Public will be allowed to visit the Oz-like Mormon temple near D.C. for the first time in more than 40 years

Photo courtesy LDS Church After the completion of the Washington, D.C., Temple renovation in 2020, it will be rededicated. Public open house and rededication information will be provided as the renovations near completion.

For anyone who drives around the Capital Beltway, the soaring white spires are a familiar sight — and yet a complete mystery to most.

Maryland children have grown up believing that the fairytale building was Disneyland, or heaven itself. Drivers sitting in maddening Interstate 495 traffic have likened the building to the Emerald City so often that pranksters started writing “Surrender Dorothy” on the nearby bridge.

Finally, for the first time since the 1970s, all those curious onlookers will finally have their chance to peek inside.

It’s not heaven or Oz; it’s the temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kensington, Md. The Utah-based faith allows only faithful members inside its 157 working temples. So, since this one opened in 1974, only the Washington area’s approximately 40,000 Mormons have had access.

But the church will be renovating the Kensington temple, starting in March 2018. And that means, as Bethesda Magazine noted Monday, that there will be a brief window, when the renovations are complete and before the rededication, when the temple will not yet be dedicated and thus will be open to non-Mormons.

Mark your calendars for 2020. That’s when you’ll probably get to take your tour.

At the D.C. temple, guests have always been welcomed at the visitors center adjacent to the edifice, and on the grounds, where the church puts on a spectacular Christmas light show. In a statement, the church said that the temple itself needs updates to its mechanical systems and new furnishings and fixtures.

The temple isn’t used for worship services. Those take place in meetinghouses, which are open to any guest who wants to attend a Sunday service. Instead, Mormon temples play host to the faith’s most sacred ceremonies, including eternal marriages.