It’s Not A Competition

Brittany’s story has to be one of the most note-worthy stories I’ll ever tell about my mission.

On Thursday, we went to the sites with her…well, just the Joseph Smith Farm, the Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon Publication Site. I noticed it’s a whole different thing knowing Brittany’s spiritual journey, and then applying the history at the sites to her. While in the Sacred Grove, we read Joseph Smith’s experience straight from his history, and she mentioned how much she can relate to him. However, her whole spiritual journey has magnified by a million in just the past few days. After a really rough night last night, she sent us the scripture in 2 Nephi 1:15, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” She gets it–she really gets it. Brittany is now tearing up Irondequoit with us, teaching lessons, and even basketball tracting! (Note: basketball tracting is recruiting for our Tuesday night basketball games at the church…one of the greatest finding activities in my opinion.) She wasn’t afraid to just go up and knock on doors, even if we got a door slammed in our faces. I wish she had any idea how much she was teaching us instead of what she thinks is the other way around. By teaching with her, we’ve been able to hear more of her conversion story, which puts mine to shame. Thankfully, it’s not a competition, and all that matters is that we get the same end result.

That reminds me of a lesson I’ve learned the past year and a half–nothing ever is a competition, especially when it has to do with the Spirit. I don’t need anything big to happen to me to be truly converted; I don’t need the scriptures to shake as I read them, to hear a “voice of thunder” of confirmation as I am bearing my testimony, or that I don’t need to cry throughout the whole sacrament meeting in order for me to feel the Spirit. Elder McConkie said, “Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous they get written up in the scriptures.”

As for the other events of this week, we had an exchange with the Victor sisters, and then two exchanges coming up this week, where I’ll be off to Henrietta and Fairport. The leaves are beginning to change, and that means more bus tours! This week we had a bus tour while Sister Tran and I were serving at the Hill Cumorah. I read on the schedule that it was a mission reunion, but lo and behold, did I ever know that it was the Mexico Monterrey Mission from the early 1970’s. Just my grandpa’s missionaries themselves! A few of them came up to me, introduced themselves, and fortunately I got to talk with all of them in the Christus room. (The painting of the Sacred Grove right behind the statue of Christ.) We talked about our missions, the thoughts the Spirit has given them throughout their lives, and what specifically their missions have done for the rest of their lives. A few of them came up to me after and told stories of how Grandpa has a lead foot, how Grandma was so patient with all of the Elders…I was just beaming with pride to be their granddaughter. We did get a picture of a few of us that I’ll have to show you later.

The last, but definitely not least, thing I want to mention was the anniversary of Joesph getting the plates on September 22, 1827. He met Moroni for the first time on September 21, and since that day fell on a Saturday this year, we decided to plan “the walk” for that morning. Most of us sisters, senior couples, and President Francis walked from the log home at the Joseph Smith Farm to the top of the Hill Cumorah, which was about four miles. (I’m proud to say that Sister Gillespie and I were the first ones to the top, after President started racing us!) What a great walk to remember Joseph Smith and the things He did for Jesus Christ.

Miracles are piling more and more on top of each other as I head towards the end of my journey here in New York, As I’ve thought about that though, I’ve noticed they’ve been happening not just my whole mission, but my whole life, and it’s great to finally realize His hand in many more things.

Keep staying strong, and remember that God always has unlimited minutes.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

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190th Anniversary

As Mormons, a lot of people think we do weird things. Well, give us a break, it was prophesied in the Bible…

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” -1 Peter 2:9

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What do you get when you have over fifty missionaries walking four miles in the middle of nowhere? A celebration of the 190th anniversary of Joseph Smith meeting Moroni for the first time, of course! On September 21, 1823, Moroni (the last prophet of the 6th dispensation) showed the prophet Joseph where he could find the record in the Hill Cumorah. At 17 years old, Joseph walked Stafford Road from his home in Palmyra, NY, to the Hill Cumorah in Manchester, NY after Moroni appeared to him in the upstairs of his little log home, telling him the information. Four years later on the same anniversary, he brought back to Palmyra the plates to what is now translated in English as The Book of Mormon.

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For more information, check out:

http://josephsmith.net/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=91fa0fbab57f0010VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD

Be a Flashlight…Not Just a Glowstick

It’s taken me this long to figure out the best way to start off a transfer…

To see one of your sisters get baptized! Brittany has grown into our “5th companion” as she got baptized this week, and already has taught lessons with us and the Webster sisters. Apparently she told one of their investigators that he needed to back off if he wasn’t totally ready to change his life. She’s my hero.

Man, so much has happened this week. Sister Gillespie is on fire, and we are tearing up Irondequoit. Even though we have trainings to plan, exchanges to do, sites to serve at, we are finding time to talk with everyone. President likes to remind me that I don’t have much time to sprint to the end, and last week he said, “Irondequoit better be translated when you leave!” (He doesn’t leave much room for laziness.) I’m pretty sure I’m his biggest fan. I could go on forever about how much respect I have for him, but unfortunately I’ve only got so long to tell you about the rest of my week. The Francis family is perfect.

As for an introduction to our training (that trained me more than anyone else in the room):

“Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled.” -2 Nephi 7:11

We started off by giving each missionary in our zone those little glow stars that children put on their ceilings at night. We charged the stars a bit with our flashlights, then all walked into a dark room with Sister Gillespie and I holding the flashlights, with the whole goal being to find the Starbursts in the front of the room. In order for them to find them, we just shone them in every which way, but we didn’t really point them in a specific direction. The point was for us to invite them by pointing the beam of light in a specific direction in order for them to easily find the candy…a.k.a. eternal life. How hard is it for missionaries to focus and shine their light they received from Christ? Are we bold enough? Are our batteries charged? The other missionaries (investigators) had a glow star…why couldn’t they find it just from that?

The point is to be the flashlight. We are commanded to be a flashlight once we are baptized into the church. What happens if we are just a glow star? We still have a light, right? Yes, we do have a light, but it is unreachable. It is something that is only glowing, and not pointing towards a specific direction. Now, there are a million other analogies to that concept, and I hope that you think about how you can be the flashlight in the darkness. Offering a ride to a Mutual activity? Giving someone an invite to your Family Home Evening? The light of Christ you have can not only charge the other glow stars you work and live among, but so you can use Christ to literally change their state of being to a flashlight. Now, read that scripture from 2 Nephi again, and never look at a flashlight the same again.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to take a couple from Boston around the Joseph Smith Farm. Robert and Jean have been dating for quite some time, but their religious background won’t allow them to get married. After just a few minutes in the Manchester Frame Home, Robert the atheist, turns to me and says, “I’ve never seen anyone so happy…I usually can fake it on a Saturday night at the bar. But are you for real?” I explained to him the Plan of Happiness, and related it to Joseph Smith and how he wanted to know his identity so badly, so badly enough that he had a confidence in God that He would answer his prayer. I expounded on the Restoration and my personal witness of the things that happened here. After about a twenty minute conversation, he said, “So…this is why you’re happy.” I almost was in tears defending what Joseph learned in the grove, just a few hundred feet away. I mentioned to him that missionaries are throughout the world teaching the same message, and it was no coincidence that I had my best friend Rebecca’s picture of her serving in the Philippines on the back of my Book of Mormon. I showed it to Robert and Jean, and even if they don’t act on the prompting, I knew they felt it was right that what we both were doing was the absolute truth. Their faces look at her picture gave it away, and the spirit testifying to them was way too strong to deny. After sending them into the Grove, I vocally expressed thanks to my Heavenly Father on the walk back to the Welcome Center on Stafford Road.
Along with success from the less-active members of the church, potential investigators, and hilarious journal entries, this week has been one of the best on my mission. It’s also been one of the most trying…thus being the best. I’m completely convinced we don’t learn anything if we don’t feel any urgency to complete tasks ahead of us–especially those that have to do with Christ’s work on the earth. He’s not chastising us, He is giving us the opportunity to grow because He loves us that much. A coach doesn’t yell at the people he’s going to cut!
I can really feel your prayers, and letters of encouragement are completely inspired from everyone. Thank you! I can’t pay you all back, so I’ll pay Him forward.
BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Pay It Forward

My fellow Palmyra resident Joseph and I recently had a one-on-one discussion about our extremely similar personalities.

“I displayed the weakness of youth, and the foilbles of human nature…I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament…in consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections.” -Joseph Smith

As you probably already know, I get excited about everything. Anything anyone tells me is extremely interesting. I don’t take many things very seriously, and I know that everything will always be okay–that He will always make everything work out. In reading Joseph’s account of his self-examination, I’ve found myself doing the same thing, and concluding the same thoughts. A woman from my last ward (Brockport) said something I’ll never forget: “A coach isn’t going to yell at someone he’s going to cut.” Same thing with God. Furthermore, I’ve started the repentance process of my “jovial” nature, and have tried to be more of a mature servant of the Lord. But it doesn’t mean I have to be boring! I just need to take things more seriously. Because this is serious business…it’s eternal life! I’m just really glad I’ve got someone of that caliber to relate to.

Brittany is all set to walk into the font on Saturday.  Aubrie (every missionary’s dream member) took Brittany to dinner on Friday night before they came to the chapel together to have another lesson. Sister Steel and I decided to pull out all of the big guns at once–Law of Chastity, Word of Wisdom, Sabbath Day observance, and the Law of Tithing. It was such an entertaining, but spirit-filled lesson. Anytime we ever tell her any principle of the gospel or commandment, she looks at us like we’re totally crazy. But then always says, “Well of course, that makes total sense. I have no choice but to keep it.” Last night, she told us she was so tired at church on Sunday because she stayed up all night reading the Book of Mormon. I told her, “After Saturday, all you have to do is endure to the end!” She turned around and quickly said, “No, Sister Hawkes, I’m going to dance to the end.” She takes everything with confidence and complete trust in God…even though three weeks ago she had no idea what the name “Christ” even meant. Brittany embodies the phrase, “golden investigator.” Psh, we didn’t even do anything. We just happened to be the missionaries in the area, working hard, at the time she was introduced to the gospel. No effort is wasted!

Speaking of paying, Sister Steel and I recently have had some incredible companion studies which were very much inspired. Have you heard the phrase, “pay it forward?” That is the essence of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no way in the Universe that we could ever “pay back” our Savior for what He did. With that in mind, we have to pay everything forward. What are we doing thinking of ever going “backward” for anything? Even if you’re sitting still on the fence, maybe even with your hat over your head like Martin Harris when he told Joseph about the 116 pages, you’re considered in backwards mode. We must move forward constantly. Every little commandment we keep, every little guideline we follow are like thank-you notes to God. They aren’t restrictive in any way; they are enabling in every way. Joseph thought about this concept long before we did:

“Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!” -D&C 128:22

To finish up this week’s news…transfer calls came last night! It was probably the most dramatic transfer call yet…just because we could make it dramatic. It makes it that much more hilarious when all four of you sit around the phone while brushing your teeth extra hard because all you can think about is your short-lived destiny. Our ringtone for the Zone Leaders are crickets chirping, and the ringtone for President is, “GONG…GONG…” So naturally, that’s what we were waiting for. The crickets went off finally at 11 p.m., and our poor neighbors downstairs must have thought we were practicing our martial arts for a few minutes. Sister Steel is going full-proselyting out to Buffalo, and I’m getting Sister Gillespie…Sister West is going to my first area (Newark South) and Sister Noble is getting Sister Van Geenen! What a party; I can’t even wait. Except I’m really going to miss Sister Steel! After three transfers, we’re like a part of each other now. (Especially since she’s my mission daughter!) She’ll be incredible in full-proselyting.

I’m going to give everything I have for these last six weeks. It’s going to go by so fast!

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

 

A Witness Unto All Nations

This is my best friend, Rebecca:

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Laoag, Phillippines

We both put in our mission papers back in March 2012, and now, we’re both locals on opposite sides of the world. In fact, we’re exactly on opposite sides–she’s 12 hours ahead of me. Between the two of us, we’ve been constantly representing Christ 24/7 for over a year now. My point is, that we’re all over the world! There are 14,782,473 members in 177 publicated languages, with 74,900 missionaries in 405 different missions throughout the earth. (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/facts-and-statistics/)

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations…” -Matthew 24:14

Our purpose as missionaries is to invite you to come to Christ. We travel from “house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.” (Alma 26:28) We teach a series of lessons, and invite you to come into to the waters of baptism so you can be completely clean from all mistakes and guilt through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We don’t get paid for this, in fact, we pay to be here. We only call our families twice a year–Christmas and Mother’s Day–and e-mail them once a week. The rest of the time, we have our minds completely focused on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. What would Christ be doing if He were here? Do you think He’d wish He could personally talk to all of us, to get us ready for our own eternal lives? And that’s why He sent us.

If I didn’t have a sure witness this was true, absolutely true, I’d be on the next plane out of Rochester. But because I know it’s true, nothing will get me on that plane…until my time is up in a few weeks.

So, wherever you are in the world, chances are there are LDS missionaries in your hometown. Go to www.mormon.org/missionaries to find out. We aren’t perfect; we stumble over our words all the time. But the most important thing is to listen to the feeling you have around us. What are you feeling right now as you read this? “…It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Helaman 5:30)

You lose nothing by trying!

Charity Never Faileth

The exciting news of the week is…dun dun dun…Brittany’s getting baptized! I think I briefly mentioned her last week. We met her three weeks ago, and since then we’ve taught all the way up to lesson three, been to a baptism, and went to church. When we offered the official invitation, she said, “Well, I was going to ask you when I could get baptized, and Sister Hawkes, I was hoping it was before you leave.” (YAY!) She said she felt so calm and peaceful at church, and knew she was going to be baptized while sitting in Relief Society. Brittany even told us that she was shopping the other day with some friends while picking out “mormon” outfits that covered her shoulders and went to her knees. Oh yeah, and while she was shopping, she taught her friend the Plan of Salvation. She is what you call a “golden,” and it feels like we really didn’t do anything. We are just the lucky ones that got to teach her…it’s all done by the Spirit.

This week was Fast Sunday, and Sister Steel and I decided to do a companion fast for a family in our area. The mother, Tracey, is a less-active member, but her husband Will and children aren’t members. We stop in every once in a while to check up on them, share a spiritual thought, and invite them to church with us. They always decline, but they appreciate the thought. However, on Sunday, the last couple hours before our fast, we decided to see if they were home. This time we didn’t plan just a spiritual thought, but we planned to teach them the Plan of Salvation, or as I like to call it, the Plan of Happiness. (That’s my favorite one to teach, too!) Will and Tracey invited us right on in. The lesson started quickly, and the discussion was so incredibly focused and Spirit driven. I have no doubt that our prayers were heard way beyond this earth, because when we finished our lesson, we asked the Will, the head of the house, if we could re-teach them both the discussions. He said, “Not only would I like you to come teach Tracey and I, I’d like you to come teach our children as well. We’d love for you to invite us to pray as a family, especially so my children can see you two as role models.” I wanted to do a fist pump right there, but Sister Steel is way more classy than I am, so she respectfully accepted the offer. Miracles are happening!

Aside from so many miracles happening left and right, I’ve noticed that the Lord’s real work is in the details. Many missionaries think all we have to do is what’s in the white handbook, but the details are what determine you as a servant of the Lord. It’s how you react to something that goes completely opposite of what you expected. It’s in the thoughts in your mind as you’re driving to an appointment. It’s how you treat your companion. Anyone can spit out the missionary lessons and “convert” people, but it takes a real servant of Christ to clean up the little pieces of garbage on the highway to the Celestial Kingdom. Don’t forget, we have to be the ones waiting for the people we taught at the pearly gates!

Now how do we do that? It seems easy talking about it. But when it comes into play, it takes true character. True character all stems from confidence–the confidence you have in your God. “Confidence is generated by confronting challenges and striving for and achieving meaningful goals.” And another one, “Confidence is not the certainty of success, but rather the conclusion that failure does not determine our worth…we lose nothing by trying.” (Ensign, Sept 2013) Once we can figure out the confidence required for the Celestial Kingdom, we’ve got charity. Just ask Moroni:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” -Moroni 7:45-47

 

The sites have been great this week, nothing too exciting to report as of now. All exciting things are happening in our area, which is exactly what we’ve been praying for! It’s hard to be an hour away from your area for four days a week. But the Lord makes it work–He always makes it work!

 

Sorry that haven’t gotten any of your letters…we haven’t gotten mail for a couple weeks now. We don’t know what’s going on, but don’t worry, I’m sure it will come soon. 🙂 I think that’s all for now. Thank you for everything, you are the best family (and friends) a missionary could ever ask for.

 

BE HAPPY!

 

Hermana Hawkes

My Declaration to the World

“I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world … that the Book of Mormon is true.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I had to quote it. I’ve felt and seen way too many witnesses for me not to exclaim this for myself.  Living and serving in the very place where the Book of Mormon came forth for these last days gives me authentic proof that it is the truth.  Obviously, the truth is worth my life.

How much is the truth worth to you?

“And now, my beloved brethren…hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words…” -2 Nephi 33:10-11

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“If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit.” -Elder Holland

To read Elder Holland’s whole talk, Safety for the Soul, click here.

It’s all true, guys. If you don’t believe me, just ask Him.