The Journey to Freedom

The Journey to Freedom

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Orem, Utah is Boring

 Our young single adult ward did not hold meetings today because so many are gone for Christmas and we were instructed to find another ward to attend.  We went to DC 3rd.  This is the ward that our married interns go to while they are here.  We decided we should try out the bus system to see what the married interns needed to do to get there and be on time.  We had to transfer and we walked to the second bus stop.  There was a homeless lady there with her cardboard house waiting at the stop.  We found out that we had another 8 minutes before the bus we needed would arrive.  A beautiful woman and her daughter came to the stop.  They may have been going to Church, also. They were dressed up.  As soon as they walked up the homeless lady started to talk to them.  They were ALL from Uganda.  The lady and her daughter moved away from the homeless lady but the homeless lady followed them.  The homeless lady was yelling at the lady and her daughter about religions in America were just profit centers.  She just kept yelling.  Finally the lady with the daughter had had enough and she said that wanted nothing to do with the homeless lady. The lady with the daughter said, "I have a father in Heaven and he is the one I answer to and what people do here has nothing to do with me."  The homeless lady would not stop yelling and the nice lady turned and said, "You stop talking.  You are possessed with a devil and I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to stop your yelling."  This heated exchange went on for several minutes.  We decided to walk to the next bus stop.  When we got on the bus there was the homeless lady with her box and the beautiful lady and her daughter sitting quietly.  The pretty lady looked at us waiting for our reaction. I said, "You were in a tough situation back there."  She acknowledge that it was a weird situation.  We sat down and started admiring the buildings and all the churches we were passing when the black man in front of us started talking to us.  He said, "I am a member of your church."  He was a very kind man and has been a member of the Church since 2006.  As we continued further on the bus we passed this very cool looking Church that belongs to the Unification Church.  They have scaffolding up on the steeple and around the side.  It is a land mark to us.  The member sitting next to us saw our admiring glance at the  building and explained that that building was the first LDS ward house built in Washington DC.  To say the least, we were shocked.  (When we are in the car coming home in that direction we always turn at the church.  Elder Anthony has said if they ever take down the scaffolding I won't know where to turn).  He explained that it was the only ward building ever built that had the angel Moroni on.  We had heard about this building but we didn't know the story behind it or where it was located. Of coarse the angel Moroni is no longer on the building.   So I looked it up on the internet.

This might be boring to some but I would really like to keep a history of this beautiful building that we pass so often.

By: Reed Russell - September 26, 2012
Reed Russell has assembled this historical record – so lavishly illustrated – of one of the most interesting buildings in 20th century Mormondom.
2810 Sixteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.

First picture was taken in 1935 the next 2012

A midst opposition from Protestant ministers, the land for the Washington Chapel was purchased from Mrs. John B. Henderson and the deed was sold to President Heber J. Grant (as trustee for the church) on April 9, 1924.
Building commenced in 1931 under the direction of two Mormon architects: Don Carlos Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, and Norwegian immigrant Ramm Hansen. (Other buildings designed by their firm include the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City, the temple in Mesa, Arizona, and the Federal Reserve Bank in Salt Lake City.) The construction strongly echoes the design of the temple at Salt Lake City with a single spire terminating in a ball on which stood the figure of the angel Moroni. The ten foot tall Moroni, fashioned by Torlief Knaphus, and covered in gold leaf, was a replica of the angel atop the Salt Lake City temple – making it the only chapel in the Church ever to have a statue of the Angel Moroni on top. Estimated cost for the building was $275,000.

This is the angel Moroni statue that was place on top the chapel March 1933.

The Angel Moroni statue is now in the Museum of Church History and Art. 

The Boston Evening Transcript (18 November 1933) said:
“Much attention has been given to the beautiful exterior facing of the building. It is Utah birds-eye marble all of which has been shipped from mountain quarries in the State. It is the only edifice in the world built of this material, which furnishes a glowing warmth and richness to the entire structure. The marble has a satin hone finish and at different times of the day reflects various hues. After a heavy rain the effect is that of highly polished marble which changes, as it dries, into hazy purple. The marble was quarried at the summit of a mountain 9000 feet high, and hauled on mountain roads four miles to the base of a canyon 3000 feet below … The milling of the marble has been a phenomenon of accuracy and those who have witnessed its perfection exclaim over its precision. There are 16,404 blocks of marble in the exterior facing of the building.”
Mahonri Young, also a grandson of Brigham Young, designed the mosaic of Jesus on the Mount of Olives which stands over the main entrance.
The Cultural hall then and what is there now. Seating could be increased from 300 to approximately 700 by removing the partition between the cultural hall and the chapel. 

Mosaic of Jesus on the Mount of Olives by Mahonri Young.

Mahonri Young  looks like he has a word of wisdom problem.

This was the beautiful coffered ceiling, and in the the chapel there are nine large round arched windows, each encasing a circular panel of stained glass. 

On the east the three circular windows show the Hill Cumorah in the center, with a map of the North American continent on one side and the Rocky Mountains on the other. The southern windows have a map of the South American continent in the center and ancient Mesoamerican temples on either side. On the north, the European continent is in the center, flanked by immigration scenes from the early days of the church.

Originally, a large, leaded white glass chandelier shaped in the form of a cross was in the chapel. It had a spread of approximately fourteen feet and a drop of four feet. At some point it was removed. Also since removed was a gymnasium in the basement.

Other spaces include the unusual dining and kitchen facilities, meeting rooms, and a baptismal font.

Senator Reed Smoot.

On April 21, 1932 the cornerstone was laid with Senator Smoot presiding, and the dedication took place on November 5, 1933.
All three members of the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and J. Reuben Clark) and four members of the Council of the Apostles, including Senator Smoot, took part in the ceremonies, with approximately 3000 persons in attendance.

President of the Washington Branch at that time was Edgar B. Brossard, a member of the U. S. Tariff Commission. Music was under the direction of Edward P. Kimball, senior organist of the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, who had been sent to Washington to become organist of the new chapel. Until his untimely death in 1937, Kimball gave free organ recitals in the church six nights a week (over 1,000 in all), a custom continued by his successors, one of whom was Alexander Schreiner, until 1949.

This is a picture  by Al Rounds.  What a majestic building.  In 1940, the brand became the Washington Ward. During World War 11, the church sponsored Saturday night dances in the cultural hall.  After the war, it became know as a singles ward resulting in 125 marriages in four years.   

Standing in front of the ward in 1945 is Elder Joseph Anderson, Elder John a Widtsoe, Elder German S. Ellsworth, President George Albert Smith, Elder Thomas E. McKay, Elder Edgar B. Brossard, President of Washington Stake.

The fortieth anniversary of the church in 1973 found the physical structure of the building deteriorating. The porous marble had not held up well in Washington’s humid climate. Acid rain, and exhaust fumes from automobiles further hastened its disintegration. One report estimated repairs would cost $450,000.
An expense of that magnitude for a rapidly diminishing congregation was not acceptable to authorities in Salt Lake City. The final service in the Washington chapel was held on August 31, 1975. In September 1977, after the building had stood vacant for two years, it was sold to the Columbia Road Recording Studios, Inc. The next day it was sold again – to the Unification Church. Before the building was turned over to the new owner, the statue of Moroni was taken down, and the contents of the cornerstone were removed. It was dedicated as a Unification Church on December 4, 1977 by Reverend Moon.
Regarding the quick turn around of the property by Columbia Road Music Studios, they bought it for $300,000 and sold it the same day for $475,000.

This square building next to the church is the Scottish Rite Freemasonry building.  

You can't read very well what is written here but it says, "The Glory of God is intelligence." 

The current-day photos were all taken in August 2012. Perhaps my strongest feeling regarding this amazing structure is a profound concern for its future. There seems to be, at present, a handful of members of the Unification Church who are just living there. They acknowledge that the building continues to suffer; there is standing water in the basement, several cracks in the walls and the staircase leading up into the spire has been closed after some substantial damage from last year’s earthquake.

Isn't that a sad ending to this beautiful building.  

To add to that excitement we went to church.  This is an inner city ward that our married interns attend.  They bring in leadership from other areas to help run the ward.  There were several ladies in sacrament meeting that added their amen to the speakers comments.  At the end of the meeting if you were visiting or new you stand and introduce yourself.  There was a lady that hadn't been to church for a year and had come back.  

In RS there was a sister dressed in a Chinese silk pants suit with a Santa hat and sunglasses.  She was a very involved sister.  She would give her amen and interrupt the meeting to ask someone to talk slower.  She was upset if people got up and moved around because she couldn't focus on what was being said.  Before we had finished the opening announcements the sister that had come back to church after a year broke in and told the lady in Santa hat that she was the reason that she had left the church.  She wanted her to sit quiet and stop being so bossy.  Well, a yelling fight commenced.  The RS  counselor got up and told them to stop.  A lady came over to the sister with the Santa hat and put her arms around her and tried to get her settled down.  The counselor told the recently returned sister that they would talk after church that we would go on.  The member of the RS Presidency conducting said,  "Sisters I am sorry we have had this upset.  We are all here trying to do our best and we don't want anyone offended because of different opinions."  Then she suggested we sing a hymn again to get the Spirit back.  For sure the Spirit was gone!  So this other older black women who had no teeth got up and had us sing a song that was about  not judging each other.  It was not a hymn but after she got us to sing it twice  everyone settled down.  

The RS presidency counselor conducting and another sister walked out after the lesson started with the sister that had just come back.  While they were out the lady with the Santa hat got up and took 10 min. of the lesson talking about a book that dealt with a lady that helped homeless people.  The lady with the Santa hat had been a homeless person and had been in jail for drugs and she was now trying to come back and go to the temple. As short time later, the lady that had come back to church after a year came in with the other sisters and I was glad she had missed the 10 minute rant.  She sat on the opposite side of the room by a sweet black lady that had spoken in Church that day and give the lesson in our Sunday School class.  

The lesson was already 10 minutes late when the RS presidency counselor conducting got up and ended We didn't have a closing hymn.  When the meeting was over the lady that had come back to church hurried to the front of the room and apologized for her out burst of anger.  She said, "I am really not that kind of person and I am so sorry I acted that way and let things get to me and I want every sister here to forgive me."  Well a bunch of sister went up and hugged her.  I couldn't get out of my row and I gave her a big hug and told her to please come back that this ward needed her. 

 I don't know what would happen to this ward without the missionaries there.  They have four or five senior missionary couples in the ward and about 6 sets of full-time Elders.  

A sweet lady sitting next to me was a new convert as of June 2014.  She came from some country in Africa.  She had walked out for a minute during the out burst and didn't know why this lady was apologizing.  She turned to me and asked, "What happened?" I gave her a quick explanation.  This same sister was out at  the bus stop when Elder Anthony and I arrived.  We talked to her and another member.  She is here working for her embassy as a cook.  She has lived here 6 years and met the Elders and joined the Church.  She converted from her Muslim  background to Christianity.  She is trying to get her three children to the U.S.  She loves working for the embassy and has no plans of returning to Africa.  She told me that her life has changed for the good because of the Church.  Even the way she sees life has changed for the better.  She said missionaries came to my door in Africa but she would not let them in.  I said, "it looks to me like you had to come here to join the church."  She agreed.  She is trying to get her children to go to church in Africa.  

Sundays in Orem were never this exciting.   


  1. Well, that was enough excitement for a week or two I'd say. Only in the mission field do you have those great adventures :)

  2. um....yes that is a little more exciting than church in Rexburg. I loved reading about the history of the first church in Washington D.C. It is beautiful. It is too bad that they weren't able to preserve and keep it.

  3. Wow! Sorry you had to deal with some contentious moments that one Sunday. I do agree that the now Unification church building is beautiful and I feel sad also to hear that is standing water in the basement and other problems. Too bad it isn't getting the attention or respect it deserves.