Posted by: rusch | April 3, 2006

Lot, Abraham, and a place called Sodom

Studying the Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine has been good this year. Like most members of the Church, it is the standard work that I am the least familiar with. I have read the book from Genesis to Malachi once and there was much that I did not understand or found applicable. There are, however, books in the Old Testament that I have read several times such as Isaiah, first and second Samuel, selected Psalms and Proverbs, and Genesis. But as whole, I am not familiar with most of it.

One lesson stood out particularly because it directly related to some things that I had thought about often. The lesson was about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

What is interesting is how Lot, Abraham’s nephew, found his was into Sodom. Long before the destruction of Sodom, there was a conflict between Lot and Abraham regarding their flocks. Abraham, wanting to make peace with Lot, let him decide where his flocks would graze and water in, and based upon his decision Abraham would go elsewhere.

Lot chose the good land that was in the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah and this did something that would affect his entire family. The account in Genesis says that Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom. He was now facing what was then a great, prosperous, and wicked city.

Hugh Nibley said that what really matters is repentance and the direction the individual faces with regards to it. He said that someone who his facing the direction of eternal life and has made the first steps forward, is better off then the man who has been on the path for years, but has turned himself around and has taken the first steps in the opposite direction.

Lot’s choice to face Sodom would later cause him to move his family into the city of Sodom. He and his family would suffer greatly because of this choice.

After Lot made his decision, there was an attack on Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot was taken captive in battle. Abraham came to his rescue and helped drive the invaders out of the plain. After the battle, the King of Sodom told Abraham to take his part of the spoils. Abraham refused, saying that he would not take the smallest thread lest the king of Sodom could claim that he had made Abraham rich.

Abraham wanted nothing to do with Sodom. He knew that both it and Gomorrah were wicked and that having any association with them would do nothing but to corrupt him and his those with him.

Abraham would go on to become the father of the faithful, while Lot, after fleeing Sodom, drops out of the narrative after a dubious drunken encounter with his daughters.

Our orientation will determine the direction we will travel, and our final destination. A slight, seemingly insignificant deviation, uncorrected, will make it impossible to reach our distant, desired, final destination.

The book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon contains an account of people who pitched their tents towards a holy place. Benjamin, the prophet king of the Nephites, knew that the end of his life was near, and that after fighting yet another war with Lamanites, there was a need for the people to reorient themselves towards holy things.

Benjamin’s people gathered together as families to the temple. Those who could not, because of the gathered multitude, enter the temple to hear Benjamin, pitched their tents with door facing the temple. This small act, pitching a tent with the door towards the temple to hear a prophet, would have a profound impact on those gathered and their descendants.

Orientation towards good or evil is based upon decisions that seem small and many that we do not even think about. How we treat our families, our coworkers, and the way act at work, the entertainment we choose will determine whether our tents are facing Sodom or the Temple. The incredible thing is unless two desired destinations are in the same line of travel, you cannot be going towards two places at the same time.

Lehi, the Prophet and Patriarch of the Book of Mormon people, had a vision where he saw a desert symbolizing the world; a straight and narrow path representing the word of God; a fruit tree symbolizing eternal life and the joy that comes from living the gospel in this life; and, among other things, a tall, expansive, lavish, building representing the vain things of the world or Babylon.

Lehi related that those who left the straight and narrow path, the Gospel, wandered in “strange roads” and were lost. Slight changes in the direction they were facing affected their trajectory. These wanderers either drowned in filthy waters, wandered in a barren wilderness, were lost and either starved or died from dehydration, or were crushed to death as the foundationless great and spacious building toppled when the world ended.

Because the current state of things is temporary, having the correct orientation is what will matter in the end. Lot was concerned with his flocks and the possibility of lucrative commercial opportunities in Sodom. He had been wandering with his Uncle for years and probably felt this was an opportunity to get rich and live a life of leisure. Pitching his tent towards Sodom, gave him temporary pleasure, but because of his choice, it would cost him everything the same way that we will lose it all if our hearts are not set upon the right things.

Abraham has since received his exaltation as we learn in the Doctrine and Covenants, where the fate of Lot is unknown for he dropped out of the narrative. Truly what we value will determine our orientation, and our orientation will determine the path we will take, thus bringing us to a chosen destination be it good or bad.


Responses

  1. Nice writing, Chris!

    Direction and orientation is huge. What’s been interesting for me has been trying to figure out when I’m pointing in the right direction.

    For the longest time, I felt like if I only read my scriptures, said my prayers, went to the temple often, obeyed word of wisdom/law of chastity, and was honest…that I was guaranteed to be pointing in the right direction.

    As it turns out, those things only get you to the starting line. What I’m learning is that living a truly “in tune”, righteous life is something that most of us are not prepared for. The world is so big. There are so many beautiful, smart inspired people…some LDS, some not. Some American, some not. Some believers in God, some not.

    Part of the secret for me is the humility of realizing that even in the LDS Church, we really only have SOME of the truth….because the truth and goodness can be found everywhere….and while the basic I mentioned above can be super duper helpful (and in some ways can be crucial)….they are only the beginning.

    🙂

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    Keep it up!!!

  2. Chris,
    A great sermon and reminder of a story that we often forget. A well-worded narrative as always. All that was missing was your critical applications and opinion, which I have come to value in your blogs. I was waiting for something about the downtown district of Atlanta, or you trip to the strip in Las Vegas, or something of the sort that shows your curious, but shining personality.

    My personal thoughts on Sodom and Gomorrah is to call them the twin cities, since there are many twin cities areas in the world. When people quote the famous, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” then I say, what do you do when you are in sodom? The same could be said for New York or any other great city.

    Keep on writing. Scotty


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