I woke up the other morning thinking of Lot’s wife. I didn’t know why. I can’t say I ever thought much about her before, but this morning she loomed large in my mind. She became a very important Biblical character.
I could almost see her. She probably lived a sumptuous life in Sodom. Her clothing was soft and luxurious. Her table was laden with the good things of the earth. Her home was large and beautifully decorated. She had status in her community and people looked up to her. She was also aware that things in Sodom were not right. She knew the people of the city were filled with wickedness, but she tolerated all of it because she loved the life she lived and she was loathe to give it up.
Then came that fateful morning when angels awoke her husband and commanded that he hurry and take his family and flee the city. She knew that day would come; she just thought it would be a long way off. Warned earlier, her husband, Lot, had been sent to warn his sons in law which married his daughters that they too should prepare to leave the city before the Lord destroyed it. They had only laughed. So, when morning arose, Lot’s wife left with her husband and two daughters lest they be consumed with the iniquity of the city. Lot lingered once along the way, but the angels firmly took hold of his hand and also the hand of his wife and daughters and they hustled them out warning them not to look back. Fire and brimstone commenced to rain down. Somewhere in all the excitement, Lot’s wife could contain herself no longer; she just had to get one glimpse. She looked back. She did not survive.
Becoming free from an obsession over material possessions and not looking back is a common theme among our Savior’s teachings. When the Rich Young Ruler told Jesus that he wished to become His disciple, our Lord admonished him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and follow Him. (Matt 19:21) The rich young man turned away for he had many possessions. The Savior told another such potential disciple that “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 62) And when the Pharisees demanded of Him to know when the kingdom of God should come, he replied: “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives …until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17: 26-32)
We have been no less admonished in our present day. Consider the words of Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “In descending order of intensity, materialism may be an obsession, a preoccupation, or merely a strong interest. Whatever its degree, an interest becomes materialism when it is intense enough to override priorities that should be paramount. . . . We have all seen examples of this pattern of stunted growth. After the precious seed (the message of the gospel) has begun to grow in the lives of some persons, they are diverted by their attention to the things of the world, and their spiritual fruits are choked out by the deceitfulness of riches’. . . .The deceitfulness of riches can choke out the fruits of the gospel in many ways. A person who covets the wealth of another will suffer spiritually. . . . When we place our trust in our property, we have carnal security.’ In that state of mind we are inclined to say that all must be well with us and with Zion because we are prospering, thus relying on worldly success as a mark of divine favor. He who does this is an easy mark for being led carefully down to hell.
‘ (Dallin H. Oaks, Pure in Heart, Chapter Five (1988))
In 1952, Elder John A. Widtsoe lamented the materialism which had been rampant in his youth. Said he, “More than sixty years ago when I was a young college student, I found myself under the tuition of men who were great in their respective fields but who held the belief that everything in nature could be explained through a knowledge of matter, forces, and energy. . . . These men, excellent in their professions, had given up man’s age-old belief that the universe and all in it are overshadowed by a greater power whom we call God. They no longer had faith in God. To them there was no God. This represented a period in our history when materialism ruled the minds of many learned men. It was not a happy period for it left existence without any purpose or plan. . . . In my own case, when materialism began to cover my student days, the sun seemed to grow dark, and only after I returned to my faith in God, did life become worthwhile again.” (John A. Widtsoe, Has Materialism Failed? Improvement Era 1952)
There is probably no stronger warning about materialism than that given by Mormon in the book bearing his name, Mormon 8:15-37: “Behold I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not, But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities . . .yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.”
All these things are what came into my mind that morning when I awoke thinking of Lot’s wife. I had been contemplating the sadness I was seeing in the world. There was great unrest in the streets of many of the major cities of our world, particularly in those where there was economic chaos. I was thinking about my own children. I was thinking of their distress over employment and their worries over money. I could envision Lot’s wife, looking back with longing over all her lost riches while, all the while, the Savior was standing just ahead of her, perhaps even beckoning to her if only she had spiritual eyes to see Him. I could feel His sadness that morning as He mourned the passing of Lot’s wife because of her longing for the “stuff” she was leaving behind. Suddenly, I could see the wisdom of God and I bowed my head and thanked Him for the lessons of lean economic times. I realized that there are always bright and wonderful things ahead when we abandon our love of stuff and turn to a love of Him.
While we serve here in England on our mission, we have learned even more to value simple things. Living without many of the things of the world, gives us added perspective. I’ve listened to the conversations of our missionaries and felt their happiness even when there are no material possessions. My husband and I have found that when there is no television, video games, and internet, we talk more. When there is no air-conditioning, we open the windows to the song of birds. When we don’t have a car to drive, we walk down the streets and rub shoulders with wonderful people. We don’t worry nearly so much anymore and we see so many miracles each day. It is liberating to willingly turn our back to the world, and see the Savior ahead. This gives us purpose, understanding, hidden treasures of knowledge, and happiness beyond belief.
Some months before we left for our mission, we found among one of our son’s school papers, an essay. We were astonished at the maturity of his words, written at a very young age. It read: “Money can cause some problems with your life management. Sometimes people need to manage their life and use it to bring happiness . . . Money brings only temporary joy, but you need some to be happy. . . . Once someone has obtained affluence they begin to look for more in their life.
They begin to look for something that puts a purpose back into life and gives them a fulfilled feeling.”
We all have that purpose. Can we see Him standing ahead? Don’t mourn our lost pension, or our shrinking IRA, or the big house we used to own. Don’t look back! Remember Lot’s wife.