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Season of sparkle: How Christmas lights came to Temple Square

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 23 2011 10:00 a.m. MST

That helped, Ben said, but the process evolved for years. Each year, they started in early October and worked six days a week, eight to 10 hours a day, to be ready before Thanksgiving. Sometimes lighting one big tree took two or three days.

"The first few years it was sloppily done. No one had lit trees this size," he said.

Ben graduated from BYU and took over his father's tree business by the end of the 1960s and continued to do the Temple Square lights for another decade, with help from his son, also named Ben.

"When I was little and people talked about the lights on Temple Square and how wonderful they were, I would go to school and brag, 'My dad did those, my dad did those,'" Ben Jr. said. "Our family loves Christmas. The lights have become part of us."

Ben and his son continue to operate the family business today, and they care for trees from Logan to St. George, including LDS Church temple grounds and other church properties. Some have disputed Behunin's claim of being the first family to put up Christmas lights at Temple Square, so Ben obtained signed statements from longtime Deseret News editor and photographer J. Malan Heslop and former Temple Square head gardener Peter Lassig as proof of their work.

Ben Sr. and his wife are currently spending two days a week as service missionaries at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Ben Sr. still gets emotional each November when the lights are flipped on.

"It's a very spiritual experience for me," he said. "It's special to know we have done something for Temple Square and the Lord that has been so wonderful for so many people."

Email: ttoone@desnews.com

Twitter: tbtoone

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