with trusted family members and their bishops or branch presidents about how to remain sexually pure. Remind students that any member of the Church who breaks the law of chastity must repent, which includes confession to a bishop or branch president, who will lovingly help him or her obtain forgiveness from the Lord. The Lord loves all His children and wants them to repent and to be clean from sin.
Invite a student to read Genesis 18:22–26 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what Abraham asked the Lord concerning Sodom.
How did the Lord respond to Abraham’s questions?
Explain that Abraham continued to ask the Lord whether He would spare Sodom if any righteous people could be found there. Invite students to read Genesis 18:27–33 silently and look for the Lord’s responses to Abraham’s questions.
How did the Lord respond to Abraham’s righteous concern for others?
What principle about the Lord can we identify from His response to Abraham? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: The Lord listens to our righteous pleas for others.)
How can remembering and believing this principle help you when you have a family member or friend who needs help?
When have you experienced the Lord answering your righteous prayers on behalf of others?
Encourage students to set a goal to pray for those people who they know need Heavenly Father’s help. Invite them to look for a fulfillment of Abraham’s requests to save the righteous as they study Genesis 19 in the next lesson.