Yule spirit on Temple Square

Nadine Bonny, Karla Cintra and Saeka Nakano are from three different worlds.

Or, at least, three different countries.But during the Christmas holiday season, their three worlds came together on Temple Square. The three women are among the nearly 150 missionaries whose assignment includes hosting visitors to historic Temple Square.

Christmastime on Temple Square was unlike Christmas anywhere else. The entire block was aglow with hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights. Choirs, including the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, performed nightly concerts of beloved Christmas music. A life-sized tableau depicted the Christmas story, complete with shepherds, wise men, camels and the Holy Family at the manger.

And thousands of visitors every day filled Temple Square with holiday energy, wonder and awe.

"Our daily routine is normal up to 5 p.m.," said Sister Bonny, a native of Geneva, Switzerland. "But at five o'clock it's like you have a fairy who comes with a magical wand and everything changes. You have the lights on, you have all the children and their parents, you have the music, you have some animation.

"It's different. It's really another world."

Every person who enters the Square receives a greeting from one of the missionaries. Those who are visiting from other countries are usually greeted in their own language, often by someone from their own country.

Sister Cintra, who is originally from Fortaleza, Brazil, said, "I get to explain, from a Brazilian point of view, to people from my country what is done here." She said she also gets to talk to Americans and others about Brazilian Christmas customs and traditions, enhancing the international holiday experience for them as well.

"That's what I love about Christmas on Temple Square," Sister Cintra said. "It's wonderful to realize that even though people come from all over the world and they have all kinds of backgrounds, we can come together in a spirit of peace and brotherhood at Christmas.

"Even people who aren't Christian have heard of Jesus Christ, and they understand the importance of this holiday to us," Sister Cintra continued. "There's a special spirit here at Christmas, and people feel it no matter what they believe. That's the magic of Temple Square."

Of course, Temple Square works its magic on missionaries as well. Before she received her missionary assignment to serve on Temple Square, Sister Nakano knew very little English, and even less about Temple Square.

"I knew there was a headquarters of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City," said the Fukuoka, Japan, native, "but I didn't know much about Temple Square."

She learned quickly. Living with other missionaries from Denmark, Ecuador, Austria, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea and the United States, she became familiar with the history and spirit of Temple Square while she learned to communicate in English.

It wasn't always easy.

"I had a very hard time because I couldn't say what I wanted to say," she said. "We open the dictionary, draw pictures. We laugh, smile and cry together."

But with the help of her companions, she became proficient in her new language. Today she conducts tours of Temple Square in English and Japanese, confidently responding to questions about the Square, the Church and the Christian celebration of Christmas.

"I will never forget this experience I have at Temple Square," she said.

Sister Bonny echoed the sentiment. Her experiences at Temple Square, she said, are like a "tapestry of people, and each of them brought me something in my life that I will never forget, because now it's in me, it's part of me."

But perhaps the most treasured memories each of the sisters will take home with them are memories of Christmas on Temple Square.

"There is nothing like it," Sister Cintra said. "Christmas has been so commercialized everywhere else. Everywhere you go, Christmas is buying gifts and so forth. People come to Temple Square because this is one place where they can focus on the real meaning of the season, and focus on Jesus Christ. First, they come to see the beauty of the lights. But there are so many spiritual things happening on Temple Square that it can be filled with that great spirit of Christmas. Remembering that it's all about Jesus Christ and the great mission He had and the eternal gifts He gave to all of us, that's why they come."

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