"I've seen your temple often," said one lady speaking rather breathlessly to missionaries at the Washington D.C. Visitors Center. "Today, something hit me. I felt I needed to stop and find out about your Church so I can attend."
"It happens every night," said Jesse L. Christensen, director of the visitors center on the temple grounds. "This temple is a such a magnet. It stands so stunningly on the Beltway that people feel drawn to visit. When Christmas lights are added, the temple grounds become a wonderland of beauty and people have a warm, wonderful feeling."
The desire to feel the peace of the season and celebrate Christmas in a spiritual way will entice upwards of 80,000 people to visit the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors Center, and up to 200,000 to visit the grounds this holiday season.
In this major news-making capital of the world, people from all walks of life, all continents of the earth and all religions will drop their differences and find solemnity in a spirit of silent reverence.
Ambassadors from 23 countries accepted invitations to attend the first night when lights were switched on Nov. 29 in special ceremonies recognizing Mexico's Ambassador Carlos de Icaza.
The next evening, 300 diplomats and their families enjoyed an exclusive showing.
Some groups, such as a recent bus load of members of a Protestant faith, want to view the beauty but are hesitant to enter temple grounds out of concern for differences in beliefs.
"They came anyway and were immediately greeted as they stepped off the bus by the deep voice of Chris Brewer whose friendly and totally accepting personality welcomed them to the 29th annual lighting of the temple grounds. His kindness erased their fears and made them feel welcome," said Elder Christensen. "They left knowing of our belief in Christ."
For 16 years, continued Elder Christensen, Brother Brewer has braved the cold to be the first to greet each visitor. "People love to see him," he continued. "Everyone leaves with the feeling that they were the beneficiaries of attending."
Volunteers from the 16 stakes in the greater Washington, D.C. area begin stringing lights in August. Each stake also decorates one tree. Visitors, about 100 per day, respond by requesting missionaries to visit. Projecting through December, Elder Christensen anticipates 5,000 more referrals this year than last, which saw a 9 percent increase from the year before in December 2004.
"I feel like there is a bit of heaven here every day," Elder Christensen continued. "I love to see the joy in their eyes that comes as they understand the gospel and its purposes. Every day there are little miracles that the Lord brings about."
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