Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jacob's Ladder and dreams as reality

My mother teaches Sunday school for the youth in our ward, and she's been teaching them a lot about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lately. She found a fascinating talk on that refers to a fact that I guess I'd known but never really considered very deeply. Mainly, that Jacob, father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, received his temple covenants in a dream.
Image here

The famous dream, called Jacob's Ladder, which is also the premise of the hymn Nearer My God to Thee on page 100 of the 1985 edition of the LDS hymnbook, was a temple experience. 

Examine this excerpt from the talk:

With this blessing fresh in his mind, Jacob left Beersheba on a journey that would ultimately take many years. Perhaps on the first leg of his travels, he pondered the covenants and promises extended to Abraham and his posterity by the Lord. When Jacob reached the place he would later name Bethel, he settled down to spend the night. While he was asleep a marvelous vision was opened to him. [...]
When Jacob arose in the morning, he sanctified the site of his vision with anointing oil and vowed, or covenanted, to live in complete harmony with God’s will. He concluded his affirmation with a promise to tithe all that he would come to possess (see Gen. 28:18–22).
The talk goes on to address six points illuminated by Jacob's dream. Here is the last of those points, emphasis mine:

Sixth—and this point ties the other five points together—Jacob had a templelike experience on the occasion of this vision. 
This phrase is repeated throughout the Ensign article--that Jacob's vision was a templelike experience. The writer goes on to quote Elder Marion G. Romney, and then add some more insight (emphasis mine, again):
Image here
Temples are to us all what Bethel was to Jacob. Even more, they are also the gates to heaven for all of our unendowed kindred dead. We should all do our duty in bringing our loved ones through them.” 2 
Thanks to Elder Romney’s insight, Latter-day Saints can more fully understand that their temple experiences are really the experiences of every Saint in every dispensation. Jacob’s faithfulness was rewarded with an opportunity to make eternal temple covenants. But the great promises and blessings proffered to Jacob in Bethel at that time were conditional rather than absolute. Nowhere does the text say they were sealed or ratified with surety at this point, as is sometimes supposed; Jacob would have a long time to prove his loyalty and secure for himself the unconditional guarantee of all the terms of the covenant. Neither does the text say that Jacob’s dealings with the Lord at that time constituted the ultimate theophany, or revelation of God, which the scriptures promise to the faithful. This would come later, after years of his righteousness. But Jacob undoubtedly came away from Bethel understanding the order of heaven, the possibilities for exaltation, and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant if he proved faithful. So it is with all of us.
The whole article is great, but the main point I wanted to discuss on this blog is the potential reality of dreams. Is this to say that all dreams are somehow prophetic in nature, or that everything we do or say in dreams is somehow true or spiritually binding? I don't think so. But it remains that at least for one man, Jacob, his temple covenants were literally made in a dream, while he was literally asleep.


The obvious implication here is that dreams can be true. True things can happen in dreams.

True things can happen to us when we are not awake.

And these things can affect us permanently. You can make covenants in your dreams. You can change your life in a dream.

Another implication is the importance of sleep. You can't have significant dreams if you aren't sleeping! It is so important for the health of both body and spirit to get enough sleep.

Another thing I like to think about in the context of Jacob's dream is how important faith is. It can be so easy to look back at spiritual experiences, particularly those experienced in a less-than-fully-conscious mental state, and doubt them or not take them seriously. Another person might have experienced a dream like Jacob's and woken up to tell himself it was just a dream. One of the greatest things I have done in my life is decide to always trust: if there's ever a question about whether or not what I experienced was true or "just in my head," I decide to trust that it was true. This has led to some startling spiritual experiences that I never would have ever believed possible a year ago, had they not happened to me.

Lucid Dreaming

What does this mean in the context of lucid dreaming?

Jacob's dream. Image here.
Well, first, I wonder if Jacob's dream would be appropriately labeled as a lucid dream. I do believe it would count as one, it's just that people typically wouldn't call it that because it was spiritual in nature. We would prefer to call it revelation rather than a lucid dream, even though in reality neither term ought to diminish the other. Why can't a person receive revelation in a lucid dream? The dream is just a vehicle for another aspect of reality to present itself.

Maybe I'm just projecting my own beliefs onto this issue--maybe it's just me that feels kind of weird labeling something like Jacob's dream or Lehi's dream as a lucid dream. But that would be how such a dream would be categorized, as far as I can tell.

Are you looking for more spiritual connections in your dreams? Developing your daily awareness will help. I just read a book where it talked about how frequent lucid dreamers will touch every doorframe they pass through and ask themselves, "Am I dreaming?" This practice prepares them to ask that question in their dreams--but just as importantly, it wakes up their conscious waking mind to reality. So much of the day we can spend almost hypnotized, just doing things out of habit or by rote. Ask yourself, "Am I dreaming?" as you go about the day. I did it yesterday. Although I've felt much more aware of my self during the day, generally speaking, the practice did continually bring me back into the moment.

Image here.
I'm not a lucid dreamer, typically--I can't think of a lucid dream I've had, so I'm hardly an expert on this stuff. But dreams are clearly a vehicle for spiritual communication for many people. And it would seem that scriptures and modern prophetic interpretation both agree that the things that happen in dreams can be very real, and have very real effects on the people who experience them. For Jacob, his dream directly related to his eternal salvation.

Perhaps taking up a routine encouraging lucid dreaming can help you in your journey toward enlightenment. Something to consider.


The imaginative state of dreams can be a powerful vehicle for spiritual information--and not just information, but even things so serious and binding as sacred, eternal covenants. Getting enough sleep is crucial to physical health (our bodies are temples!) and spiritual health (can't have spiritual dreams if you don't sleep!). It may be wise to consider dreams as being more than just the venting of a tired mind at the end of the day--perhaps at times they consist of a reality greater than we may suspect.


  1. You're right on point again, Allie. I have had a few life-altering dreams, and most of them were lucid. If you ask the "right" questions in your dreams, you'll often get some stunning answers. I think for some people they're simply more open to receiving spiritual messages in a dream, and so ... that's how they receive those that are ready to be delivered. Maybe it's some sort of universal path-of-least resistance thing going on? I don't know.

    You mentioned in the past that filling your mind with the right messages (e.g., avoiding violent movies) and reading scripture is important. I agree. I'm not a dream expert, but my guess is that clogging the subconscious up with all sorts of negative imagery would make receiving such messages incredibly difficult.

    Since the subconscious mind never sleeps, my opinion is that is must be pretty darn important! :) I try not to get too much sleep, but I've always made sleep a priority.

  2. I just completed my 12th day of kundalini meditation and had my first lucid dream two nights ago. Interesting connection!