Temple ground lights prove to be valuable missionary tool

HAMILTON, New Zealand — The annual Christmas lights display at the Hamilton New Zealand Temple grounds — three times larger than in past years — has been an instrument in the hands of the Lord, said Leo D. Leonard, visitors center director.

During the first week of the December, tours at the visitors center resulted in more than 700 referrals to missionaries around the world, said Elder Leonard. "This number far exceeded our greatest hopes."

Opera singers William Winitana and April-Marie Neho entertained guests during opening night ceremonies Dec. 1, attended by 3,500 — the largest opening night attendance in the history of the display.

During subsequent nights, choirs from across the North Island performed. Various political and civic leaders from New Zealand then switched the lights on. Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, now leader of the Opposition of the Government of New Zealand, took a tour of the visitors center and lights display. The next day, during a radio interview, she spoke about her experience at the temple grounds in a positive and enthusiastic way.

Members of the Deseret Ward, Temple View New Zealand Stake, put up the more than 150,000 lights, signs and displays, including a new live Nativity scene.