KENSINGTON, Maryland — With its six golden spires reaching heavenward above the Capital Beltway, the Washington D.C. Temple has stood as an iconic landmark in this area for nearly the past half-century.
The 156,558-square-foot edifice sits on 52 acres and is clad with Alabama white marble. Radio personalities use it to pinpoint traffic issues. Millions have seen the prominent and commanding edifice, located just 10 miles from the United States Capitol in the District of Columbia.
Yet as media gathered Monday, April 18, to see the newly renovated temple, Elder David A. Bednar did not focus on the temple’s prominence nor structure.
“We hope that what you’ll learn today is not just about this building, how it was constructed and how it was renovated,” he told local and national media representatives gathered in the temple visitors’ center. “For us, what is most important is how our hearts are changed as we learn about God and Jesus Christ, feel their love, and serve our brothers and sisters.”
The temple, the Church’s 16th in operation and the first built in the Eastern United States, closed in 2018 to update mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishings, and improve the grounds.
The renovation and rededication of the temple will mark the first time the public will be able to tour the temple since a similar open house just prior to its Nov. 19, 1974, dedication.
Elder Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in a media event with Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Reyna I. Aburto, the two counselors in the Relief Society general presidency, and other community and religious leaders.
In exclusive national interview, Elder Bednar calls Washington D.C. Temple ‘a place of light, of peace’
During the media event, Elder Bednar shared three questions that he hoped would be a framework for the open house.
What is the temple? “The temple is a holy place, and a sacred space,” he said. “It’s a point of intersection between our life here on Earth and eternity. A temple is a house of prayer, a house of peace, a house of learning. A temple is the house of the Lord.”
What do we do in a temple? “We learned about the nature, attributes and character of God,” said Elder Bednar. “We also learn about God’s plan of happiness, the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, and the purpose of life. We make sacred promises to love God and to serve others.”
Why do you build temples? As beautiful as temples are, “temples are not about the building. A temple is 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 the communities where these temples are constructed. Through the things we learn about God and Jesus Christ, and the promises we make to love and serve, our hearts are changed as they turn from self to God.”
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said he was grateful to participate in the “wonderful celebration of faith, community and fellowship.”
The governor added: “Since 1974, this incredible temple with its beautiful towering spires has been an iconic landmark in the Maryland skyline along the Capital Beltway, and it has been a beacon of hope for the more than 40,000 Marylanders who are members of this Church.”
He said that in 2015, the state of Maryland committed to work with the Church to promote volunteerism and service. Those efforts expanded to a new JustServe initiative last year, he added. “By working together with the Church, we have harnessed the compassion and generosity of the people of Maryland.”
A special journey
Sister Aburto spoke of the need to have a recommend before entering the temple.
“Just to be clear,” she explained, “it’s not that we want to keep the people out. It is just that it takes a special journey to be here. And this is a journey of change, a journey of devotion and of love.”
The temple has also undergone a journey of change, she said. “Our temple has been refurbished and renewed, and the structure has been reinforced,” she said.
This is a metaphor to represent the Church’s belief in change, she added. “We believe that people can be renovated too, that our hearts can change as we dedicate our life to love and serve others.”
Sister Aburto said the Church welcomes all to the temple. “We say welcome to all of you who came because you have questions or doubts. We also say welcome to all of you who are here because you know that there is still peace in a troubled world.”
‘Let us thank God’
The Rev. Amos Brown said he is “peacock proud, hyena happy and elephant elated” to participate in the temple open house media event.
“Indeed it is a magnificent and beautiful temple,” he said. “It is a testament to the architects, craftspeople, laborers whose hands built it some 50 years ago and to those whose hands have restored its beauty.”
Yet, the true beauty of a temple does not lie in what one can see, he said. “It lies in what you cannot see in the hearts of those who will worship here and receive blessings.”
In the Latter-day Saints, God has found a community of faith, the Rev. Brown said.
“In our world today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints heard God’s word recorded in Isaiah and said, ‘Here am I.’”
The Rev. Brown closed by asking those attending the media event to “praise God and thank God for this temple.”
More important, he added, “let us thank God for the people who have in their hearts the love of Jesus.”
Sister Eubank of the Relief Society general presidency said the work of the temple is the “work of God by people who want to publish peace.”
Also the director of Latter-day Saint Charities, Sister Eubank said she has visited places in the world that are not at peace. “They need so much,” she added. “Part of that can be done with donations. But most of that needs to be done by the ways that people can change their hearts, to feel like we are truly brothers and sisters under the fathership of God, and that we can treat each other in different ways.
“Even if we disagree about many things, we can still have that eternal dignity that we are literally brothers and sisters, and the temple is the monument to that. … It is the hearts of the people that change that make the difference.”
Reverse Open House Series: How a temple open house inspired visits to other faiths’ sacred sites, events
Batchlor Wise Johnson IV, a BYU student, said he was thrilled to participate in the media day. He said while it is hard to articulate, the worries of the world disappear when he enters the temple. “There is not a single thing by mistake [in the temple],” he said.
He plans to share on social media about the sacredness of the temple and his testimony of the work done there.
Kisha Sogunro, assistant director of outreach in the Church’s North America Northeast Area, said she too hopes people will “come and see, come and enjoy” the temple.
“Come in and learn the things that the temple can offer and come and feel the peace and feel God’s love. That’s the unique quality that brings everyone together at the temple — to feel God’s love and to feel peace.”
A sacred place of peace
Elder Gong said spending time on the temple grounds is a homecoming for him. For 20 years his family lived in the area, he said. “I drove in and out of work, I listened to the reports on the radio that gave the traffic situation near the Washington D.C. Temple. Today we leave the rush hour behind, and we come to a place of peace.”
Elder Gong invited all to ask their neighbors and friends, their business associates and others they know about the Washington D.C. Temple.
“Listen as they tell you about the connection, community, communion, compassion, covenant and Jesus Christ,” he said.
Today’s world is busy, noisy and too often polarized, Elder Gong added. “Yet God offers each of us a sacred place of peace, healing and purpose where we can connect with heaven, where we can connect with each other and where we can connect with our truest noblest self.”
The public open house for the temple will be April 28 through June 11, 2022. Open house ticket information is available at dctemple.org.
Read more coverage of the Washington D.C. Temple
- About the Washington D.C. Temple, plus the dedicatory prayer
- Washington D.C. Temple open house extended, rededication date rescheduled
- In exclusive national interview, Elder Bednar calls Washington D.C. Temple ’a place of light, of peace
- See photographs of the inside of the Washington D.C. Temple
- What the Church did to restore, refurbish the Washington D.C. Temple and why it matters
- Video: How temple visitors are finding stillness, peace in the nation’s capital
- Video: Elder Bednar asks, why are we surprised by today’s youth
- Elder Bednar writes about the Washington D.C. Temple, answers questions about why it exists
- Reverse Open House Series: How a temple open house inspired visits to other faiths’ sacred sites, events
- Welcoming media – traditional and social – to the Washington D.C. Temple
- What those who visit are saying at the Washington D.C. Temple