Temple Square donned its most festive garb Friday to welcome the Christmas season.
Every seat was taken inside the historic Tabernacle for a ceremony that included music, a message of faith and the finale - the throwing of the switch that lights the more than 300,000 tiny bulbs that will sparkle in the trees and around the buildings on the square throughout the holiday season.Thousands of other spectators, unable to get into the crowded Tabernacle, huddled in the unlit square as they waited for the lights that transform the square into a Wonderland look-alike. The program being conducted inside the Tabernacle was carried over loudspeakers to those outside.
"Many memories of friendship, love and joy in the Christmas season have been made and renewed over the years on Temple Square," said Elder Russell C. Taylor, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "It is a sacred place where we offer thankful hearts for the birth and life of our Savior."
Elder Taylor said that gathering to lightthe season is a way to renew faith and celebrate joy. He encouraged people of all faiths to come to Temple Square to share in that rejoicing.
"The hundreds of thousands of tiny lights that lace the massive trees on the square are a visual reminder of the miracle of the Savior's birth. The heavens rejoiced at his birth, and we are still filled with the wonder of this miracle. . . . We hope that individuals will come, that families will come, that visitors to our city and state will come and partake of that special feeling found only on Temple Square."
The lighting of Temple Square dates back to 1965, when 15,000 people packed the square to watch President David O. McKay turn on the lights.
Peter Lassig, landscape architect for the church, and his co-workers began installing the lights Oct. 3 and finished just before Thanksgiving Day, Elder Taylor said.
"It's a labor of love. They carefully wind each strand of lights throughout the shrubbery, making sure they will look as beautiful as possible. These workers feel strongly about the beauty of these lights and what they stand for. They are guided by the following statement: `The beauty these lights create should be so uplifting that it will show our gratitude to the heavens for our Savior. The lights turn our eyes to the eternities.' "
Elder Taylor said that, although Temple Square is lighted only once a year, individuals should let the light of love and faith energize their lives year-round.
"Together, as we live the gospel," he counseled, "we can radiate that light of the gospel. The Lord taught us, as recorded in Matthew 5:16: `Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.'
"Perhaps he saw each of you and saw the powerful force for good that can be switched on as we commit ourselves to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and to love our fellow men and women. Perhaps he saw that as we help the homeless, the single parent, the member of our own family who needs a kind word of encouragement and love, we help light our own worlds with his light."
The Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus brightened the lighting ceremony with musical selections that included "Sleigh Ride" and "Lullaby for Christmas." Marie Patterson offered an invocation; F. David Patterson gave the benediction and the director of Temple Square, Joseph F. Horne, greeted guests.