Temple Square Christmas Lights, Grounds Testify of Jesus Christ
Contributed By Amber Clayson, Church News staff writer
“We want to spread the message that this is the season for remembering [Jesus Christ] and His birth. We want to share our message by taking care of our stewardship … which includes the lights, the gardens, and the trees.” —Eldon Cannon, Temple Square groundskeeper
Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City is once again dazzling visitors with its nativity scenes, Christmas concerts, and hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights that invite the Christmas spirit and celebrate the birth of the Savior.
Eldon Cannon, the groundskeeper at Temple Square, said the lights are an important seasonal tradition that demonstrate love for the Savior.
“We do it because of our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior,” Brother Cannon said. “We want to spread the message that this is the season for remembering Him and His birth. We want to share our message by taking care of our stewardship … which includes the lights, the gardens, and the trees.”
Putting up the lights takes approximately four months. Full-time grounds employees and temporary workers, along with hundreds of volunteers, began preparing this year’s holiday decor on the first day of August.
The lights were turned on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual Lights on Temple Square event and will continue to light the grounds until New Year’s Eve.
As a young boy, Brother Cannon went to Temple Square to visit the Christmas lights with his family. Like Brother Cannon, many people around the world enjoy visiting Temple Square as a family tradition.
Ling Abenoja and her husband are among those who bring their children to see the lights each year.
“We always look forward for this every year because this is the highlight of our Christmas,” Sister Abenoja said as she stood admiring Temple Square with her family and friends.
But the lights aren’t the only reason sightseers fill the grounds of Temple Square. Beneath the beauty of the Salt Lake Temple, visitors will find a large nativity scene to the north of the grounds as well as small nativity scenes on the east.
Krenz Rutia and her father, from the Philippines, made their first trip to the United States to visit Temple Square before Sister Rutia entered the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 3. Sister Rutia commented on the beautiful workmanship of the temple doors as well as the nativity scenes scattered around the grounds.
“I usually just see this place in the Liahona and other Church magazines, but now I’m here and it’s great,” she said. “Everything is centered to Jesus Christ and everything is really good.”
During the day, high school students from all over Utah come to various locations on Temple Square to perform Christmas choir concerts and share the Christmas spirit through their music.
Tayler Kent, 17, from the Garland 1st Ward, Garland Utah Stake, has sung with the Bear River High School choir at Temple Square for the last three years. Her mother, Jamie Kent, said Tayler’s participation provides a great opportunity for their family to come see the sights and sounds of Temple Square.
The South Visitors’ Center is open all day for guests to learn about the purpose of temples and the history and construction of the Salt Lake Temple. Guests can also learn about the importance of families and meet members of the Church who are featured on the Church’s website Mormon.org.
At the North Visitors’ Center guests coming during the Christmas season can view a special exhibit about the birth of the Savior. There is also a topographical map of old Jerusalem that helps them visualize the events of the Savior’s life as ministered there. Other exhibits in the visitors’ center teach about modern-day prophets, the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the Church’s welfare and humanitarian services.
In theaters at both visitors’ centers guests can view a special new Christmas film titled “He Is the Gift.” The film, approximately three minutes in length, is part of the new initiative by the Church to share the message of Christmas during the month of December via social media using the hashtag #ShareTheGift. More information can be found at www.christmas.mormon.org, a Church-launched website created for the campaign.
Camila Lanze and Lucas Theodore—members of another faith visiting from Sao Paulo, Brazil—said the map of Jerusalem and learning about the life of the Savior were their favorite parts of their visit to Temple Square.
The annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts, December 11-14, as well as the Savior of the World musical production in the Conference Center Theater, which began November 21 and continues until January 3, are also among the events visitors can enjoy while visiting Temple Square.
Melanie and James Gledhill flew out from their home in Center, Kentucky, to visit family for the holidays and bring their two sons to Temple Square for the first time. The Gledhills are members of the Sulphur Well Branch, Louisville Kentucky Stake, and live two hours away from the closest temple.
Sister Gledhill said it’s important that Ryan, 8, and Michael, 6, feel the spirit that is abundant on Temple Square.
“When I come to Temple Square, the joy of the gospel just permeates my heart and it makes me realize that … we’re part of something so much bigger. You realize that there is so much going on in the Church and it is worldwide and it’s for all of God’s children, and I want my boys to feel that. … I want them to feel the spirit that’s here.”
Brother Cannon said he too feels a special spirit and peace as he manages the temple grounds each year.
“I like the peace and the quiet when I come early in the morning and walk the grounds or in the evening when it’s dark and I see the lights all on,” he said. “I look at those lights and I think of the message that we’re portraying, which is that we really know that this is real—the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I just have that very peaceful feeling as I walk across the square, and I hope that people take away that feeling of peace and that there is something in this world that people can hang on to, and that’s the message of the gospel.”
Visit LDS.org to view the Temple Square performances schedule.