Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
WASHINGTON — For the first time in 48 years, the doors of the Washington D.C. Temple will open to the general public for six weeks beginning on April 28.
Elder David A. Bednar gave CBS News Sunday Morning's Ed O'Keefe and the network's cameras an exclusive preview of the renovated temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The news magazine aired a five-minute segment on Sunday.
CBS also posted on its YouTube channel a 100-second clip from one of the temple's sealing rooms, where Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered marriage advice based on symbolism in the rooms where Latter-day Saints can be bound together forever in an ordinance known as sealing.
Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, showed O'Keefe the infinite reflections provided by facing mirrors as couples kneel at an altar to be sealed together.
"If Susan and I stand here and look into these mirrors, if I look at Susan and Susan looks at me, you can see forever," Elder Bednar said. "But if I look into the mirror just in my eyes, and Susan looks only into her eyes, all you can see is yourself. That's all the marriage advice anybody ever needs.
"As long as I'm looking to Susan and being concerned about her comfort and well-being, things will work fine, if she's doing the same. But if I'm self-centered and selfish, then it probably doesn't work very well."
The temple has been a landmark on the Capitol Beltway for area residents and international visitors since its construction and first open house in the fall of 1974. After 758,000 people toured the temple then, it was dedicated and reserved only for Latter-day Saints who keep commitments to live worthy of temple attendance.
Now the temple that stands on a prominent hill 10 miles north of the White House will be open again for six weeks from April 28 and June 11, after media and VIP tours over the next 10 days. Free tickets to the open house can be reserved here.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who had a role in the Watergate court proceedings as a young lawyer, also was on the tour with Sister Kathy Christofferson.
O'Keefe noted that some say the way the temple rises above the Beltway reminds them of the Land of Oz.
Elder Christofferson said the church hopes open house visitors will come to see the temple "as something much, much more than Oz."
The temple closed in 2018 for mostly technical renovations. Work was completed in 2020 and an open house and dedication were scheduled for fall and winter that year before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans.
CBS Sunday Morning host Jane Pauley introduced O'Keefe's segment.
"In a city filled with inspiring monuments, one Washington, D.C., landmark has long been something of a mystery. Until now," she said.
Elder Bednar told O'Keefe there is a difference between secrets and sacred space.
"Sometimes we're accused of, 'What are the secret things that you do in the temple?' he said. "They're not secret; they're sacred. And so we don't speak of them casually or lightly because, to us, they're so central, so fundamental and so important to how we live."
O'Keefe noted the temple's massive size — its six spires reach nearly 300 feet — and its white Alabama marble.
The Washington D.C. Temple was the church's only temple east of the Mississippi when it was built. Church leaders intended it to be striking and to be central to its message of the importance of family in the faith's doctrine about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Once the Capital Beltway's route was settled, church leaders moved the temple's location on the hill by 60 feet to add to its prominence to beltway drivers, according to historians.
As the CBS tour entered the temple, O'Keefe asked the apostles and their wives if the news crew was walking into another realm.
"Yes, symbolically," Elder Bednar said. "We're leaving the world and entering a more heavenly place where we learn about God."
O'Keefe noted that most of the spaces inside are windowless, hushed and intimate.
"One room that does wow is the baptistry," he said, explaining that it is a place for Latter-day Saints to be baptized on behalf of their ancestors who may choose to accept or reject it in the afterlife.
The segment made it clear that the church's public message a half-century after the temple first opened is still centered around family. It also noted a newer message, that the church and its members no longer refer to themselves as Mormons, "emphasizing instead what they share with other Christian faiths: a reverence for Christ," O'Keefe said.