Set in the unique desert landscape of citrus trees, cacti and palm trees, one-half million Christmas lights on the Arizona Temple grounds were turned on Nov. 24 by Arizona Gov. Fife Symington.
More than 4,500 people watched as the governor switched on the lights. Organizers estimate another 40,000 people were on the temple grounds that evening, enjoying the lights and the unusually high temperatures in the low 70s.The display - which covers the front and garden area at the temple visitors' center - features life-size figures, including a Nativity scene, camels and deer.
In past years it has taken two months to prepare and install the Christmas lights on the temple grounds. This year, with the help of 23 stakes, the task was accomplished in less than 12 days.
Bill Arnett, who oversaw the light preparation and installation, said the temple grounds were divided into 23 sections. Every stake was then given the responsibility to install, maintain and take down the lights in one section.
The stakes were also given pictures and diagrams of past displays so they would know how the lights were supposed to look.
Brother Arnett said the more than 2,500 volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to help install "one of the best light displays in the country."
Elder Milo LeBaron, director of the Arizona Temple visitor's center, agreed.
"A lot of people consider it their light display," said Elder LeBaron. "They can bring people by and say these are the ones we put up." Many local members and full-time missionaries are also volunteering their time and acting as hosts and hostesses in the gardens.
Last year an estimated 1 million people walked the temple ground to see the display. Elder LeBaron said even more visitors are expected this year.
"People are already coming who have never seen the lights before," he explained.
The lighting display will be on from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day until Dec. 31.