Washington D.C. Temple draws people of diverse faiths as it opens for first time since 1974
Governors, priests, reporters among thousands already visiting the landmark Latter-day Saint temple for special tours ahead of the public open house that begins April 28.
KENSINGTON, Md. — The Rev. David Collins was a fifth grader at a Catholic parochial school in northern Virginia when the Washington D.C. Temple opened to the public for six weeks in 1974.
“I remember the social studies teacher talking with great excitement about being able to go and coming back and telling us stories about it, so in one sense, ever since I was in fifth grade, I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to take a peek,” said Collins, a Jesuit priest and history professor.
Since 1974, the D.C. landmark has been closed to the public, reserved as sacred space for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now, after 48 years, the freshly renovated temple is open to all once again for the next few weeks.
On Monday, 150 journalists from outlets like The New York Times and Fox News toured the temple and began to post, publish and broadcast stories about the public open house, which begins April 28 and runs through June 11.
The Washington Post quoted Gov. Larry Hogan and multiple church leaders in its coverage of Monday’s press conferences and temple tours.
“I’ve been driving past it nearly every day since 1974, and (I had) the opportunity to get inside and to see what it’s all about. I mean, it’s not really just about the building, it’s about what goes on in there,” Hogan said.
“It’s a reflective kind of place, regardless of what your faith is,” Hogan told The Washington Times.
Hundreds of thousands of area residents, political and business leaders, influencers, interfaith friends and others are eager to see inside the temple before it closes to the public again in June. Several governors joined a special tour during the national governors’ meetings.
On Tuesday, the Rev. Collins joined a special tour with other Jesuit professors at one of D.C.’s renowned local universities. The temple’s visitors’ center hummed with activity as invited guests arrived and finished tours. More than 4,100 invited special guests have responded to the invitation to visit the temple this week and early next week before the general public open house begins.
“When the invitation came through Latter-day Saint colleagues at Georgetown University, I immediately signed up,” he said. “This is a very, very busy point of this semester, and still it was worth it,” the Rev. Collins said. “The student papers can wait.”
He said the visit lived up to his expectations even after a wait of nearly five decades. One reason was his experiences with a Latter-day Saint roommate, graduate school friends and colleagues.
“To be able to get this added dimension into what their life of faith is like by seeing the space in which they worship, I would say that is the single best part of everything.”
The Rev. Collins said the renovated temple is beautiful.
“The celestial room is a beautiful room, very conducive to contemplation,” he said. “And the same with the baptismal room.”
Reporters who attended Monday’s media day began posting their stories yesterday and continued to release them on Tuesday.
“I was surprised that the temple didn’t center around one large meeting area like other houses of worship,” a reporter from Axios wrote. “Instead, it has many rooms that are used for different ceremonies such as marriage and baptism.
Bethesda Magazine reported that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told its reporter that the goal of the upcoming public open house is to be transparent about the activities inside the temple.
“You’ve seen the tall spires and gold angel that overlook I-495 for decades now,” a WUSA news anchor said to introduce that CBS station’s coverage.
“From the outside,” reporter Matthew Torres said next, “the building is grand, immaculate and pristine, and when you step inside, it’s the same thing. In a rare opportunity we get a sneak peek inside one of the most sacred landmarks in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia).”
Torres shared clips from his exclusive interviews with church leaders.
“This is an invitation to leave the hustle and bustle, to leave the rush hour (of the Capitol Beltway) to come to a place of transcendent peace,” said Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“I think people are curious and they’re interested to find out what we do,” Elder Bednar said. “That’s what we hope people will find, that they’ll see Christ in all that we do in the House of the Lord.
The Washington D.C. Temple open house begins April 28 and runs daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., except Sundays, through June 11. Free tickets are required to reserve a tour. The tickets are available at dctemple.org/open-house.
“Once this ends and this door closes,” Torres said in his report, “it won’t reopen until the next round of renovations, which could take half a century.”