By Cecily Markland
In the six weeks before Thanksgiving, hundreds of volunteers go to work on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple.
Each volunteer performs a role in stringing the hundreds of thousands of lights to create the magnificent Christmas display on the temple grounds. In so doing, each contributes to the overall intent of the display, which is to hold up a light to the world and to share the true message of the birth of Christ.
According to event spokesman, Stephen Harms, “The display represents our belief in Christ as the Redeemer and our desire to proclaim that to the world. You could say the lights symbolize the light that Christ is in our lives as our Savior and Redeemer.”
This year, visitors to the temple grounds will find, “A lot will be new and different,” says Beckie Jackson, director.
“A spectacular new statue of Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus, a donkey and sheep, will be placed in the negative fountain north of the temple,” she explains.
The color scheme for the lights “will include more golds and more whites in the center area, where, Beckie says, “We wanted to create a feeling of ‘sacred elegance’ where people would feel the peace and love of the Savior when on the grounds.”
There will be new “flower clusters” among the lights, and several familiar focal items will be in different place than in past years.
“We changed the direction of the large camels, so they will be coming from the east,” she says, and “They will have new lighted blankets,” as the result of a Mesa Scout’s Eagle project, which was overseen by assistant director Stacey Farr.
“The large nativity display will be moved to the west side,” and, there, visitors will hear a new recording, with President Thomas S. Monson and the other members of the First Presidency sharing a Christmas message.
This spectacular display is free of charge and is open every evening from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, November 29 through Tuesday, December 31. Lights will be turned on from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
There are also free concerts each evening from December 1 through 25 on the stage north of the Visitors’ Center. Early seating is encouraged, as the concerts begin each evening promptly at 7 p.m. They last approximately 30 minutes.
Inside the Visitors’ Center, an international nativity exhibit will include 100 crèches, from approximately 70 countries. New this year will be a collection of paper nativities from all over the world, including from Nepal.
“We have new cases for the miniature nativities, so we will have more of those this year as well,” says Susan Fuller, who has overseen the nativity display for the past six years. “It’s a great way for me to share my testimony of the Savior,” she says.
The Visitors’ Center permanently features a 13-foot marble replica of the original Christus sculpture, audiovisual presentations, as well as a 10-minute film depicting the birth of Christ. During the weeks of the lights display, the Visitors’ Center will be open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day.
The Mesa Arizona Temple and Visitors’ Center is located at 525 E. Main Street, in Mesa. For more information about the Temple Garden Christmas Lights Display or to view the concert schedule, visit www.mesachristmaslights.com.