KENSINGTON, Maryland — The Washington D.C. Temple is opening its doors to the general public for the first time in nearly 50 years after an extensive restoration project.
This open house gives area residents the unprecedented opportunity to enter the building and learn about the purpose of temples.
“We’re excited to show off a beautiful building, but we’re more excited to share any opportunity to feel that sense of closeness to our Heavenly Father and with each other,” renovation project manager Dan Holt said.
The temple closed for renovations in March 2018, with initial plans to hold an open house and rededication ceremony in the fall of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed both construction progress and the large-scale open house, pushing the start of public touring to April 2022.
The Washington D.C. Temple began its open house period with a series of private tours for invited guests from April 19 until April 27. The rest of the public will be able to visit the temple from April 28 to June 11.
Originally slated to be much more brief, high demand for touring prompted The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to extend the open house period and reschedule the subsequent rededication ceremony for this coming August.
Holt explained the intent of the restoration project was to “bring the building back to its original glory.” This included installing energy-efficient mechanical, electrical and lighting systems, new plumbing throughout and updating many of the original temple features to resemble a more current art style, all while maintaining the temple’s original exterior design.
“You feel the difference when you work on a temple from when you work on other projects,” Holt said. “There’s an understanding of the importance of it.”
The open house committee hosted a media day on April 18, when Church leaders spoke to scores of media members and social media influencers about the importance of temples within Latter-day Saint beliefs, as well as other details regarding the renovations.
Among those leaders present for media day were Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and NAACP board member the Rev. Amos C. Brown.
Brown spoke alongside Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Sisters Sharon Eubank and Reyna I. Aburto of the Relief Society General Presidency.
Following an introductory press conference, media members were brought into the temple for guided tours led by Elders Bednar and Elder Gong, as well as Sisters Eubank and Aburto. Church leaders were hopeful that the transparency in allowing guests to enter the temple would help resolve any concerns regarding temple worship or general Latter-day Saint beliefs.
“The things we do in the temple are not secret, they are sacred,” Sister Aburto said.
The temple was originally dedicated in 1974, becoming the 16th operating temple of the Church and the first located east of the Mississippi River since the abandoned Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. The original open house welcomed more than 750,000 guests, a number which the Church expects to surpass over these coming weeks.
“There are lots of forces that pull us apart, but there’s only one force in this world strong enough to pull us back together and it is the love of God,” Sister Eubank said. “That’s what this building is dedicated to,” she added when talking about how the temple is a place of peace.
Standing 288 feet tall on a spacious 52-acre lot, the temple serves more than 120,000 Church members living in the Washington metro area, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Towering alongside the Capital Beltway, the temple has become a notable area landmark as a common point of reference in traffic reports, while captivating curious passing motorists.
“I’ve been driving past it nearly every day since 1974, and had the opportunity to get inside and to see what it’s all about,” Hogan said. “It’s not really just about the building, it’s about what goes on in there.”
Elder Bednar echoed Hogan’s sentiments, adding that temples were less about the buildings themselves and more about the intersection offered between this life and eternity.
“We build temples as a testament to the immortality of the human soul,” Elder Bednar said. “We build temples to make available remarkable blessings to the members of our Church and to the communities in which the temples are constructed.”
A number of ambassadors, diplomats and dignitaries from across the world are expected to attend the open house during the next two weeks, which open house committee co-chair Ken Colton believes will be crucial in furthering Church efforts worldwide.
“Many of the ambassadors visiting are coming from countries where temples are being built, so this will give them a vision of what a great blessing it is for them to have a temple in their country,” Colton said. “When those people come and see this temple, it will help open doors for countries that have temples planned or countries that may have temples in the future. This was a great First Presidency decision in terms of timing.”
Sister Eubank related temple worship to the Church’s humanitarian endeavors, saying that temple patrons are moved by their worship to help better the world around them once they depart from the temple.
“It’s about the hearts that get changed when they walk out of that building with the intent of doing something good,” Sister Eubank said. “When people enter a temple, draw open their hearts to God and make sacred sacred promises that they intend to keep, they leave that building and go out into the world looking for ways to express exactly what they’ve promised to do. Part of that is to care for each other.”
Brown, who serves as Pastor for the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco in addition to his NAACP responsibilities, shared his appreciation for Joseph Smith’s involvement in the abolitionist movement. He also praised current Church President Russell M. Nelson and added his witness that temple attendance among Latter-day Saints was crucial in helping to rid the nation of racism, homophobia and bigotry.
“The true beauty of a temple does not lie in what you can see, it lies in what you cannot see in the hearts of those who will worship here and receive blessings,” Brown said. “If all of the other religious groups in this nation follow the example of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we shall save the soul of America.”
Elder Gong invited visitors to see the temple from the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in, noting that the temple offers a connection to heaven, to each other and to “our deepest true selves.”
“Today’s world, as we know, is busy, noisy, too often polarized,” Elder Gong said. “Yet God offers each of us a sacred place of peace and healing and purpose.”
The temple open house will begin its touring period for the general public on April 28 and go until June 11, with the rededication ceremony taking place Aug. 11. Free tickets for the open house can be found at dctemple.org.