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Looking back on the influence, closure, renovation and open house of Washington D.C. Temple as President Nelson prepares to rededicate the iconic edifice

The Church News chronicles the historic events connected to the renovation and rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple

Red blossoms frame the Angel Moroni statue atop a spire and part of the wall of the Washington D.C. Temple.

Colorful trees surround The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


KENSINGTON, Maryland — After a four-and-a-half-year renovation project — including delays connected to the COVID-19 pandemic — President Russell M. Nelson will rededicate the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, Aug. 14.

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 almost 50 years. Millions have seen the prominent and commanding edifice, located just 10 miles from the United States Capitol in the District of Columbia. 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.

In honor of the rededication, the Church News looks back and chronicles the historic events connected to the renovation and rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple.

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Church President Spencer W. Kimball shares scriptures and books with U.S. President Gerald and Betty Ford in Salt Lake City a few months after Betty Ford toured the Washington D.C. Temple with President Kimball.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The 1974 dedication

The Washington Temple, as it was originally called, was dedicated as the Church’s 16th operating temple by President Spencer W. Kimball on Nov. 19, 1974, in 10 sessions.

“We hope the Lord is pleased and that He will enter here and make this His abode,” said President Kimball. “The people in this area have waited long and longingly for this temple. It has been 144 years since the Church was restored. Now we have a temple here, exquisitely beautiful, pleasingly decorated, adequately arranged, to carry forward the work of Lord.” 

Many efforts and events led up to the 1974 dedication of the Washington Temple.

In addition, several senior Church leaders have a connection to the historic edifice.


Address: 9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, Maryland 20895-3199

Temple announced: Nov. 15, 1968

Groundbreaking: Dec. 7, 1968

Dedication: Nov. 19–22, 1974

Renovation construction start: March 5, 2018

Public open house began: Thursday, April 28, 2022

Rededication: Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022

Property size: 52 acres

Building size: 156,558 square feet

Building height: 288 feet, including the statue of the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni

Closed for renovation

The First Presidency announced on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, that two landmark Latter-day Saint Temples would close for renovations — the Oakland California Temple and the Washington D.C. Temple. Then-President John D. Jackson of the Annapolis Maryland Stake said the closure would impact the members of his stake and throughout the greater-capital city region. “The Washington D.C. Temple has become such an important landmark in the D.C. area — we [are going to] miss it,” he said at the time.

COVID-19

The open house and rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple were postponed because of the effects of COVID-19, the Church announced Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

Citation

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, 2021, 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.”

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Attendees walks the grounds touring The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Renovation

Crews took the temple down to the studs and put it back to the way the temple was designed — “mid-century modern, only more modern,” said Dan Holt, the Church’s project manager for the Washington D.C. Temple renovation. “There wasn’t a space we didn’t touch, inside or outside.”

The temple also had a profound impact on those who participated in the renovation. An artisan working on the temple, Vidal Boyacá placed the marble for the interior temple molding. As he did, he learned why his work in Latter-day Saint temples had to be the best standard he could offer. “I do everything with care and faith,” he said. “I trust that God will help me. I want it to be done perfectly.” Soon he could see something similar happening inside of himself. He was baptized in August 2019.

Public response

With strong early response to the Washington D.C. Temple open house, the First Presidency extended the open-house period and rescheduled the temple’s rededication. Because nearly 50% of the available parking for the initial open house was scheduled in the first two weeks after the announcement of reservations was made, the First Presidency approved the extension of the open house and rescheduled the rededication to Aug. 14. “Our goal is to invite all to join us to experience the peace, beauty and connection that can be felt in the temple, and to ensure that all who desire to come have a welcoming, safe and orderly experience in this sacred place,” the statement said.

Open house

As hundreds of local and national journalists gathered on the grounds of the Washington D.C. Temple on Monday, April 18, Church leaders released the first photographs of the renovated edifice.

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in a media event on Monday, April 18. “We hope that what you’ll learn today is not just about this building, how it was constructed and how it was renovated,” Elder Bendar told the media representatives. “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.”

After leading the tour, both Elder Bednar and Elder Gong spoke about temples — and peace. “We’ve had the opportunity to visit with scores of media people from all over the world,” Elder Bednar said. “They’re interested in learning about the temple and what we do. So they’ve been very receptive, and it’s been joyful.” Elder Bednar and Elder Gong also praised the efforts of the youth volunteering at the temple open house.

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Members of the media cover a press conference at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Monday, April 18, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Media

Thousands shared the story of the Washington D.C. Temple open house through social media — collectively inviting millions to #ComeAndSee the #DCTemple. It is amazing what can happen when a medium elevates instead of divides,” said Aaron Sherinian, director of press and digital media for the open house committee. “It is a reminder that, at its best, social media was designed to connect people and things that matter.”

Response

As Church leaders offered VIP tours to invited guests, many shared their feelings about entering the temple. The Church News recorded a sampling of some of the things they said about the temple. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said, for example, he was grateful to participate in the “wonderful celebration of faith, community and fellowship.”

And G. Alexander Bryant, president of the Seventh-day Adventists’ North American Division, said the temple tour was informative and broadened his understanding of the Church — including the Church’s focus on ancestry.

Op-ed on the temple

Elder Bednar wrote in an op-ed published on Medium that hearts are changed by the truths learned in Latter-day Saint temples about God and Jesus Christ — and by promises made to love and serve. The op-ed was featured on the online platform as hundreds walked through the newly restored Washington D.C. Temple during the media and VIP sessions of the open house. “We focus less on what we want and more on aligning our will with God’s,” wrote Elder Bednar.

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International Religious Freedom Roundtable members tour The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Reverse open house

To prepare for the temple open house, small groups of Latter-day Saints and their friends visited the sacred sites of other faiths, hoping to learn and foster interreligious relationships. The visits were part of the Reverse Open House Series, headed by Diana Brown, a Latter-day Saint and Georgetown University’s assistant director for interreligious engagement. Starting in November 2021, the Reverse Open House Series took small groups to sacred places throughout the D.C. area for dialogues and various events — from touring a Catholic basilica to studying the Torah at an orthodox Jewish synagogue, and from sharing a meal with a Sikh congregation to ending a fast with the Bahá’í community.

Virtual tour

On May 24, the Church released a virtual tour of the Washington D.C. Temple, offering 360-degree views inside and outside of the sacred building. Posted on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, the YouTube video includes the welcome desk, walkway bridge, dressing rooms, baptistry, bride’s room, a sealing room, stair cases, initiatory area, an endowment room and the celestial room.

Exclusive preview/temple lighting

As the Church prepared for the open house of the Washington D.C. Temple, Elder Bednar and Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave Ed O’Keefe of CBS News an exclusive preview of the renovated edifice. The interview, which also included Sister Susan Bednar and Sister Kathy Christofferson, aired on Easter on the network’s “Sunday Morning” program on April 17. 

Crews filming O’Keefe’s tour of the temple didn’t need artificial lighting “because the lighting in the temple seems to permeate everything,” said Elder Bednar. “And one of the technicians just held up his hand, and he said, ‘Look, there’s no shadow anywhere.’”

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Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Joshua Roberts, for the Deseret News

National Press Club

Speaking to 135 media representatives on Thursday, May 26, Elder Bednar talked about the renovated temple and addressed “a Latter-day Work.”

The basic purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help people learn about the nature and attributes of God — to love God, to become disciples of His Son Jesus Christ and to love and serve God’s children, he said at the National Press Club.

“We believe God can change our hearts and make more of us from the inside out than we can ever make of ourselves,” said Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “And we also believe that change many times is required from the outside in.” 

Read more coverage of the Washington D.C. Temple

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