The Hill Cumorah

What’s the big deal about the Hill Cumorah, Joseph Smith, and the gold plates?

Let me tell you.


Getting ready for companion study on top of the Hill Cumorah.

He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants. Joseph Smith History 1:34

Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box.  Joseph Smith History 1:51.

The messenger . . . told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates. Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days. Joseph Smith History 1:53–54.

At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.  Joseph Smith History 1:59.


The top of the Hill Cumorah.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.  Moroni 10:4-5


Don’t worry, these aren’t the original plates. It’s the replica we have in the Book of Mormon publication site. But they’re now back in the hands of Moroni, where they belong!


The Dust of the Earth

Have you ever heard that phrase before? Have you ever felt like it?

Fortunately, I’ve caught up on my sleep (I think) so lessons are a lot more entertaining to me now. Not that they weren’t before, but you know. But lately, I’ve been humbled many times, over and over again. Wait…why did I say lately? It’s been happening my whole mission. I think I just finally pegged how I’m feeling. I’m not being humbled by people slapping me in the face and telling me that I think I’m prideful, but it’s Heavenly Father reminding me that I can’t do anything without Him. For example:

I never understood why people said, “I’m humbled to accept this call.” Wouldn’t it just be more work? Wouldn’t you just go to more meetings? I definitely found out the meaning of that this week. Sister Steel and I are now the STL’s of the Rochester zones (Sister Trainer Leaders) and to explain what that means to everyone that’s been on a mission–it’s pretty much the Sister Zone Leaders. It’s a new thing since the age change has more than half of the missionaries as sisters. No one really knows what we’re doing since this is the first time President has put them in this mission, so we’ll figure it out at Mission Leadership Council on Friday. But the first thing that popped into my mind when President called us (at 11 p.m. on Sunday night) is that Heavenly Father wants me to learn a lot more than I already have. This will teach me to rely on Him more than I ever have before. It’s not like we don’t have any time in our area…oh wait, we don’t! Sister Steel and I have to be even more creative on how to use our time wisely in the time we do have. We’ve got exchanges and more meetings that we now have to fit in. It will all work out though, I’m not even worried about it.  Just humbled, that’s all.

Speaking of being creative, we tried a new finding tool this week. When talking to people, all we could do is listen and ask questions. That’s it. It was so effective! We had to think really hard of inspired questions, and I felt that the people we talked with really thought about why we were there, instead of just thinking we’re some “Jesus girls” and ignoring us. In fact, that day, we were coming into our apartment for the night, and we saw our downstairs neighbor sitting on his porch with his head in his hands. As we were getting out of the car, there was a loose card on the seat, so I grabbed it and had it in my hand. We said hello to Joe, and I offered him the card. He just started spilling what was going on in his head–his wife of 18 years just divorced him. To make things worse, she had said goodbye just minutes earlier. He felt lost and alone, and didn’t really know where to go to make things better. Once we testified of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and offered to teach him about the Plan of Happiness, he said, “In my religion, we call you two angels sent from heaven.” Well, Joe, that’s because we are.

In my personal study this week, I picked up an old Ensign from a huge stack in our apartment. It was from 2007 that had an article entitled, The Power of Laughter by K.S. Peterson. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to ease the situation in everything, because the work that I’m doing out here is pretty darn serious. Many people are stressed in this type of situation. This really answered my question. “When a person laughs, blood pressure decreases, heart rate and respiration increase, the body releases endorphins, and depression declines.” And then my favorite, “Play brings families together. It is a subtle tool for interaction and talk. It builds confidence because you can modify the rules to bring about success or any outcome you desire. Through play we develop relationships naturally…Children are more receptive when they are having fun. Laughter helps us remember. And we remember what we feel.” Maybe that’s why I’m a huge sports advocate…I’d rather go play catch on a date than go paint pottery! And I’ve finally figured out why.

To wrap things up, the more humility exercises Heavenly Father gives me, the more happy I seem to be. “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness, I give unto men weakness that they may be humble…then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” -Ether 12:27 Let’s be honest, I am the dust of the earth…without Him. But with Him, I can become like Him.


Hermana Hawkes

p.s. my Spanish nametag is in the mail as we speak. 🙂

Your Ultimate GoogleMap

It’s a scary thing when you don’t know where you’re going. Thankfully, Heavenly Father loves us so much that he’s provided a way to not only return back to Him, but to become just like Him. It takes some effort on our part, but what good thing do you have that you haven’t worked for? Missionaries (like myself) are online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ready to help you start your process on finding your road map back to Him.  Check it out:

Our Divine Potential





“A woman’s richest rewards will come as she rises to fulfill her destiny as a devoted daughter of God. To all faithful Saints He has promised thrones, kingdoms, principalities, glory, immortality, and eternal lives. That is the potential for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is exalting, everlasting, and divine.”

—Russell M. Nelson

Living In, But Not of, the World

Usually, full-time missionary service gives one a perfect excuse to completely forget the outside world.

Not this one. The past two weeks have reminded me that I’m still a person, and I still live here on earth. Sometimes, missionaries tend to think that we’re living in a dream, and after this 18-24 month dream, we go back to the “real” world. But as Elder Holland says, “Your mission is real life. You should never be normal again.”

I’ve seen ward members, cousins and friends here on my mission, just because of the location we’re at. We always get asked the question, “doesn’t that distract you from the work?” Well, if I let it, absolutely it could! The beauty of it, however, is that I use it to make me stronger. These people know me from home, from my old self, and now they’re seeing me at the most spiritual high that I’ve ever been. I could go back home and pretend none of this even happened, I could easily fall back into my old self, and my mission experience would have been a waste. But seeing these people from my “old” life, in my “new” life, forces me to incorporate the two lives together. I’ll forever be Sister Hawkes, but starting in a few months, most everyone will just call me Monica. This mission has just given me the training wheels to know how who to be.

I also have no room to be rude–ever–now, and in the future. Number one, because of the name(s) on my name tag. (Number two, because I try not to be a rude person anyway.) The two names I wear over my heart each day are Sister Hawkes, and Jesus Christ. The latter, obviously important, because I’m a representative of Jesus Christ. I am required to live chapter six of Preach My Gospel (Christlike Attributes) every single day. But with my Hawkes name, it gets recognized quite a few times. I think I’ve talked to about fifty of my dad’s patients this year alone! In fact, sometimes it’s not even the name. Yesterday, while working at the Book of Mormon Publication site, a woman walked in and said, “Are you related to Janet Wells, (usually, I get Sharlene) because you just look like a Wells to me! You’ve got to be one of their daughters!” Experiences like that remind me that I can’t “have a bad day.” I’ve got to always be on top of my game, regardless of what’s going on in my head. I’ve even noticed that the church is run on men who are exhausted, but led by a Savior who has already overcome it for all of us. In Luke 9, I know the Savior was completely exhausted, and probably just wanted ten minutes to Himself to regroup. But look at what happened:

“And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat…” -Luke 9:10-13

I’ve identified with that passage in more ways than one the past couple weeks. Pageant came and went really quickly. The cast worked so hard, on stage and off, to be the best examples of the light of Christ. We had so much success when we forgot out about ourselves. And not just while proselyting in the bowl! I’m not sure if you all have seen Deseret News lately, but the man who plays Abinadi has a fascinating story about how his journey to Hill Cumorah. Parry Winder, or “PeeWee,” as they call him, worked as a fighter pilot and a test pilot for the Air Force. He’s been in test planes where 43 different things have gone wrong, including losing an engine and going subsonic straight towards the ground at Hill Air Force Base. He’s even seen all of the four corners of the earth, all while serving our country. However, in October, right after he and his wife applied to be in Pageant 2013, he was in a horrific car accident that left him with a broken back, never ending pain, nerve damage throughout his body…you get the idea. He couldn’t tolerate light or noise and it left him basically paralyzed. He received a priesthood blessing that specifically told him, “there would be a time that you will have relief.” He went on through the months, still determined to participate in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Turns out, his son is an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN that could get him a front row seat. After much testing, poking, prying, and skipping waiting lines that were years long (literally), he got a small computer implant in his back that goes straight to his brain in just five days. Long story short, he healed more than just enough to run up and down the stairs on the ancient Mayan temple stages, and (pretend) to burn to death.  “I’ve got the best seat in the house,” he said, “I see what Alma looks like, what King Noah looks like…I will never read the Book of Mormon the same again.” But PeeWee also gave us his testimony he’s been molding since his piloting days, “As a fellow warrior, I’ve been on the tip of the sword a lot. I know these guys felt like I did. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to try.”

My Pageant stories don’t stop there…I wish I could go into more detail. I’ve met so many incredible people, including a man who passed his “friends” at the anti-booths to walk in and see what it’s really like. “Sister Hawkes, I used to be one of them,” he told me as he pointed beyond the gate, almost with tears in his eyes. “But I need to come here to see who you really are. You do it right. You really are servants of Christ.”

Miracles are born all the time, and it just takes some time to stop and recognize them. Your character is defined on how much you give credit to God every single day for those little moments. Even though these past two weeks took a lot out of me, I am positive I got more out of it than anyone else.


Hermana Hawkes

I Wonder When He Comes Again

I think the experience I’m having right now feels closer than it’s ever been.


More often than not, I find myself outlining my name tag with my finger, wondering how in the world I got to be here. Especially when the HCP cast rehearses the Resurrected Christ scene in the Ancient Americas. (See picture below.)


The real second coming feels even closer the more persecution we get. We have men and women standing outside the gates trying to attack our beliefs as audience members come in. Actually, it’s a spiritual experience for everyone. They feel the darkness–then immediately feel the stark difference of light as they are greeted by the cast in costume as varied Book of Mormon characters. It’s been prophesied that they’d be here, so we thank them for their help!


Anyway, this week really has been spiritually powerful for me. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this prayer: “Heavenly Father, could You just carry me through today? I promise to completely rid my body of anything but what You want me to say…I just need you.” It’s been exhausting, but as expected, the very moments I need an extra boost of energy, it comes. It comes straight from Christ who, through His Atonement, has already paid for everything. We have to be completely empty vessels in order for Him to work through us. It is a mind game, that requires us to forego everything we want and need, and turn it over completely to the Lord. Once we do that, a new light will come in, but it won’t be our own light. It will be the light of Christ, shining to other people. So you see–you don’t even need to come up with anything yourself. It’s all Him that shines through you, as long as you let Him.


Along with the “exhaustion to non-exhaustion” testimony I’ve received this week, I’ve noticed enthusiasm in general comes from how converted you are. If there are doubts in my mind, I’m not as energetic to share the gospel. If I’ve had a great study, I want to grab a microphone and shout it over the loud speaker at Yankee stadium. Seriously–enthusiasm comes straight from conversion. says that enthusiasm literally means, “having possession by God, or having God within.” If you’re not converted, and I mean truly converted, how can you have God in you?


Now to what we’ve actually done this week. Between directing traffic in the Visitors’ Center, role-playing with the cast, welcoming everyone that comes to the Pageant, oh yeah, and sleeping, we haven’t had much time to think about ourselves. It’s just in those little moments that we can take a breather, and remember why we’re here. It’s also nice when visitors that know more history than I do, actually share what they know, and kinda count it as our companion study for the day. We had a few BYU church history professors come in, and we asked them a bunch of questions of details on top of what our site manuals say. They shared some pretty cool information, but the most important piece of information I got out of the whole conversation was, “Who are you if you don’t know Joseph Smith?” We do not worship Joseph Smith–we worship Christ–but he is the first prophet of this dispensation. If it wasn’t for him actually acting on a prompting, I wouldn’t know that I could be with my family forever. I wouldn’t know that I can eventually have unlimited time with the Savior. That’s what eternal life means. Unlimited time. How does that sound?


Last thing. We had sacrament meeting at the Hill Cumorah yesterday, and the Palmyra Stake President ended his talk with this, “Follow the Savior everywhere He went…not just on those fun trips to feed the thousands.”




Hermana Hawkes


p.s. Never, let me repeat, never ask a site sister, “Where are the regular missionaries?”