Reception, lights build festive bridges

"Good bridge-building" was the way William J. Vincent, vice chairman of the Southern California Public Affairs Council, described the Christmas lighting ceremony and a special VIP reception at the Los Angeles Temple Visitors Center Nov. 26.

About 150 interfaith and civic leaders attended the reception in the visitors center just before the lighting ceremony on the temple grounds. Greeting the special guests and offering brief remarks was Elder Grant R. Brimhall, regional representative. The guests were served light refreshments and viewed audiovisual presentations.Among the special guests were U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and the counsel for the countries of El Salvador and Mexico. In addition, said Brother Vincent, "We must have had 50 or so leaders of various faith groups in the Los Angeles area who came."

After the reception, the special guests joined the some 5,600 attending the lighting ceremony. Giving the word for the lights to come on was Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy, after which some 200,000 festive lights were turned on to the delight of those watching.

Before the lights were turned on, Elder Wickman, first counselor in the North America West Area presidency, spoke to those listening about the Savior's birth and how they should live a life emulating the life of Christ.

Brother Vincent told the Church News: "We feel that the lighting ceremony, including the interfaith and civic reception that preceded the ceremony, exemplifies to the Los Angeles community the deep conviction that the members of the Church have about the divinity of the Savior and how we should emulate His life in our own lives throughout the entire year.

"A lot of people like to come and just walk around the grounds to see the lights. And people who come to the temple are uplifted too by the feeling they get when they walk along the pathways onto the temple grounds."

Hanging from the trees and bushes throughout the temple grounds this year are strings of pink, red, green, white and yellow lights, some twirling up the trunks of palm trees 20-30 feet high, then hanging from the palm leaves.

Offering musical programs each night during the Christmas season at the visitors center are LDS choirs. In addition, various LDS ethnic groups are scheduled to perform Christmas programs reflecting their cultures.

On the night of the lighting ceremony, music was provided by the Southern California Mormon Choir, accompanied by James Welch on the organ.

An interfaith choir performed the night after the lighting ceremony.

Other members involved offered their time in volunteer service. Brother Vincent remarked, "We estimate, by the time we put the lights up and take them down and maintain them, about 4,000 volunteer hours are put in."

In speaking of the effort to make the lighting ceremony a success, Brother Vincent said: "We thought it was going to rain. I woke up the night before and it was raining. Everyone was praying for no rain, and the skies cleared, and the program was a great success."

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