KENSINGTON, Md. — If anyone has ever been grateful to be backed up on the Capital Beltway in Maryland, maybe it's for the chance to stop and take a second look at the iconic Washington D.C. Temple just off Interstate 495.
By the end of April, the temple — many know as the D.C. Mormon Temple — will open to people who aren't members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to celebrate a recent renovation.
It's only the second time the temple will welcome the public since it opened in Kensington in 1974.
One of the members welcoming visitors is a young man with a special bond with the famous building through his family's faith and history — Douglas Fairbanks.
It is unlikely anyone appreciates D.C.'s Mormon Temple more than Douglas Fairbanks who actually likes the drive down 495 just to see the landmark that has helped him and his family find their way over the past couple of years.
"We drive by at least once a week, oftentimes more frequently than that," said his Galen Fairbanks, father of Douglas.
Douglas, who lives with autism, is known for his greetings at the temple where he and his family worship.
Renovations dragged out by the pandemic closed the temple and cut off his favorite way to connect with others.
That's when Douglas Fairbanks and his father started their drive-by visits.
"We would sit just outside the gate and look at the visitor center and look at the temple," said Galen Fairbanks. "It makes me very happy that he feels that connection with the temple."
A connection Douglas Fairbanks shares with his father and a man born two generations before him.
You can see sculptures constructed by Douglas' great grandfather, Avard Fairbanks, all around D.C. But the most special sculpture for the Fairbanks family is the one that sits atop the iconic D.C. Temple — the gilded statue known as Angel Moroni.
In the Book of Mormon, Angel Moroni is the angel who visited Joseph Smith and presented him with golden plates.
"I think my grandfather would be pleased that his artwork is still inspiring people to this day and that. And that the faith of our fathers continues on and multiple generations," Galen Fairbanks said.
"It's a great opportunity to have some father-son bonding time, and it's a great opportunity for us to communicate even in his limited way."
A sculpture that is seen by so many that is continuing to help mold this relationship in private.
"Being Douglas' father has helped me to be a more Christ-like person and strive for that in my life," Galen Fairbanks said.
Public tours start on April 28 and they're free. Everyone is welcome.
You'll just need to reserve a time online at dctemple.org.