Sarah Jane Weaver: How the temple became a symbol for a worker’s spiritual journey

KENSINGTON, Maryland — Vidal Boyacá, an artisan from Colombia, stood outside the chain-link fence surrounding the Washington D.C. Temple and spoke about cutting, molding and shaping marble in the renovated edifice.

He wore a hard hat, a yellow construction vest and a red bandana around his neck, with his hands coated with white dust and the smell of a construction site lingering on his clothes. It was Boyacá’s lunch hour, and he watched the clock so he would not be late for his afternoon shift.

His work on other Latter-day Saint temples led him to this iconic building — which has attracted the attention of millions driving the Capital Beltway for the past 45 years.

The 160,000-square-foot temple sitting on 52 acres is located 10 miles north of the United States Capitol. The temple closed in 2018 so the Church could update mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishing, and improve the grounds.  It will be rededicated Dec. 13.

Part of the temple’s interior updates include matching the Alabama white marble — which defines the temple’s exterior finish — and using it inside the temple.

Boyacá is placing the marble for the interior temple molding — making sure it fits perfectly on the temple’s rounded walls and stairwells. The work is tedious; he can lay 100 to 200 feet a day. When the project is completed, he will have placed an estimated four miles of marble base moldings throughout the temple.

Vidal Boyaca works is a marble artisan, currently working on the Washington D.C. Temple.
Vidal Boyaca works is a marble artisan, currently working on the Washington D.C. Temple. Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver

Boyacá and I spoke after I gathered with other media in the nearby visitors’ center to hear the local temple committee speak about the temple. They also released renderings of the work being done inside the temple by Boyacá and some 1,500 other workers.

Boyacá didn’t say it, but it was obvious this temple and others are a symbol of his own journey.

Born in Colombia, he studied marble artisanship at a university in Bogotá. After completing his studies, he worked making headstones and on other projects in the country.

Then an opportunity came to him that changed his life. He was given work on the Bogota Colombia Temple. This led to invitations to work on temples being built or renovated in El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Mexico, Fiji, Chile, Haiti, Panama and the United States.

At first, his work on the temple projects was just a job, he said. But then — just as the marble defining the outside of the Washington D.C. Temple became a dominant feature inside the temple — the work began to change Boyacá inside, too.

Latter-day Saints on the temple crews where he worked invited him to Church services. He prayed and asked God to help him be baptized.

Co-workers on the Washington, D.C., project introduced him to the missionaries. Boyacá said he felt happiness while participating in discussions about the Church.

He began to understand why his work in Latter-day Saint temples had to be the best standard he could offer. As he did, his own standards began to change. “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.

“After my baptism, my life has been really good,” he said, noting he loves Sundays now because he can go to Church.

He will keep his covenants for his 10 children and 14 grandchildren, he said. “When the father of a family stands up and says what is right and what is true, it will have great impact.”

It is an impact that can happen to all of us in the House of the Lord — the place where Boyacá’s faith was molded as he cut and shaped marble.