The crucial doctrine of Jacob’s ladder

One way to picture the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life is to view it as a ladder that goes from the earth all the way up to heaven. This was how it was shown to Jacob in vision. It is a very long ladder. There are three portions of that ladder, the highest portion is celestial, the middle portion terrestrial, and the lowest portion is telestial.

When we have faith, repent, and are baptized, we have placed our feet on the bottom rung of that ladder. We are then starting to learn to live by the laws of a glorified telestial kingdom, and consequently, we begin to gain the spiritual blessings available in a glorified telestial kingdom.

Now, that rubs most people the wrong way. It is perfectly correct, but we want to hear that when we were baptized we were ready for the celestial kingdom. After all, the telestial kingdom is for wicked people.

Yes, after the wicked repent and bow the knee, accepting Christ as their king, they will be resurrected with a telestial body and obtain a telestial kingdom for eternity. But it is called a “kingdom” because nobody enters it without accepting Christ as their king by covenant.

As members of the true church, God wants us to learn every law of his kingdom and obtain every blessing offered in it. But we must begin at the bottom. The bottom, the least and simplest laws of his kingdom, are the telestial law.

At baptism we begin to partake of the same blessings available in a glorified telestial kingdom. And what is available to those in a glorified telestial kingdom? Why principally, the gift of the Holy Ghost.

D&C 76:86 These [the telestial] are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial.

88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.

Note that both these verses are about how those in the telestial kingdom learn to receive the Holy Ghost. When those people enter the telestial kingdom, they are given the same command that we are given when we entered the kingdom of God through baptism: “Receive the Holy Ghost”. The Holy Ghost is the great gift available in a glorified telestial kingdom, and it is the great gift given to us after baptism.

When we enter the kingdom of God and begin to learn his laws, we start at the bottom, because that is all we are prepared to handle when we first step in. We are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, but we have a long way to travel as we learn to “receive the Holy Ghost” in truth. We must enter the kingdom of God on the lowest rung. We can tell whether we are climbing from one rung to the next by whether we are beginning to receive the Holy Ghost more and more potently in our life, just as those in the telestial kingdom will need to.

Now let us assume that we climb this ladder from earth to heaven to the point where we reach the terrestrial portion of the ladder. This is the point that is depicted in Lehi’s dream as reaching the tree of life. If we get to that point in mortality, there will be a marked change in what we need to be about, and much greater joy, just as there was in Lehi’s dream. We will begin to learn a terrestrial law and begin to obtain the spiritual blessings available in a glorified terrestrial kingdom.

D&C 76:77 These [the terrestrial] are they who receive of the presence of the Son, but not of the fulness of the Father.

As the scripture states, those in a terrestrial kingdom can receive the ministrations of the celestial, including personal instruction from the Son himself. However, they cannot live in the presence of God. We must learn to live a terrestrial law and gain the blessings found in a terrestrial kingdom before we can move on.

We can think of any number of people in the scriptures who received direction from angels, or who the Lord directed by his own voice, or who the Lord even brought into his presence to teach. These were people who had progressed to points on the terrestrial portion of the ladder.

We need to progress from living a telestial to a terrestrial law. From the scriptures the principle law in the terrestrial kingdom is clearly “what the Lord says to you by vision, or by his own voice, or by his own presence, that thou shalt do”. Hardly enough emphasis can be placed on that final phrase “that thou shalt do”.

Think of the examples of such people in the scriptures.

Some were taught by angels, by the Lords voice, and some even enjoyed his presence. They were blessed with great joy. But the law “what the Lord says by vision or by his own voice, that thou shalt do” is a very serious matter. Jonah could hear the voice of the Lord. He disobeyed and the Lord was not satisfied to have him cast overboard, but also caused a great fish to swallow him, where he stayed for two days. Miriam could hear the voice of the Lord, as could Aaron. The Lord smote Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses. Could we endure Miram’s punishment for speaking against a Moses? Could we endure Jonah’s punishment for disobedience? No. We are not ready for a terrestrial law yet.

Think about it. When you or I disobey what happens to us? Mostly, not much. We aren’t disobeying visions, or disobeying the Lord’s own voice speaking to us. We lack both the magnitude of light that conveys, as well as the depth of obligation it carries.

Moses smote the rock with a staff instead of speaking to it as the Lord commanded, and was not allowed to enter the promised land. If we were in Moses’ shoes, after all we had done, could we endure such a punishment for disobedience? No. We know that even though Melchizedek quenched the violence of fire and stopped the mouth of lions while a child through his faith, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered. We know that Zacharias didn’t believe an angel, and was dumb until the birth of his son, John. Could we endure that for simply disbelieving? No. We are not ready for a terrestrial law.

We are not ready for the intense joy and light of a terrestrial law for several reasons:

Firstly) We are not ready because we have not learned to be steady enough in our commitment to endure such punishment if we were to disobey something commanded by God himself in person or by vision.

Secondly) We are also not ready because we have not proven our strict obedience enough for God to have the needed confidence in our obedience in the first place.

Thirdly) Joseph Smith explained: “The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them. We do not keep our own secrets, … then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep a secret till Doomsday”. Joseph Fielding McConkie summarizes this with the quip “God does not reveal himself to blabbermouths”.

Joseph Smith asked the same question three times through the Urim and Thummim. What did he suffer? Notice there was no direct disobedience on Joseph’s part, he merely asked three times. But still he suffered great agony and uncertainty in spirit as the Lord took the Utim and Thummim from him for a time. Are we ready for that ourselves? No. We are not ready for a terrestrial law.

Adam and Eve lived a terrestrial law, for the Father and the Son could come and teach them from time to time. And what happened when they disobeyed a command God gave them by his own voice? The effects were tremendous.

Now this doctrine is all through the scriptures. God wants us to gain all the blessings of his kingdom and to obey the full law of his kingdom, but we have to start at the beginning. We are not ready for it all at once.

Now this is crucial doctrine because we all have the wrong idea. I think most members of the church have a sort of feeling that if they could be as good as their bishop, or their stake president, or some good member they know and admire personally, then that is all the Lord could want from them spiritually. I think we tacitly believe Zion is a place where everyone learns to live like some good member or other we know in our stake.

Ugh.

No.

That isn’t it at all.

The Lord wants us to live up to a terrestrial law. When we see and understand what that means we plainly see we aren’t there yet. We aren’t even close. But we MUST be striving toward that. We aren’t here to merely live a telestial law. We are here on probation to see what we will do. The Lord wants us to prove we are willing to serve him at all hazards, and that we will keep his manifestations strictly to ourselves. The Lord wants us to live up to a terrestrial law.

And THAT is what makes this doctrine crucial to understand.

This doctrine is crucial to help us move along the way we need to, instead of thinking we can coast into exaltation. It shows us that we are truly required to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. It is beautiful doctrine, and manifests itself all through the scriptures.

For example, we read these verses, but without understanding the doctrine we don’t realize that the way things work in the kingdom of God in the resurrection is the way they work here.

D&C 76:86 These [the telestrial] are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;
87 And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.

What do we have here in mortality? Why we, who are learning the telestial law, are in need of learning from those who God could teach by the mouth of angels, or by his own voice, or in person. We need to feast daily on the scriptures to learn from such men. Thus here in mortality we see that we, who are learning the telestrial law are being ministered to by those who have come up to a terrestrial law. And those who have come up to a terrestrial law are being ministered to by those who have come up to a celestial law. It is the same principle here in mortality as in the resurrection.

In fact, in Jacob’s vision of the ladder he saw angels going up and down. They go down to minister to those beneath them, and doing so exalts themselves to a higher point. The terrestrial are glorified by ministering to the telestial. The celestial are glorified by ministering to the terrestrial. We progress upward by bringing those beneath us up to our level. As we gather sheaves, our dead, and our family we save our own soul.

Lehi’s dream depicts our situation, though it mostly leaves off at the transition from a telestial to a terrestrial law, simply hinting that there is a significant change that brings great joy, and that we are back at the tree of life, i.e. back in a terrestrial eden of sorts. It mostly just lets us know that if we reach the terrestrial portion it will be crucial that we fall down and feast on the joy available there because those who do not may wander away from the tree.

The temple goes further and fleshes out the story significantly. It shows Adam and Eve struggle through the telestial portion, but then further follows their progression through the terrestrial portion to the point where they have not only learned by angels who prepare them to behold of God’s glory, and have come up to the general assembly and the church of the first born, but they have learned to hear the Lord’s own voice teaching them, and preparing them to come into his presence. Just as Lehi’s dream essentially leaves off from telling us more at the transition from telestial to terrestrial (when they arrive at the tree), so the temple leaves off telling us more at the point where we can begin to learn in God’s own presence. That is fitting, because the temple presents the problem of being cast out of God’s presence, and lays out the path to follow to return to his presence during our mortal probationary time. The temple’s use of the words telestial, terrestrial, and celestial in laying out our mortal progression is quite intentional. We make real covenants in the temple, but they are also types and shadows of more serious covenants yet to come.

We are required to build Zion. Can we read the verse and finally understand it for the first time?

D&C 105:5 And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.

We are required to build Zion. Zion is not built on telestial law, or even terrestrial law.

Zion can only be built on celestial law.

Adam and Eve lived a terrestrial law in Eden. They could enjoy the presence of God to teach them from time to time. But they were not prepared to live in his presence. Just as we, who are living a telestial law, can plainly see we are not yet ready for a terrestrial law, so also those who are living a terrestrial law, can plainly see they are not yet ready for a celestial law. But they press forward to come up to a celestial law so they can enjoy the fulness of the Father and gain eternal life.

Christ said of Zion “Behold, mine abode forever”. Christ came and lived with the people of Zion. In reality, I severely understated when I said that the Lord wants us to learn to live a terrestrial law. To build Zion we must come up past a terrestrial law to a celestial law. That is why D&C 84 warns that not a single one of the saints was ready for the return of Zion.

If all we want in the end is the blessings of a telestial kingdom, I suppose then it doesn’t matter if we are satisfied with its blessings here in mortality. But our Father in heaven wants more for us.

If it is eternal life we are after, we must press forward toward being worthy of living a terrestrial law and gaining its blessings. We can gauge our progress by whether we are enjoying the Holy Ghost more potently in our lives over time, as that is the measure of how well we are keeping the command to “receive the Holy Ghost”. These days, we have cut him down to a trickle by filling our lives with media that offends him as well as by fostering men in their wickedness rather than warning them of their dire state. We cannot have the spirit in the homes of members today without requiring the same strict decency that was required even in the homes of nonmembers before the 1960s. If we will stop choking off the Holy Ghost by rationalizing indecency, then there is great power to be found in the three great spiritual powerhouses that bring the Holy Ghost into our lives like nothing else: missionary work, saving our dead, and saving our family.

 

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Two she bears / oil that doesn’t waste / unto the least of these my brethren

It is maybe more interesting to pair these two stories together than to quote them separately, as they seem to represent two different sides of what might be the same principle.

2 Kings 2:23 And he went up from thence unto Beth-el: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Now take that story and combine what you find there with this story.

1 Kings 17:12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.
16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

And finally, compare both of these stories to these words of the Savior, which combines the principles of the two stories in one.

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

And it should be noted that when Christ says “the least of these my brethren” he does not mean “the least person on the earth”. He means the least of those who he has embraced to be his brethren. How are they his brethren unless they are the sons of God, and his seed as Abinidi the prophet spoke of?

Whosoever shall seek his life

Christ said that whosoever shall seek his life shall loose it, but that whosoever would lose their life for his sake would find it.

We must learn to value our obedience to him above anything and everything that this life has to offer us, for God made a covenant with Enoch that the Sons of God would be tried as by fire (JST Gen 14). If we will prove that this world is nothing to us compared our obedience to him, then we may expect to receive a better world instead of this one hereafter.

Job’s friends

Why did Job’s friends say such horrible things of one whom God himself called a perfect man?

Job just speaks the plain truth. He is not trying to appeal to anybody’s traditions. He just says things as they are. He speaks by the Holy Ghost, speaking of his tribulations with perfect accurateness but with perfect submissiveness. His descriptions of what God has done to him, or may choose to do people are not accusations. Rather, Job is completely willing to submit to them. Job has come to the state that an Angel spake of in Mosiah 3:19. Job is willing to “submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Job can state what the Father has done to him without the least accusation in his heart, but rather simply as a plain stated fact of what he is submitting to.

And here is the crux.

Job’s friends weight Job’s words by their traditions of what it means to be spiritual. They are not listening by the power of the Holy Ghost. If they were, that spirit would have softened their hearts to his words, for his words were spoken by the Holy Ghost. But his friends would not receive them by the same spirit, and judged him by the traditions of men.

Job’s friends, like the adversary who accuses Job to God, are accusers of him. And like the adversary, they are put to shame before hundreds of millions. Their shame is had in rememberance wherever the gospel is preached because they became accusers of Job, who God himself called a perfect man.

Honors

I am not a person who is regarded by anyone in particular.

But it is a high honor when my small child brings their toys to me as the person they want to play with.

Satan rebelled against the Father as the husbandman

We misunderstand the plan of the adversary in the pre-existence.

Take these words of the Savior:

John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every
branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more
fruit.

If you look at those words carefully, and believe them, then Christ is
saying that his Father takes away every branch that beareth not fruit.
The Father apparently requires Christ to cast off every one that
beareth not fruit. At least, that is what Christ, himself, says about
it.

Now pair that with these verses, as I think they are closely related.

Moses 4:1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan,
whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the
same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying –
Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all
mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it;
wherefore give me thine honor.

When we read these words of the adversary, we think that the adversary
is proclaiming that he will do the Father a great favor, and in return
he wants the Father’s glory. When we read Lucifer’s statement “I will
redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost”, we think he is
offering a great enticement to the Father, that he hopes will win the
father to his plan.

But that isn’t what is going on at all.

Christ said that he is the vine we need to be attached to in order to
have life, but that his father is the husbandman who will take away
any branch in him that does not bear fruit.

When Lucifer said “I will redeem all mankind that one soul shall not
be lost” Lucifer is proposing that he deny the father the right to be
the husbandman. He is proposing that the Father will not have his
right to require that “every branch that beareth not fruit, he taketh
away”. He is rebelling against the father when he says that he will
save all men.

Lucifer’s desire for the Father’s honor is related to his desire to
supplant the Father’s role as the husbandman who will take away any
branch that doesn’t bear fruit. Lucifer has become an accuser of the
brethren, and an accuser of God himself. Lucifer is rebelling against
the Father’s requirement that all those who will not bring forth good
fruit must be taken away. He is rebelling against the Father’s right
as the husbandman to lay the ax to the root of every tree, and to burn
down every tree that will not bring forth good fruit.

Lucifer is not offering an enticement, coupled with rebellion. The
statement that we think is an enticement is actually Lucifer is
rebelling against the Father’s role as husbandman.

We see this spirit very much alive in the church today. We see it
overcoming the church. We have many who want to deny the Father’s
requirements. They want to give temple ordinances to those who are not
worthy of temple ordinances, and the sacrament to those who are not
worthy of the sacrament, and the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who
are not worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost. They want to deny the
Father his role as the husbandman, who takes away every branch that
will not bear fruit. We send boys on missions and to the temple who
are addicted to pornography. Last week at church one high priest
stated that since the sacrament was a renewal of our baptismal
covenants, then he didn’t know of any sin that should keep us from
taking the sacrament. We have a plague of pornography in the church,
but everybody is still taking the sacrament. I remember in North Salt
Lake there was one guy who would not take it when I passed it. But
everyone else would. He was the wiser one, because we hear that around
20% of the members are addicted to pornography, but everyone takes the
sacrament. Last week, another high priest said that if we waited to
become worthy to go to the temple, we would never go, and so we should
go to the temple in order to become worthy.

The perversion of homosexuality is becoming an obsession in the
church. We fail to obey God’s requirements of who should be cut off
from the church, and think we are being more Christlike for doing so.
But that is not the spirit of Christ. Christ did not deny the Father
his right as the husbandman. Christ warned us that if we denied the
Father this right, then we would not enter into heaven.

Matthew 18:7 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut it off
and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee to enter into life
halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast
into everlasting fire.
8 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee:
it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than
having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
9 And a man’s hand is his friend, and his foot, also; and a man’s eye
are they of his own household.

Those who take the spirit of the adversary, calling it mercy to deny
the Father his rights, become accusers of the brethren, and they will
be cut off in time. Because they will not cut off their hand, as
Lucifer would not, they have taken the same spirit as the adversary,
and thus they will join him in hell instead of joining the Father in
heaven.

This spirit is altogether overwhelming the church these days. We call
it mercy, but it is the plan of the adversary that caused Lucifer to
fall. Those who embrace this plan, claiming they are Christlike cannot
tolerate Christ as he really is, and rebel against him. Those who
pursue it soon hate those who are actually striving to be the humble
follower of Jesus Christ.

Heaven is not an attitude

I recently found myself in a discussion where someone was claiming that even though a modern author’s characters are not moral, that author likes to use, as a central theme, Joseph Smith’s teaching that if the Mormons were sent to hell they would cast the devil out of doors and make a heaven out of it. He said this as a defense of the author as being a good Mormon, even though his characters are not always moral, and the author sometimes include seductive bits in his books.

Oh, the stupidity of us.

We have been overcome with the ideas of men.

Joseph Smith knew that the saints would have no power to cast the devils out of doors if they were immoral. It is obedience to the commandments of God, and especially, most particularly, strict obedience to the sacred matters of chastity that allow men to be called saints in the first place.

How could anybody cast the devils out of doors while being subject to them? Joseph Smith knew he had power over devils, and he cast them out no differently than ancient apostles did. He could indeed cast the devils out of doors. It was no false bluff. It was plain reality that he could do so.

But what of us? What power have we? We think that the rights of the priesthood can be controlled or handled on some principle other than the principles of righteousness. We don’t realize that because the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, that consequently, we only have can enjoy the rights of the priesthood when we ourselves are righteous.

Heaven is NOT an attitude. We cannot just make a heaven by adopting an attitude.

D&C 29:40 Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.

Can any man “cast the devil out of doors” while being “subject to the will of the devil”? No. And how do men become subject to the will of the devil? Just as with Adam, it was because “he yielded to temptation”.

I am sick of the false messages of false hope among us that preach that we can become the citizens of heaven other than on the terms of heaven. The terms of heaven are strict obedience. Chastity is the great law of the body, and we cannot hope to bring our body into heaven, nor our soul, unless our soul subjects our body to the great law of heaven, which is the law of strict decency in all things related to chastity.

Cast the devil out of doors without strict decency? You may as well try and cast out an ant colony while pouring syrup across your carpets. You have invited them to come dine and they will not refuse the invitation. In fact, when we will not abide strict decency, we have not just invited the devil to come in, we have yielded to temptation, and thus we become subject to the will of the devil.

Can we cast him out while subjecting ourselves to him?

Ridiculous. Pure garbage typical of the ideas of a corrupt nation and a largely corrupted membership. Oh, that we would be men like President Neilson, and search the scriptures for our truths. Oh that we would be decent ourselves, and then the scales of darkness would fall from our eyes.

Why would we care about the right to commune with the church of the firstborn?

Why would we care that the Melchizedek priesthood holds the right to commune with the members of the church of the firstborn?

Incidentally, it is clear from that verse that the church of the firstborn, as referred to here, does NOT just mean the members of the church. It is ridiculous to say otherwise. Do we think one needs the melchizedek priesthood to have the right to commune with the regular church members?

But back to my main point. One might as well ask why a nonmember would want to commune with missionaries from the church. He would want to commune with members of the church so that they could bring him into the true church, teaching him what was required and then making him a member if we will conform his life to it.

Likewise, we would be interested in communing with the church of the firstborn so that we could learn what is expected of them, and so that they could teach us and we could come up to their standard of knowledge and living, and eventually invite us to become a member ourselves.

In short, how could we ever become part of the church of the firstborn unless we were taught what was expected of them? And who could teach us that except those who belong to it?