The Washington DC Temple is more than a temple in many ways. It is a noted landmark in the region (Seriously, traffic reports describe stuff happening “near the temple” without any further identifier – it’s that much a part of DC culture), and might just be the most iconic temple in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the Salt Lake Temple. However, despite its prominent location within DC culture, the building has also been closed since spring 2018 for extensive renovations, much like other temples around the world.
What joy, then, that we finally have a rededication date! The temple will be rededicated on Sunday, December 13, 2020 across three sessions. A public open house will be held from September 24 through October 31 and private tours will run from September 16 through 23. What’s interesting is that there’s typically 10-14 days or less between the end of an open house and a dedication, but we’re looking at a good six weeks between the two this time around. And before you say, “That’s because they need to replace the carpet,” some local leaders said just this past week that they intended to put the final carpet in prior to the open house. At times, temple open houses are extended on the fly, so perhaps this is a buffer to allow that inevitability.
In a rare move on par with Lebron James’ The Decision, the Church announced a press conference in advance to reveal details about the temple rededication. Normally, this information comes out via press release from the Newsroom. However, the DC temple is not like other temples and the impact it has (as well as potential for explosive outreach campaigns) is unmatched elsewhere. That’s not a dig on other temples, but is the crown prince of some fictious, vaguely Central European Hallmark Channel country going to attend the open house for the Saratoga Springs Temple? No. Betty Ford, then First Lady of the United States, was the most prominent VIP in 1974. Methinks the powers that be will be aiming higher than Melania Trump this time around. Press conference = impact! You’re all on notice, Beltway Insiders / swamp people!
The open house is projected to be one of the largest and most attended of any temple in decades, with aforementioned time devoted exclusively to dignitaries before opening to the general public. Given how famous the building is, and the fact that it hasn’t been available to the public since its initial open house in 1974, demand will be high. Indeed, local public affairs director Anne Golightly described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come and see for yourself what takes place inside these sacred spaces.” Over 750,000 people attened the original open house, approximately 25 percent of the metropolitan population at the time. Today, that would mean nearly two million visitors. Local units have already begun preparing outreach campaigns, and the DC area public affairs team has been working for months to get everything in order. Timing was tricky, as the Church did not want an open house too deep into winter and also did not want to conflict with a presidential inauguration in January 2021.
“This temple is one of the premier temples of the Church,” said Brent Roberts, managing director of the Church’s Special Projects Department. “The renovation that we’re going through right now and that we’ll soon complete will allow the temple to function for many years to come.”
Renderings show an interior not much different from how things were prior to closure. The celestial room does look a bit brighter, however, and everything appears refreshed.
The Washington DC Temple is the tallest temple in the Church, with it eastern spire reaching a height of 288 feet. It is also the third largest by square footage, surpassed only by temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. It was also the first temple built east of the Mississippi River since the original Nauvoo Temple.
Other fun facts, according to ChurchofJesusChristTemples.org: The temple is the only one outside of Utah with six ordinance rooms (assuming nothing changed in the remodel). It is one of five temples with a statue of the angel Moroni holding the gold plates. It is also the first temple to feature a six-spire design since the Salt Lake Temple. The marble cladding is so thin in some parts that it allows light to pass through to the interior. The temple runs a free shuttle from a nearby Metro stop.
Even with the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple taking away roughly a third of the Washington DC Temple’s district, the remaining district still reaches as far as Pittsburgh. (Why anyone in Pittsburgh would drive fourish hours to DC instead of the temple in Columbus, Ohio is anyone’s guess.) In roughly three years, when the Church dedicates the Richmond Virginia Temple, the DC temple will lose most of its southern stakes, becoming a truly localized temple for the first time in its history.
Prior to the rededication, Church leaders will host a youth devotional on December 12 that will be broadcast throughout the region.