Lesson 25: Genesis 18

“Lesson 25: Genesis 18,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 25,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 25

Genesis 18


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.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 18:1–15

Messengers from God reiterate the promise that Abraham and Sarah will have a son

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.

Genesis 18:16–33

Abraham asks the Lord if Sodom can be spared if enough righteous people are found there

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.’

“Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it” (“Church Instructs Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage,” Jan. 10, 2014,

  • 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.

Commentary and Background Information

Genesis 18. Same-sex attraction

For more information about the Church’s teachings regarding same-sex attraction and statements on same-sex marriage, visit the Newsroom or the Gospel Topics page on Search for “same-sex attraction” or “same-sex marriage.” The following are a few suggested articles:

Genesis 18:20. A grievous sin

“Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body. Pay attention to the promptings of the Spirit so that you can be clean and virtuous. The Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from one who is in sexual transgression” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following about same-sex attraction and homosexual behavior:

“The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted. …

“I think it’s important for you to understand that [homosexual] … is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective that describes feelings or behavior. …

“Everyone has some challenges they have to struggle with. [Same-sex attraction is] a particular kind of challenge that is very vexing. It is common in our society and it has also become politicized. But it’s only one of a host of challenges men and women have to struggle with, and I just encourage you to seek the help of the Savior to resist temptation and to refrain from behavior that would cause you to have to repent or to have your Church membership called into question. …

“… Homosexual feelings are controllable. Perhaps there is an inclination or susceptibility to such feelings that is a reality for some and not a reality for others. But out of such susceptibilities come feelings, and feelings are controllable. If we cater to the feelings, they increase the power of the temptation. If we yield to the temptation, we have committed sinful behavior. That pattern is the same for a person that covets someone else’s property and has a strong temptation to steal. It’s the same for a person that develops a taste for alcohol. It’s the same for a person that is born with a ‘short fuse,’ as we would say of a susceptibility to anger. If they let that susceptibility remain uncontrolled, it becomes a feeling of anger, and a feeling of anger can yield to behavior that is sinful and illegal.

“We’re not talking about a unique challenge here. We’re talking about a common condition of mortality. We don’t understand exactly the ‘why,’ or the extent to which there are inclinations or susceptibilities and so on. But what we do know is that feelings can be controlled and behavior can be controlled. The line of sin is between the feelings and the behavior. The line of prudence is between the susceptibility and the feelings. We need to lay hold on the feelings and try to control them to keep us from getting into a circumstance that leads to sinful behavior” (“Interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman: ‘Same-Gender Attraction,’” Dec. 12, 2012,

President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized that while we cannot condone sinful behavior, we love those who struggle with same-sex attraction:

“There are those who would have us believe in the validity of what they choose to call same-sex marriage. Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others” (“Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 99).

How should young people respond to those who challenge Church teachings and standards?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles suggested how young people can respond when confronted with arguments that advocate ideas and practices that are contrary to God’s plan of salvation:

“I suggest that it may be preferable for our young people to refrain from arguing with their associates about such assertions or proposals. They will often be better off to respond by identifying the worldly premises or assumptions in the assertions they face and then by identifying the different assumptions or premises that guide the thinking of Latter-day Saints. This won’t elicit agreement from persons who don’t share our faith, but it can move the discussion away from arguing over conclusions to identifying the real source of disagreement” (“As He Thinketh in His Heart” [evening with a General Authority, Feb. 8, 2013];; see also the Seek Truth resources on the S&I Priorities page at

Marriage and gender roles are based on eternal truths

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the assumptions upon which the Church bases its views concerning marriage and gender roles:

“We reject the modern idea that marriage is a relationship that exists primarily for the fulfillment of the individuals who enter into it, with either one of them being able to terminate it at will. We focus on the well-being of children, not just ourselves.

“Our Church handbook explains: ‘By divine design, both a man and a woman are essential for bringing children into mortality and providing the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children’ [Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 1.3.2].

“Our family proclamation declares: ‘Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity’ [“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129].

“Our belief that we are commanded to ‘honor marital vows with complete fidelity’ introduces the next fundamental premise stated in the family proclamation: ‘God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife’ [“The Family,” 129].

“This declaration is not politically correct, but it is true, and we are responsible to teach and practice its truth. That obviously sets us against many assumptions and practices in today’s world—the birth of millions of innocent children to unwed mothers being only one illustration. …

“Men and women spirits ‘complete each other’ because they are different, and they ‘progress together toward exaltation’ by, among other things, honoring those eternal, created differences. Thus, the family proclamation states: ‘By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners’ [“The Family,” 129].

“We rejoice in the distinctive and mutually supportive roles of men and women in God’s plan. Men and women are to be different, yet they are inseparably bound together in a mutually supportive relationship to accomplish God’s plan” (“As He Thinketh in His Heart” [evening with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Feb. 8, 2013];

Genesis 18:23–33. “Wilt thou … not spare the place?”

President Spencer W. Kimball commented on the exchange between Abraham and the Lord as they discussed the destruction of Sodom:

“Abraham knew that the cities of the plains—Sodom and Gomorrah and other places—were wicked cities, housing wicked, godless people, saying with Cain, ‘Who is the Lord that I should know him?’ (Moses 5:16.) He was aware that destruction of those cities was imminent; but in his compassion for his fellowman, he begged and pleaded with the Lord, ‘Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city,’ will you spare the others of the city? (See Gen. 18:24.) That pleading being granted, came Abraham again and prayed that the cities would be saved if 45 were found, or 40 or 30 or 20 or down to ten, but apparently there could not be found even ten, in those vicious cities, who were righteous. (See Gen. 18:24–32.)

“The evil continued. The sin was too well entrenched. They had laughed and joked about a destruction. The transgressions for which Sodom had apparently been renowned continued on. In fact, the people wanted to take advantage of the pure angel men they had seen come into the city. The vicious men pressed and would have broken down the doors to get to them. (See Gen. 19:4–11.)

“Everything was done that could be done by Abraham to save the city, but it had become so depraved and wanton that to save it was impossible” (“Why Do We Continue to Tolerate Sin?” Ensign, May 1975, 109).