WASHINGTON, D.C. A newly renovated building to serve several functions for the Church in the heart of the nation's capital was dedicated by Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the First Quorum of the Seventy and president of BYU during ceremonies Saturday, April 13.
The Milton A. Barlow Center will house BYU Washington Seminar students, the Church's Office of International and Government Affairs, Church Educational System offices and rooms for institute classes, and a student branch.
"The Center forms a unique partnership of community between Church entities," Elder Bateman said in remarks before offering the dedicatory prayer.
Nearly 150 people gathered for the ceremony in the building of red brick, molding and colonial-style columns, architectural structure that maintains the integrity of the West End Neighborhood in the Historic Foggy Bottom District, said Elder Ralph W. Hardy Jr., Area Authority Seventy. "The center is not only a restoration, but an enhancement."
It faces historic Pennsylvania Avenue in the northwest section of Washington, D.C. It is located at the core of prominent and historic Washington crossroads. Georgetown University and George Washington University are within walking distance.
"The center will be a light that draws people to it," Elder Bateman said.
The marked architectural changes to the edifice are evident. Elder T. LaMar Sleight, director of International and Government Affairs and an Area Authority Seventy, reflected on the first time he walked through the building prior to its purchase by the Church: "It was an old building. It had been well used. Some of the bricks were dislodged. Windows were broken. Exposed wires hung from the ceilings." He continued: "Now, the building is more functional, and more attractive, than I thought possible. It is a credit to the architects and to the constructionists.
"Our work in public affairs is centered on the scriptural mandate to help bring the Church out of obscurity and out of darkness. This building will assist us in our efforts."
Glen M. Roylance, Church Educational System administrative assistant for the United States East Area, also looks forward to how the building will assist in creating an environment for religious instruction, special presentations, worship and forming friendships. "Precious experiences hallow the place where those experiences happen," he said. "The precious, spiritual experiences that occur here will hallow this ground."
The vision of establishing a "Washington Center" was a dream of its namesake, Milton A. Barlow, and many other Washington, D.C., families. Brother Barlow's daughter, Kathleen B. Morgan, recounted during the dedication session some of the history of early Washington, D.C. saints who led a "reverse migration."
Shortly after Utah obtained statehood in 1890, pioneer forebears, who had escaped religious persecution by migrating to the Salt Lake Valley, "retraced the steps of their ancestors back across the Rocky Mountains, across the plains, over the Mississippi River and Appalachian Mountains to the seat of our government in Washington, D.C. . . . to the very government that allowed such persecution." Sister Morgan continued, "So it is today that we celebrate the sacrifice of being so far from loved ones, the commitment they had to making a difference, and the excellence with which they pursued their dreams of serving in government, working in jobs or going to school."
Michael Seay, president of the District of Columbia district, hopes the center will be a beacon that fuels the missionary efforts within the district.
Washington Seminar, a BYU student internship program, enhances the long-standing Washington tradition of students seeking internships, employment opportunities and education at the foot of democracy. Apostle Reed Smoot, who served in the United States Senate from 1903 to 1932, established a practice of attracting bright, young Latter-day Saint men and women to work in the United States government and its agencies.
Prior to the dedication, President Bateman met with President Stephen Trachtenberg of George Washington University who gave high compliments about the students who come to GW from BYU: "A significant percent of the medical students attending GW graduate from BYU. That is more than any other single university outside of George Washington University."