D.C.’s LDS temple opens doors to public

Alana Udell, Reporter

Ever since I was a child, I had always imagined that the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chevy Chase was Cinderella’s castle. I thought that a princess lived there, and even now I still find myself referring to it as Disney. I always wondered what was inside, and it was truly mind-blowing to finally find out. 

After being closed to the public since its construction in 1974, the Temple has re-opened its gates for a short period before the building is officially consecrated. Typically, the Temple is only open to people who are Mormon, but from April through June, anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, can take a tour of the temple. This tour includes the gold gilded baptistery, modest sealing rooms, women’s dressing room and the extravagant celestial room. 

The first room I entered was the baptistery. In this room is a small pool, similar to a mikveh but more extravagant. There are also a few pews for an audience to watch the baptisms and a platform next to the pool with a few chairs for the priests who conduct the ceremony. 

What makes this room so amazing is that looking downward, you can see 12 magnificent oxen heads made of stone connected to the pool’s base. According to one of the many signs posted throughout the tour, the oxen are supposed to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. It is almost surreal how much detail there is in each of the carvings, making them captivating to look at.

Another of the most stunning rooms was the celestial room, referred to by Mormons as the holiest place on earth. What I found to be especially enchanting were the crystal chandeliers overhead and the giant gold gilded mirrors. I was amazed that despite its opulence, the room still felt quite peaceful. The room is designed to be a quiet place of reflection, but the lack of sound was near deafening. 

It felt unusual to have to be silent in a holy place. I have always considered the places that are most holy to be the ones where everyone joined together in prayer. Growing up, people walked around my synagogue, spoke during services and little kids even ran through the aisles. It never occurred to me before this that the opposite could be just as holy, and I spent my time in the celestial room pondering that newfound realization. 

Perhaps some of the most surprisingly underwhelming rooms in the Temple were the ten sealing rooms, where official marriage ceremonies are held. They were relatively small compared to where a traditional Jewish wedding would be held. 

However, it is worth noting that the sign explaining the sealing rooms specifies that only a man and a woman may get married in the room. While everyone at the Temple is extraordinarily friendly, small things like this throughout the building hint that there are still outdated and exclusive practices within its walls. This includes having strict outfits for women and men, which don’t allow any wiggle room for transgender or non-binary people.  

Another aspect of the tour I enjoyed were the tour guides, who were gracious throughout the entire experience. They often mentioned how there were rooms that they themselves had never seen before because they were never invited into them. In order to enter the Temple normally, a person must be invited and funded by their Church, and they may only go into the areas permitted. However, the Temple is not where members go for their Sunday services, rather it is a place they visit for special, family-related ceremonies. Additionally, a person may not enter the Temple without being personally invited. 

Overall, the Temple was gorgeous inside and out, though much less overwhelming than I initially expected. In fact, I always assumed it would look more traditional like many mosques and synagogues, but it was quite the opposite. The space was extremely modern, even minimalistic compared to traditional places of worship. Nevertheless, the space and experience felt very welcoming. It was an unforgettable experience that opened my eyes to a whole new community.