RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Central Virginia members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now have a local temple to practice their faith with the opening of the Richmond Virginia Temple in Glen Allen, the first in the commonwealth.
“For a family like ours with young kids, it just makes it so much more accessible to us,” Jeff Dunn said. “Before, it was like a full-day event to go up to D.C. or go down to Raleigh.”
Jeff and Whitney Dunn, of Tuckahoe, have four children ranging in age from 2 to 11. Their family previously made one or two trips a year to the temples because of the two- to three-hour drives. Now, they get to worship in a brand-new temple that is only 10 minutes away.
“I just felt at home,” Whitney Dunn said after taking a tour of the temple. “I felt like it was a place where I felt comfortable and peaceful. I wanted to stay, I didn’t want to leave.”
About 100,000 Virginians are Latter-day Saints, including 34,000 in the Richmond region. The Richmond Virginia Temple, at 10915 Staples Mill Road, now serves a community that has been waiting and praying for a temple for years.
“Religious freedom is such an essential element to the spirit of Virginia,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said during an open house event at the temple. “It is amazing to see the interwoven nature of this in this magnificent temple.”
A public open house runs through April 15, excluding Sundays and the April 1-2 general conference weekend. The temple will then close to prepare for its dedication on May 7.
“The opening is a great honor, not only as members of the church, but an opportunity for us to invite the community and see our temples,” said Jack Gerard, the church’s General Authority Seventy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have 177 operating temples worldwide once the Richmond Virginia Temple has its dedication. An additional 123 temples are in development or undergoing construction.
The church has teams that find the land and build the temples. Much of the funding comes through tithing, where members of the faith give one-tenth of their income to the church.
Construction began on the Richmond Virginia Temple in April 2020, on what had been a wooded parcel. The building is more than 39,000 square feet and nearly 165 feet tall.
The exterior features a combination of Georgian, Federal and Jeffersonian architecture, similar to other buildings in Richmond. The paths, lighting and landscaping take inspiration from Williamsburg.
The inside of the temple has four instruction rooms, three sealing rooms and one baptistry. The interior materials include marble flooring, wood doors, bronze hardware, art glass and decorative painting and lighting. Each temple is designed to reflect the communities they serve.
“Here in Richmond, you’ll see this (temple) reflects a lot of Virginia history: the dogwood trees, the historic colonial nature of where we are, really the history of this part of the world, this part of the country,” Gerard said.
The 12-acre property also has a separate meeting house where Sunday worship takes place. The temple is closed on Sundays, but is open every other day of the week for teachings, reflections and the sacraments. Audio and video recordings in the instruction rooms are available in 100 languages.
The church’s leaders encourage members from all over the world to visit, as well as those who are not involved with the church.
“We invite everyone in the commonwealth to come to the temple, see what’s inside and feel the peace that we feel,” said Kevin Duncan, executive director of the temple department. “We open the doors not to show off the building; we opened the door to share a promise. This is a house of hope.”