The “Emerald City of Oz” in D.C. is finally open to visit


Photo by Leah Kreisler

Visitors not only get to see the inside of the temple, but they are also able to see the beautiful grounds which are curated by Church members. The inside and outside of the building strike an imposing day and evening view.

By Leah Kreisler, Online Photo Manager

Anyone who has driven on the beltway recognizes the six great towers of what seems to be a castle rising out of the woods. “Emerald City” as most people call it is, in fact, the D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and after nearly 50 years of being open solely for members of the church, it is holding a public open house from April 28-June 11, 2022.

The members of the LDS Church, more commonly known as the Mormons, are a religious group that follow Christian ideology as well as revelations from their founder Joseph Smith. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, the LDS Church has more than 16 million followers. While the LDS Church has meetinghouses where followers come together for weekly Sunday meetings, the most sacred place within the religion is an LDS Temple.

“On Sundays we go to church at our local congregationalist worship houses,” Mariana Harrast, a member of the LDS Church and a volunteer at the temple open house, said. ”If you have ever seen any of them you know that they are not very fancy, we don’t have stained glass, there aren’t beautiful chandeliers. For us, our congregation meetings on Sundays are when we go with our families to worship but this is the pinnacle. [The Temple] is the house of the Lord for us. We save the beautifulness for temples.”

Although most cities have LDS congregationalist churches, there are only 163 currently operating temples around the world. This means that some members of the Church are able to live near a temple while others have to travel for hours in order to participate in the holiest of ordinances in Mormonism, including sealings (marriages) and baptisms.

“The temple is a place of worship, it is actually the house of the lord,” Mason Kelly, a missionary known as Sister Kelly within the LDS Church, said. “This is a very sacred place where we come to do sacred ordinances which help us come closer to Jesus Christ and our heavenly father and where we come to know who we are and our purpose on earth and for the life to come.”

Construction of the D.C. LDS Temple began in 1968 and was completed in 1974. Since the day it was dedicated, no one without a temple recommend has been allowed to enter. A temple recommend is an official document stating that the holder observes church principles and practices and as such is permitted to enter the temple; it can be obtained as early as age 12. 

After a temple is constructed, a dedication ceremony must take place in order to establish the building for the work of God. 

“The temples are dedicated to the Lord which means it’s the Lord’s house; you are in the literal presence of God and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. So what dedication means is a prayer dedicating the temple to the Lord so we can perform these sacred ordinances in the temple,” Kelly said. 

After a renovation, a Temple must be rededicated in order to once again operate. 

“The temple had some changes made to it. Not structurally but just to keep things running accordingly because…it was built in 1974. It was just to maintain some things like the mechanics and lighting so that the temple can keep running for a long time after,” Kelly said. 

It is customary that before a dedication or rededication a temple is open to the general public.   So now, after 50 years of imagining what the inside looks like, DC area residents have  the opportunity to experience the Temple’s interior. 

The open house is not just an opportunity for non-Mormons to visit the temple: it is also a chance for the LDS community to educate the public. The Church views it as a great way for people to learn more about a religion that has remained somewhat in the shadows for many years. 

“I think [the open house] is actually a great idea because I’m really excited for people to see my religion,” WCHS freshman Noelle Greer said. “People can judge religions so easily and getting to go inside the temple means that they have a chance to get to know the religion better so that it’s not such a mystery.”

While Greer has a temple recommend, she has not been able to go inside the temple because by the time she became eligible, it had already closed for renovations. Members of the church who have a temple recommend but are under the age of 18 are only allowed to go inside the temple to perform baptisms. Greer is excited about the prospect of visiting the temple during the open house for the very first time along with her younger siblings who are not yet 12-years old.

“I’m super excited because I’ve never seen the inside,” Greer said. “This is something that the people in our church in this area have been excited about for years … because many of us kids didn’t have a chance to go in before it closed. This is our temple and it is the reason that a lot of families moved to this area.”

Regardless of personal religious beliefs, entering the D.C Mormon temple is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Visitors have been given the unprecedented opportunity to see many rooms inside the temple, including the endowment rooms, where members learn more about God’s plan. Other rooms on the self-guided tour include the celestial room, a room of meditation and thinking, and the sealing rooms, where marriages take place.

The open house is also an opportunity to talk with the Church member volunteers working at the open house and learn about the LDS religion. In order to attend the open house, visitors must obtain a free ticket online through the Church website. 

“It’s a great experience and in fifty years, you will drive by this building and you’ll be able to say ‘I was in there’,” Harrast said. “For fifty years people have been driving by this building and saying ‘Is that Disney or a princess castle? Is that Six Flags? Or maybe it’s Oz?’ People have no idea what’s inside. It’s a complete mystery, and now you can actually come in for free and understand what goes on inside the castle that you see whenever you drive on the beltway.”