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Scott Taylor: How the Washington D.C. Temple has been a beacon, a target and a provider of little lessons

A few personal experiences over a half-century include youth, post-mission and family visits — and a memorable power outage

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The Washington D.C. Temple shines at dusk in South Kensington, Maryland on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News


Helping compile and review Church News coverage of this year’s events leading up to recent Washington D.C. Temple rededication, I’ve been touched to read the anecdotes and memories about the temple from a variety of individuals over the decades, from Church leaders to nonmember visitors.

Here are my own few experiences from the past half-century, with lessons learned.

Targeting the temple

In summer 1974, when I was 15, our family drove from Colorado across the Midwest and eastern United States for my dad’s meetings in Maryland. We stopped at key U.S. and Church history sites over several weeks, including a day in the District of Columbia and a visit to the not-yet-opened Washington Temple.

Decades before GPS units and apps, and relying on road maps that didn’t include the new temple’s location, we set off knowing the site was in or near Kensington, Maryland, 10 miles north of Washington’s National Mall. We watched for a towering white building with six spires.

Looking down a busy street and seeing a familiar-looking statue on a building’s short tower, I called out: “Dad, I think I just saw the angel Moroni back there!” I added that I didn’t think it was the temple, and Dad drove on since we had traveled less than a third of the way.

I found out later what I had seen — the Washington Chapel at Columbia Road and 16th Street, the only meetinghouse to feature an Angel Moroni statue.

Once on the Capital Beltway, our first view was an experience common to Washington motorists. As we rounded a bend, the temple suddenly appeared, towering as if resting on a green cloud of treetops.

We enjoyed walking the grounds and admiring the sacred edifice. A landscaper approached us, saying it was too bad we couldn’t return in a couple of weeks for the temple’s open house.

Little lessons learned: The path to the temple requires effort. Be careful of distractions. And you may be closer to the temple than you think.

Going the distance

As a teen in the mid-1970s, my wife, Cheryl, grew up in Ames, Iowa, almost exactly halfway between the Washington D.C. and Salt Lake temples, the two closest at the time.

For her, doing proxy baptisms and confirmations at the temple meant one-way distances of 1,000-plus miles and two days and a night on a bus each direction. It also meant saving up several hundred dollars to help pay for her share of the temple-trip expenses.

She has shared stories and photos from that excursion with our children and now grandchildren, lovingly referring to the Washington D.C. Temple as “my temple” of her youth.

For her, sacrifices of time and travel to get to the temple proved worthwhile.

‘Returning home’

The Washington D.C. Temple was a focal point as I served a full-time mission to Venezuela from 1979 to 1981. When the temple opened in 1974, all of South America was included in its temple district, so some of the endowed members I met in Venezuela had gone to and through that temple.

Even after the São Paulo Brazil Temple opened in 1978 as South America’s first temple, the Washington Temple remained a closer travel option for Venezuelan Latter-day Saints.

Concluding my mission service, I joined a couple of returning missionaries in making a stop at a temple, as was allowed at the time. A scheduled overnight layover provided an opportunity for an evening session at the Washington D.C. Temple, our first since attending the Provo Utah Temple while at the Provo Missionary Training Center.

A feeling of “returning home” to the house of the Lord came both as we were arriving via taxi from our hotel and then entering and worshipping in the temple.

A beacon and a legacy

While raising our family in Utah, Cheryl and I were able to take our children twice to Washington, D.C., and the temple there.

On one trip, we spotted the temple from the top of the Washington Monument. We also saw a massive wall of thunderclouds approaching and wondered how that would affect our visit to the temple grounds that evening.

We soon found out. As we drove, the thunderstorm hit and knocked out electrical power throughout the area, making navigation very difficult along the dark streets and neighborhoods.

However, as we were on the beltway and approached Kensington, the Washington D.C. Temple stood awash in light and was easily seen — a stark but welcome contrast to the darkness we had driven through.

With power provided by auxiliary generators so operations could continue, the well-lit temple served as a beacon to help us navigate to its location and enjoy a brief visit.

In photos with our kids during another family visit, Cheryl replicated some she had taken as a teen by the pools, ponds and buildings.

This year, we’ve enjoyed different family photos at the Washington D.C. Temple and an extension of our family’s limited legacy there to our children’s children as our oldest daughter and her New Jersey family toured the temple during the open house earlier this year.

In similar ways, the temple can serve as a bright beacon representing hope in Christ, His promised peace and spiritual reassurance when we’re struggling with the darkness of life’s challenges.

And the true temple legacy for a family can be found and realized in the ordinances, covenants and sealings that are part of temple worship and work.

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