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Thousands of lights that "turn our eyes to the eternities" and show gratitude for the Savior were switched on at Temple Square Nov. 26 during the annual Christmas lighting ceremony.

Approximately 6,500 people filled the Tabernacle on Temple Square, while thousands waited outside for the dark Square to be transformed into a winter wonderland with the flip of a switch.Elder Russell C. Taylor of the First Quorum of the Seventy spoke during the ceremony and had the honor of turning on the lights.

"We gather this evening to renew our joy in the Savior'sT birth and to celebrate that joy," he said. "The hundreds of thousands of tiny lights that lace the massive trees on the Square are a visible 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.

"Let me tell you in a few words about these lights that will soon turn this Square into a wonderland of beauty and peace," Elder Taylor continued. "Nearly 300,000 lights decorate the trees, shrubs and walls of Temple Square. Peter Lassig, the landscape architect for the Church, and his co-workers commenced installing these lights at the conclusion of October Conference. It's a labor of love. . . . These workers feel strongly about the beauty of these lights and what they stand for."

Elder Taylor said the workers are guided by the 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."

The General Authority also compared lighting the thousands of sparkling lights to energizing individual's lives. "For various reasons, we light the Square only at Christmas time," he observed. "But we, ourselves, don't need to wait until Christmas for that power of love to energize our lives. We can be filled with it year-round. We can capture that gospel energy every day of our lives, not just at Christmas time. Together, as we live the gospel, we can radiate that light, the light of the gospel."

He also quoted President David O. McKay, who spoke at the first Temple Square Christmas lighting ceremony 23 years ago.

"Our minds tonight," Elder Taylor quoted, "should be on the Babe of of Bethlehem, whose coming into the world on Christmas morning reminds us that each one should have in his heart the light of Christ. God help us that we may have His Spirit and may His light shine in the hearts of every man, woman and child."

The crowd outside the Tabernacle burst into a round of spontaneous applause as Elder Taylor flipped the switch and the Square became alive with light and color.

Those outside then crowded around the Tabernacle's few opendoors to hear the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus, which provided music for the program, perform "Hallelujah Chorus."

More than 31,000 people visited Temple Square on Nov. 25, with a large majority of those coming in the evening to enjoy the program and see the Christmas lights, reported Quig Nielsen, Temple Square director of public relations. "That's almost 2,000 more than visited last year the day after Thanksgiving," he said.

It is expected that approximately a half-million visitors will visit Temple Square through Jan. 3, 1989, the last night the lights will be on. Visitors can see the lights, watch Christmas films, and attend the more than 75 concerts which feature local instrumental and vocal groups.