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After the first news conference on the media day for the ongoing Washington D.C. Temple open house, I was assigned with other journalists for a tour of the temple.

Over the next hour, an apostle shared with reporters fascinating details about the temple’s renovation, many of them rooted in light and lighting. Here is some of what was said by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

The temple’s interior lighting

When Elder Gong had us sit in a sealing room to talk, one journalist shared his impression of the Celestial Room and its chandeliers.

“I felt like it was God’s spirit sprinkling out of the lights,” he said.

Elder Gong then called attention to the lighting in the sealing room. A few days earlier, two other apostles had led a CBS Sunday Morning camera crew on a special tour of the temple. Crew members swiftly noticed that the temple was so evenly lit that they didn’t need the typical lighting equipment they bring with them everywhere.

“There is such special light, you don’t see shadows,” Elder Gong said, prompting the journalists to look all around the room.

“I think God’s love is like that,” he said.

Elder David A. Bednar talked about the camera crew’s reaction in a new Church News video. He and Elder Gong said they would be interested to notice in the future if lighting in other temples was similarly even.

The temple’s striking stained glass windows

Stained glass windows on two corners of the temple affect its lighting, inside and out.

During the day, those windows let light into the temple. At night, light from inside the temple, brightly colored by the stained glass, projects out over the Capital Beltway from the hill on which the temple sits.

After 48 years, however, the stained glass needed work. Leaks had formed between some of the glass and the frames, because some of the epoxy between them had deteriorated.

“Each of those colored stones was individually taken out and repolished,” Elder Gong said. “The leaks have all been patched.”

He said the windows had special meaning. He previously had talked about the seven floors of the temple. At 288 feet, the Washington D.C. Temple is the tallest of the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The Salt Lake Temple is 210 feet tall. Both measurements include the spires.)

“Part of the verticality is that we’re moving spiritually,” Elder Gong said. It also is an expression of connection, he added. “The verticality connects us, some call it communion, to heaven, to people today, to people in the past and to people coming.”

The stained glass windows are part of that vertical design, he said, as he prepared to lead the tour up a stairway along one corner with stained glass.

“The stones get lighter as you go up, as part of the symbol. They start off a little darker, a little thicker, and grow a little lighter as you come up,” he said. “It’s a reminder, as we’ve been walking up the stairs higher into the temple, of growing closer to that communion with heaven.”

He said he hoped reporters from the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region would remember the stained glass.

“I hope as you come around the Beltway and you see them, you’ll think, I got to see those from the outside in and the inside out,” he said.

The temple’s exterior lighting

The temple revealed how its exterior interacts with light during 10 days of tours for invited guests prior to the full public open house that began on April 28.

“There’s two elements on this temple that look different,” said Dan Holt, the renovation project manager.

One of those is the gold-plated spires, which shined with intense brightness on sunny days and looked far more golden on rainy and cloudy days.

The other is the Alabama white marble of the temple’s exterior walls.

“The color of the marble itself changes with the reflection of light and the time of the day, too,” Holt said. “So someone will walk up and say, ‘Oh, there’s a lot more veining in it. What have you done?’

“It’s almost like it’s alive,” he added. “It just reflects the light. Some days it’s almost a cream color, and then there’s some days where it looks gray and a little bit softer.”

The open house runs through June 11. Free tickets are available here.

My recent stories

See which national leaders have toured the Washington D.C. Temple, from the Supreme Court to Congress (April 28)

Latter-day Saint leaders and LGBTQ advocates deepen their relationship on Washington D.C. Temple tour (April 27)

About the church

The Church News continues to produce strong videos from select church events. Here are three from the Washington D.C. Temple open house that I recommend:

Famous actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson visited the church’s well-known Polynesian Cultural Center near the BYU-Hawaii campus. He loved it, calling it “beautiful, unforgettable, soul-enriching.”

The Rev. Theresa A. Dear, a national board member of the NAACP, shared her reflections from a memorable tour of the Washington D.C. Temple.

The Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation acquired his personal Bible and six volumes of journals authored by one of his 18 sons, Asahel Hart Woodruff. Read more here.

Church leaders held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Farmington New Mexico Temple in the Four Corners area on April 30.

KSL NewsRadio celebrates its 100th anniversary on Friday. Read what Doug Wright, Amanda Dickson and others are saying about their memories and serving Utah at the church-owned station.

What I’m reading

Why do most college football players struggle to adjust to or succeed in the NFL? This piece argues that the reason is the field markings make professional American football a different game from what they played in college. This will make you sound smarter.

The traveling Sistine Chapel exhibit is in Salt Lake City now and may be headed to a city near you. Here’s a colleague’s take on the exhibit’s strengths and surprising weaknesses. I want to go see it.

I’ve long been fascinated by apologies. When famous people get in trouble, they often don’t accept full responsibility for their errors or mistakes. My least favorite apology is “to those I may have offended.” That’s blaming, not apologizing. So I’m always on the lookout for models of accepting responsibility. Here’s a fresh one from the world of baseball. A Philadelphia player made three errors in a game and was booed roundly. He was caught saying to a teammate, “I hate this (blankety-blank) place.”

“Look, emotions got the best of me,” Alec Bohm said when reporters swarmed him in the locker room after his team came from behind to win the game. “I said it. Do I mean it? No. It’s a frustrating night for me, obviously. I made a few mistakes in the field. Look, these people, these fans, they just want to win. I mean, you heard it. We come back, they’re great. I’m sorry for them. I don’t mean that. Emotions just got the best of me.”

A reporter asked another question: “So you actually love this place?”

“Yeah,” Bohm said, smiling. “You know what? I do. Yeah.”

Fans gave him a standing ovation the next day. Lesson: Taking responsibility works (paywall).

Behind the scenes

Elder Gerrit W. Gong greets Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory, Archbishop of the District of Columbia, at the Washington D.C. Temple.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, greets Cardinal Wilton Daniel Gregory, Archbishop of the District of Columbia, during tours of the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, right, talks with Anna Little and Audrey, Ginny and Lily Bastian after a tour of the Washington D.C. Temple.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, right, talks with Anna Little and Audrey, Ginny and Lily Bastian after giving them a tour of the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News