To many in the D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia area who have drove on I-95 through Kensington, MD, they are familiar with the Disney castle or more accurately, the Mormon temple. On April 18th, I had the opportunity to tour The Washington D.C. Temple, which is the 16th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As a photo editor at Washingtonian Magazine, my job's description does not include going to press events and being the lead photographer. For this particular event, both of our staff photographers were on leave, so I volunteered to take on the task of attending the press event along with a reporter, with the intent of getting interior photos of this temple, where so much speculation surrounds it and its members.
When we arrived at the temple's welcome center, I immediately began video recording small clips so we could have video content for Washingtonian's TikTok. I captured everything I could until it was time to enter the temple. In under 24 hours, the video gained 50k views. This was huge for me as I would soon find out photos were prohibited inside the temple.
As soon as the press conference ended, we were guided into a check-in tent where all media who wished to enter the temple were required to check-in their equipment. As I turned over my equipment, I quickly notified my director and section editor to let them know our plans had fell through visually.
Where photography fails, experience prevails.
As we entered the temple, I mentally prepared myself to take everything in. I reminded myself, "where photography fails, experience prevails." From the moment we entered the temple, I felt a shift in the atmosphere. I felt a sense of peace come over me, as if someone placed a warm, weighted blanket to comfort me. There were no shadows, light poured out from every inch of the temple. And it was so quiet, you could've heard a pen drop when the presenters weren't speaking.
At first, I was disappointed we weren't allowed to photograph the interior of this temple, but it dawned on me– this isn't just a cool building towering over the tree-line from the highway– this is a place of worship. It doesn't matter if you don't believe what the LDS community do or not, we still must respect their space while in it, especially since they've opened their doors to us for the first time in 50 years after renovating.
Once I put my expectations to the side, I was able to feel the space. I was at peace. I left the buzzing of the world outside where I left it, at the check-in area outside before entering this marvelous temple. I experienced God in a place I never thought in a million years I'd get to be. He found me in that place, with other members of the media looking for a story but with me coming out with my own.
My experience was that God will find me wherever I'm at. Spiritually, I had been searching for God in many places- in devotionals, in mindless prayers, and even google searches. My therapist had reminded me the previous week that God is all around me, I just have to invite Him in. It was here in this temple, as I left work and the desire to show others what the inside of a temple looked like that God met me as I was searching for my own answers.
I left that temple fulfilled, no longer sad or upset that I was unable to photograph what the inside of The Washington D.C. Temple looks like. The interior of that temple, as well as the sensations felt while inside it, are forever engrained in my heart and mind.
As the Washingtonian reporter and I were packing up to leave, Mike Headrick of KSL TV, a reporter from a news station in Utah stopped me. He heard the experience I shared inside of the temple and decided to interview me. It was weird being interviewed by another reporter, especially as I am always behind the camera. I am grateful he stopped me on my way out as I have something proving my experience down the line.
Sometimes, photography will never be able to do justice to what we've experienced on our own when trying to express what we've seen and felt to others. What I experienced inside The Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is something I'll speak of for years to come.