Gene and Kate Romanof of the Valley View Ward both grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. They remember watching the “beautiful and mysterious” LDS temple go up alongside the Beltway. As a young girl in a Russian Orthodox family, Kate attended the open house with her parents. It left a lasting impression on her.
Later, after she and Gene married, they traveled across the country. As they went through Salt Lake City they spent an entire day on Temple Square. Kate says, “We were struck with the beauty.” They received a Book of Mormon and Kate read most of it. 27 years
later, their nine-year-old daughter acted as a driving force leading them individually and collectively to baptism this past spring in northern Arizona.
“The Eternal Family,” Kate explains, “was one particular teaching that really drew us. Everything suddenly made sense. We felt so loved, not only by God, His Son and the Holy Spirit, but by our new church family.”
The Romanofs recently moved to the East Valley and visited the Mesa Temple gardens and Visitors’ Center for the first time. For each of them, the statue of Christ and the time spent near the temple were so meaningful. Gene says his first reaction was, “Wow, coming here just brings it all together.”
Rhea, 13, shares, “It is so beautiful. I really feel the Holy Spirit here.” Kate, who has a Ph.D. in world religions, says, “The surety that one was walking on holy ground was palpable when we were outside gazing at the temple, seeing its reflection in the pool. It exudes such an ancient holiness.”
During the Christmas season, old and young are invited each year to join in that ancient holiness and celebrate the birth of Christ at the Mesa Temple Gardens and Visitors’ Center. Thousands of volunteers help for months with work behind the scenes as well as en masse. In the first weeks of November volunteers put up hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights and sets. When referring to those who offer their time, Stacey Farr, Chairman of the Mesa Christmas Lights, calls them, simply, “amazing.” With all of the colorful lights and display however, Farr says, “it still does not compare to the brilliance of the temple.” Certainly, the Romanof family can relate to that feeling.
The Christmas display is free of charge every evening from 10am to 10pm. Visitors can enjoy uniquely illuminated gardens and palm trees with lights everywhere they turn, a display of Mary and Joseph, and recorded messages in English and Spanish. The Visitors’ Center is open to all. Wonderful displays of manger scenes made by artists from around the world are available for viewing. Every year, the Nativity display is made up of new sets. From December 1st until Christmas day, local musical groups perform nightly at 7:00pm for approximately 30 minutes on the grounds north of the Visitors’ Center. For more information, see mesachristmaslights.com or go to the Mesa Christmas Lights and Concerts Facebook page.