A nativity scene owned by Leesa Jones is pictured on Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Stake Center in Bloomfield.
A nativity scene owned by Leesa Jones is pictured on Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Stake Center in Bloomfield. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — In an effort to reach out to the community and celebrate Christmas, the Bloomfield Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is displaying more than 600 nativity sets.

"Joy to the World -- A Celebration of Jesus Christ," an annual crêche and nativity exhibit, started Wednesday and continues through Saturday.

Donna Clifton, a member of the church, had the idea for the exhibit five years ago and has coordinated the displays ever since.

In a press release, Clifton said the nativity scenes and artwork have been collected from around the world and are displayed among traditional holiday decorations and music.

"We hope this special exhibit will touch our hearts, reminding us of the true reason for Christmas," Clifton said in the press release.

The nativity sets occupy all the major rooms and hallways of the LDS Bloomfield Stake Center. Church members donated the nativity sets to be displayed for a week, said LeRoy Dugger, the ecclesiastical president of the Bloomfield Stake, which consists of congregations in Bloomfield, Aztec and Flora Vista.

"It's just to share with the community our belief in the savior and his birth," Dugger said.

Despite the weather, more than 350 people attended the event on its opening night, Dugger said.

"There's a real reverent feeling when you go in," he said.

He said everyone whispered as they looked at the various nativity sets, and that feeling continued even after the attendees left.

"They come out feeling the peace," Dugger said.

Dugger said the stake is pleased with the response so far. Residents from Kirtland and Farmington, as well as towns within the Bloomfield Stake, have visited the exhibit.

He said the event helps the church be a larger part of the community.

"Sometimes, we can be in our own little world," he said.

IF YOU GO

What: “Joy to the World – A Celebration of Jesus Christ”

When: 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Bloomfield Stake Center, 804 W. Blanco Blvd., Bloomfield

Cost: Free

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.