A connection and transit between the Heavens and earth which Jacob (later named Israel) saw in a dream recorded in the Old Covenants: And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder [Heb. cullam, סֻלָּם]1set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven. And behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac (Genesis 9:20). Joseph Smith said, “Paul ascended into the third Heavens and he could understand the three principle rounds of Jacob’s ladder — the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful to utter. I could explain a hundredfold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted and were the people ready to receive them.”2 Joseph also said: “When you climb up a ladder, 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. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”3 The principles of the gospel are not supposed to be comprehended in one bite. Everyone progresses. The ladder that he’s talking about climbing is, in fact, the ladder that is ordered and the one Jacob referred to. But whenever one begins that climb, he begins at the bottom. And so mankind finds themselves here — at the bottom of it. Notwithstanding finding themselves here, there are absolutely, invariably seven rungs on Jacob’s ladder. 4 No one can arrive at the throne of God in any other way than all have taken to arrive there. Everyone develops the same way, through the successive stages of Jacob’s Ladder.5
In the afterlife there are different rungs on Jacob’s ladder where different “Powers” are fixed: Angel, Archangel, Principality, Power, Dominion, Throne, Cherubim, or Seraphim — they may all be called “Powers of Heaven.” These Powers have no desire to control or compel others to rise on Jacob’s ladder. These are developmental stages of growth through which all must pass if they want to ascend nearer to God. Each individual on Jacob’s ladder should be moving toward perfection.6 Of course, some have elected to rebel and descend. But the ladder was ordained as a means for ascent. The great regret for man in the afterlife relates to his refusal to take advantage of the opportunity here to further his ascent.7 What is the first rung on Jacob’s Ladder? It is to have your calling and election made sure through the Holy Spirit of Promise. That is the beginning.8 There are seven stages of development through which God’s children must pass. It is not all to be done in this life. Christ is the prototype of the saved man, and He qualified by passing through these stages of development. When anyone arrives at the end of the journey through the seven rungs of Jacob’s ladder, they will discover that the Mother was present throughout that journey. She is present all along the way through the seven pillars.9 Scripture reveals a more complex afterlife, where ascent to God’s Throne is more than a single step upward after this life.10 Joseph Smith said, “It will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them.”11
4 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 2, “Faith,” 6.
5 “Mosiah 3:10,” June 1, 2012, blog post.
6 Preserving the Restoration, 173.
7 Preserving the Restoration, 173n445.
8 “First Rung,” Nov. 5, 2013, blog post.
9 “Our Divine Parents,” March 25, 2018, 24, paper.
10 Preserving the Restoration, 177.