Like the other 176 operating temples in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Virginia’s first house of the Lord is all about Jesus Christ.
“A temple is a symbol,” said Elder Kevin R. Duncan, executive director of the Temple Department. “Wherever one is, it’s a symbol that Jesus Christ is there. Inside, we learn about who we are and our eternal potential. We learn about what Heavenly Father really has in store for us if we follow Jesus Christ—and that only in and through Jesus Christ can we return to our Heavenly Father.”
“Everything we build into the temple has one purpose,” added Richmond Temple Project Manager Dan Holt. “[And that is] to bring us closer to our Savior, to help remind us of our relationship with Him and the importance of coming to the temple to improve, to progress and grow closer to our Savior and our Heavenly Father.”
This temple, first announced by Church President Russell M. Nelson in April 2018 and located in Glen Allen, is opening its doors to the public. Invited guests will tour this house of the Lord from March 21 to March 24, 2023. The public open house will then run from Saturday, March 25, to Saturday, April 15, 2023, except for Sundays and Saturday, April 1 (general conference).
The Richmond Virginia Temple will be dedicated on Sunday, May 7, 2023, in two sessions (10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), by President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency. The dedicatory sessions will be broadcast to all congregations in the Richmond Virginia Temple district.
Because only faithful Latter-day Saints can enter the temple after its dedication, local members are eager to show the building to neighbors and friends during the open house.
Seth M. Roberts, Bishop of the Bon Air Ward in the Richmond Virginia Midlothian Stake, said he’s already had conversations with friends made at his gym.
“They’ve asked, ‘What about that temple? What is that? What is that building that’s going up in Glen Allen?’” Roberts said. “And it was a great opportunity to explain to them what a temple is and then to invite them to come.”
Temples differ from the Church’s meetinghouses. All are welcome to attend weekly Sunday worship services and other weekday activities at meetinghouses. The primary purpose of temples is for Latter-day Saints to participate in sacred ceremonies, such as marriages, which unite families forever, and proxy baptisms on behalf of deceased ancestors who did not have the opportunity to be baptized while living.
In short, temples are where Latter-day Saints make promises with God and learn of their divine origin and eternal potential made possible through Jesus Christ.
“[Visitors] will feel the Holy Spirit,” said Mamie Kelley of Virginia, who is celebrating a decade as a Latter-day Saint. “And even though they may not recognize it as the Holy Spirit, they will feel something different and something tranquil and something that makes them feel good. And I think they will take that away and say to themselves, ‘Hmm. What was that? I really felt something.’”
Ashlee Stettler, another local member, said Virginians should know that this new temple is theirs too.
“The temple isn’t just the Church of Jesus Christ’s temple,” Stettler said. “It’s Virginia’s temple. You’ll recognize the architecture. It really captures that history of Virginia in its architecture. So, you’ll feel a sense of connection to it. You’ll feel a sense of Virginia and a sense of community. You’ll feel like it’s yours.”
The design reflects the local historical vernacular, a blend of Georgian, Federal, and Jeffersonian architecture, adapted from European styles. The temple site is set with a backdrop of dense wooded growth. The paths, lighting and landscaping are inspired by the gardens and grounds of historic Williamsburg, Virginia. Trees, hedges and flowers are local varieties, such as the dogwood (Virginia’s state tree and flower—dominant throughout the temple’s interior and exterior), magnolia, white oak, boxwood and Virginia bluebells.
“One of the key elements of a temple and temple design is to make sure that it belongs to the people of that area,” Holt said. “One of the best ways we can do that is to really tie ourselves into the history and tradition of the location where we are.”
Some of the building’s art glass comes from an old Protestant church on the East Coast of the United States. The piece depicts Jesus Christ as “The Good Shepherd” welcoming people to the temple.
Overall, the temple art glass’s blue, gold, and red colors pull from an early American color palette.
“Yet another connection both to our Savior and to the locale,” Holt said.
The Richmond Temple features four original pieces of art: “Shenandoah River” by Brad Aldridge; “The Waters of Autumn” by Adair Payne; “Tidewater Spring” by Adair Payne; “We Do Not Doubt Our Mothers Knew It” by Dan Wilson.
“The art tries to elevate our vision and help us look heavenward,” Elder Duncan said. “You’ll either see depictions of Jesus Christ Himself or scriptural narratives regarding Jesus Christ and His teachings.”
Holt added that the building artwork reveals the importance of three fundamental things.
“One is the family unit, one is our relationship with our Savior—specifically depictions of the Savior. And the other is the natural beauty and creations of our Heavenly Father,” Holt said.
Elder Duncan said the temple’s beauty and high standard of construction reflects God’s generosity and our need to give Him our very best.
“This is the house of the Lord,” Elder Duncan said. “He has spared no expense in giving us the most beautiful earth that we have to live on. And because we’re building His house, we strive to give our very best—our very best craftsmanship, the very best materials that we can.
“But,” he added, “it’s not ostentatious. It’s simplistic beauty that elevates one’s vision toward Christ.”