The Hope of Jacob’s Ladder
Do you remember the story of Jacob’s ladder?
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
Aside from the sleeping on a rock, there is a small message for me hidden in Jacob’s dream. Overall, the Lord’s message is of covenants and promises, but for me there is also an understanding of who I am as a person. Like Jacob, I’ve made covenants with the Lord that will lead me on a path toward heaven. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, the world can be a very hard place and I can be very weak willed at some moments. My human nature makes me imperfect, but the Lord promises me that as long as I stay on the ladder, I’m still headed toward Him. It’s something within my reach, within my capabilities, and it’s personal. It’s a progression and a promise.
The great promise to me is that what Jacob saw was a ladder, not a giant leap, not a rocket, a one-way sign. It was a ladder with angels ascending and descending, each on their own path. No matter where they were, headed up or down, they were all angels. They were all disciples of Jesus Christ doing His will and serving God. I am one of those angels, one of those disciples. Where I belong on that ladder is up to me and my Heavenly Father, where my neighbor belongs is their personal journey. We all have a place, sometimes we’re up, sometimes we’re down. The important part is that we’re still holding on.
“An old proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.
The same principle applies to how you and I can climb to higher spirituality.
Our Heavenly Father knows that we must begin our climb from where we are. ‘When you climb up a ladder,’ the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ‘you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them.’
Our Heavenly Father loves each one of us and understands that this process of climbing higher takes preparation, time, and commitment. He understands that we will make mistakes at times, that we will stumble, that we will become discouraged and perhaps even wish to give up and say to ourselves it is not worth the struggle.
We know it is worth the effort, for the prize, which is eternal life, is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” D&C 14:7
And to qualify, we must take one step after another and keep going to gain the spiritual heights we aspire to reach.
An eternal principle is revealed in holy writ: “It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize.” Mosiah 4:27
We don’t have to be fast; we simply have to be steady and move in the right direction. We have to do the best we can, one step after another.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin, “One Step after Another,” Liahona, Jan 2002, 27–30
When God made covenants with Jacob in that dream, He gave Jacob everything he needed to succeed in His promises. God showed him the ladder, the path and the purpose, then gave him the promises of eternity. He does the same for each of us as we dedicate our lives to Him and make our own covenants. I love the promise this covenant contains.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
Jacob’s ladder gives me hope because it shows me everyone’s path is not the same. It shows me that we each have a purpose to serve as disciples of Jesus Christ. It shows me that as long as I hang on to the ladder and keep asking the Lord to guide my path, up or down, He’ll be with me.