Temple Baptismal Font

oxen
Baptismal Font, Salt Lake City Temple

1 Kings 7 Description of the Baptismal Font in Solomon’s Temple

[25] 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.
[26] 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.
[27] And he made ten bases of brass; four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits the breadth thereof, and three cubits the height of it.
[28] And the work of the bases was on this manner: they had borders, and the borders were between the ledges:
[29] And on the borders that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubims: and upon the ledges there was a base above: and beneath the lions and oxen were certain additions made of thin work.

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Baptismal Font, Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple

The baptismal font in the Mesa Temple is mounted upon twelve oxen. A similar design is used in other LDS Temples.

There are multiple levels of symbolism in this design.

The oxen represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Also, Jesus Christ had twelve apostles.

Furthermore, the oxen represents the tribe of Ephraim, which plays a key role in the restoration of the gospel in the latter-days. (Each of the twelve tribes had a symbol. The ox was the symbol of Ephraim.)

But one ox in the Mesa Temple is unique in that its left horn points backwards and its right horn points forward. Both horns of each of the other eleven oxen point forward.

The accepted explanation is that the unique ox has no particular significance and that its design was only a matter of the sculptor’s whimsy. Perhaps, this is so.

Or perhaps the unique ox repesents the tribe of Judah, with one horn pointed backward to covenant of the Old Testament and the other pointed forward to the covenant of the new testament. The tribe of Judah gave to us our Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ commands us in 2 Nephi 29 to express gratitude to the Jews for their sacrifices in giving us the Holy Bible.

Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple, Further Notes

The Mesa Arizona Temple was built in a style suggestive of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. It lacks the spires and Angel Moroni statue which are common in other temples.

The Temple holds an annual Easter Pageant on the Temple grounds. Twice during the presentation, twelve men enter the stage. Each holds a banner with a symbol of one of the twelve tribes. The Lion is symbol of Judah. The Ox, or bullock, is the symbol of Ephraim.
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Shema

Shema Yisrael is the Jewish daily prayer which comprises Deuteronomy 6:4–9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37–41.

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Jesus Christ himself recited the Shema, as recorded in Mark 12.

[29] And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.

In ancient times, the Kohanim, who were Jewish priests, recited the Shema in Solomon’s temple.

I have offered this prayer in a melodic form when I have been alone in the main baptistry rooms of the Mesa Arizona and the Alabama Birmingham Temples.

I have added a second verse to the Shema prayer, as the Jews sometimes do:

Barukh sheim k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

See also

Why are oxen used in the design of our temples’ baptismal fonts?

by Edward J. Brandt, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Mar. 1993, 54–55

Mesa Temple Wikipedia

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Isaiah 61

[1] The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

1 Corinthians 15

[29] 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 Peter 4

[6] For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Dawn Malek, whose question prompted me to write this webpage.

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– Tom Irvine

Hebrew Book of Mormon Translation

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