Thousands of people from throughout the United States are visiting the Arizona Temple grounds to enjoy the galaxy of Christmas lights placed there to share a message of "Peace on earth, good will to men."
The grounds have also become a community music center as choirs of various denominations and schools perform free outdoor concerts each evening. The Arizona Mormon Choir has performed on three occasions, and appropriate background music is played on loudspeakers."With the lights - and nightly community concerts - we are trying to bring this valley a Christmas spirit of peace, good will and love for all mankind," said Elder Philip A. Petersen, director of Arizona Temple visitors center. "We hope to bring unity among the people, and to help them have a better understanding of Jesus Christ and His role, and what He did for us."
He said that this year, "crowds for the nightly concerts are far in excess of the turnout we had last year. The quality of the concerts and the good weather have had a lot to do with it."
He said some 15,000 people attended the opening ceremony Dec. 2, where Mayor Peggy Rabach was the guest of honor. Mayor Rabach asked everyone in attendance to hold hands to express their unity, and then signaled for the lights to be switched on.
"The mayor was extremely impressed by the lighting," said Elder Petersen. "Her comments and the hand-holding created a wonderful feeling of unity and good will."
Some 48 volunteer hosts are on the grounds to welcome those who come to see the lights and hear the music. "We're not trying to dazzle visitors. We want them to feel welcome, and feel the Spirit," said Elder Petersen.
He said that volunteer grounds designers Nordessa and Murry Coates began the lighting project in September and, with other volunteers, spent 6,000 hours inspecting lights, checking circuits and placing some 275,000 lights.
Because the lights must compete with the greenery, multi-colors are used. Light clusters are placed in the palm trees, which is "quite a complicated affair."
"The Coates have been doing this for 10 years, and they have a beautiful feeling for color and design," said Elder Petersen.