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History of the Temple
The Washington DC Temple in Kensington, Maryland, a place of worship for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known popularly as the Mormon temple, was first planned when members of the church decided to build a temple in the Washington, DC, area. They purchased 52 acres overlooking I-495, the Capital Beltway, and President of the Church David O. McKay authorized the construction of a seven-story, six-spire building. Ground was broken in 1968 and clearing the site began in 1971. According to the church, the temple’s completion in 1974 marked it as their 16th operating temple and the first to be faced with marble, which was quarried in Alabama. Before dedicating the temple and beginning its service to members of the church, President of the Church Spencer W. Kimball oversaw the opening of the temple to the public. According to Temple Historian Emily Utt, more than 750,000 people were reported to have toured the temple during the open house in 1974. The dedication of the temple was held in November of that year, and it was closed to outside visitors.
By Dorvall Bedford
At the time it was dedicated, the temple district included about 300,000 people living in the eastern United States, eastern Canada, and the Caribbean. The temple would continue to serve its members of the church and host the Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center, but the temple closed to everyone in 2018, when it required renovations and repairs. Members of the church and the public have not been able to visit the temple until April of this year. The Temple Today
On April 18, members of the church invited press to visit and go on a tour through the Washington DC Temple. Inside were intricate and pristine white rooms, including a baptistry with a pool of water shouldered by marble bulls, a brides’ room with a cherry blossom-patterned rug, and the “Celestial Room” that is watched over by a large chandelier in the middle and 12 other chandeliers along the walls. The temple’s interior is not the only impressive part of the temple or the only thing that changed with the renovations. According to Renovation Project Manager Dan Holt, the church had replaced the manicured landscape during the renovation process with the help of Ruppert Landscape of Laytonsville, MD. They rejuvenated the landscaping to restore the same “organized feeling” that was once there but had been lost over the last few decades. Utt said the original design of the landscape was meant to be very clean and linear. However, over time, curved paths began to appear, an unnecessary gazebo was added, and other little changes occurred that led to the landscape needing a redesign. The new landscape has 260 trees, 5,073 shrubs, and 3,911 perennials. Most of the plants are native to the region, Holt said, an aspect of the landscape that reduces the amount of maintenance required and creates a consistent and healthy garden. Another reason why the plants are native is because the church wanted to assimilate the design of the temple and its gardens to the area, to create ties between the church and the local community. One of the most prominent images of the landscape is the long stretch of grass leading to the flowing fountains in front of the temple’s entrance. Beyond that are equally or even more
A Rare Look at the Washington DC Temple
memorable sights. For Holt, the most beautiful parts of the landscape are the flowering trees. “I was proud of the landscape contractor who was able to really preserve those,” he said. “It’s oftentimes very difficult to preserve a tree that size and to get it to continue to grow.” Elder Kevin Duncan, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department, said he found the redesign of the landscape stunning. It succeeded in serving the purpose of giving the same sense of peace that would be felt inside the temple itself, he said. “I think when people come onto the grounds, they immediately feel peace and serenity,” Duncan said. “At every temple we have, whether it’s in Tokyo or DC, we try to have a peaceful, serene place there and it’s fun to walk through them.” Special Dates and Events
The Washington DC Temple is hosting a public open house until June 11. For the first time since 1974, visitors, including anyone who is not a member of the church, can go on a once-in-alifetime tour through the temple. The public can also attend the Temple Rededication Concert on June 11 at Annandale Stake Center in Annandale, VA, and on June 12 at the Washington DC Stake Center in Kensington. Both are free with no tickets required and will start at 7pm. Members of the church can look forward to the rededication of the temple on August 14. After the event, the temple will resume being open only to members of the church. Last year’s Festival of Lights show at the temple was canceled due to COVID19 concerns and the church’s focus on the open house. The church has released no updates about whether a festival wil be held this year. Visiting the Washington DC Temple
The Washington DC Temple Open House tours are offered every day except Sundays until June 11, and are free of charge for anyone. However, visitors who want to access the temple’s parking lot or use the Metro shuttle will have to reserve a ticket on the temple’s website, https:// dctemple.org/open-house/. At presstime, all tickets for Saturday tours had sold out, but plenty of weekday tickets are still available. Visitors who arrive without a car or do not take the Metro shuttle do not require tickets. o
Dorvall Bedford is a journalism major at the University of Maryland, College Park, and an intern this semester with Washington Gardener. He is a native of Frederick, MD. Washington DC Temple photos are courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.