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TOM - I'm revisiting the building of Solomons Temple. In 1 Kings 7:23-26, it speaks of a font and gives a description of it...a description which matches the way our fonts look in our temples today. My questions is...what did they use the font for in their day? Was it to simply wash/baptize the priests? Were they immersed? Did they do baptisms for the dead before the birth of Christ? ETC.

JOEL - The Old Testament explains the basin or "molten sea" described in the building of Solomon's temple.

"And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast.
It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.
And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths. (1 Kings 7:23-26)

The "molten sea," a huge bronze basin at least fifteen feet in diameter, was supported by twelve large bulls or oxen, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, each three facing one of the four cardinal points of the compass. The bronze basin or font has been calculated to have a possible capacity of sixteen thousand gallons. The basin was probably not used for baptisms as we know them today, however Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:

"It must be remembered that all direct and plain references to baptism have been deleted from the Old Testament (1 Ne. 13) and that the word baptize is of Greek origin. Some equivalent word, such as wash, would have been used by the Hebrew peoples. In describing the molten sea the Old Testament record says, "The sea was for the priests to wash in." (2 Chron. 4:2-6.) This is tantamount to saying that the priests performed baptisms in it. In this temple building dispensation the Brethren have been led by the spirit of inspiration to pattern the baptismal fonts placed in temples after the one in Solomon's Temple."(Mormon Doctrine 104)

The heading of 1 Kings 7 of the LDS scriptures states:
"Solomon builds himself a house—Hiram of Tyre makes the two pillars, the molten sea, the ten bases, the ten lavers, and all the vessels for the temple—The molten sea (baptismal font) rests on the backs of twelve oxen." (1 Kings 7 )

The heading probably reflects the statement made by Elder McConkie. With so large a basin one would think that some sort of immersion ritual was taking place in it.

However, Josephus says it was used for washing only the hands and feet:
"Now, he [Solomon] appointed the sea to be for washing the hands and the feet of the priests when they entered into the temple and were to ascend the altar;" (Antiquities of the Jews Book 8 Chapter 3)

I know of no other reference that specifically describes what we call baptisms for the living or dead being performed in these basins. Nor is there anything else from church sources about the details of how they were used for "washing".

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