January 13, 2016

The Baptistry in Mormon Temples

One of the most unique rooms found in modern temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the baptistry. The room includes a large baptismal font placed on the back of twelve oxen used for baptisms for the dead. The font is patterned after the "molten sea" or laver that was found in the ancient temple of Solomon (see 1 Kings 7:23-26), the water in the laver being used for various washing rituals. Oxen in the scriptures "are established types for Israel and represent power, patience, and sacrifice, as well as Christ or deity." [1] Solomon's temple, and many modern LDS temples have the twelve oxen facing in the four cardinal directions. This represents "the twelve tribes of Israel, who were scattered to the four corners of the earth—and who must be gathered from the four corners of the earth through the ordinance of baptism." [2] In addition, most temple baptismal fonts are either below ground, or on the lowest floor to represent the grave, baptism representing death, burial and the resurrection.

When teaching about the resurrection to the Corinthians, Paul used the practice of baptisms for the dead as evidence of the resurrection stating: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:29).

When teaching Nicodemus, Jesus taught "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Jesus taught that all must be baptized to enter heaven, the problem is that there are millions of God's children who never have even heard the name of Jesus, yet alone had the opportunity to be baptized. According to many churches, these people will be condemned for the eternities because of something that is completely out of their control, that of learning about and accepting Christ through baptism.

We believe that God is a merciful God. Because he loves all of his children, he created a plan for those who never have had the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ and be baptized in this life. Those who die before hearing the gospel will have the chance to hear about Christ after they have died. These children of God will then have the chance to accept or reject the message of the Savior, and then those on the earth can be baptized for and in behalf of them in temples of the Lord. The baptism is only valid if the deceased person accepts the ordinance. The act of baptism for the dead is an act of compassion, not a way to force someone to believe. It is God's way of allowing all to be baptized and to receive the blessings of the gospel, even if they have never had the opportunity in this life.

[1] The Lost Language of Symbolism, by Alonzo L. Gaskill, page 257 (see Oxen)
[2] The Lost Language of Symbolism, page 134 (see Twelve)

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