The 2023 Washington D.C. Temple Festival of Lights is officially underway. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was joined by the Philippines Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Jr. on Tuesday, November 28, 2023, to turn on more than 400,000 Christmas lights that surround the house of the Lord in the nation’s capital. Attendees included distinguished ambassadors, diplomats, and other government officials and their families.
In addition to the Christmas lights (from 4:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST through January 1, 2024), visitors will see Nativity créches and Christmas tree decorations from around the world. They can also enjoy a nightly holiday performance. Entrance and parking are free, and tickets are not required. The address is 9900 Stoneybrook Drive in Kensington, Maryland. The Festival of Lights opens to the public on November 30th.
“As we turn the lights on to illuminate these beautiful grounds, I want everyone to know that I believe with all my heart and soul that Jesus Christ came to earth to be the light in the world,” said Elder Renlund, a member of the second-highest governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “[Jesus] came to bring peace, love and joy. As an expression with my faith in him, I wish you all a very merry Christmas.”
After being introduced by Mike Lee, U.S. Senator from Utah, Mr. Ascalon said Tuesday’s lighting ceremony symbolizes the “enduring bond” between the Philippines and the Church of Jesus Christ.
“The Philippines proudly stands as the home to the fourth-largest population of Latter-day Saints globally,” Mr. Ascalon said. “The Church continues to be an essential part of the religious and humanitarian landscape of the Philippines.”
Since the country officially opened for missionary work in 1961, Church growth has been among the fastest in the world. The country is home to more than 850,000 Latter-day Saints in approximately 1,275 congregations. And the Church of Jesus Christ has 13 houses of the Lord either in operation or various stages of planning or construction. These are located in Alabang, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu City, Davao, Iloilo, Laoag, Manila, Naga, Santiago, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Urdaneta.
David Marriott, who joined his parents, J.W. and Donna Marriott, in hosting said he remembers attending the first Festival of Lights as a preschool-age child. Noting the Latter-day Saint belief that everyone who comes into this world carries with them the light of Jesus Christ, Marriott said building bridges with others is critical.
“The eyes are the window to this light,” Marriott said. “As we put aside differences, embrace the beauty of diverse cultures, religions, beliefs and serve one another, our own life grows brighter. If we contend one with another, and bring about pain and destruction, our light diminishes and can even be extinguished.”
Mr. Ascalon said the vibrant lights around the Washington D.C. Temple should remind us that “hope, unity and compassion can shine through even in the darkest times.”
“The Festival of Lights brings us together,” Mr. Ascalon concluded, “breaking down the barriers of differences and inspiring us to extend our rays of kindness and guidance to those who are struggling through the darkness. Indeed, this season reminds us that we all share a common yearning for peace, joy and prosperity for mankind. Let us carry this spirit with us throughout the year, spreading love and light wherever we go and making this world a brighter and happier place for all. Thank you, and may God bless us all.”