MESA, Arizona — Under clear Arizona skies and amid mild temperatures, the Mesa Arizona Temple Christmas lights lit up the gardens and north lawn along Main Street in downtown Mesa on its opening night Friday, Nov. 24.
People from the community and those visiting from out of town strolled the grounds, enjoying colorful lights adorning trees, shrubs and covering flower beds, and viewed biblical displays that tell the Nativity story.
“I love to walk around and see the various vignettes, and the Christmas star draws you to the manger scene,” said Kathry Ellefsen of Scottsdale, who attended with her extended family. “It’s beautiful, exquisite, and gets better and better every year.”
Ten vignettes are nestled among the olive trees, with accompanying music and narration, and each has a wooden stand where visitors can stop and read a related scripture and a meaningful quote from a Church leader. There are also QR codes that visitors can scan with their mobile phones to watch a related video posted online at ChurchofJesusChrist.org for deeper understanding of that scene.
And lighted Wise Men and their camels follow a stunning, brightly lit star to the Nativity scene, where, each evening as the lights are turned on, an invited guest places the baby Jesus in its central spot among near life-size Italian-designed figurines.
The Casserly family, from Galway, Ireland, were visiting friends in Mesa, Arizona, and had the opportunity to view the grounds on opening night.
“It was very special to our family,” said Mike Casserly, “to be a part of this wonderful gift of sharing our Savior with the community during this festive time.”
Across the street from the north temple grounds, the visitors’ center hosted the annual International Nativity exhibit, which includes nearly 200 Nativity scenes from around the world, many which are handmade and represent a variety of cultures.
More than 3,000 guests visited the Mesa Temple Visitors’ Center on the first night of the light display, said Sister Kaylene Hendrickson, who serves with her husband, Elder Ron Hendrickson, as visitor center directors. “We appreciate our sister missionaries who welcomed guests as they participated in viewing the Nativity display and the exhibits throughout the visitors’ center. We are so grateful for the many hours spent by volunteers that make this event possible.”
She added, “It was incredible to mingle with so many people from all walks of life, whose purpose was to come and unite in celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The Christmas lighting display began in 1979 by former temple president L. Harold Wright, who saw it as a “gift to the community” and one that would add a spiritual element to the celebration of the birth of Christ.
The event had been presented annually in the four decades since but took a hiatus in 2018 for a major renovation project of the temple and grounds and reopened last year to record crowds.
The entire event is put on by local volunteers, overseen by a committee of 100 leaders, and many coming from 73 church units, including young single adult and single adult wards and stakes whose members started in May at the warehouse where they began testing lights, processing recycled materials, and crafting items, many which represent the flora of the area — local flowers, palm fronds, Sonoran Desert cacti and oranges that hang from the citrus trees.
The Mesa Temple Christmas Lights and International Nativity Exhibit are open each evening 5 to 10 p.m. through New Year’s Eve. In addition, the Nativity display is open 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for daytime viewing. For more information visit MesaTemple.org.