This story was updated at 10 p.m. on April 19, 2022, to correct the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
For nearly 50 years, only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been allowed inside the church’s Washington D.C. Temple, whose iconic white spires at its Kensington site tower over the nearby Capital Beltway.
But that will change for a short period this spring when the church opens the building, known informally as the Mormon Temple, to the public from April 28 through June 11 following an extensive renovation project, according to the church’s website. There will also be a rededication ceremony on Aug. 14.
The goal of the open house is to provide transparency to the public about the activities inside the temple according to David Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles – a governing body of the church.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and other church officials spoke at a ceremony Monday marking the opening of the temple to the public, before a media tour.
Hogan said Monday that 40,000 residents of the state are members of the church.
“Since 1974, this incredible temple with its beautiful towering spires has been an iconic landmark in the Maryland skyline along the Capital Beltway,” he said.
Rev. Amos Brown, a board member of the NAACP and the pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, said the “true beauty of the temple does not lie in what you can see… . It lies in what you cannot see.”
The renovations, which began in the spring of 2018 and lasted two years, upgraded mechanical, electrical, lighting and plumbing systems, according to a church press release. Additionally, there were some 1970s design elements such as shag carpeting that were removed, church leaders told reporters during a tour on Monday.
Dan Holt, a project manager with LDS, told Bethesda Beat on Monday that church donations paid for the renovations. He said the church isn’t disclosing the cost because doing so would distract from the importance of the occasion.
When the temple opened in 1974, the church held an open house that was attended by more than 750,000 people, according to the church. Since then, only members of the faith have been allowed inside the seven-story, 160,000-square-foot structure.
Kathryn Colton, the co-chair of the temple’s open house committee, told Bethesda Beat that the church had planned to hold the open house in 2020, but decided to postpone due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We put it aside until we felt it was safe to have large numbers of people come into the temple,” she said.
Colton said admission is free, but visitors must reserve parking passes online. Additionally, people can reserve tickets for a shuttle bus from the Forest Glen Metro Station. More information is available on the church’s website.
The Mormon Temple is a grand structure made of white marble from Alabama. There are six spires on top, which resembles the Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City. Inside there are narrow staircases, with stained glass and paintings on the walls. Some of the rooms are spacious and have high ceilings, while others are smaller and more intimate.
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Images from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Among the rooms in the temple are the Celestial Room – an oval-shaped room with high ceilings and a skinny chandelier in the center. There is also a sealing room with an altar, where marriage ceremonies are performed, and a baptistry.
Anne Golightly of Bethesda, the communications director for the temple’s open house committee, told Bethesda Beat that she thinks people of all faiths who visit during the open house will find the experience meaningful.
“This is a sacred building, not just in our worship, but in our lives,” she said. “When we feel sad or confused or perhaps hurt, we bring those issues with ourselves to the temple because when we’re at the temple we feel a sense of perspective that we don’t feel anywhere else.”
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org