For the first time, visitors at the Joseph Smith Memorial here are enjoying the holiday season with lights, Christmas music, and a life-size Nativity scene - while learning more about the man who restored the gospel.

A larger-than-expected crowd attended the Dec. 11 lighting ceremony at the birthplace of the Prophet Joseph Smith, with several community and Church leaders participating in the program. State representative David Brown was the featured speaker, while councilmen David Lyman and Maynard Chip Baldwin Jr. "threw the switch" that turned on the 50,000 lights that decorate the grounds."The lights here are beautiful," Brown said. "An event and program like this can do much to help unify the community."

The temperature hovered between 5 and 10 degrees below zero and the program, which had been scheduled for outdoors, was moved inside because of the cold.

In addition, a celebration in honor of Joseph Smith's 183rd birthday has been scheduled.

A one-piece granite monument marks the birthplace of the prophet, and stands 381/2-feet tall, one foot for each year of the age of the prophet when he was martyred. "Once again from this quiet, obscure valley in Vermont, the `light' is shining forth to the world, as I'm sure it did on that cold day, Dec. 23, 1805, when a prophet of the Lord was born," declared New Hampshire Manchester Mission Pres. Lynn E. Thomsen during the ceremony.

The idea for the Christmas "Holiday Lane of Lights" came only this fall when Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve and his wife toured the Vermont area with President Thomsen and his wife.

The apostle visited the memorial and felt that, because of its rather remote location, it should be brought out of obscurity. Christmas lights seemed like the perfect solution. Joe Mendor, maintenance supervisor at the visitors center, and his crew put in long hours to have the lights in readiness for the ceremony. The lights will remain lighted every evening through Jan. 1.