In Genesis 12 it can appear that Abraham told a lie in order to save himself as he told Pharaoh that his wife was his sister. Thankfully we have additional information regarding Abraham introducing his wife Sarah ( Sarai ) in the book of Abraham. Before we look at that, it is also important to note that we can see that Abraham was not mistaken in his introduction of his wife as his sister to Pharaoh through a scripture also in Genesis:
In Genesis 14:14 we see Lot, Abraham's nephew referred to as his brother.
" Some scholars have noted that Abraham could validly state that Sarah was his sister because the word brother and sister were used for referencing blood relatives in the Hebrew language. "
( David Ridges , OT Study Guide )
Because Abraham and Haran were brothers and Sarah ( Sarai ) was Haran's daughter - That made Sarah ( Sarai ) both Abraham's niece and wife, thus she was a blood relative.
We learn from Abraham 2: 21-25 that the Lord told Abraham to call his wife his sister in this instance.
Reasoning for this can be seen in these quotes:
" By culture and tradition, the Egyptian Pharaohs at this time in Egypt would never commit adultery with another man's wife. But they did not hesitate to murder a man if they desired his wife. After killing the man, his wife would then be available. Thus, they could marry her and would not be committing adultery. " ( Old Testament Student Manual )
" To kill the husband in order to posses himself of his wife seems to have been a common royal custom in those days. A papyrus tells of a Pharaoh who acting on the advise of one of his princes, sent armed men to fetch a beautiful woman and make way with her husband. Another Pharaoh is promised by his priest on his tombstone that even after death her will kill Palestinian shriek and include their wives in his harem. " ( Kasher, Encyclopedia of Biblical interpretation Vol. 2 pg. 128 )
As we read the following two quotes, perhaps we see how Sarah ( Sarai ) was given her own Abrahamic trial in this instance, which allowed her to gain more faith as she saw the hand of the Lord allowing her return to her husband because of the interventions of God.
“All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation. Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord. If we obtain the glory that Abraham obtained, we must do so by the same means he did. If we are ever prepared to enjoy the society of Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or of their faithful children, and of the faithful Prophets and Apostles, we must pass through the same experience, and gain the knowledge, intelligence, and endowments that will prepare us to enter into the celestial kingdom of our Father and God. . . Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation. . . It is recorded that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. If he was made perfect through suffering, why should we imagine for one moment that we can be prepared to enter into the kingdom of rest with him and the Father, without passing through similar ordeals.”
- Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 345-346
Elder Bruce R. McConkie