To anyone who has ever passed by the “Castle on the Beltway” and wondered what it was, you are not the only one; I have always been intrigued by this beautiful building with the golden spires. I finally got to experience its magnificence first hand and it was worth every minute! How? Well, for the first time in 50 years, the Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened its doors to the public and I was there! What an amazing and enlightening experience for my family and friends!
When a Latter-day Saints temple is built or renovated, there is a public open house where everyone, regardless of faith and background, is invited to attend and learn its purpose. The Open House is scheduled for only a short period of time, prior to the temple being dedicated. Once the temple is dedicated, only those who are of the faith are permitted to enter. The Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints closed on March 3, 2018, for extensive renovations, which were completed in 2020, but due to COVID-19, the open house was delayed until 2022.
This temple was built in Kensington, Maryland, in 1974. It was the first temple on the east coast and is the third largest in the world. The building is 160,000 square feet, constructed of Alabama white marble that glistens in the sun. It looks like something out of a fairytale! There are six spires emblematic of the Salt Lake Temple: three spires on the east and three on the west, which represents the two branches of Church leadership – the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. The central tower is 288 feet high, the tallest spire on a Latter-day Saints temple in the world, with an 18-foot golden sculpture of angel Moroni (created by Avard Fairbanks) poised above it like it is floating in the sky. The temple sits on 57.4 carefully manicured acres with beautiful trees and flowers. There is a fountain at the entrance that highlights the beauty of the temple and the lush landscaping of the grounds.
As we entered the temple, the beauty and spiritual symbolism were prevalent throughout, with floor-to-ceiling decorations of white, cream, crystal, glass, and gold. Magnificent artwork and paintings depicting biblical events covered almost every wall, and the stained-glass windows that extended from the first floor to the top floor of each tower were breathtaking (during the renovation, each piece of glass was extracted and polished by hand). The hosts and guides we encountered were extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and courteous. They were candid about their faith and enthusiastic about sharing their place of worship. Obviously, there were places that were off limits to visitors, but overall we were able to see and experience their sealing rooms, baptistery, instruction rooms, and the sacred Celestial Room, which symbolizes heaven/being in God’s presence. No pictures could be taken inside, but there are plenty of pictures on the website and in the brochures illustrating the temple’s beauty and opulence.
I have always been curious and enjoy learning about the beliefs of various religions, as religious beliefs and practices impact human history, culture, politics, economies, and the world. Knowledge and support of religious freedom promote tolerance, provide a better understanding of the complexity of foreign affairs, and increase the likelihood of practicing religious teachings: respect for others, compassion, and goodwill. Latter-day Saint temples are considered houses of God, a place of holiness and peace, separate from the preoccupations of the world. They provide a place where members make commitments to God and where the highest sacraments of the faith occur. The sense of calm and peace I felt as I entered the temple was experienced by all, and I was grateful for the privilege of being allowed access to this sacred place of worship. Sadly, the Open House ended on June 11, 2022, so if you could not attend, it could be another 50 years until this extraordinary opportunity comes around again!