- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2022

The Washington D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened its doors to outsiders for the first time in 48 years on Monday, hosting Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and members of the media for a private tour of recently completed renovations.

Top church officials led the tour of the 156,558-square-foot structure in Kensington, Maryland, the third-largest Mormon temple in the world. The officials said they expect thousands of people to come this month for the first public tours of the building since it opened in 1974.

“The purpose of temples is to help us draw closer to God,” said David A. Bednar, a church elder and member of its governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Mr. Bednar pointed out that unlike St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the rooms of an LDS temple “are very functional,” full of comfortable chairs and modern architecture rather than a vast open space.

Mr. Hogan, a Republican, said he wanted to tour the temple because it’s been “an iconic part of the Maryland skyline.” The temple’s spires tower over landscape and are visible from the Capital Beltway, earning it the nickname Emerald City a la “The Wizard of Oz.”

“It’s a reflective kind of place, regardless of what your faith is,” Mr. Hogan said after the tour.

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Church members conduct weddings and baptize their deceased ancestors in the building. Baptized members can also attend video lessons and meditate quietly in a “celestial room” afterward. 

The temple is normally closed on Sunday, a day when church members meet in local congregations for regular services.

Officials would not disclose the cost of the four-year renovation, but said local congregations paid for it through tithing contributions.

They said the renovation included restoring some original design elements and replacing more dated features like shag carpeting.

Workers removed roughly 18,000 pieces of exterior art glass from windows in the 288-foot tall building to clean them individually and restored Alabama marble in the rooms where people get married. They also restored a two-story concrete baptismal font that features 12 oxen — symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel — encircling its base.

In the celestial room, workers replaced 12 chandeliers with Swarovski crystal imported from Austria and added a 13th chandelier.

The temple grounds feature 260 trees, 5,073 shrubs and 3,911 perennials that a fact sheet said were chosen “to complement native plants in the surrounding area.”

The public will be able to tour the renovated temple from April 28 to June 11. Photography is not permitted inside the building, and visitors will receive plastic covers for their shoes to protect the new carpeting.

After the tours, church officials plan to rededicate the temple on Aug. 14 and reopen it for regular services.

The Rev. Amos C. Brown, a California-based board member of the NAACP, was a part of Monday’s tour group. Noting that Mormon officials had named a fellowship after him, the minister from Third Baptist Church of San Francisco said the church had “planted the seeds of reconciliation” through its service to the poor and struggling.

“And, indeed, it is a magnificent and beautiful temple,” Mr. Brown added.

Russell M. Nelson, president of the Utah-based church that counts about 16.5 million members worldwide, greeted Monday’s tour group with a video message.

“Each temple is a beacon of life and hope,” Mr. Nelson said.

A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the D.C. temple’s ranking. It is the third-largest Mormon temple in the world. 

• An earlier version of this article misreported the symbolism of the 12 baptismal oxen.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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