No More Neutral Ground

“When we joined this church, we enlisted to serve God. When we did that, we left…neutral ground, and we never can get back onto it.” -Joseph Smith

Well, this is it. I can’t believe it. An incredibly fast year and a half has passed, and I have memories stored up in my head that I could never be able to describe to anyone. Just like Joseph has said, I’ll never be able to go back to neutral ground, and I certainly won’t allow myself to even try to get there. I just need to keep doing what I’ve told every single person I’ve taught to do: read, pray, go to church, and keep my temple covenants. I’m just going as an undercover agent. With a badge, that’s hard to do!

This has been the best week of my mission so far. I’ve seen absolutely incredible miracles take place in such a short amount of time, and I want to share one experience from Friday. It was my last shift at the historical sites, and Sister Gillespie and I were at the Joseph Smith Farm. Within the first hour, we had a huge BYU tour bus group come through, and I got to take them. So many comments going back and forth…it was fantastic. Once I finished that one, no other tours had come through in a while, so I was getting worried that could have been my last one! At five minutes to six (we close at seven) the Wirthlin family walked in. Yes, the grandson of the former Apostle. I introduced myself, had them sit down, and gave them a little background about the Smith family. Before we walked out to the property, I asked them specifically what they wanted to hear about the place. Brother Wirthlin said that he thought the historical facts were interesting, however, they had come here to have a real spiritual experience with his wife and two daughters. None of them had been to the Farm yet, and they had waited their whole lives to be here. I immediately felt humbled that I got to be the missionary to take them through, and I appreciated so much that they realized the nature of the experience. We had a fantastic discussion through the log home about God really knowing who we are, in the frame home about the protection He gives us, and it just continued through the threshing barn and onto the cooper shop. Once I sent them on their way to walk into the Sacred Grove, a huge wave of gratitude swept over me as I started down Stafford Road for the last time. That’s my usual (only) place to really pray out loud, and tears just wouldn’t stop the whole way back. (See, I do have emotion!) On the drive home, through my tears, I told Sister Gillespie that was hands down the best tour I’ve ever been a part of, just because of how prepared they were to receive the message the Lord had in store for them. She got the biggest smile on her face–she told me that it had been a matter of her personal prayers to see that I got the best tour of my mission for my last one. (She really is the best companion…yes boys, she comes home in just one transfer! That’s a good catch!) I just cried even more out of gratitude that my Heavenly Father allowed me to come to such a place. Poor Sister Gillespie.

I still can’t comprehend the magnitude of the things that happened here, or the things that I’ve accomplished here. I hope to one day see all of the fruit of my labors, and rest with them in the Celestial Kingdom. As President Packer said this last general conference, “When I look at the future, I am overwhelmed with the feeling of positive optimism.” I’ve had a year and half to become friends with Joseph, a year and a half to realize my purpose in life, and a year and a half to get to know my Father. What have I learned?

I could go on forever with the list, but I hope I learned everything that I needed to. I feel great about the work that I’ve put in, and I know that I’ve put in my whole heart, might mind and strength. If Jesus Christ asked me to turn around next week and go again, my next question would be, “How long do You need me?” I guess that’s how I can know how I’m doing on the conversion scale. I have experienced a “mighty change of heart,” and my heart issinging “the song of redeeming love.” I will be eternally grateful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to serve Him for just a short amount of time. For this, I owe the rest of my life to Him.

“Now, Jesus said unto him, no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” -Luke 9:62

BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Faith Into Action

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“I wanted to put my excitement and my faith in Jesus Christ into action. When I played football, I thought in terms of game plans. There was no question going into a contest that if our team was prepared with the right plays, we were going to be successful. However, I recently spoke with BYU’s legendary coach LaVell Edwards about our game plans, and he said, ‘I didn’t care what play you called just as long as we scored a touchdown! …Since we are all on the Lord’s team, do we each have our own winning game plan? Are we ready to play?'”

-Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, October 2013 General Conference

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Liken The Scriptures

You know you’re doing the right thing when you can substitute your name for Ammon’s in the 18th chapter of Alma.

“Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee. And the king answered him, and said: Yea, I will believe all thy words…And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth. And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God…” -Alma 18:22-28

Yesterday, as we were teaching John (a former investigator we found in our Area Book) I felt a deja vu, however it wasn’t from my own experience. I think I realized it when John said, “Well, girls, I believe there is something, but I really don’t know what that something is.” We had the exact same Ammon/King Lamoni conversation sitting in his library, yes library, and I felt as if his wife brought tea and crumpets it would fit right in with the ambiance. John had his legs crossed, his big three-inch glasses down on his nose, thumbing through the Book of Mormon as we were expounding the meaning of “Father.” When I say we were bold, I really mean we were bold. The longer I’ve been out on my mission, the more bold I am, because the more I realize that I’m a servant of Jesus Christ. It’s got nothing to do with me, and has everything to do with Him. What do I have to lose?

Another bold experience I will lightly touch on…on Saturday, I took a Catholic Priest from Syracuse and his Mormon friend through the Book of Mormon Publication site. Within the first few seconds of the tour he told me who he was, but that he was very interested in what the Book of Mormon taught, and had always thirsted for more information regarding God. With that crack of a door, I swung it wide open. Throughout the hour, I related everything to the gates of baptism, and how those gates (with the right authority) will give him more information than he had been looking for previously. He was an incredibly nice fellow who grew to be a friend very quickly. At the end of the tour as he was walking out the door, I shook his hand and said, “See you at your baptism!” #YOMO right? (You’re Only a Missionary Once…a current catchphrase of the NYRM.)

Specialized Training was on Thursday, and Sister Gillespie trained both Rochester Zones on effective planner use. The title of our powerpoint was “The Great Planner of Happiness.” Subtitled, “Where did you come from? Why are you here? Where are you going?” The idea was to get missionaries to answer each of these questions at any point of the day using their planner. We did a True/False section, including statements like, “The sole purpose of the Notes/To Do page is to write notes to whoever’s planner you are decorating,” and my personal favorite, “You don’t really need to write anything down, because that’s only for people who don’t know how to follow the Spirit.” It was an entertaining half an hour…but I think we got the point across. I know I needed to hear it more than anyone, so that’s why we were assigned to teach it. It has made my planning a lot more effective…I definitely could have used that at the beginning of my mission…oh well.

We had a couple more exchanges this week, and have a couple more next week. We decided to keep my last week (hopefully) free from anything that would keep us away from our area, so we can do the most work then. It’s been such a hard working week, as usual, but I’ve never felt more on top of my game than I do right now. “Sprinting to the end” does not mean that I need to tract every door in my area before I leave. It means to plan effectively, and have my whole mind in the work at all times like 1 Peter 1:13, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” It’s a challenge, but not optional. I promise Heavenly Father every morning that I will work with my “heart, might, mind and strength, that [I will] stand blameless at the last day.” I can’t break that promise.

Thanks for the continued support. It is incredible to me the things that the Lord gives to His missionaries. Way more than I could ever ask for, and the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it all,” has come into my mind multiple times this week because of all of your prayers.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

The Sixth Day of April, 1830

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“Most of life’s momentous hours are recorded, but what these men did on that humble occasion would not have given the world much reason to take note. What they did, however, ranks among the most important events ever to have transpired since the death of Jesus and his Apostles in the meridian of time.

These humble, ordinary men gathered because one of them, Joseph Smith Jr., a very young man, had set forth a most remarkable claim. He declared to them and all others who would listen that he had received profound and repeated heavenly communications, including an open vision of God the Father and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As a result of these revelatory experiences, Joseph Smith had already published the Book of Mormon, a record of Christ’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of America. Furthermore, the Lord had commanded this young man, by now only twenty-four years of age, to reinstitute the Church that had existed in New Testament times and that in its restored purity should again be designated by the name of its chief cornerstone and eternal head, the Lord Jesus Christ himself.”

-Howard W. Hunter

For this full General Conference talk in April 1991, CLICK HERE.

Not Merely A Feeling

I have many examples of love in my life, including my own two parents, who have stuck it out through everything. I realize very few people in this world grew up the way I did, but know this: everyone is available to the blessings of an eternal, temple marriage like this one. It just takes some work.

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How do they do it?

“Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God… “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

-C.S. Lewis

Our Divine Potential

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“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

Are you thrilled?

I’m so exhausted.
I guess when the Lord says to “wear ourselves out in the work,” He really means it. On Wednesday we had a couple of youth conference buses from Virginia, then Friday alone we had six of them come through in just a couple hours. I almost lost my voice, but thankfully the Lord even cares about that if you have enough faith.

 

The Joseph Smith Farm was on Wednesday, which means I got to take half the youth through Joseph’s stomping grounds. They split into young men and young women–and I got to take the young women. It was a powerful hour filled with testimony and the Spirit. When we got to the threshing barn, I wanted them to think of symbolism of the Atonement while I explained the threshing process. I’m not sure if you know the process, but it has a lot to do with beating, grinding, and more beating. Google it, if you don’t know what it is. Anyway, when I finished this simple explanation, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that the Spirit had slithered His way through each of the girls and they had learned a lot more about the Savior then they thought they were coming here for. After about ten seconds of silence, a quote I had read earlier in personal study popped into my head, which of course I shared. “No woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is.” -Sheri DewImmediately I noticed one of the leaders in the back just about lose it. Tears were heavily flowing from her face, and I could feel the Lord literally putting words in my mouth. We spent a couple more minutes bearing testimony before we moved onto the Cooper Shop to do the same thing. Those are the moments when I really know that I can not do this on my own.

 

Going back to the “regular, every day” schedule of a missionary in the NYRM, we’ve had a few minutes (yes, I said minutes) in Irondequoit this week. On Tuesday, we decided go through the ward list to pick out a less-active that we could invite back to church. She didn’t answer, so we had a few more minutes to hand out some more invitations to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. (It’s our excuse for conversation starting when people see the name tag and run.) Across the street were two women walking their dogs. We made a b-line for them and treated the situation as if they had just been invited to opening night of Wicked. We invited them, and they were a little hesitant about attending. However, like we always do before we leave someone, we ask if we can help do their dishes or weed their garden. Carole turns to Sister Steel, puts her hand on her shoulder and yells, “You can weed?! GOD IS REAL!” Now, I’m sure that was a second-nature reaction to her fun personality that we had just now seen, but the second part of that I really wanted to emphasize with her. We both jumped on it, “YES! God is real! He listens to your prayers, and He has sent us to you to help you with whatever you need!” I really felt like Joseph Smith in the new Restoration movie, when a woman walks up to him and tells him she doesn’t like his religion, but she appreciates his service. All Joseph says is, “Well, I’d say that is our religion, ma’am.” It was a wonderful teaching opportunity, expecially when she said she had been praying for something to come help her weed her garden. Just because we have a few minutes, doesn’t mean we can’t do any work. We scraped some time, and found an hour to go on Friday. She ended up feeding us after, and we ended up teaching her the Restoration and half of the Plan of Salvation. Not too interested yet, but the key word there is: yet. 🙂

 

Exercise update: thanks to mom, P90X arrived this week! I’ve gone for a whole month without it, since Sister Johnson stayed in Brockport! However, Sister Steel and I have been waking up at 5:50 a.m. to run to one of the inner-city high school tracks. It’s nice to have a full hour each morning (well, about five days a week) to compensate how much we get fed. I don’t think it’s still enough, but I’ll worry about that later!

 

All I want to do is take a nap, but I’ll get that when I have time…like in October. It’s such a happy tired, but it’s making the time go by way too fast. I do want to mention that I’ve been studying the modern version of the “Wheat and the Tares” parable, and I’ve made a list of “Satan mimicks” that we have in our world today. Some include: fasting/anorexia, tithing/gambling, and to “get rid” of your pain, sacrament/alcohol. I’d encourage you to think of more, because it has increased my vision of how wicked Satan has made out the world to be, and on the same token, how real God is. (Thanks to Carole!) He wants to see us succeed, and He is “thrilled” to what you’ve turned out to be. Now, keep going!

 

BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes