In 1833 the Lord said that, because of their transgressions, the Latter-day Saints “must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham” (D&C 101:4). Genesis 18–23 recounts some of Abraham’s intense trials and illustrates his faithfulness. In contrast to Abraham is the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. As you study these chapters, think about Abraham. How was he able to endure his trials? What blessings came because he faithfully obeyed the Lord? In what ways can we follow his example as we seek those same blessings?
Abraham secured the promises God made to him (later called the Abrahamic covenant) and earned the title “father of the faithful” (D&C 138:41). He helped make it possible for us to receive the blessings of the gospel (see D&C 84:33–34; 124:58). The people of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the other hand, were destroyed by God because of their wickedness.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Genesis teaches the following about our relationship with the Lord:
Choosing to affiliate with the wicked can be both physically and spiritually destructive (see Genesis 19).
Suggestions for Teaching
Genesis 18:1–15. The Lord gives glorious promises to His faithful followers. He has the power to fulfill His promises and will do so “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). (20–25 minutes)
Give each student a paper on which the following is written:
Your teacher says, “I promise you that __________.”
Your parents say, “We promise you that __________.”
Ask each student to fill in the blanks with the promises they would most like to hear. Invite several students to share what they wrote and explain why. Ask:
What promises have you received from these people in the past?
How important were those promises to you?
Are you confident that the promises you have received will always be kept? Why or why not?
The Lord also makes promises. Ask students where they can find some of the promises the Lord has given (for example, patriarchal and other priesthood blessings, ordinances, words of living prophets, and scriptures). Ask students to ponder some of the promises the Lord has given them personally. Tell them that the Lord has power to fulfill each of His promises, and He will.
Have students read Genesis 18:1–12 and identify the promise Sarah received. Ask:
Considering her age (see v. 11) how glorious was this promise?
What was Sarah’s response to this promise? (see v. 12).
Why do you think she responded that way?
Share the commentary for Genesis 18:9–15 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 75–76). Ask students if they have ever felt astonished or amazed at God’s miraculous goodness.
Have students read Genesis 18:13–14 and look for what the Lord said about His power to keep His promises. Ask them how they would respond to the question “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:36–37 and 82:10. Ask: How do these scriptures support the doctrine that the Lord will fulfill each of His promises, regardless of how difficult they may seem to us?
Help students understand that nothing is too hard for the Lord, but He blesses us “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68). Consider, for example, how long Sarah and Abraham waited to be blessed with children.
Read Genesis 15:1–6 with students and review what Abraham did when he was worried and how and why he was blessed. Read Isaiah 40:25–31 and look for what those verses teach about the importance of waiting upon the Lord (patience). Consider inviting students to tell about times they felt the Lord’s answer was best for them even when it was not necessarily what they wanted.
Genesis 18:1–15. God’s promises will be fulfilled, whether by Himself directly or through His servants. (5–10 minutes)
Ask students what some of the most difficult challenges facing youth are, and list them on the board. Ask: Is anything too hard for the Lord. Is there anything too hard for us if the Lord is with us?
Focus the discussion on what the Lord has commanded them that requires waiting, such as not dating until they are sixteen, setting aside some pursuits for two years to serve a mission, staying morally clean, and living the law of tithing. Share your testimony that the Lord’s blessings await those who endure patiently in faith and that the Lord always fulfills His promises.
Genesis 18:16–33; 19:1–13, 23–26. As the world grows more wicked, we need to know of the saving influence the righteous can have on the wicked, how they should treat others as the judgments of God are visited upon the inhabitants of the earth, and what God will do for the righteous. (30–35 minutes)
Ask students why they think God would destroy a whole city of people. Do one of the following, depending on how much time you have:
Have students use their Topical Guides and search out answers by looking up such topics as “destruction,” “God, indignation of,” “iniquity,” and “wickedness.”
Review Moses 7:33–34 and 8:28–30, which tell about the wickedness prior to the Flood.
Have students read Genesis 18:20–21 and look for which cities were very wicked in Abraham’s time. Have students search the following scriptures, looking for specific sins that were widespread in Sodom and Gomorrah, and then discuss what they find:
Genesis 19:4–11 (see also JST, Genesis 19:9–15)
Jude 1:7 (see also the commentary for Genesis 19:13 in
Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 76)
Ask how the sins mentioned in those scriptures are similar to those you already found and discussed. Ask students to consider how the list applies to our day and how God feels about the same evils in the world today, as spoken by His prophets.
Tell students that before the Lord sent His messengers to Sodom and Gomorrah, He told Abraham what He intended to do. Before reading how Abraham responded, ask students why they think God is patient with them and with society as a whole. Have them read Genesis 18:23–33 and look for reasons God is so patient and how the righteous should act regarding a people wicked enough (as a group) for destruction. Consider using what the Lord said in Doctrine and Covenants 86:1–7 concerning the parable of the wheat and the tares in your discussion.
Read Alma 10:22–23 with the class and discuss how it applies to the interchange between Abraham and the Lord. Ask: What can we learn from what Abraham did and said? (see the commentary for Genesis 18:16–33 in
What did the Lord say He would do?
What can we do to be prepared to receive His protection?
Again ask students why God would destroy a people. (It might be good to review here the story of Noah and the destruction of the people of his time.) Have students read 1 Nephi 17:35 and Alma 45:16 and explain what these scriptures teach about when God will destroy a people. Ask:
What word in the two scriptures just read would describe Sodom and Gomorrah after the righteous people were removed? (Ripe.)
What did God do to Sodom and Gomorrah after the righteous left?
What can we learn from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that can help us endure or be spared much of the destruction that could come in the future?
Genesis 19:1–8. We should respect and honor the Lord’s appointed servants. (10–15 minutes)
Ask students how they would feel if they were visited by the President of the Church or by another General Authority. Tell them that both Abraham and Lot were visited by special messengers from the Lord. Have them read Genesis 18:2–8 and 19:1–3 and look for how Abraham and Lot treated the Lord’s anointed servants. Ask:
How is the respect Abraham and Lot showed the Lord’s messengers similar to how we might act?
How can we show respect for our prophets and leaders even when they are not here with us?
Have students read Jacob 4:6; 3 Nephi 23:5; and Doctrine and Covenants 1:14, 37–38 and tell what counsel each of those scriptures give. Discuss what we can do to show proper respect for our local Church leaders, who are also the Lord’s servants for us.
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith the Lord warned members of the Church in our day about the respect we should show our leaders and each other. Church members were told to change their “examples before the Church and before the world, in all your manners, habits and customs, and salutations one toward another; rendering unto every man the respect due the office, calling, and priesthood whereunto I, the Lord, have appointed and ordained you” (History of the Church, 2:177).
Genesis 19–22. Choosing to affiliate with the wicked can be both physically and spiritually harmful. (30–35 minutes)
Use tape or paper to make lines on the floor, like those in the following diagram. Make them long enough so that they are about six feet or two meters apart at the end.
Invite students to walk along the lines as far as they can, keeping one foot on each line. It is easy at the beginning, but it gradually becomes more difficult. They must eventually walk on one line or the other or fall down. To demonstrate the difficulty of deciding too late, ask a student whose feet are quite spread out to pick up one foot and place it on the same path as the other foot without tipping over.
Label one of the lines “The way of the Lord” and the other “The way of the world.” Ask students:
How can this activity be compared to how some people try to live their lives?
Why are the lines fairly close together at the beginning?
How does that describe one of the ways Satan deceives us?
Read and discuss 2 Nephi 28:19–24 and the following statement by Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Christ taught that we should be in the world but not of it. Yet there are some in our midst who are not so much concerned about taking the gospel into the world as they are about bringing worldliness into the gospel. They want us to be in the world and of it” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 11).
Have students read Genesis 13:5–13 and look for a point where Abraham and Lot seem to walk different paths. Tell them that Sodom was a very wealthy and prosperous city, but it was also very wicked (see v. 13). Ask:
What dangers could have existed for Lot and his family because he “pitched his tent toward Sodom”? Why?
What might “pitching your tent” toward something symbolize?
What should we “pitch our tent” toward instead? (see Mosiah 2:6 for one possible suggestion).
Have students read Genesis 14:12 and find out where Lot had later moved his family. Have them then read Genesis 14:5, 11–12 to see what unpleasant consequences came from his decision to live in Sodom. Point out that Abraham was not captured or even involved in that battle except to rescue Lot. Discuss how living the gospel, like living in a safe place, helps us avoid certain problems that others need to be “rescued” from.
Abraham was determined to serve only God. Have students read Genesis 14:17–24. Remind them who Melchizedek was (see the commentary for Genesis 14:18 in
The Lord promised Abraham endless posterity, although he and Sarah had no children at the time (see Genesis 15:1–5). Have students read Genesis 15:5–6 for Abraham’s response to the Lord’s promise. In Genesis 17 and 18 we read about the Lord renewing that promise to Abraham and Sarah, even in their old age.
Have students read Genesis 19 and list the consequences that came as a result of Lot’s living in Sodom. Especially have them look for the impact on Lot’s family. Invite students to share ways we can live among wickedness and remain righteous. Have them contrast what happened to Lot and his family with what happened to Abraham in regards to his family in Genesis 21–22, especially regarding the promise in Genesis 22:17–18.
What might people have thought about each of these two men if they observed them at the beginning of the story? the middle? the end?
What can we learn from them about being faithful to the Lord?
What can we learn from them about the object lesson with the two lines?
Read the First Presidency’s introduction from For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God ([pamphlet, 2001], pp. 2–3). Ask:
How does their counsel help with your decisions concerning what path to follow?
How can other counsel from this pamphlet bless your life?
Genesis 21. Abraham and Sarah were faithful in waiting upon the Lord. (15–20 minutes)
To help deepen the students’ feelings about the principle of waiting upon the Lord, have them do activity A for Genesis 20–21 in their student study guides (p. 27).
Genesis 22. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac is not only an impressive demonstration of faithfulness. It also teaches about and testifies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (45–50 minutes)
Discuss with students the questions found in the introduction to Genesis 22 in their student study guides (p. 27). Use the insights in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section of the student study guide (p. 28) to help answer the “why” question.
The story in Genesis 22:1–18 is so significant that you will probably want to read it aloud as a class. Stop from time to time to ask questions, discuss, reflect, and comment. For example, read a verse and then stop and ask students what they learn from it about Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, or the Lord. You may also want to give helpful information about Abraham from Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 77–80.
Have students read what the Lord said to Church members in Doctrine and Covenants 101:4–5. Ask them why they think we must be tried and tested in some way. (Make sure they understand that this scripture does not mean they will be asked to sacrifice their child.) Share some of the information concerning Genesis 22 in the student study guide and the commentary for Genesis 22:1 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (p. 78) to help in this discussion.
Have students imagine they have a brand new, high performance automobile (or something else of great value to young people). Ask:
How would you feel about letting someone with no proven judgment, experience, or self-control drive your car, for example someone five or ten years old? Why?
Have students notice in Genesis 22:16–18 that after the Lord saw Abraham’s willingness to be obedient by sacrificing his only son, He assured him with a solemn oath that all the blessings previously promised him would be given him, along with others not mentioned before. Ask: How did Abraham’s obedience help him qualify for these great blessings?
Make a list with the students of the ways they think this story of Abraham and Isaac is a similitude (type or symbol) of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, or ask them to share what they wrote for activity A for Genesis 22 in their student study guides (p. 28). The information found in the commentary for Genesis 22:1–19 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 77–78) can help with this activity.
Remind students that there was no ram in the thicket when Heavenly Father allowed His Son to be sacrificed. Jesus lived a sinless life every moment of every day so He could sacrifice in ways we cannot even comprehend in order to provide a way for our salvation if we are repentant. We should expect that we will be asked to overcome sin and to sacrifice as we strive to become like Him.
“How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 117; or Ensign, May 1991, 88).
“In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles; … His great heart almost breaking for the love that He had for His Son. Oh, in that moment when He might have saved His Son, I thank Him and praise Him that He did not fail us. … I rejoice that He did not interfere, and that His love for us made it possible for Him to endure to look upon the sufferings of His Son and give Him finally to us, our Saviour and our Redeemer. Without Him, without His sacrifice, we would have remained, and we would never have come glorified into His presence. And so this is what it cost, in part, for our Father in heaven to give the gift of His Son” (in Melvin J. Ballard … Crusader for Righteousness , 137).
Consider giving students some time to express their gratitude for the sacrifice and Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Genesis 12–22; Abraham 1–2. Abraham is exalted (see D&C 132:29) and is known as the “father of the faithful” (D&C 138:41). He is an example for all of us of how to obtain eternal life. (30–40 minutes)
Abraham is an important figure for Church members. Have students write about what they learned from studying Abraham’s life. You could have them choose three principles from his life that Church members today should incorporate into their lives. Or have them outline the steps of progression in Abraham’s life (where he started, where he ended, and how he got there). Or have them write to one of the following titles:
Why Abraham Is Called the Friend of God and Father of the Faithful
How I May Become Part of Abraham’s Covenant Family
Let students write for the whole class time, and respond to them later in writing. Or give them the first half of the class to write and the second half for those who wish to share what they wrote.