(Kensington) Straight out of a science fiction novel, with its six golden spiers and pristine whiteness, the Mormon Washington Temple has fascinated those who see it but never get inside for decades. Your curiosity will soon be satisfied: it opens its doors to the public for the first time in almost half a century.
Posted at 7:22
Updated at 11:25am
The building, one of the most mysterious in the American capital and its region, is normally only accessible to members of the very conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for which family, chastity and missionary work are core values. Something to feed the fantasies.
“People think what we do inside is a secret. But as you saw today, it’s just sacred. Very sacred to us,” Kevin Duncan, a senior church official, told AFP.
On Monday, during a day when the temple was presented to the media, the temple welcomed non-Mormons for the first time since it was dedicated in 1974. The opportunity to discover its subdued interior, refined and luxurious with its thick carpets and its gilding, where there seems to be no dust and where you can only enter wearing white slippers.
When the temple last opened to the public 48 years ago, Gerald Ford was President of the United States, and according to the Church, 750,000 people crowded Kensington Hill in Maryland, just outside of Washington, where it was built. Including First Lady Betty Ford.
The temple closed for renovations in 2018 and was scheduled to reopen in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the schedule.
baptisms for the dead
Prospective visitors must reserve free tickets to access the site from late April to early June.
You will be able to discover the rituals of the church where, as soon as the members enter what they consider to be the holiest place on earth, they give up their street clothes to dress in white. “A reset of the counters, a symbol of equality, of purity,” said David Bednar, one of the 12 Apostles of the Church, who traveled from Utah for the occasion.
The curious can also visit the Baptistery, where a small pond is placed on the backs of 12 life-size white marble bulls, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
A Mormon peculiarity is that baptisms by immersion, which take place in the temple, are reserved for the dead.
The Church actually permits her flock to be baptized in the name of one of her ancestors. It is up to the souls of the latter – if they exist and the Church firmly believes in them – to accept this “gift” or not. Ordinary baptisms take place in other buildings.
Among the many other rooms in this multi-story temple are the “sealing chambers,” where marriages are performed (“sealed”) around a white marble altar upholstered in beige velvet.
Partnerships that are formed exclusively between a man and a woman and are meant to last not only throughout life but also beyond death because “the family is essential in the divine plan,” explains Mr. Bednar. Parents and children can also “seal” their ties for eternity at a ceremony in the same rooms.
The church expects several hundred thousand visitors to its open house.