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LIGHTS, MUSIC AND DISPLAYS COMMEMORATE BIRTH OF SAVIOR
FESTIVAL’S GIFT OF LIGHT HONORS LIGHT OF WORLD

SHARE LIGHTS, MUSIC AND DISPLAYS COMMEMORATE BIRTH OF SAVIOR
FESTIVAL’S GIFT OF LIGHT HONORS LIGHT OF WORLD

The Washington Temple Visitors Center became a mini-United Nations Nov. 21, as ambassadors from 22 nations attended a ceremony to illuminate 200,000 Christmas lights to honor Jesus Christ, "the Light of the world."

Many ambassadors represented countries where the Church has yet to send missionaries or where it only recently sent them for the first time.Many Eastern European countries whose ambassadors attended a similar lighting ceremony last year opened their countries to LDS missionary work in recent months. And an apostle told those gathered that the Church seeks to bless all people with the light of Christ.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve said, "We also humbly proclaim to all mankind our love for the Light of the world, even Jesus Christ, whose birth we commemorate in this holiday season."

He added, "Christ's mission was one of light and illumination. . . . So it is appropriate that we offer this gift of light every Christmas season."

Elder Ballard and regional diplomatic corps dean, Keith Johnson, ambassador from Jamaica, together turned on the white, pink, red and green lights that adorn trees on the temple grounds during the annual Festival of Music and Lights at the visitor's center.

On behalf of other ambassadors, Johnson said the ceremony "warms the heart, and thank you most sincerely."

The ambassadors and other guests were serenaded by the Mormon Choir of Washington that performed with the backdrop of the "Christus" statue, and by pianist Kevin Kenner, a Church member who just won the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, Poland.

Among the ambassadors attending were seven from the countries of Lesotho, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda and Zimbabwe in Africa.

Also attending were five diplomats from the Eastern European nations of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. Other nations represented included: Barbados, Belgium, Guatemala, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, the Philippines, Portugal, Trinidad and Western Samoa.

Hosting the ambassadors were many well-known LDS government and business leaders who live in the Washington area.

They included J. Willard Marriott, chairman of the Marriott Corp.; Richard Wirthlin, former pollster for Ronald Reagan; Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Rep.-elect Dick Swett, D-N.H.; former Coast Guard Commandant Paul Yost; and David S. King, former Utah congressman who is now the temple president.

Bruce Belnap, visitors center director, noted the temple added another 40,000 lights this year - the 13th year it has lighted the grounds. "These lights provide a spectacular background for cameras to catch the gleaming white spires of the temple in the reflecting pool."

The lights, continuous musical programs, a live Nativity scene and other presentations at the visitor center have also become a popular Christmas tradition throughout the entire Washington area among people of all faiths.

Musical groups from LDS and non-LDS congregations perform, as well as high school, community and family groups.