Mesa Arizona Temple Lights Remind Visitors of Christ
By Jill B. Adair, Church News contributor
Thousands of dangling lights illuminate towering palm trees. Clusters of brightly colored lights resemble bouquets blooming throughout the gardens. Carefully placed white lights on arches line the walkway directly in front of the temple. A stunning star of 10,000 twinkling lights beckons visitors to a large Nativity scene. Everywhere the lights of Christmas are a reminder of the light of Christ at the Mesa Arizona Temple.
“We all recognize that lights are part of the traditional way we celebrate Christmas, but the spirit and feeling of the temple grounds add its own unique and special feeling,” said David E. LeSueur, an Area Seventy. “Our thoughts are turned to the Savior and His mission.”
President R. Gordon Porter of the Mesa Arizona Temple said the annual event, titled “Celebrate the Birth of Christ in Lights and Music,” is a much-anticipated Christmas gift and that the brightness of the lights lifts the spirits of those who attend.
“We remember the precious birth and life of our Savior and the joy that comes as we follow His example,” he said.
“I know for a surety that as soon as visitors enter there, they feel a special spirit; a calmness settles in that reminds you what is important in life and what is not,” said President Porter. “I believe that is the true spirit of Christmas.”
Elder LeSueur noted the enthusiasm and energy that the many volunteers bring with them as they decorate the temple grounds each year.
“They take great care and pride in the precision manifested there,” he said. “It is a form of worship and an expression of their devotion. They are grateful to be a part of the mission of the Savior and the temple itself,” he said. “It’s an impossible task without them.”
Dee Hobbs, who is in his ninth year of helping to put on the event, said that approximately 3,000 volunteers give of their time to light the temple gardens in time for the Christmas season.
“I am amazed at the volunteers,” he said.
He explained that the area is divided up into 48 sections and each one is then assigned to a local stake. The process begins at the location where the lights are stored, and each strand is checked and many are replaced before being moved to the temple grounds. Each year more lights are being replaced with LEDs, which last longer and save energy.
Early in November the first strands are hung on tall palm trees using a 65-foot lift. Then a smaller lift is used for the other trees. “We start working our way down,” Brother Hobbs said, finally getting to the bushes and flower beds.
Brother Hobbs related a story about a volunteer, a young mother who recently put lights on a small tree. She brought her baby in a stroller and a young child played at her feet while she carefully decorated the tree. She spent about an hour on it, and he thanked her for her work as she was leaving, but she said she would be back the next day because it wasn’t perfect yet.
“They don’t just throw the lights on,” he said. “They really take care.”
Sarah Shill, a member of a local young single adult ward, said she helped this year because she had always gone with her family growing up and now she wanted to be a part of putting the lights up.
“There is a feeling of peace and happiness there,” she said, adding that she planned to invite many of her friends this year and will point out the spot where she helped.
“It’s a great way to introduce people to the Church,” she said. “They can find out what we’re about.”
Another important part of this event is the presentation of 30-minute concerts at 7:00 each evening on the north side of the visitors’ center. Each song is carefully selected and presents a message about Christ, said Elder LeSueur.
He also pointed out the 10-foot-tall statue of the Savior, The Christus, inside the visitors’ center. “The Christus provides a unique backdrop for this event,” he said.
The visitors’ center also hosts a special display of Nativity scenes from around the world.