Thousands Visit Mesa Temple Grounds to View Lights
Contributed By By Jill Adair, Church News contributor
The sacred grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple light up each year with the sights and sounds of the Christmas season.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors stroll through the gardens north of the temple to view the sights: colorful lights illuminate trees and flower gardens, near-life-sized figurines represent Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem, a large nativity scene with an adjoining shepherds’ village is displayed on the lawn, and a collection of unique nativity sets from around the world are displayed inside the visitors’ center.
Visitors also enjoy the sounds: recorded Christmas messages from the First Presidency and beloved songs focusing on the Savior performed nightly outdoors.
“This is the best place in all of Arizona to come and actually feel the Christmas spirit,” said event spokesman Stephen Harms.
“The display represents our belief in Christ as the Redeemer and our desire to proclaim that to the world,” he said. “You could say the lights symbolize the light that Christ is in our lives as our Savior and Redeemer.”
Visitors’ center director Linford C. Beckstrand said opening night, November 29, was the largest attendance recorded for the day after Thanksgiving. More than 6,000 people came into the visitors’ center, and officials estimate that four to five times that many toured the grounds.
Beckie Jackson, director of Christmas lights at the temple, said the display is installed completely by volunteers with the hope that visitors “will feel the love of the Savior when they step onto the temple grounds.”
“It helps remind us that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World,” she said.
The large nativity display was moved this year to a different location where there is more room for visitors to stop, reflect, and ponder without too much congestion, she said. It is at this area where the recorded voices of President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, give brief, inspiring messages about Christ and the Christmas season.
“It is a stunning centerpiece,” said Sister Jackson. Sister missionaries are on hand to greet visitors and answer any questions they might have.
“I think people can feel the love of Christ on these grounds,” said Sister Jessica Ricks. “It is a spirit that is very special.”
She said that the full-time missionaries also invite guests to see the displays or films inside the visitors’ center and to attend the upcoming open house of the nearby Gilbert Arizona Temple, which is January 18–February 15, 2014.
The Christmas lights are on from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. through December 31 at 525 E. Main St.
Concerts featuring the sacred songs of Christmas are performed nightly by local musicians and groups from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. in front of the visitors’ center.
Christmas lights illuminate trees and gardens as the sun sets. The lights are on nightly 5:00–10:00 p.m. through December 31. Photo by Clint Adair.