Lesson 8: Living Righteously in a Wicked World

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 32–35


Purpose

To strengthen each class member’s resolve to hold fast to righteous standards during times of increasing wickedness.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures. Note: Genesis 17:5 tells of the Lord changing Abram’s name to Abraham. The name Abraham is used throughout this lesson.

    1. a.

      Genesis 13. After living in Egypt for a time because of a famine in the land of Canaan, Abraham and his family return to Canaan. Abraham settles in Hebron, and his nephew Lot settles near Sodom.

    2. b.

      Genesis 14:1–2, 8–24. Lot is taken captive during the battles of the kings and is rescued by Abraham (14:1–2, 8–16). Abraham pays tithes to Melchizedek and refuses to accept the spoils of war from the king of Sodom (14:17–24).

    3. c.

      Genesis 18:16–33; 19:1–29. The Lord announces that he will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of the people’s wickedness (18:16–22). Abraham pleads with the Lord to spare the cities if he can find righteous people living there (18:23–33). Lot and his family are commanded to leave Sodom (19:1–23; note that in the Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 19:11–13 states that Lot did not offer his daughters to the men of Sodom; rather, he tried to protect his daughters from the men). The Lord destroys Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24–29).

  2. 2.

    Additional reading: Genesis 12; Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:25–40; 19:9–15.

  3. 3.

    If you use the attention activity, bring a recent newspaper to class.

  4. 4.

    You may want to show a brief excerpt from “Abraham—The Promise” or “Abraham—Sodom and Gomorrah,” parts 4 and 5 of the Beginnings/Abraham videocassette (53150), as part of the lesson.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

Show a recent newspaper to the class. Without dwelling on specific news items, comment on how we are surrounded by unrighteous influences. Explain that this lesson is about the importance of being righteous even when wickedness is all around us.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. Abraham and his family settle in Hebron, and Lot and his family settle near Sodom.

Teach and discuss Genesis 13.

You may want to give a brief overview of Abraham’s travels to this point in his life. He was raised in Ur of Chaldea, then was led by the Lord to settle in Haran (Genesis 11:31; Abraham 2:1–5). The Lord later led him from Haran to the land of Canaan and promised, “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7). Because of a famine in Canaan, Abraham and his family went to Egypt (Genesis 12:10). Genesis 13 begins with Abraham and his family returning to Canaan from Egypt.

  • Why couldn’t Abraham and Lot and their families live together when they returned to Canaan from Egypt? (See Genesis 13:5–7.) What do we learn about Abraham from his comments in Genesis 13:8–9? How can we follow Abraham’s example when we have conflicts with family members or others?

  • Where did Lot choose to live? (See Genesis 13:10–12.) Point out that the people of Sodom were extremely wicked (Genesis 13:13), but Lot still chose to live near them. What made the land near Sodom appealing to Lot? (See Genesis 13:10. It was “well watered” and beautiful.)

  • At first Lot “lived in the cities of the plain,” outside Sodom, but he “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). Later he lived in the city of Sodom itself (Genesis 14:12). What things might we do that are the spiritual equivalent of pitching our tents toward Sodom? (We may associate with evil things instead of shunning them, or we may allow ourselves to commit small sins without thinking that they may lead to bigger ones.) How can we change our behavior before little problems or sins become big ones?

  • Like Lot, the people of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon also pitched their tents facing a specific direction. What did their tents face? (See Mosiah 2:6.) How can we point our homes more toward the temple instead of worldly places?

2. Abraham rescues Lot, pays tithes to Melchizedek, and refuses to accept the spoils of war from the king of Sodom.

Teach and discuss Genesis 14:1–2, 8–24.

  • While Lot lived in Sodom, the kings of several city-states, including Sodom and Gomorrah, began warring with one another (Genesis 14:1–2, 8–9). What happened to Lot during this war? (See Genesis 14:10–12.) How did Abraham help Lot after Lot was taken captive? (See Genesis 14:13–16.)

  • Whom did Abraham meet with after rescuing Lot? (See Genesis 14:17–18.) Who was Melchizedek? (See Genesis 14:18; see also D&C 107:1–2.) What did Abraham give to Melchizedek? (See Genesis 14:20; see also Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:36–40.)

  • Why did Abraham refuse to accept even a thread as a reward from the king of Sodom? (See Genesis 14:21–24. He did not want to receive anything from an unrighteous king.) What might be considered a “thread” of immorality in today’s world? What might be a “thread” of dishonesty? How do we sometimes compromise in the amount of unrighteousness we are willing to accept in the entertainment we seek? Why is it important that we try not to let even a small amount of worldly ways into our lives? (See 2 Nephi 28:20–21.)

  • What can we learn about Abraham’s commitment to the Lord by comparing his reactions to Melchizedek and to the king of Sodom?

3. The Lord destroys Sodom and Gomorrah.

Teach and discuss Genesis 18:16–33; 19:1–29.

  • Because of the iniquity of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord planned to destroy the cities (Genesis 18:20–21). What did Abraham ask of the Lord after learning of this plan? (See Genesis 18:23–32.) What can we learn from the fact that the Lord was willing to spare the cities if righteous people could be found within them?

  • Why was Lot instructed to leave Sodom? (See Genesis 19:12–13, 15.) How did Lot’s sons-in-law react when he urged them to leave? (See Genesis 19:14.) Why do some people refuse to remove themselves from bad influences even when they are aware of the danger?

  • What counsel did the angels give as Lot and his family left the city? (See Genesis 19:17.) Point out that the Savior has given similar counsel to his followers (Luke 9:62; 17:29–32; D&C 133:14–15). What does “looking back” represent? (Reluctance to give up what is asked of us; a less than complete commitment to following Christ.) How might we sometimes “look back”?

  • What happened to Lot’s wife when she looked back at Sodom? (See Genesis 19:26.) What can the story of Lot’s wife teach us about repentance? (To repent we must change our hearts and our behavior. To do this we must sometimes choose a new environment and new associates.)

  • What did Lot lose because he “pitched his tent toward Sodom”? What do we stand to lose when we put ourselves in positions where we know we will be tempted? How are we affected when we allow ourselves to be surrounded by evil, even if we are not directly participating in sinful acts?

  • What does Genesis 19:29 suggest was the reason Lot was spared when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed? (The Lord remembered the righteousness of Abraham.) How can our righteous behavior benefit others?

    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. …’ (Al. 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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 7; or Ensign, June 1971, 16).

Conclusion

Testify of the importance of keeping ourselves free from sin, even when evil is all around us. Encourage class members to strive to be a righteous influence in the world instead of letting worldly things influence them.

You may want to conclude with the following statement from Elder M. Russell 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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 100–101; or Ensign, May 1989, 80).

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or more of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah

As suggested in Genesis 19:4–11 and in the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 19:9–15, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah engaged in grievous sexual sins. But these sins, while severe, were not the only sins for which the cities were destroyed. Have a class member read Ezekiel 16:49–50 aloud, and discuss with the class the other sins of which people in Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty. Help class members understand that we can be destroyed by seemingly small sins as well as by large ones.

2. Leading by example

To illustrate one way Latter-day Saints can be an influence for good instead of being influenced by the world, you may want to show “Leading by Example,” a seven-minute segment from Old Testament Video Presentations (53224). In this segment, the righteous example of a young woman helps a friend become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.