The number 144,000 appears in scriptures in a number of places. (See D&C 133: 18; 77: 11; Rev. 7: 4-8; 14: 3.) The number is associated with the last days and Christ’s return. Although there are a number of myths associated with the number, the scriptures tell a specific account of these last-days people.
The number is highly symbolic. The account in Revelation makes it clear the number is associated with redeeming the Twelve Tribes of Israel from their scattered condition. When the tribes were located in their original lands in Biblical times, they intermarried. For example, the Ten Tribes of the north had been removed by Assyria 125 years before the Book of Mormon account begins. The Southern Kingdom, or Kingdom of the Jews, was where the opening of the Book of Mormon is set. The descendants of Joseph (Ephriam and Manassah) were among the Northern Kingdom. Lehi’s family were descended from Manassah. (Alma 10: 3.) Today, it is unlikely any individual descended from Israel is a pure descendant.
Therefore, when Rev. 7: 5-8 attributes “twelve thousand” from each of Judah, Reuben, Gad, “Aser,” Nepthalim, “Manasses,” Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph and Benjamin, once again the number is symbolic. The symmetry of the division between each tribe symbolizes the Lord’s intention to treat all Israel alike because He is no respecter of persons. (See D&C 38: 26.)
So if the Lord intends to show respect to all the Tribes of Israel, then the language of Revelation 7: 5-8 demonstrates by numerical symmetry this intent. Does it mean that literally there will be “twelve thousand” from each tribe? Does it mean of those gathered the bloodlines of each tribe will be preserved? If it means the latter, then can one person have mixed blood within them from more than one tribe? Can one person have the blood of all the tribes within them?
In D&C 77: 11, the 144,000 are explained in modern revelation. They are described as follows: “We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel; for they are they who are ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.”
To understand the description it is useful to know what is meant by:
-“those sealed are high priests”
Is this the office in the church?
If not, then are they going to be among the church’s priesthood?
-“ordained unto the holy order of God”
Is this the system in the church?
Will they hold “certificates of ordination” from a stake clerk?
Could it refer to the ordination described in JST Gen. 14: 28-30.
-“ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people”
Is this literal?
Does every “nation” mean the nations of the earth, or the Tribes of Israel?
Does “kindred” refer to all peoples, or those who descend from Israel’s scattered bloodlines?
-“by the angels to whom is given power”
Does this refer to “ordination?”
Do angels have to ordain these chosen ones?
If the angels are to ordain them, will they be known or recognized by the church?
Are these the angels who ordain?
Are these the “high priests” who are ordained?
What power is given?
It is interesting the 144,000 are connected to “power” and to “angels” in this description. What do these things have to do with the end times? Why would there need to be high priests, angels and power connected to these last days events?
Is 144,000 an actual total number? Is it representative? Can one person preserve within them the bloodlines of more than one tribe? Can they also preserve the bloodlines of more than one family within the tribes? Can a much smaller group represent 144,000 family lines and fulfill the Lord’s intent to keep all “twelve sons” equally represented (D&C 38: 26) in the stock of families who begin the family of Israel again at the start of the Millennium. They, like Noah’s small group, will restart the human family. (Luke 17: 26; Matt. 24: 37.)
How many are really needed to fulfill the Lord’s prophecies concerning the 144,000? What does the number really mean?