KENSINGTON, Maryland — Maryland Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith was working for the National Security Agency in 1974 when he attended a public open house for the Washington D.C. Temple.
Almost a half-century later he returned to the site, hoping to show his support for the newly renovated temple and for Latter-day Saint efforts in the community.
Participating in a media event in the temple visitors’ center on Tuesday, July 20, Wobensmith presented a citation signed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in recognition of the renovated temple. The framed citation honors the “exceptional opportunity for people from around the world to view this beautiful and sacred landmark.”
Months after the originally planned reopening of the Washington D.C. Temple was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced open house and rededication dates for the iconic edifice during a press conference.
An open house for the temple will be held April 28 through June 4, 2022, except for Sundays — marking the first time the public will be able to tour the temple since its 1974 dedication. The temple will be rededicated June 19, 2022. These dates were announced in a letter from the First Presidency and shared during a media event at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center.
The open house will highlight the iconic temple, the grounds and the temple visitors’ center. Open house ticket information is available at dctemple.org.
In the global area where cultures, ideas and politics intersect, the temple for five decades has attracted the attention of millions driving the Capital Beltway.
Anne Golightly, chair of public affairs for the local Washington D.C. Temple open house committee, said the First Presidency’s decision to dedicate the temple next year will allow COVID-19 recovery to occur in many areas of the world before the Church invites Washington’s global community to tour the sacred building.
This is not only an iconic building to the area and the nation, but also the global community that intersects in the U.S. capital city, she said.
“This is a great occasion for us to open the doors of the temple for our friends, members of the Washington, D.C., community, people and partners of all faiths and backgrounds to come and join us and to experience the beauty and peace that is the temple of the Lord,” said Aaron Sherinian, director of media for the temple open house committee.
“This is a community gift,” added Kisha Wilson, area director of Church Communication, Northern Virginia. “And so, we want everyone to participate in the open house, to have the opportunity to feel a special or close connection to God and to feel His love.”
The temple was closed in 2018 to renovate mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishings, and expand the gardens, said Dan Holt, project manager for the temple reconstruction project.
Kent Colton, a former Washington D.C. Temple president and co-chair of the temple open house committee, said Church leaders have been very sensitive to how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact nations of the world. “The United States is beginning to come out, but I think the rest of the world is still suffering,” he said.
The local community is aware of the fact that the Church is waiting to hold the open house, he said. “And they actually appreciate that, because I think they do want to have a chance to come and be part of it.”
Large public gatherings should be more feasible in coming months as vaccination levels in the United States increase, said Cristian Casellas, an immunologist who serves on the public health subcommittee for the temple. The Church, he added, will take appropriate “measures for safety” during the public open house and dedication.
With the temple as a backdrop for the press conference, media and other guests viewed a scale model of the sacred building, including the recently completed renovations. The local temple committee also released updated renderings of the edifice.
Known for its midcentury modern architecture and prominence along the Capital Beltway, the 160,000-square-foot temple stands on 52 acres. The temple, the Church’s 16th in operation, was announced in 1968 and dedicated six years later by President Spencer W. Kimball. Located 10 miles north of the United States Capitol, the temple serves Latter-day Saints in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; West Virginia; and Maryland.
The original public open house of the Washington D.C. Temple was attended by 758,328 guests, including Betty Ford, wife of then U.S. President Gerald Ford.
Colton and his wife, Kathryn Colton, a former temple matron and co-chair of the temple open house committee, said for years radio stations have used the iconic temple as a landmark for traffic reports. She hopes those people who have seen the outside of the temple will come inside and feel the spiritual impact of the sacred space. “That is really the most critical thing we’re trying to do,” she said.
Wobensmith appreciates the Church’s sensitivity to places where the COVID-19 pandemic is still intensifying. He also praised the Church’s humanitarian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the organization distributed thousands of pounds of food “to people that really needed it.”
He remembers feeling uplifted by his first visit to the temple and is looking forward to seeing the “spectacular facility” again in the spring.
“A disease kept us apart,” Sherinian said. “The promise of the temple joins us together.”