Temple Square lights flicker on to brighten the Christmas season

An unseasonably frigid chill on Temple Square was tempered by a warm glow as 300,000 Christmas lights flickered on at the flip of a switch by Elder David B. Haight on Nov. 26.

Elder Haight of the Council of the Twelve delivered an address in the Tabernacle before turning on the lights as the 28-year-old Christmas lighting tradition continued.The Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus helped launch the holiday season by providing music at the ceremonies. They opened with "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and also performed "Glory to God," "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful," and "A Sacred Child Is Born."

Joseph McPhie, director of Temple Square, conducted the meeting and Sister Rebecca Winward, a Temple Square missionary from Fredonia, Ariz., offered the prayer.

After Elder Haight turned on the lights, the symphony and chorus filled the Tabernacle with the strains of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah."

The Tabernacle audience then poured outside to join a crowd already on Temple Square enjoying the lights.

Temple Square visitors will be able to join the holiday festivities - Christmas lights, a life-size Nativity scene, and Christmas concerts by various groups - throughout December except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

With the temperature in the teens at the time the lights were turned on this year, people on Temple Square were bundled up in coats, parkas, hats, scarfs and gloves as they marveled at the scene.

The lights of pink, red, green, blue, yellow and white dotted trees, shrubs and flower beds, with a layer of snow on the lawns adding to the atmosphere. The glow was complemented by the granite walls of the temple flooded with white light.

The Nativity scene, between the Tabernacle and the North Visitors Center, was popular with the visitors. People stopped several rows deep to gaze at the figures of Mary, Joseph and the Christ child in a stable as the Christmas story was broadcast through narration and song over loudspeakers. The scene also included figures of shepherds watching over their flocks.

Decorations inside the Tabernacle also lit up with white lights when Elder Haight flipped the switch. They included poinsettias, evergreen and deciduous trees scattered around the choir seats and in front of the organ pipes, and green garland and evergreen boughs hanging on the balcony facing.

In his remarks, Elder Haight extended greetings to the audience from the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve.

Then he said, "By almost any measurement we might apply, Christmas time is the happiest season of the year. A time to remember, to remember family, neighbors, friends - but above all, to remember the precious life of the infant Jesus, born of a virgin mother, Mary, and worshipped in a lowly stable by shepherds and wise men led to Bethlehem by a star.

"To remember and believe that the Christ child was born into the world as the literal Son of God, our Eternal Father in Heaven - born in the same personal way we all were born, of a mortal mother; however, His was an immortal Father."

Elder Haight added that Christmas is also a time to remember those people who are in need, oppressed or mistreated, afflicted or neglected.

"It is a special time to be helpful of others and to demonstrate that it is far more important to give to someone in need than to receive," he emphasized.

Elder Haight praised the Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony for their presentation of Christmas music, and recognized that poets, painters, and musicians for centuries have had their imaginations kindled with "majestic thoughts of the Holy birth, of Heavenly Hosts, of angel choruses."

"It's all so marvelous that here tonight - 2,000 years after His birth - His spiritual influence continues to grow - giving hope, faith, and the encouragement of true charity," he said. "The pure love of Christ is for all, changing people's lives for good."

Elder Haight then recited a true story, adapted from the book Modern Parables by Fulton Oursler, about the value of giving. It was the experience of a young mother and her 4-year-old daughter who were among refugees trying to flee from France into Spain to escape persecution by Nazis during World War II.

When Spanish border guards refused to let refugees pass into their country, the mother prayed for deliverance. Then a guide from the underground told her she could join a group of refugees he was going to lead over the mountains and down into Spain.

Many members of the group helped carry the woman's young child, but the strain on all of them increased as they climbed higher and higher.

Finally, the oldest man sank to the ground, claiming he couldn't go on.

"But the leader stood over him, stern and yet compassionate," Elder Haight related. " You're not dead yet,' he said.We must all help each other. Whatever strength you have left belongs to all of us. With your last ounce of strength help us carry the lady's child - until you die.' "

Two other older men also wanted to give up, but were greeted with the same response by their leader - that they must use all their remaining energy to carry the child.

When they completed their journey, everyone in the group was still alive and the three older men had found new strength, Elder Haight said.

"They had learned that by giving all - even one's last drop of strength for another - new strength and hope was developed that even saved themselves," he said.

Then he concluded: "I remind you, as I turn the switch illuminating this historic Temple Square, that the lights are symbolic of the Light of Christ. His light can remove spiritual darkness from all peoples of the world - all who will come unto Him and learn of Him and do His will."

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