The sins of Sodom

Those who believe the sins of Sodom were exclusively sexual sins need to consider this scripture:

Ezekiel 16:49: Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

It is clear from reading the account of Abraham and Lot that Sodom was not all about sexual sin. Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” (Genesis 13:12) a symbol that he favored the things of the world over spiritual matters. Abraham, on the other hand, went to Hebron and immediately built an altar to the Lord (Genesis 13:18).

Over time, it has become clear that Abraham was known for his generosity, his charity and his humility. Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom showed that he did not care that the people of Sodom were unwelcoming, haughty, prideful and uncharitable. We cannot discount the fact that Sodom was evil precisely because the people did not care about the poor and were prideful (just as people in the Book of Mormon were often guilty of the same sin).

But those who would like the sins of Sodom only to be about lack of charity face a conundrum: the scriptures and the teachings of modern-day prophets make it clear that the sins of Sodom were also sexual in nature.

Consider the verse that comes right after Ezekiel 16:49, Ezekiel 16:50:

And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

Yes, the people of Sodom were prideful, but they were also guilty of sexual abominations. The Church Topical Guide references these sins.

The Joseph Smith translation clarifies some important points from Genesis (Lot did not offer up his daughters to be raped by the people of Sodom), but also implies that sexual sin took place:

JST, Genesis 19:9–15.

9 And they said unto him, Stand back. And they were angry with him.

10 And they said among themselves, This one man came in to sojourn among us, and he will needs now make himself to be a judge; now we will deal worse with him than with them.

11 Wherefore they said unto the man, We will have the men, and thy daughters also; and we will do with them as seemeth us good.

12 Now this was after the wickedness of Sodom.

13 And Lot said, Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, plead with my brethren that I may not bring them out unto you; and ye shall not do unto them as seemeth good in your eyes;

14 For God will not justify his servant in this thing; wherefore, let me plead with my brethren, this once only, that unto these men ye do nothing, that they may have peace in my house; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

15 And they were angry with Lot and came near to break the door, but the angels of God, which were holy men, put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house unto them, and shut the door.

The New Testament makes it very clear that sexual sin was involved:

Jude 1:7

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

And then we have Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 23:14
I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.

Finally, we have a modern-day prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, saying the following in October 1977:

The growing permissiveness in modern society gravely concerns us. Certainly our Heavenly Father is distressed with the increasing inroads among his children of such insidious sins as adultery and fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, abortions, pornography, population control, alcoholism, cruelty expressed in wife-beating and child-abuse, dishonesty, vandalism, violence, and crime generally, including the sin of living together without marriage.

We call upon our Church members everywhere to renew their efforts to strengthen the home and to honor their parents, and to build better communications between parent and child.

Important as it is, building stronger homes is not enough in the fight against rising permissiveness. We therefore urge Church members as citizens to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting, in their communities and beyond, the inroads of pornography and the general flaunting of permissiveness. Let us vigorously oppose the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which defile the human body as the temple of God.

The Gospel has always been about being charitable and helpful, succoring the poor and the afflicted and being welcoming and humble. People from Sodom did not act in this way. But we gain nothing by ignoring the other sins of Sodom, which are outlined in the scriptures and the talks of modern-day prophets.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

17 thoughts on “The sins of Sodom

  1. We also read that in the last days the Lord will shorten the times, as even the very elect will be deceived. Well, we have even members of the Church being deceived as to sin. I’ve seen some chastise the GAs for saying that masturbation is wrong, insisting that it is actually good and doesn’t hurt anyone. I’ve seen others promote and embrace relationships that are not celestial relationships, even hoping to see such relationships solemnized some day in the temple.
    Scholar Harold Bloom noted that God did not destroy Sodom for its sexual avarice alone, but because they sought to impose their sin on innocents. We can now see that is beginning to occur in our own land. America is very near ripened in iniquity, and many Mormons do not even see it as evil. How will they distinguish between the wheat and the tares, if they’ve convinced themselves that the two are the same?

  2. Edited yahoo news comments from (I think) a member of the Church on Attorney General Eric Holder’s stance on gay rights (20 days ago): “Congratulations! This administration led this nation further down the slippery slope of perversion, moral, ethical and societal decay. Turned us into an enormous cesspool… Now the rest of the nations are watching all of this and buckling up to keep immoral perversion from infecting their people! What further shame you have brought upon us… Go Gaymerica! Land of putting Good for Evil and Evil for Good …”
    My comments were: “Attorney General Eric Holder with all the big equal signs behind him… what a disgrace! Marriage “equality” … a joke, but God is not amused! They want to tell us that “not liking homosexuals” is the sin, of course. As a Christian I must not hate, nor cast the first stone, but I can get angry once in a while like Jesus when he saw His Father’s House had become a den of thieves. What a disgrace! Western civilization without God and morality is nothing. If we/they continue worshiping false gods it’s going to be very rough in a few years or decades. Our legacy to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren: debt and moral decay. We should love the (repentant or potentially repentant) sinners but it is our duty to disapprove of sin, as Geoff indicated quoting President Kimball. But we are like Lehi, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the Latter-Day Prophets, and even our Lord. Voices in the wilderness. Many will not listen.

  3. Good post, Geoff. With the ever-growing sexualization of our culture, it is easy to ignore the other sins of Sodom an Gomorrah that were as destructive as sexual sins. Because sin is exponential and addictive in nature (and in the natural man), it desensitizes one’s spirituality, leading to a host of other sins and immoral behaviors.

    That is why we ought to cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for Peter counseled: “Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). I like that phrase “fervent charity.” Whatever ills befall our respective societies, without charity we are nothing.

    I like the call to lift our voices, to unceasingly combat, and vigorously oppose the tide of old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, but frankly, those are daunting and sometimes fearful tasks, almost like stretching forth my puny arm to stop the Missouri River in its decreed course (such as the overturning of Prop 8). I sometimes wish I was more courageous, but we can’t just sit by idly watching the shocking developments pass by without charitably pushing back…now can we?

    As an aside, I think The M * is one of those voices in vigorous combat, which I appreciate, it is still difficult for the charity to shine through, given our weaknesses and the frequent misunderstandings from and limits of the written word. To you bloggers at M*, keep up the good work, guys!

  4. Geoff B., this is a great post.

    It’s interesting that the sins of Sodom as listed in Ezekiel are pride, laziness, and failure to care for the poor and needy. I think most of us focus on the homosexuality sins because they’re precisely the sins that most of us are not tempted by. It’s much easier to focus on sins that other people have instead of sins that we ourselves have–and so we ignore the fact that Sodom was in part destroyed by pride, laziness, and the lack of charity because we don’t want to think that we ourselves have the same sins as those in Sodom.

  5. Tim, it is certainly true that most people focus on other peoples’ sins rather than their own. The Savior made this clear in the Sermon on the Mount. You could make an argument that every General Conference is about reminding us to concentrate on the areas we can improve rather than pointing fingers at the people around us. At the end of the day, the Gospel is about realizing our own limitations and offering charity to other people who also have limitations. But we are also meant to learn lessons from the mistakes of people around us, and prophets have warned us that the world will try to fool us into thinking evil is good and good is evil. So, all in all, the lessons of Sodom are manifold, as much as some people would like to concentrate on one area or another to the exclusion of the other areas.

  6. When I was a child I heard a story of a hero child who stopped a leak in the dike protecting the country side by putting his finger in the hole. Lately some use the story as an example of futility by mocking the attempt. In the original story others came and relieved the boy and stooped the flood. Everyone who tries to stem the flood will at the very least gain the reward of having made an effort.

  7. Says John C. Wright:

    The devil has only one lie: God is not the source of goodness (says the devil) God is the barrier between you and goodness. To reach goodness, destroy God and toss Him aside.


    The Progressives in their smirking self-righteous piety and grotesque self-imposed ignorance are henchmen of the devil. Some know it, most do not. They stand between a woman and her human nature, her happiness, her children, and they speak the selfsame lie. The source of your happiness is the barrier to happiness. Destroy the source of your happiness, toss happiness aside, and you will be happy.

    Written by John C. Wright, agreeing with David Warren.

  8. A clarification would be helpful.

    Rameumpton, and Ben Spackman,
    Both of you have made comments in the past along the lines of, “God didn’t punish S&G for homosexuality… the real reason was because they were inhospitable…”

    Are you both back-tracking now, and saying that in-hospitality was 1 reason and homosexuality was another?


  9. H-nu, not sure if Ben S reads M*, and I don’t remember those comments from either of them, but it is true that many people like to argue that the sins of Sodom had nothing to do with sexuality, and I don’t find that argument convincing or even reasonable given all of the other scriptures and comments from modern-day prophets out there.

  10. I agree with you Geoff, certainly not intellectually honest, so I’m glad you point out all angles, instead of allowing the “scholars” to dismiss the one that is against their ideology. Recently I remember Ram saying something that could at least be understood in the wrong manner, and Ram’s comment above seems much different than what I remembered earlier, hence the question.

    Ben S. is at least aware of M*… He’ll find it and choose to comment as he wants. Hopefully he doesn’t choose to write a blog post, and close comments, thus silencing the discussing as Julie did.

  11. I remember someone commenting that it was _forcing_ their sexual sin upon others, ie, rape, not just homosexuality among themselves as consenting adults.

  12. I believe that the Lord is patient with people as long as their sins are self-inflicted. However, once they seek to impose those sins on others by force, then they are ripened in iniquity. Sodom and Gomorrah were very wicked due to their sexual (and other) sins. However, it was when they attempted to rape Lot’s visitors and daughters that the cup of God’s wrath overflowed, and they were destroyed.

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