Joseph’s Ladder –
In most orthodox Christian churches salvation is basically like throwing a light switch. If you believe, you’re saved.
Not so in the LDS church. For us, salvation can best be compared to a ladder. Everybody starts at the bottom, and you have to climb your way from being a spirit to being a God. Some people make it further than others. It’s recognized that most people will not make it all the way to the top. General Authorities of the past have told us that most people will be “terrestrial”, and thus not qualify for Godhood.
Even God himself started at the bottom, as a man on another planet. Through his worthiness and intelligence he climbed the ladder. General Authorities have indicated that even Jesus had to prove his worthiness. Yes, Jesus. The Son of God and member of the Godhead. Even he had to face some entity with a clipboard and a checklist who would decide whether or not he was good enough to take upon him the sins of the world.
What is the psychological impact of “the ladder” on the members of the church? I can’t speak for all of them, but for my family it has been tough. During her teenage years my daughter held our family up to the “ideal” families in the ward and pronounced us as strictly second-rate. My son just turned 18, without either his eagle scout award or his Duty to God award. He will be forever a second-class citizen in the church, and will have to listen to others extol the virtues of the “eagle” for the rest of his life, and know that he didn’t make it. He is fully active in seminary, but only fifty-fifty on Sundays, because he has trouble getting to sleep. He goes to seminary most mornings running on a few hours of sleep and ends up sleeping until noon most Saturdays to make up. He just has trouble getting up on Sundays for 9am church. Accordingly he misses many of the activity announcements, and when his priest’s quorum 1st assistant was asked to help him stay informed, he replied, “he should have been in church on Sunday”. So possibly salvation is only reserved for those able to get up for 9am church. More than any of us, I hurt for him, because he is just not one of these quiet focused people who get to climb the ladder and are rewarded with status in the Kingdom.
As a convert I didn’t serve a mission, didn’t go to seminary, and thus didn’t get the early imprinting of gospel knowledge others did. Accordingly I’m the 2d oldest person in the Elders Quorum, watching the guys younger than me being called into bishoprics and to the high council. Not really callings I want, but I’m conscious of being left on a lower rung of the ladder compared to those with the “high” priesthood.
After 22 years of this I’m tired of the ladder, of being told by my own child that our family isn’t good enough, of the implications that my son is a second class citizen because of his lack of full participation in a non-church program, of having to put up with being basically graded on my worthiness by my quorum membership. We talk about the church somehow being “restored”, but somehow I don’t remember Jesus establishing criteria for perfect families, establishing graded priesthoods, or establishing some kind of awards program for young men. What I remember Jesus saying was, “by this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another”. Not whether you got your eagle scout rank, had family home evening and passed the daily prayer checklist, or managed to get promoted to the right priesthood quorum. We are to be evaluated by our love for others.
Whose ladder is this anyway?