My childhood memories of the temple all revolve around the Washington D.C. Temple. It was this temple that I saw in all of my parents’ wedding pictures. It looked like a castle and I dreamed of going inside someday.
My earliest understanding of temple worship was that my parents went inside this beautiful building while we watched videos in a visitors’ center and they returned with giant chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t know at the time what happened inside the walls of the temple and certainly didn’t understand the nature of covenants, but I knew that I felt happy any time we were on the temple grounds and I knew my parents seemed happier when they came out of that castle-like building.
As I grew older, I had opportunities to travel on bus trips as a youth to watch “The Testaments” and “The Restoration” in the Visitors’ Center theater. I recall youth leaders who took their entire Saturday to drive us up to do baptisms in that sacred building and I began to understand the sanctity of what happened within its walls.
The temple’s grounds also bring back sweet memories. In college, as a student at Southern Virginia University, I was able to help decorate the grounds for Christmas and as an intern for Church Public Affairs, I helped prepare for the lighting ceremony for the Festival of Lights in 2011.
My most recent memory associated with the Washington D.C. Temple is sitting at the foot of my grandpa’s bed back in June, just weeks before he passed away, as he told me of organizing temple trips for his small North Carolina branch decades ago.
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I know you probably shouldn’t have favorite temples, but when I think of the Washington D.C. Temple it’s hard for me to feel impartial as I see in my mind’s eye loved ones coming through the doors after being sealed and countless other moments that have taken place on those holy grounds.
It is for all of these reasons that I have anxiously awaited the temple’s rededication that was supposed to happen this Sunday as well as the open house which would allow thousands who have seen the temple from the freeway and longed to see inside to enter its doors. But due to COVID-19 that rededication has been postponed and after years of renovation, the temple remains void of patrons. It serves as yet another reminder that as Elder David A. Bednar said in a video released Monday, “Our participation in temple worship is a sacred privilege, not an entitlement or simply part of our established routine.”
But thanks to the innovation and creativity that has been born out of necessity in the midst of this pandemic, it did my heart good to learn that people will return to the temple—at least to its grounds—this weekend as the temple will begin a special no-contact/drive-thru edition of its annual Festival of Lights.
So while, like most things this year, the festival won’t look the same as it has looked in previous years, if there’s anything I learned as a child, it’s that you don’t have to go inside the temple or even inside the visitors’ center to feel something on those grounds.
So if you are in the area between Dec. 11 and Dec. 28, would you stop by in my place? Make your own Washington D.C. Temple memories this Christmas and together, we’ll look forward to when we can “go inside someday.”
What: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Festival of Lights
Where: Washington D.C. Temple
When: Friday, December 11, through Monday, December 28, nightly from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (EST)