The Influence, Renovation, and Open House of the Washington D.C. Temple
KENSINGTON, Md. — After a four-and-a-half-year renovation project — including delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic — President Russell M. Nelson will rededicate the Washington DC Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, August 14.
With its six golden spiers soaring skyward above the Capital Beltway, the Washington DC Temple has been a regional landmark for nearly 50 years. Millions of people have seen this towering and imposing building, located just 10 miles from the United States Capitol in the District of Columbia. The temple, the church’s 16th operating and first built in the eastern United States, closed in 2018 to update mechanical and electrical systems, refresh finishes and furnishings, and improve grounds .
In honor of the rededication, the Church News looks back and chronicles the historic events associated with the renovation and rededication of the Washington, DC Temple.
The dedication of 1974
The Washington Temple, as it was originally called, was dedicated as the Church’s 16th operating temple by President Spencer W. Kimball on November 19, 1974, in 10 sessions.
“We hope the Lord is pleased and will come in here and make it his home,” President Kimball said. “The people of this region have waited long and eagerly for this temple. It has been 144 years since the church was restored. Now, we have a temple here, exquisitely beautiful, pleasingly decorated, suitably appointed, to further the work of the Lord.
Many efforts and events led to the dedication of the Washington Temple in 1974.
Additionally, several senior Church leaders have a connection to the historic building.
Closed for renovation
The First Presidency announced on Thursday, February 23, 2017, that two iconic Latter-day Saint temples would be closing for renovations: the Oakland California Temple and the Washington DC Temple. Then-president John D. Jackson of the Annapolis Maryland Stake said the closure would impact members in his stake and throughout the greater capital area. “The Washington DC Temple has become such a significant landmark in the DC area – we [are going to] miss it,” he said at the time.
The open house and rededication of the Washington D.C. Temple has been postponed due to the effects of COVID-19, the Church announced Wednesday, June 17, 2020.
Maryland Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith was working for the National Security Agency in 1974 when he attended an open house for the Washington DC Temple. Nearly half a century later, he has returned to the site, hoping to show his support for the newly renovated temple and the efforts of Latter-day Saints in the community. Attending a media event in the temple’s visitor center on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Wobensmith presented a citation signed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan in recognition of the renovated temple. The framed quote pays tribute to “the unique opportunity for people around the world to view this magnificent and sacred monument”.
Crews lowered the temple to the poles and restored it to the state it was designed – “mid-century modern, only more modern,” said Dan Holt, the Church’s project manager for the renovation of the Washington DC Temple. “There wasn’t a space we didn’t touch, inside or out.”
The temple also had a profound impact on those who participated in the renovation. A craftsman working on the temple, Vidal Boyacá placed the marble for the interior molding of the temple. In doing so, he learned why his work in Latter-day Saint temples should be the best he could offer. “I do everything with care and faith,” he said. “I trust that God will help me. I want it done perfectly. Soon he could see something similar happening inside himself. He was baptized in August 2019.
With a strong early response to the Washington D.C. Temple Open House, the First Presidency extended the open house period and rescheduled the temple rededication. Because nearly 50 percent of the parking available for the initial open house was scheduled within the first two weeks of announcing reservations, the First Presidency approved the extension of the open house and postponed the rededication to August 14. . “Our goal is to invite all to join us in experiencing the peace, beauty, and connection that can be felt in the temple, and to ensure that all who wish to come experience a welcoming, safe and orderly experience in this sacred place,” the statement read.
As hundreds of local and national reporters gathered on the grounds of the Washington, DC Temple on Monday, April 18, Church leaders released the first photographs of the renovated building.
David A. Bednar and Gerrit W. Gong, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in a media event on Monday, April 18. “We hope what you learn today is not just about this building, how it was built and how it was renovated,” Elder Bendar told media representatives. “For us, what is most important is how our hearts change as we come to know God and Jesus Christ, feel their love, and serve our brothers and sisters.”
After leading the tour, Elder Bednar and Elder Gong spoke about temples and peace. “We had the opportunity to meet with dozens of media representatives from around the world,” Elder Bednar said. “They want to know more about the temple and what we do. So they were very receptive, and it was joyful. Brother Bednar and Brother Gong also praised the efforts of young volunteers during the temple’s open house.
Thousands of people shared the story of the Washington DC Temple Open House via social media, collectively inviting millions to #ComeAndSee the #DCTemple. It’s amazing what can happen when media elevates instead of divides,” said Aaron Sherinian, Director of Press and Digital Media for the Open House Committee. “It’s a reminder that, at best, social media was designed to connect the people and things that matter.”
As Church leaders offered VIP tours to guests, many shared their feelings about entering the temple. Church News taped a sample of some of the things they said about the temple. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said, for example, that he was grateful to be part of the “wonderful celebration of faith, community and brotherhood.”
And G. Alexander Bryant, president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, said the visit to the temple was enlightening and broadened his understanding of the church, including the church’s emphasis on the ‘ancestry.
Op-ed on the temple
Elder Bednar wrote in an op-ed published on Medium that hearts are changed by the truths learned in Latter-day Saint temples about God and Jesus Christ—and by the promises made to love and serve. The editorial was featured on the online platform as hundreds marched through the newly restored Washington DC Temple during the Open House media and VIP sessions. “We focus less on what we want and more on aligning our will with God’s,” Elder Bednar wrote.
Reverse open doors
In preparation for the temple open house, small groups of Latter-day Saints and their friends visited sacred sites of other faiths, hoping to learn and foster interfaith relationships. The tours were part of the Reverse Open House series, led by Diana Brown, a Latter-day Saint and Georgetown University’s associate director for interfaith engagement. Beginning in November 2021, the Reverse Open House series took small groups to sacred sites around the DC area for dialogues and various events – from visiting a Catholic basilica to studying Torah in a synagogue. Orthodox Jew, and sharing a meal with a Sikh congregation ending a fast with the Baha’i community.
On May 24, the Church released a virtual tour of the Washington, DC Temple, offering a 360-degree view inside and outside the hallowed building. Posted on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, the YouTube video includes the reception desk, catwalk deck, dressing rooms, baptistery, bridal chamber, sealing room, stairs, initiation area, endowment room, and the celestial room.
Exclusive Preview/Temple Lighting
As the Church prepared for the Washington, DC Temple Open House, Elder Bednar and Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe an exclusive look at the renovated building. The interview, which also included Sister Susan Bednar and Sister Kathy Christofferson, aired over Easter on the network’s “Sunday Morning” show on April 17.
The crews that filmed O’Keefe’s temple visit didn’t need artificial lighting “because the lighting in the temple seems to permeate everything,” Elder Bednar said. “And one of the technicians just raised his hand, and he said, ‘Look, there’s no shadow anywhere.'”
national press club
Speaking to 135 media representatives Thursday, May 26, Elder Bednar spoke about the renovated temple and discussed “a work of the last days.”
The fundamental purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help people discover the nature and attributes of God – to love God, to become disciples of His Son Jesus Christ, and to love and serve God’s children, he told the National Press Club.
“We believe that God can change our hearts and do more on the inside of us than we can ever do on our own,” said Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “And we also believe that changes are often needed from the outside in.”