[Eternal] Life is Precious

“Yes, life is precious! No one can cuddle a cherished newborn baby, look into those beautiful eyes, feel the little fingers, and caress that miraculous creation without deepening reverence for life and for our Creator. Life comes from life. It is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It is eternal, as he is eternal.”

—Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Celebrity Sightings…Part II

I now realize the phrase, “I’m humbled to meet you.”

On Wednesday for our weekly site meeting, we had Joseph Smith’s great-great granddaughter, Kim Smith, and 3rd great grandson, Brian Davis, come to the Hill Cumorah. They told us of their conversion stories, how they came to realize the importance of their grandfather, and what they had heard of him throughout their lives. They sang a couple of songs they wrote, one called “Willow,” based on a tree Emma used to pray near, and another one, “Serenity Blue,” describing the prophet Joseph’s eyes, and what was seen through them.  I’m pretty sure no one’s eyes were dry the whole hour.

The next day, we had shift number two at the Joseph Smith Farm…since I have come back to the sites. We all couldn’t wait to talk about what we learned the night before! As we were talking, a car pulled up, and lo and behold…it was Kim and Brian! Guess who’s turn it was to take a tour. MINE. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the one who would be giving the tour.  Ha. Anyway, we greeted them at the door–more excitedly than we did last week with the lead singer of The Killers might I add–and I re-introduced myself to them. She remembered I was from Centerville, and immediately asked about me, how my mission was going, and what I had planned after. Hello, I didn’t want to talk about me, I wanted to talk about them! So I quickly answered the questions and jumped into shooting my questions in the opposite direction. As they were talking, I noticed the pictures of Joseph and Emma so perfectly framed right next to their faces in the background, and couldn’t help but see Joseph’s blue eyes and wavy blonde hair in Brian. We are talking exact DNA people. So, “their” tour started by going into the humble log home, and her telling me what she knew from what was passed down from her fathers. Kim and Brian were two of 80 direct descendants of Joseph Smith that are actually baptized into the church, and 200 in-direct…with marriages and everything. Horror stories have been told more times than she’s wanted to hear, and she knew there had to be something positive about her grandfather. As we were standing in the same space where Joseph formulated the million-dollar question, little old me got to be the one who got to hear them the behind-the-scenes of the consequences of abuse in his posterity.

We eventually made our way to the Frame Home, expecting to spend just a couple of minutes there for them to take a few pictures. We walked in and Kim said, “How much time do you have, Sister Hawkes?” “You tell me,” I said. “Sit down, let’s talk.” I asked her question after question of the character of Joseph, the moment she became truly converted, and how they’ve been missionaries to her family. From growing up, she heard horrific stories all about the “Utah Mormons” and the “Brighamites,” and was basically forbidden to go to Utah. Kim knew they weren’t true by the power of the Holy Ghost, that had come into her life at an early age. She was always taught from her mother, “the Holy Ghost trumps everything.” So, she decided to always follow Him, and never listen to what anyone else says. Since then, she’s always poured out her heart to the Savior, and she’s never said no to a prompting–because she knows exactly where it comes from. After half an hour of an uninterrupted quizzing session, we took a slow walk back to the parking lot on Stafford Road. I walked right in between the two as they continued to tell me stories…including how the missionary discussions they took at Meryl Osmond’s home went. (I couldn’t help but think how intimidated those poor sister missionaries were.) On the third discussion she knew she needed to be baptized. About the members of the church, she said, “there was something in those people that I couldn’t deny, and that was the Holy Ghost.” Kim was baptized June 7, 1998, and her son, Brian was baptized a year later. Right at the end of our visit, she said they would love to come do a fireside in Centerville when I return home. I gave her my e-mail address, and planned to set it up! (Mom, I think I’m going to turn that over to you for now.) We’ll make sure you all know when that’s going to happen!

Basically, that’s been the highlight of my week so far…if not my whole mission! Luckily I’ve had many highlights, and many experiences that turn me closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Every experience that I have as a servant of the Lord gets me closer to Him. It doesn’t matter how “famous” these people are. If I meet them on the streets of Rochester, and I put a smile on their face–that’s really all I care about. All of those combined make up the “highlights” of my mission. More often that not, it’s entertaining to see how that smile actually got there in the first place, but regardless, it’s a blessing. Anyway, we found three more investigators this week, and we’re teaching two tonight and another one on Thursday. They look promising, and I’m really excited!

It’s been another beautiful, rainy week in Upstate New York, and I’m so happy to still be wearing this nametag.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Celebrity Sightings

ImageIt’s been quite an eventful week, considering the title of this e-mail! After taking my best friend Reb’s brother, sister-in-law and nephew on my first tour at the Joseph Smith Farm (after full-proselyting 6 months) I walked into the Welcome Center to hear, “BRANDON FLOWERS IS IN THE SACRED GROVE!” If you don’t know who he is…just google him. He’s basically the equivalent to the Backstreet Boys for sister missionaries. So, that was exciting. We got a picture with him, and it’s on my facebook if any of you would like to see. So, I got to see “home” celebrities (if you will), and “worldly” celebrities within minutes of each other!
 
We also had more time in our area than I thought this week! We did lots of street contacting, less-active hunting, potential investigating, and my personal favorite…tracting into members. We came across a house with a mini-van and thought to ourselves, “these guys need to be Mormon.” So, we knocked. A beautiful woman came to the door and said, “Sisters! Come on in!” I’m still not used to hearing that…ever…so Hermana Steel and I looked at each other with huge smiles when she turned around to pick up her daughter. She told us to sit down and that she was excited to have us there. For about five minutes, we thought we had her in the bag..then she dropped the “nursery” line that gave it away…so awkward for us, but thankfully she didn’t recognize it. Being new in the ward/area has it’s pros and cons, of course. However, investigating more into the situation, she is a returned missionary and has wanted her daughters to go out teaching with us. It was perfect! Awkward can turn into inspiration!
 
Right after that little episode, we went across the street to a woman named Tracey who hadn’t been to Church in years. We walked up to her porch and caught her lighting a cigarette. “Of course the missionaries would walk up right now,” she said. We laughed, introduced ourselves, encouraged her to remember the feeling she felt at the time of her baptism, and shared some scriptures from the Book of Mormon. After talking a few minutes, her husband, Bob, walked out. He was a huge man–looked almost like an NFL linebacker, but he greeted us very politely and then went on to say that every devout Mormon he knew was true to everything in their life, they weren’t just a “Sunday Christian,” and he was extremely impressed. He’s not a member, so I asked him if we could teach him more about the restored gospel, so he could feel the same thing in his life. “I’m a tough egg to crack,” he said. I answered him with “Will you give us a chance? All we need is just this much,” holding up my fingers. He smiled, and Bob and Tracey agreed to us coming back on Friday to teach them how to put full and complete trust in their Heavenly Father.
 
Well, I wish I could tell story after story, even the story of what happened yesterday when we got a new Spanish investigator, (!!) but unfortunately we have limited time on the computers we’re using today. Then, we’re going up to the shore of Lake Ontario to have lunch for one of the Elder’s birthdays. New York seriously is breathtaking, and everyday I feel like I’m walking into a painting. I’ll leave you will one thing that has extremely helped me this week:
 
“[Satan] will try to ruin your goodness and abilities by exploiting your weaknesses. Stay on the Lord’s side, and you will win every time.” -Elder Richard G. Scott
 
BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes

I Have my Family Forever

“Continue building lasting, loving relationships for all family members. Listen to one another, be unified, work together, play together, study together. Live celestial principles together, serve the Lord together. Find those precious teaching moments with one another. Don’t let them slip through your fingers, but feed and nurture these special occasions. Never let golden opportunities go by in your relationships with your family members that will help build eternal principles.”

—L. Tom Perry

Voice of a Trump

…that is until I lose my voice! I guess when the Lord said to “declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump,” I took it literally. (D&C 29:4)This week back at the sites has been the most I’ve ever seen myself grow. The last time I took tours at these historical sites was in my first four transfers as a missionary. Now with a year of missionary service under my belt, I can see the drastic difference it has made with just four left. Not only were my tours completely guided by the spirit, but they were backed up by scripture and testimony of prophets…regardless if I shared everything that was in my mind or not. Three different men came into the sites to specifically ask about the Bible and how it correlates to Mormonism. Let me tell you a bit about each of them:

1. Louis, a businessman, a husband, and a  dad of two daughers, walked in to the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center on my first day back. He had dropped by the VC before about a year ago, but only had time to watch the 20 minute version of the Restoration. This time, he wanted to see it all. After he was through watching the 60 minute version of Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration and the 15 minute God’s Plan for Families, he had tons of questions that had been burning in his mind. He was trying to find unity in any church, and specifically the unity between Jesus Christ and His church that He established on the earth 2,000 years ago. “I can’t figure out the gap between Jerusalem and the Americas,” Louis said. “There’s got to be something that ties the two together if you claim to have Christ as the center.” I opened up the copy of the Book of Mormon that I was holding in my hand to the title page. I asked him to read the first few paragraphs where it talks about Lehi, where he came from, and we talked about Lehi’s journey to the Americas, along with the Jaredites and the Mulekites. I then brought him over to the display, “The Restoration of the Priesthood.” (It’s extremely convienent to be at a VC.) I explained that Peter, James and John, who he agreed got their authority straight from Jesus Christ, came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and gave that same power to them. It was powerful to see it click in his mind, and for me to bear my testimony about the priesthood. It was perfect for it to come from a young girl like me, because I don’t have the priesthood. There’s no pride in it for me–I have to rely on it completely, through other men that I trust do their duty. I explained how my own father’s priesthood lineage traces back to Christ, how that power is in my home, and how it helps me even when there are hard days as a missionary. We spoke for about 45 minutes, and Louis agreed to have the missionaries in Pennsylvania teach him and his family in their home.

2. Keith, a very tall, bearded man with long gray hair and thick coke-bottle glasses came into the Book of Mormon Publication Site to ask a few legitmate questions about what the Lord revealed in the book of Revelations. Since I have had my share of persecution, I wasn’t going to go in this without backup. It wasn’t a coincidence that my two zone leaders from Brockport were there with about half an hour to spare. We all went into a seperate room with another senior couple that was working their shift at the time. So you can imagine: five missionaries surrounding this one man who said no one could ever explain to him what he was feeling. Before we even started, I asked him if he knew the Book of Mormon was true. He has read it cover to cover and said he knows it’s a book from God, but he isn’t sure about the whole thing. Keith then jumped right into his quesiton from Revelations 7:1: “What is the Lord going to do about getting these angels on the four corners of the Earth?” Immediately, 2 Nephi 28:11 popped into my head. I asked him to turn to it, and we read it together. “For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them…”I explained that was missionary work, and that exact thing was happening right now–to him–at that moment. We were clarifiying scripture from Jerusalem with the Lord’s other word that came from the Americas…with missionaries from all parts of the world. The next thing he said was, “God just told me that what you said was true.” (That still never ceases to amaze me, by the way.) We invited him to do the same thing with each verse of the Book of Mormon–to ponder and to pray about it–and to do the same thing with the First Vision. He left with the promise that He would do just that.

3. Robert, a less-active member who wasn’t too sure about his testimony, came in just for a “normal tour.” (I love it when people call it that.) I could tell he was questioning his testimony when he told me that “not very many missionaries make it out alive.” I wanted to turn around, put my fist up and say, “YA WANNA BET?!” But, I didn’t…I tried to be professional. I asked him if he was doing everything he could to serve the Lord in his best possible way, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks. He brought out some scripture with statistics of those who really do what they say. Once I felt my person on the defense, I knew it was time to turn it over completely to the Spirit. I bore a powerful testimony of what we were doing as missionaries was the right thing to do–even if only one person in the whole world had accepted the gospel. I bore my testimony about the power of the priesthood, restored by Joseph Smith, and how that power had changed people’s lives through the things I’ve taught them. It came to the point where he just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and walked off. Seriously you guys…bearing testimony is the most powerful tool for any missionary ever, it is everything talked about in Ephesians 6–the Armor of God.
Yes, that all happened within the first 48 hours back at the sites, and yes, I taught plenty of other incredible lessons at the sites in between these as well. Because of that, I haven’t had a voice in about a week! But ya know what, Alma and Amulek, Ammon, Captain Moroni, and definitely Paul probably had the same problem. It’s actually a problem at all.Teaching these three men was a symbol of the power of three to my testimony, and that the Lord really does call his weakest to confound the strongest. I’m just so dang happy. I know that’s not the most professional word, but I don’t know what else to use to describe my emotions. Hermana Steel and I comment about every five minutes about how much we love our mission. Oh yes, we had Emergency Transfers on Thursday, and I am training a new missionary! It’s a long story, but now she’s with me, and we are both Cast Training together. She was only in the field a few hours before we had these ET’s, and it’s been awesome flush training her in Irondequoit. Hermana Steel came pre-trained and is one of the best missionaries I’ve ever seen. She has already taught me way more than I could ever teach her in the time we have together. (That seems to happen a lot…) But, we live in downtown Rochester, with an hour commute to the sites four to five times a week! It’s great, we get a lot of studies done in the car, since we have SIX hours: personal, companion, 12 Week, site, language and now, pageant study. The cast gets here in six weeks and I’m trying not to make myself over-excited about that, because I’m already jumping out of my chair for being back at the sites! I do miss Brockport, but there’s something about the sites that has every single part of my heart. The sites, combined with the sisters, the senior couples, and the landscape is enough to convince me to buy a burial plot here.

 

Wow, I know that was a really long letter…I hope you didn’t get bored. I could go on for another few pages, but I’ve only got a few minutes left. The power of study is REAL–and it really does build confidence in the gospel. I encourage you all to set a specific study schedule, preferrably in the early morning hours, so you can have that time to put on your armor of God every single day. Start with Ephesians 6, and I promise that you will feel 100% ready for anything thrown your way.

 

BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes

Transfers, Studies, and More Yard Work

Waiting for transfer calls is almost the same as being in high school again, waiting to find out who is going to ask you to the dance. It’s freaky. I have no idea where I’m going to be starting tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we get the call while I write this e-mail, because that would be highly entertaining. I guess you’re just going to have to read the rest to find out where I’m going…

 

This week has been a total roller coaster for the two of us. We have been so busy while putting emotion into everything, and with the job that we have to do–you never know what’s going to happen. Elder Bednar put it perfectly, “Do everything in your power, and expect nothing in return.” Well, that describes this week perfectly. We’ve had good days and bad days, but thankfully at the end of the day we always help each other back on track. I know (as sure as I know my favorite color is green) that Sister Johnson was sent here to be my companion. She has taught me so much about who I am and who I need to be, not only for my investigators and the people I meet, but for my future family. She has a heart of gold that no one could put a price on. I’m so grateful I got to spend two transfers together with one of my best friends.

 

I’m sorry this letter is and will be incredibly boring, as it already is. I don’t have much time, because I’ve got a lot to do today with packing and everything. We haven’t done anything of note except for going house to house, and yard work…plus more yard work. Who knew I would love doing that stuff? But once I get back to the sites, I promise to have more fun, random, interesting, incredibly spiritual stories…those always happen at the sites. 🙂 But recently in my personal study, I have been putting together a map of the kingdom of Israel, and on the back, a chart of the Book of Mormon. It’s pretty intense…seriously. The coolest thing I realized was that only the true church would be able to fit all of those things together…in order. I have no problem seeing who got their priesthood from who, and it always follows back to our Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no guessing what happened when, and evidence is everywhere to prove it.

 

Yesterday in Fast and Testimony meeting, we got to hear a ton of members in the ward talk about their missionary experiences. Many shared their conversion stories, and some shared recent events that happened this past week. Again, we have been doing yard work almost every day this week, so it was a great opportunity to talk to them about their own missionary work. A woman got up and told the congregation that while we were helping her on Friday, her neighbor was watching us and wondering who these kids were just…helping. It gave her the perfect opportunity to re-tell her about who the missionaries are after she had been taking the lessons with her mom–who had passed away while they were learning. The woman in our ward asked for a Book of Mormon to give her, and then asked her neighbor if we could all come over and help her with her yard work. She burst into tears and told her that is exactly what she needed, and that she had been praying for someone to ask. It was another great “fruit of my labors” moment. All I did was follow the Spirit on when we needed to get to work, and just DID IT. I didn’t know I was following the Spirit until I looked. That always seems to happen to me…

 

Well, in two months from yesterday, the Hill Cumorah Pageant cast arrives and I seriously couldn’t be more excited. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for anything…maybe except for the morning I was going to the MTC. I think I could have ran faster to Provo than how slow we were driving! Same thing with the airplane to New York…and now I just want to stay here forever. I have so many moments I want to bottle up and keep in my pocket. Fortunately, the good times keep on coming. I’m going to do my best to continue to finish out my mission strong, and then once I return home in a few short months, I will treat my mission as a personal spiritual incubator for the rest of my life. A mission is training for the real world, and I know once the time comes, I’ll be ready to take it on and keep my steep incline towards Him. But for now, I love just living in the present. It’s the best miracle, blessing…whatever you want to call it…I was BORN to do missionary work. I have never been so in my element. Every night, I re-dedicate my whole life to Him…to do whatever He wants me to do. I follow the happiness, that’s really all you can do. There’s no other option. I love my job. (I think I should just adopt that as my new catch phrase. How many years have I been daily saying that now?)

 

As you can tell, transfer calls haven’t come yet. We got word from the AP’s that they won’t come for another half an hour, so I guess you’ll have to wait to find out next week where I’m going! Unless you’re friends with my mission facebook, then you’ll probably know asap. 🙂 Your guess is as good as mine; I think if I just throw a dart on the map of New York that’s where I’ll go. I love you all, and thanks for everything!
Oh, and Happy Birthday, Dad! You’re now 51 years young! I hope you enjoyed your fresh New York maple syrup. 🙂
BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Healthy or Not…Here We Come

As a missionary and as a member of the Church, I eat really healthy.

My trainer and I (Sister Correia) in Naples, New York!

Well…at least I try to.

There are some things you just can’t resist! But overall, we have something called the “Word of Wisdom.” It’s a health code.  Jesus Christ set it up in order to keep our bodies consistently healthy so we can submit everything to our Father’s will at any given time. It makes sure that we aren’t addicted to anything–that we don’t need anything in our bodies in order to function. Because in reality, the only thing that we really need to function is Him. Then think about it, when we get to meet Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again and present our bodies to them(that They gave us by the way), are They going to be disappointed if They see it all torn up?

Basically, we stay away from any addictive substances–alcoholic drinks, tobacco, coffee, tea , illegal drugs and the misuse of perscription drugs. We don’t just not consume those things, but we do consume the good stuff: wheat, rice, oats, fruit, vegetables, and meat sparingly. read more about exactly what this all entails, check out: http://www.lds.org/topics/word-of-wisdom?lang=eng

I am a huge fan of this, not only because it keeps me feeling good all the time, but because I promised my Heavenly Father I’d do it. When I gave Him that promise, He gave me one too:

“And [ye] shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures…and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” -Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

Last but not least…something that my companion said the other day that is SO TRUE that I just really want to include:

“It’s better to work out for an hour than to be fat all day.” -Sister Johnson