Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Dotting the Earth with … Baptismal Fonts
 


Dotting the Earth with … Baptismal Fonts

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 12, 2009

In a day when new temples are being announced by the handful, it’s easy to forget how far we have come in making priesthood ordinances available, convenient, and even non-life threatening.

For the first hundred or more years of the Church’s history, baptisms were performed out of doors, in natural bodies of water: Joseph Smith was baptized in the Susquehanna River. Old residents of Marysvale, Utah, have pointed out to me the spot on the banks of the Sevier River where the bishop would periodically round up all the 9- and 10-year-olds in town who hadn’t yet been baptized to conduct a massive catch-up round. The elders who baptized Tsune Nachie were pleased by the privacy of the day – “[we] were not disturbed or looked at during the service” – while the 1901 New Jersey baptism of a popular Christian missionary convert was followed at a distance by a crowd of newspaper reporters who expressed surprise that polygamy was not discussed during the service.

Sometimes the outdoor services are described as idyllic: a 1939 service at Hemet, California, took place in “a beautiful pool, surrounded by orange and walnut trees.” The reminiscence of a former Idaho farm girl indicates that children in her stake often came to her father for baptism if their birthdays fell during the winter months, because they had a hot spring on their property. Perhaps you have known people as I have who have been baptized in the Israel’s River Jordan, or in some South Seas lagoon.

And then there are the missionary stories of converts of great faith, whose baptisms could only take place after the ice was cleared from the surface of some pond. … brrrr!

Sometime in the late 19th century, in the Mormon Corridor at least, indoor fonts became a feature of some LDS chapels, solving much of the problem of wintertime baptisms (the fonts may have been indoors, but the water wasn’t necessarily heated). Existing chapels, though, were not retrofitted. Even in Salt Lake City few ward chapels had their own fonts; most Salt Lake children went to the Tabernacle for baptism, because a basement had been dug under the building and a font installed there. (My father and brother were baptized in the Tabernacle font in 1964. But alas, that font is no more. In the Tabernacle remodeling of a few years ago, the font was removed, and the basement space converted to the use of the Tabernacle Choir.)

In 1902, President Joseph F. Smith addressed both the need for children to be baptized according to the Lord’s timetable in Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-27 (“And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old …”) and the state of facilities for performing those baptisms. He wrote:

… Sunday School authorities have … been asked to urge upon the children the necessity of baptism as soon as possible after they reach the age of accountability; and in order that the children may feel the importance of baptism as soon ask they are entitled to it, instruction is given both in a general way to the school and also in the classes.

Parents are to be commended who take proper measures to prepare their children for baptism on their eighth birthday, or as soon thereafter as possible. There has grown up, however, much carelessness among the Saints in regard to the baptism of their children, who often do not receive this ordinance for six months or a year after they are entitled to it. Children may very naturally ask, therefore, if it may be postponed indifferently for two months, why may it not also be postponed six or even twelve months. …

The subject of baptism should be discussed in the homes that children may look forward to it in the spirit and feeling of satisfaction and duty. The ordinance is a most important event in the child’s life, and if the child is made to feel that importance, the ordinance will have a greater effect and the solemnity of the occasion will be impressed upon the youthful mind.

The most common reason for postponing the ordinance of baptism is the inclemency of the weather during the winter season. There are perhaps not more than three or four months of the year when the temperature of the water in our streams makes the ordinance comfortable. Conditions, however, are changing so rapidly that baptismal fonts can be constructed without very great expense, and they are much to be preferred, even during the summer season, over the common practice of baptizing in the open streams. It is to be hoped that the day is not far distant when every town of any considerable size will have its baptismal font, and where there are small towns within a distance of from six to ten miles, a font might be very properly located at a central place for the accommodation of all. Proper dressing rooms can be arranged and conveniences may be had for the performance of the ordinance. Various devices may be arranged for the heating of water and the general comfort of the children who receive the ordinance and of the parents whose duty it is to give it their personal attention. If baptismal fonts were generally provided throughout the settlements of the Church, a day could be set apart each month for the baptism of children.

The Saints are earnestly advised to give this matter their attention, and it is to be hoped that the authorities in every stake will realize the growing necessity of baptismal fonts and construct them at their earliest possible convenience.

What are your experiences with exotic, odd, funny, or dangerous physical facilities for baptisms?



52 Comments »

  1. I was baptized in a normal font in our chapel (built in the early 1950s). My father was baptized in a near-by lake in 1942. I met a fellow on my mission who had been baptized in the Rhine (Rhein) River during World War II. They had to chop a hole in the ice (winter time). My wife was baptized in an irrigation canal in California in 1977. Her grandfather was baptized in the font in the Manti temple in the 1920s. Apparently they held regular baptisms in the temple font then.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 12, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  2. My most memorable baptism on my mission was on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, back in 1973. The Church had a small chapel (and a small branch) in Colon, but the chapel didn’t have a font. So we went to a nearby river or estuary and did the baptism there. The river bottom was about 6″ of fine, silty mud, and the water was relatively warm. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — February 12, 2009 @ 8:19 am

  3. My mother said she was baptised in the tabernacle as well, on a day set apart by the Stake for all the baptisms needed that month. This would have been in 1944.

    Comment by BruceCrow — February 12, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  4. My mom was baptized in Kodiak Bay in Alaska in the 60′s, when she was 18 or so. That always sounded a little chilly to me!

    Comment by dangermom — February 12, 2009 @ 8:38 am

  5. I know of a child who was baptized in the font at the Washington Temple back in the 1980s. The family had traveled there to be sealed, but one of the children had just turned 8 and hadn’t yet been baptized. The child needed to be baptized before the family could be sealed, so they just went down to the baptistry and did it.

    We had a font on the roof of one of our apartments in Japan. We baptized a man up there one cold January night–in water that wasn’t heated. I’ve written about that somewhere before, and won’t bore you all with the details again.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 12, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  6. My baptism was not “exotic, odd, funny, or dangerous physical facilities” but I was baptized in ’89 in the font below the Tabernacle.

    The ironic thing was that we were living in Venezuela at the time, but had gone back for a summer vacation. Tabernacle wasn’t quite as exotic…

    Comment by Adam — February 12, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  7. My dad, who was born and raised in southeast Iowa, was baptized as a young adult in the Mississippi River at Nauvoo.

    As for me, I was baptized in the font at the Stop 11 building in Indianapolis, on the day the Vietnam War peace accord was signed, along with a bunch of other kids from the stake, about two weeks after my birthday. I had recovered from chickenpox (I came down with it the day after my party, having exposed every kid in my Primary class) just in time for the monthly service.

    Comment by Coffinberry — February 12, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  8. Great memories, all. Mormon life isn’t quite as homogenized as it might look.

    The stand-alone chapels in France and Switzerland had built-in fonts (not that we got to use them much). In Grenoble, where the church owned one floor of an apartment building, we had a big canvas bucket supported by an aluminum frame, with step-ladders, kind of like those used in swimming pools, in and out of the bucket. The ward in Toulouse met in a chateau that had had a swimming pool once, which had been filled up with rock and debris; there was some kind of temporary font riggable in the basement, but I can’t recall its appearance. No outdoor baptisms in our mission for years, so far as I know.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 12, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  9. I turned 8 while living in a ward in the South Salt Lake area. While our stake center was equipped with a font, my mother had a soft spot in her heart for the Tabernacle baptismal font. She’d say (tongue in cheek, of course) that a baptism didn’t really count if it was performed somewhere besides the Tabernacle. This was 1988.

    While on my mission, a gentleman from a small branch in Northern Ontario was baptized in a hot tub. The branch was on an island, so they had plenty of outside water available. I’m not sure why they opted for the hot tub, but I’m guessing temperature had something to do with it. I left the area before his baptism, so I wasn’t able to witness the scene.

    Comment by Nameless — February 12, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  10. On my mission, we had a sunrise baptism in the Mediterranean. It was really beautiful. I did not report my companion, who had acted as a witness, for swimming back to shore after the ordinance.

    Comment by Martin Willey — February 12, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  11. In one branch, we had a big utility-size water basin/tub just outside the back patio of the chapel (the chapel was a rented house). It was out of doors, but partook of none of the beauty of the out of doors. Can you tell I hated it?

    Other baptisms occured in the ocean. And my first baptism was up in the mountains of a rain forest, in a natural pool at the base of a waterfall. That’s my kind of baptism!

    Comment by Hunter — February 12, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  12. Nothing to report. Boring baptisms, one and all.

    However, the following is hilarious:

    where the bishop would periodically round up all the 9- and 10-year-olds in town who hadn’t yet been baptized to conduct a massive catch-up round

    Comment by Ray — February 12, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  13. Here’s an article from the Friend, “Our Prophets’ Places of Baptism.” “Of the fifteen Latter-day Saint prophets, two were baptized in rivers, one in an outdoor baptismal font, one in an indoor font, one in a stream, five in creeks, two in ponds, one in a swimming pool, one in a canal, and one in a tub and then in a canal.” That last one is interesting, how Spencer Kimball’s father, a stake leader, incorrectly baptized his son and corrected the error four years later.

    I hope I’m not detracting too much from Ardis’ wonderful policy of casting light on all members of the Church and not just the handful that we hear about repeatedly.

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 12, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

  14. John, that’s a great addition. Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 12, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  15. My brother sent this to me (he’s at work and is unable to blog although he can spend much of his day e-mailing me–hmmmm)

    He writes:

    On my mission (Moscow, Russia), the first baptism I did was in the Moscow River in June of 1994. It was a chilly spring, so the water was pretty cold. The incline of the banks of the river were really shallow. That meant that we had to go really far out in the water to get to a spot deep enough to perform the baptism. Of course, the witnesses were on shore, so we had to make sure we said the prayer loud enough so they could hear, but not yell, so as to ruin the solemnity of the moment. Quite the balancing act. Then we had to change outside!!

    The second baptism was in Feb or March 1995. We did it inside of a public sauna. After people bake for a few minutes in the sauna, they cool off in a big pool of water. We rented a sauna and had them fill up the pool. We asked them to make the water about 3.5 feet deep, but they forgot to shut it off, so the water was about 5 feet deep. You could barely stand without needing to tread water. At least this time, the water was comfortable!! The water was so deep, I only needed to tip the lady back some to get her all the way under!

    Comment by Steve C. — February 12, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  16. Another baptism-related story. Sandra and I lived in DC for six years, attending the DC Branch (which then became the Chevy Chase Ward). We met in the Chevy Chase chapel on Western Avenue (actually on the Maryland side of the street). The chapel had an electronic keypad for entry, but when we moved there, most of the four-digit codes started with the same two digits (e.g., “73xx”), so if you couldn’t remember your code, you could probably get in by typing any two numbers after the first two. Pretty much everyone in the ward knew this and knew what the first two digits were.

    Then one day someone from the ward went to the chapel in the middle of a weekday and found a group of (non-LDS) teenagers using the baptismal font as a hot tub. Apparently one or more of them had been to the chapel before to play basketball with some members and learned about the key code patterns. Bishop Hampton wiped out all the existing access codes that same day and set up a limited set of random 4-digit codes for ward leadership, which he carefully handed out to specific individuals. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — February 12, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  17. The first area of my mission (1978-80) was in Potosi, Bolivia. We had no font, so travelled some miles to Tarapaya, where there is a dormant volcano, filled with warm water. The hot springs were developed by the Incans for a thermal bath, and a pool was built to the side, which is fed directly by the volcanic lake. We baptized in the 500 year old pool, next to the lake.

    http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=16840

    While the place has been fixed up since, it was just the pool with a few broken down huts across the lake when I was there on my mission. The lake had a steel cable across it, as occasionally the waters would churn into a whirl pool and suck people down into it. We arrived once just an hour after they drug a person’s charred remains out of it. The Interpol office in Potosi, had stacks of photographs of unidentified and identified remains, which I was “lucky” enough to see when getting paperwork done there.

    At the end of my mission, we would drive over a mountain to a nearby river and baptise in the river.

    Comment by Rameumptom — February 12, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  18. #7 Coffinberry, are you still in the Indy area? I’m next door in the Plainfield ward.

    Gerald Smith

    Comment by Rameumptom — February 12, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  19. Eastern Cape province South Africa

    Daniel Tasana Medical student

    BBell baptizing

    6-10 inch deep childs wading pool filled to the brim

    three other local PH holders stood in the water to help make sure he was baptized correctly.

    Later at University of Cape Town he was ordained an Elder.

    Comment by bbell — February 12, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  20. Re 13: I believe that a relative who became a general authority (but not the prophet) was baptized in the bathtub of his Boston apartment by his father, who stood in a bucket of water next to the tub. Because they were not standing together in the water, a local priesthood authority determined that the baptism had to be done over. Better safe than sorry, no?

    Comment by Martin Willey — February 12, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  21. Some of the old handbooks I’ve read recently looking for post material (I don’t have access to recent or current ones and can’t vouch for their contents) specify that baptisms are not to be done in tubs, and that there must be sufficient water for the priest as well as the candidate to stand together in the water. I had thought those instructions were a little bit of overkill, that nobody would really think such a wetting was a baptism, but from a couple of the comments here I’m willing to believe that the written policy was in reaction to real life events!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 12, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  22. Re #13: Heber J. Grant was baptized June 2, 1864, in a wagon box rigged up as an outdoor font behind Brigham Young’s school in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    The baptism of a 7-year-old in a wagon box font seems unusual.

    Comment by Justin — February 12, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  23. Here in California, I was baptized in the Stake President’s hot tub, because there was no font in town. In the summer, they’d use a member’s swimming pool.

    Comment by Jami — February 12, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

  24. One of the most inspirational and unusual baptisms I’ve witnessed was one where the candidate was baptized by a member who was confined to a wheelchair. Several of the brethren help out. The put the baptizer’s wheelchair in the water then placed him on it. The young woman getting baptized then went into the font. Several other brethren also went into the water as well. The brother in the wheelchair put his arm to the square and said the prayer. He held her arm and put his other hand behind her back while the other brethren in the water did the actual lifting. Needless to say, most everyone in attendance had a huge lump in their throats. I can’t describe how moving it was.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 12, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  25. In 1887, my grandfather was nine and his brother was eleven. They heard that some of the children in their ward in Centerville, Utah were up at the old mill pond being baptized. They ran to their father and begged for permission to be baptized too. He said yes, so they ran to the barnyard to get the mule and ride there, but the mule wasn’t there, so they ran up the hill. On the way, they saw the people coming down the hill because the baptisms were finished. But, grandpa’s oldest brothers was one of the officiaters, so he and the other man turned around and went back up where they baptised the two boys.

    My mother and her siblings were baptized in a small reservoir of a neighbor where he kept cut flowers.

    My husband was baptized in the Tabernacle, but I was baptized in a church house in Bountiful, even though I lived in Centerville, because it was one of the few churches in the area with a font.

    Comment by Maurine — February 12, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  26. I was baptized in 1973 in the Logan Tabernacle, not sure any Church building in Logan has a font; everyone went to the Tabernacle for baptisms.

    Comment by Karl Kategianes — February 12, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  27. i was baptized on march 4 1961 at the Tri-Stake Center in Oakland,Cal—the temple had not been built– dont know if the local buildings had a font

    Comment by tjk — February 12, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  28. #24 – Wow! I’m tearing up just picturing that.

    Comment by Ray — February 12, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  29. I love all these stories. I have nothing to add–every baptism I’ve been associated with has been in a mundane location.

    I do love that we have nice temperature-controlled fonts with just-deep-enough water (contrast bbell’s and Steve C.’s experiences) because I’m all for comfort. But I kind of like the idea of getting baptized somewhere unique, rather than in a font at the end of the Relief Society room that you might sit in practically every week for years. So I think I like the idea of people getting baptized in tabernacles or outside or in hot tubs, if only to set the occasion apart from usual church attendance.

    Comment by Ziff — February 12, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  30. In the old chapel in Heidelberg, Germany, the baptismal font was under the floor in the basement, covered by three removable panels. It was strange to have a Primary or Sunday School class, or a youth activity, etc. on top of the baptismal font. At least it was a real font, though! It looked quite nice when the panels were removed and the handrails put in place.

    I served my mission in Hungary from 1994-1996, and there were no “real” chapels when I arrived, and only two when I left, so most baptisms were held in interesting locations. The Church had an old house in Budapest that had served various purposes at different times: mission home, chapel, institute. It had a “portable” font in a room in the basement, which was only accessible from the outside. It certainly added a sort of “industrial” quality to any baptism, plus the ceiling was only about 7′ high, with some lower beams, so everyone had to duck.

    Outside of Budapest, baptisms were held wherever there was enough water: some were held in the Danube (if the weather was warm enough). In one area we rented the municipal pool, since it was indoor. In another area we used a pool at a spa (water from a natural hot spring – stinky but warm!). In another area we used a pool at a physical therapy facility. I think my favorite was the baptism we held in the backyard swimming pool of a non-member family we met while tracting. The family wasn’t interested in the Church, but were happy to let us hold a baptism in their backyard!

    There used to be baptismal font in the JKHB (the humanities building) at BYU, but it was filled in in the 90′s when the new Joseph Smith Building was built, since the new JSB has a font.

    Comment by Paul S. — February 12, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  31. I remember my baptism quite clearly…in Dec. of 07, which may or may not have contributed to why the water in the font felt so icy cold. Of course, even the temperature couldn’t prevent me from feeling so strongly the Spirit that I did that day. The cold only struck me after I was under the water for about a few seconds and thought I might freeze to death.
    :D

    What an exhilirating experience it was!

    Comment by Anthony — February 12, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

  32. Gerald #18:

    I haven’t lived in Indy since ’79. But nice to meet ‘ya, all the same.

    Comment by Coffinberry — February 12, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

  33. I participated in baptism services twice in the Rio Neuquen. It’s interesting how appealing that was to the young missionary mind, but in our defense, there was no font in our town, so most baptisms for that branch involved a bus ride to the nearby city, Neuquen. So going the other direction to the river wasn’t adding too much inconvenience.

    The location for the second service came up when my missionary companion and I were visiting the relatives of an investigating family. As they were sharing drinks with us on the patio under a grape arbor, undocked sheep grazing between us and the bend in the river 40 yards away, we thought “This would be a great place to hold a baptism service.” We asked if we could, and they were agreeable with the idea. The service held a few weeks later was an exceedingly happy day.

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 13, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  34. I have heard some interesting things about baptism fonts from returned missionaries. I’m wondering if readers of this blog can tell me how widespread these practices are.

    1. At least one mission in Japan has a portable font. The AP’s tow it behind a mission vehicle, and it arrives the night before a baptism. It is filled with a hose, on site.

    2. Many of the chapels in Latin America have fonts underneath trap doors, usually underneath the stand. When it is time for a baptism, you just lift up the doors and begin putting water in until you have enough.

    Steve C. (#24)

    I recently witnessed a similar baptism. In this case, it was the person being baptized who was in a wheelchair. She was also a very heavy woman, so it took 4 or 5 men dressed in white in the font and several more outside the font to lower her chair carefully, carefully into the water and then lift it out again afterwards.

    Comment by Mark Brown — February 13, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  35. Namibia

    Bbell baptizing

    non-members pool. Un-cleaned for many months. Mold, small plants etc. 50 degrees outside. Very cold for Namibia

    Davids family. Dad, Mom and their youngest child Verushka. (older sons were baptized later) Dad had just resigned as a Anglican Priest and was being baptized in his Anglican priestly garments. No kidding!

    Comment by bbell — February 13, 2009 @ 8:56 am

  36. In the Transkei area of South Africa there was a small branch deep in the Xhosa back country. There was no chapel and baptisms were held in a pool at the foot of a large waterfall in the mountains. It was a beautiful spot. The photos are amazing.

    Comment by bbell — February 13, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  37. The one baptism I had anything to do with on my mission in Germany was of an African student from Uganda, I think. We were serving in Magdeburg, which had a small branch that rented apartment space for the chapel. The closest baptismal font was in the next city (either Köthen or Dessau).

    Our somewhat supportive branch president drove there that night from his house that was a half-hour outside of Magdeburg, along a maze of German “Landstrassen”. We, the missionaries took a train to get there, together with our baptizee and a totally inactive member, who was, if I remember correctly, the only member in attendance, other than the branch president. There might have been a sister from the branch there, too, who came on the train, but I can’t remember.

    (I have to mention that the inactive man was as much of a hermit as I could ever imagine — he rarely, if ever, left his apartment. It always smelled extremely pungent, musty, very humid, and maybe even a bit smokey. Anyway, this middle-age inactive man/hermit couldn’t walk well, but we invited him to the baptism with all our missionary hopes that it might evoke some everlasting change in him. I just remember him doing his best to walk as quickly as possible from the train station to the ward building. As we went up a slight incline he tripped and landing on his hands. I felt sorry for him, for his entire condition, and kind of glad that he finally got out of his house. But mostly I felt bad that we were trying to walk so fast and that he fell. I digress.)

    The baptism and confirmation were performed in English, because our African brother hadn’t yet learned German completely. Also, the talks, given by the missionaries, were both in German and English.

    It was an entirely odd occasion. An African student, who believed everything we taught him, and yet would move to a different location within a couple weeks after being baptized, and whom the ward would never see again. A tiny branch in a large metropolitan area with a less-than-enthusiastic branch president from the West. A hermit of an inactive man whom I never saw outside his pungent apartment except for this baptism, which was a train-ride away. A bi-lingual service that consisted of the American missionaries, the West German branch president, an African student, and a hermit.

    It was so odd. And yet it happened. And I have to believe that with all the books and materials we gave our new friend, Kasasa, both in German and in English, and with all the addresses and phone numbers we gave him, that he is somewhere, whether in Germany or in Africa, still going to church and still reading and believing what we taught him that February in Magdeburg.

    Jon

    Comment by Jonovitch — February 13, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  38. At the beginning of December right after my mission, when I was in the singles ward in Minneapolis, two girls and another guy drove with me in my parents Subaru Legacy to the Chicago temple. We left around 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night, right after a dance (which I think I might have DJ’d), and our first disc in the player was Michael Jackson’s Thriller — “You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” led us out of town.

    We arrived about 7 a.m. at the Chicago temple parking lot — I drove most of the way, I think. The four of us walked in and said we would like to do some baptisms.

    A family was there with a bunch of Italian names, and they were kind enough to let us help them out with some of them. I plowed through about 10 or so names with my best pronunciation and the dad asked if I was in Italy on my mission. “Nope,” I answered with a smirk, “Germany.”

    After we finished, the other three went back to the car and slept a couple hours while I slogged through an endowment session. When that was over, I got back in the car, and we drove home. Again I drove most of the way.

    That was the first time I had ever baptized anyone — my mission in Germany did not include getting in the water. To date, those proxy baptisms we did on an all-night there-and-back temple road trip to Chicago are still the only times I’ve baptized anyone.

    Jon

    Comment by Jonovitch — February 13, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  39. Back to the Washington Temple bapistry for a different type of baptism story. The young people from our stake were there to do baptisms and I was doing the baptizing. One stocky young man was obviously afraid of the water, and I felt as if I were in WWF, trying to wrestle him under the water 10 times. Then he was finished, and a skinny little 12 year old came down into the water. I forgot to change the setting on my back and arm muscles, though, and on the first baptism I nearly pushed him through the bottom of the font. It caused a minor tsunami in the font, and smiles all around, but otherwise no harm done.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 13, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  40. I n 1995, I was in a small branch in Quebec. The branch held services in a strip mall. There was a font in the rented building that consisted of a tarp lining an aluminum frame for support. Prior to the baptism, the Branch President began to fill up the font. When the water was about 18 inches deep–just below my knees, the hot water ran out. I asked the baptismal candidate if he wanted to be baptized in deep cold water or shallow warm water. He chose the latter. I baptized him in one try: I just laid him flat down in the water.

    Comment by jose — February 13, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  41. Vicarious example, but my seminary teacher swears he performed a baptism in the temple for “Peter Rabbit”. He says that’s the first person he’s going to find when he dies.

    Comment by Ray — February 13, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  42. Re: #15…

    In Hamamatsu, Japan in the late 80′s we held a baptismal service for the very elderly parents of a wonderful sister the ward. These elderly parents had come to live with their daughter’s family (the Ishii family, as I recall), and after feeling the wonderful spirit in their home and seeing the gospel in action in the lives of their posterity, they had decided to be baptized themselves.

    The grandmother (easily 80+ years old) was physically very weak and arthritic, and could barely bend her knees. At the baptism, we *intentionally* filled the traditional modern font in the chapel all the way to the brim, so that she would not need to bend so much. She was not a tall woman, and when her son-in-law carefully took her down into the water, it came up to her chin — just below the big grin on her face.

    What then ensued was, without question, the most tender, gentle, quiet “dunking” I’ve ever seen. :-)

    …and with that, I’m off to baptize my own daughter 90 minutes from now. (No kidding.)

    Comment by Taylor — February 14, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  43. I’m amazed — and pleased — by the stories this post continues to draw. More! more!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 14, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  44. I was at the Frankfurt Temple doing baptism for the dead with the youth of the Stuttgart Servicemen’s Ward when I was asked to do a round of baptisms for a Danish girl. I had previously done such baptisms in German, but at least I had a passing acquaintance with the language. I read the prayer in my best approximation of Danish. I have no idea how good or bad I did, but she was happy so I guess she recognized some of the words.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — February 15, 2009 @ 7:41 am

  45. #30: My daughter was one of the last baptisms in the old Heidelburg building — which was recently replaced by a newer building. Great history there — my wife’s grandfather was the branch president, then bishop, when the old building (with its “hole in the basement” font) was built in 1955.

    My favorite baptism experience is from Dec 1997, when I baptized my nephew in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego. We had scoped out a nice little tidal pool carved out of the rocks which was full. However, by later in the afternoon, the tide had dropped and the pool was subject to filling, and then draining as the waves came in and out. On top of that, a storm was coming in, which added a violent effect to the ebb and flow of the waves in the pool. We got in the basin and I said the prayer. Then I had to wait for enough of a wave to come in so the pool could fill and I could dunk him. The problem was that by the time we recovered from getting bashed by the incoming waves, any water in the pool had run out. After a few minutes of this, I laid him out flat on the sand, held him down while the waves completely washed over him. Poor kid thought he was going to drown.

    Comment by JDH — February 15, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  46. My mission trainer and I had a baptism in that font in the old Heidelberg chapel.

    My old chapel in Kansas was built around the same time as the Heidelberg chapel. It also had a “pit” type font that was covered by a couple of plywood panels. I had numerous classes over the years in the baptismal room and sat in chairs directly over the font. That’s the way it was. So I naturally didn’t find anything unusual about the Heidelberg chapel’s font.

    Comment by Steve C. — February 15, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

  47. My mother-in-law was baptized in the Alberta Canada temple’s font. I guess they used to do live baptisms there 70 years ago….

    Comment by Rameumptom — February 19, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  48. I’m sad I missed this post earlier.

    As to the original post, Charles Ora Card took notes on the October 7, 1900 Sunday School Conference associate with General Conference:

    Question. Prest J.F. Smith. In our stake we only have one baptizing day in each year. We Recommend Baptism day in every month.

    Being a collector of what now might be obscure baptism accounts, I love all of this. Multi-use temple fonts date back to the first font of the Restoration in the Nauvoo Temple. On the first official day of baptism, people were baptized for the dead, for their health, and for the remission of sins.

    Ardis’ comment about old handbooks made me think of The Missionary’s Hand Book, which was used from the mid 1930s to the 1950s, and has some fun instruction regarding method: “It is improper for those who are appointed to perform baptisms to use waders or hip boots to avoid wetting the clothing or to keep water from coming in contact with the body. If there are a number to be baptized and the water is cold, several may be appointed to officiate so that none will be unnecessarily chilled.” (pg 137) Also: “The wearing of bathing caps by women who are baptized should not be permitted.” (pg. 138) I don’t have access to General Handbooks during this time.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 19, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  49. Heh, heh — you have to think that somebody must have worn waders or bathing caps, or these rules wouldn’t have come to anybody’s mind! What a picture, by our current expectations.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 19, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  50. Once when the youth of our district were in the Manhattan Temple, one of the Spanish speaking branch presidents was officiating in the confirmation room. He was struggling through a long list of German names, but ran aground at Johann Fuchß.

    I think he was relieved when I told him that last letter was pronounced like an “s”. I suspect that Bruder Fuchß was likewise relieved.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 20, 2009 @ 7:15 am

  51. My mother says she was baptized when she was eight in the St. George temple, then was immediately baptized for the dead for 30 people, then left the font.

    A member in my mission said that they didn’t have enough water in the font to baptize his daughter, so a lot of people sat in the water to make the level go up enough to do it.

    Comment by Carol — November 14, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

  52. Fun stories!

    My grandfather’s favorite mission story was baptizing a man in the ocean in England. Just as he completed the prayer, a large wave came in and immersed both men completely. (Decades later he met the man again in Utah. Neither remembered the other, but after hearing my grandfather tell the story, the next day the other man came back with his baptismal certificate in hand, with my grandfather’s signature on it.)

    The first baptism I saw in Japan was in a church that had been converted from a regular building of some sort. The font was in a glassed-in penthouse on the sixth floor, looking out on the crush of downtown Tokyo. The font heater was broken, so we tried to warm the water a bit by heating large potfuls on the kitchen stove in the basement, then hauling them to the roof in the tiny elevator. We succeeded in getting the top six inches or so warm.

    The only things remarkable about my own baptism were that 1) it was the first baptismal session in the font of a newly-build building, and 2) therefore they hadn’t figured out how to work the heater yet, so it was rather chilly.

    Comment by lindberg — November 15, 2012 @ 11:04 am

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