Washington, D.C. Temple – Kensington, Maryland - Atlas Obscura

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Washington, D.C. Temple

The tallest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the world soars above the Beltway. 


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples are known for their splendor and beauty, and few rival the temple in Washington, D.C. It is the third-largest The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the world by square footage, as well as being the tallest. Located adjacent to the Capital Beltway, the massive temple is well known to the thousands of drivers who pass by the towering spires on their daily commute.

The temple was first opened in November of 1974, as the Washington Temple. While it is currently known as the Washington, D.C. Temple, it is actually located north of the city in the suburb of Kensington, Maryland. At the time of its construction, it was the only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in the entire eastern United States, and the first one built east of the Mississippi River since 1846. 

Like many temples, the Washington, D.C. Temple is surrounded by soaring spires, with three to the east and three to the west representing the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods, respectively. The Aaronic priesthood is the lesser of the two recognized priesthoods of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is mostly made up of men ages 12 through 18. 

The towers are in ascending height order, with the shortest on the west and the tallest on the east. The central eastern tower reaches a height of 288 feet, making the temple the tallest in the world. On its top is a statue of the angel Moroni, weighing in at 2 tons and standing 18 feet tall. 

The Washington, D.C. Temple itself is closed to visitors, and is only open to those members of the church who are deemed “worthy” to attend, as the visitor’s center will kindly inform you. Worthiness is determined by a worthiness interview, which addresses the applicant’s relationship with their family and God, amongst other things. There is, however, a visitor center, where guests can look at the church itself as well as a small-scale replica. Additionally, once a year, thousands come to see the church’s Festival of Lights, which runs from December 2nd up to January 1st.

Update as of July 2021: The temple is completing major renovations and is stated for a rededication ceremony June 19, 2022.  The two months prior it will be open to the public for open house tours from April 28 through June 4 (except for Sundays). Open house ticket information is available at dctemple.org.

Know Before You Go

The temple can be reached through the Beltway using exit 33 north, and is also a short shuttle ride from the Metro Red Line's Forest Glen Station. The visitor's center is free, and is open from 10 am to 9 pm daily.

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