Clad in a bright gold jacket, with a style and design similar to what “Joseph Smith might have worn,” Batchlor Johnson IV looked into a camera and enthusiastically spoke about the Washington D.C. Temple. “There is not a single thing by mistake in there,” he said, pointing to the iconic edifice that sits on the Capital Beltway just miles from the White House. “Everything has symbolism.”
Attending a session of the temple open house for social media influencers, Johnson shared his sentiments about the temple on TikTok and Instagram.
That night his parents, touched by his words, flew to Washington, D.C., to see the temple for themselves.
Johnson said he wanted to make his post about the temple “edgy,” because people find that funnier. But instead, because of the “sacredness of the temple,” he shared his testimony of covenants and his appreciation for Church leaders.
A member of the Church, Johnson entered a temple for his own endowment two months ago.
“Everything started to make sense. A lot of things that did matter to me don’t matter.”
Now he goes to the temple every week.
“It’s like the essence of my being, you know, there’s nothing in the world that can convince me that the Church is not true, nothing that can convince me that God doesn’t exist, that God doesn’t love me.”
With its six golden spires reaching heavenward above the Capital Beltway, the Washington D.C. Temple has stood as an iconic landmark for a half-century. Seen by millions, the temple is used by radio personalities to pinpoint traffic issues in the area.
The 156,558-square-foot edifice sits on 52 acres and is clad with Alabama white marble. It is the Church’s 16th in operation and the first built in the Eastern United States; it closed in 2018 so crews could update mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishings, and improve the grounds.
Church leaders opened the doors to the temple this week, offering VIP tours to invited guests from many walks of life. Following is a sampling of some of the things they said about the temple:
Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., called the temple a “prayerful place” — a place of quiet, calm, and peace.
Cardinal Gregory has also participated in the open house of the St. Louis Missouri Temple. “It’s that same spirit of gentleness and quietness that is very captivating.”
The ability to worship, he said, is critical. It is “one of the foundational planks of our nation, one of the reasons the early settlers wrote into those primary documents the freedom to worship and believe according to your conscience.”
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. He also enjoyed learning about the temple’s construction, how much of Latter-day Saint faith is “intertwined into the structure” of the temple.
People are drawn to sacred things and sacred spaces; the goal in religion “is to try to find God,” he said. That is why “reflection and meditation in those spaces is so powerful.”
He said, “There is something that God has put in all of us that draws us to Him.”
‘Celebration of faith’
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was grateful to participate in the “wonderful celebration of faith, community and fellowship.”
The governor said, as the former chair of the National Governors’ Association, he visited the temple in January. He graduated from high school in 1974 — the year the temple was originally dedicated and has been driving past it on the Capital Beltway every since.
The temple, he said, is one of the most beautiful, iconic sites in the Washington area. “As you come around the beltway, you see these incredible spires reaching to the heavens,” he said.
Amid a chaotic world, the governor said he enjoyed seeing the celestial room on the tour. “Regardless of your faith, I think it’s just a place of peace and serenity,” he said.
‘A bright light’
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the “superlative embodiment of spirituality in America” in these times, when we are unfortunately living at a period defined by division, hate, violence and an outright misrepresentation of truth, said the Rev. Amos C. Brown of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco.
“I had to come for this moment in time to be with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said. “History will record it, that there was a bright light in the Church of Jesus Christ to dispel the darkness that is over this land in 2022.”
Interfaith book group
Pat Marks, Melinda Baird, Terry Dowd and Elizabeth Vaden all attend the same interfaith book group. Their group — which emphasizes faith and friendship — is represented by numerous and diverse religious denominations. In the group, “no question is too outrageous. No question goes unanswered,” said Marks.
“We feel safe asking questions,” added Baird.
They also found the temple to be a safe space to seek answers for questions, said Vaden.
She was moved by the Church’s effort to “open the space and bring people in.”
Dowd added, “The whole atmosphere was gracious. It was explaining who [Latter-day Saints] are in the most gracious way.”
‘An ordinary way’
Corliss Udoema, who runs a local nonprofit, recently received free space to operate a soup kitchen in the area. The Church donated 40,000 pounds of food for her to share.
That is why she came to see the temple. “It is not what they say, it is what they do,” she said of Latter-day Saints. “They have an ordinary way of doing extraordinary things for ordinary people.”
‘A holy place’
Richard Bonnette, senior chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy, welcomes Latter-day Saint midshipmen to the academy every year. Because of that he was thrilled to learn about the “role and purpose of the temple” and how it affects the lives of those who worship there. “The temple is a vital part of the [Latter-day Saint faith],” he said. “It is a holy place, a sacred place,” he said.
Perla Antoniak is a Latter-day Saint who has lived in Washington, D.C. most of her life. Her parents attended the 1974 temple dedication. The temple has not only been a symbol of her Church life, but also her family life, she said. “We always had a picture of it on the wall,” she said.
“The temple to me is a gateway to the unseen. Temples are really special.”
Beckam Stoner, 16, Washington DC Stake, said the temple feels different from any other place in the world. “The temple is the place where I feel closest to God,” he said. “It is more peaceful.”
Even during the early days of the pandemic, when many were isolated and confused, Beckam was not worried. I knew that “I can find peace and everything will be all right.”
Beckam’s twin brother, Rylan Stoner, agreed. “The temple is the house of God. It is the place where we can go to feel the Spirit and to feel closer to God.”
Kisha Sogunro, assistant director of outreach in the Church’s North America Northeast Area, said that in the temple she feels God’s love and His peace.
Washington, D.C., is a very busy city, she added. She enjoyed seeing the temple “come alive in others” as they walked through the doors and felt something special.
The artwork in the temple “has been a phenomenal example of how the Church is a global worldwide church for everyone,” she said, adding that as an African American woman she is represented in the temple.
“It feels like home. It feels welcoming. And so that is what we want to project out into the community as we do this open house — that they’re welcome and represented in the temple, that everyone is a child of God.”
The public open house for the temple will be April 28 through June 11, 2022, except for Sundays. The open house will highlight the iconic temple, the grounds and the temple visitors’ center. Open house ticket information is available at dctemple.org.
Read more coverage of the Washington D.C. Temple
- About the Washington D.C. Temple, plus the dedicatory prayer
- Washington D.C. Temple open house extended, rededication date rescheduled
- In exclusive national interview, Elder Bednar calls Washington D.C. Temple ‘a place of light, of peace’
- See photographs of the inside of the Washington D.C. Temple
- Elder Bednar speaks of the Washington D.C. Temple: ‘It is not just about this building’
- What the Church did to restore, refurbish the Washington D.C. Temple and why it matters
- Video: How temple visitors are finding stillness, peace in the nation’s capital
- Video: Elder Bednar asks, why are we surprised by today’s youth
- Elder Bednar writes about the Washington D.C. Temple, answers questions about why it exists
- Reverse Open House Series: How a temple open house inspired visits to other faiths’ sacred sites, events
- Welcoming media – traditional and social – to the Washington D.C. Temple