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Interior Photos by Scot Facer Proctor
Exterior Photos by Cole Goodwin
click on photos to enlarge

In Washington D.C., they say there are three Christmas events not to miss—the White House at Christmas, the National Christmas Tree, and the Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple and Visitors Center.

The Washington D.C. Temple is one of the beautiful and awe-inspiring sights of the area, unavoidably visible from the beltway. Traffic reporters gauge their reports each day on conditions by the “Mormon temple” and travelers see the temple suddenly appear like a breathtaking surprise as it seems to rise out of nowhere as they travel west from Maryland toward Virginia.

This marks the 25th season of the Festival of Lights with over 300,000 colorful lights illuminating the temple grounds and over 80,000 guests expected to attend. Additional attractions include a live, outdoor nativity scene from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night, nightly performances of holiday music from performers representing a variety of churches, schools and community groups, and a display of nativity scenes crafted by international artisans. (Watch this week for an upcoming photo essay in Meridian on these beautiful scenes.) In addition, over 20 Christmas trees, decorated by volunteers from throughout the region, will be on display.

The ceremony to illuminate the Christmas lights on the temple grounds has become a major event each year attended by ambassadors and dignitaries from countries around the world. It is an opportunity for the Church to continue to build bridges with its international neighbors. This year representatives from 49 nations attended the event where they were greeted by the evening’s hosts—Senator Orrin Hatch and Elder J. Willard Marriott Jr.

Speaking that evening and then flipping the switch on the lights were Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Volodymyr Yatsenkivskyi, deputy chief of mission of the embassy of Ukraine who represented the ambassador who was called away at the last minute.

The speech by Yatsenkivskyi demonstrated just how far Ukraine has traveled since their 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. “Ukraine has a long history of survival against great odds, but in those hard times we believe that fortunate are those who remain steadfast through dark trials. Fortunate are those who keep the faith, who do not stray.”

Light became the theme of the diplomat’s talk as he lauded that since Ukraine’s independence the people in his country could worship however and wherever they want and said they looked forward to the time when there would be a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kiev.

Join Meridian on a photo tour of the Washington D.C. Temple grounds and the evening when the Christmas lights came on.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve posed with Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Ukraine Volodymyr Yatsenkivskyi and his wife Olga before the festivities began.

Various guests and diplomats took the opportunity to have photographs with Elder and Sister Marriott and Elder Maxwell.

Oregon Senator Gordon Smith also greeted guests at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors Center.

Elder Bill Marriott conducted much of the program in the Visitors Center Theater and bore powerful testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell was the keynote speaker to the guests and visitors representing at least 49 nations. His talk centered in the immensity of space and the intimacy of a loving Heavenly Father who knows us every one.

The Mormon Choir of Washington D.C. was joined by a children's choir as they sang favorite Christmas carols and hymns.

One of the many children who joined the choir from the audience in singing some of the Christmas carols.

Sister Ann Santini, Director of International Affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted the evening and spread her good cheer to all in attendance.

Missionaries of the Washington D.C. North Mission held electric candles to light the way for guests at the end of the program.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Ukrainian Deputy Chief of Mission Volodymyr Yatsenkivskyi ready themselves to turn the swith which will
illuminate hundreds of thousands of lights around the Temple
and Visitors Center.

Lights surround the Visitors Center of the Washington D.C. Temple through the month of December and into the first part of January.

Lights illuminate the grounds of the Washington D.C. Temple.

Volunteers from the Washington D.C. Temple district brave the cold and become live players in this depiction of the nativity which plays every night from 6:00 - 9:00 PM during the season.

Looking northwest towards the Visitors Center reveals the star that is over the live nativity. Notice The Christus statue in the window of the Visitors Center.

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� 2002 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.



About the Author:

Author Scot Facer Proctor with daughter Mariah, Mariah's best friend Jenna Morgan, and son Truman sitting on a wagon near the barn on the Smith farm (July 2001).

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