KENSINGTON, Maryland — In this global area where cultures, ideas and politics intersect, the iconic Washington D.C Temple has attracted the attention of millions driving the Capital Beltway for the past four and a half decades.
Now leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a message for all of them: Come and see the temple.
The Church announced public open house and dedication dates Thursday for the renovated temple, which closed in 2018 to update mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishing and improve the grounds.
A public open house will be held from Sept. 24 through Oct. 31, excluding the dates of Sept. 27, Oct. 3-4, 11, 18 and 25 — Sundays and the Church’s October general conference weekend.
The temple will be dedicated Sunday, Dec. 13. As part of the rededication festivities, a youth devotional is scheduled for the evening prior to rededication on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Marking the first time the public will be able to tour the temple since its 1974 dedication, the open house will highlight the iconic temple — the first Latter-day Saint edifice built in the Eastern United States. The temple, the Church’s 16th in operation, was announced in 1968 and was dedicated six years later by President Spencer W. Kimball.
“This is a prominent icon located in a prominent place in the Washington, D.C., metro area,” said Anne Golightly, director of public affairs for the temple open house committee. “But more important, … it has a prominent place in many of our hearts.”
The 160,000-square-foot temple sits on 52 acres and serves 123,000 members of the Church in Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania; Virginia; West Virginia and Maryland. It is located 10 miles north of the United States Capitol.
Media gathered in the temple visitors’ center on Feb. 27 where members of the local temple committee spoke about the temple and the upcoming opportunity for many in the community to walk inside.
The original public open house of the Washington D.C. Temple was attended by 758,328 guests, including Betty Ford, wife of then-U.S. President Gerald Ford. These tours resulted in over 75,000 missionary referrals.
With the temple as a backdrop for the press conference, the committee released internal renderings of the edifice — showcasing the celestial room, sealing room, the baptistry and art glass in the temple’s entry.
“For decades, millions of people have driven by or passed the Washington D.C. Temple. It has become an iconic part of the D.C. beltway,” said Aaron Sherinian, a longtime resident and media specialist for the Church. “This fall, it can become an iconic part of people’s lives in a new way.”
For more than a decade, Latter-day Saints east of the Mississippi River and north to Canada and south to Central America, traveled to the temple. Now a new global audience — who represent their countries and their companies in the nation’s capital — can glimpse the temple, said Sherinian. “This is a capital city so global it is with a capital ‘G’,” said Sherinian.
Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department, called the temple “one of the premier temples of the Church.”
As part of the renovation a separate entrance was added to the temple baptistry, making it more accessible for the youth. The temple will also have new carpet and furnishings. In addition, the Alabama white marble that is featured on the outside of the temple is now used inside the temple as well, he said.
New temple lighting and refurbished art glass will make the temple “notably a little brighter to people,” Roberts said.
“We are thrilled with the way it is turning out,” he said.
By the time the renovation is complete, some 1,500 construction workers and artisans will have contributed to the project, said Elder Mark Payne, a missionary who oversees the temple with his wife, Sister Stephanie Payne.
Kisha Sogurno, a member of the Church’s local public affairs committee who represents the Church on a local interfaith council, said a dialogue of respect and dignity has taken place during the temple renovation.
“The Washington, D.C., area includes many communities of faith, and we are honored to work side by side with the people of these congregations,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming congregations from around the region to join us at the open house in a spirit of understanding and goodwill.”
Even though hundreds of thousands could potentially participate in the temple open house, Sherinian said the temple open house is really about individuals who can enter the temple and feel peace.
“We are focused on one number right now and that number is one,” said Sherinian. “We want to ensure that everyone knows the doors are open.”