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!

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.

Only One Way

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Do we think that there are multiple ways to get to eternal life? As a missionary, I hear a lot of people say, “Oh, as long as I believe in Christ, I’m all set,” or, “All I have to do is love my family,” etc. Which you definitely should do–don’t get me wrong. However, Jesus Christ clearly states that there is only one way to Him, and it’s through His authority (permission) in His way.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” -John 14:6

Christ is probably the most organized person that has ever walked the earth. Right? Wouldn’t it make sense, with all of those organizational skills that He would create just one way to get back to the Father? Yep. So that’s exactly what He did! Remember, He’s the not the author of confusion, but the author of peace. 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ introduced His gospel to the world, the only one way back to Him. Because of so many disobedient children, there was a time called the Dark Ages that had no gospel on the earth. Because Heavenly Father loves His children so much, He had to help us find a way back to it. My last post on the Hill Cumorah described how Christ put His gospel back on the earth, and why I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Kingdom once again established on the earth. Regardless of whether you want to be a part of it or not, it’s really happening…right now.

Oh, and yes, the street was named after me.

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.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Earthly Father, Heavenly Father

How can we even describe the divine role of a father? Personally, I think it’s by looking at exactly Who our Heavenly Father is, and what He really does for us. Having the priesthood in my home from the day I was born is a direct result of my conversion to Jesus Christ. Thanks, Dad!

“The consummate power of the priesthood has been given to protect the home and its inhabitants. The father has the authority and responsibility to teach his children and to bless and to provide for them the ordinances of the gospel and every other priesthood protection necessary. He is to demonstrate love and fidelity and honor to the mother so that their children can see that love.”

—Boyd K. Packer

Changing of the Guard

It is President Christianson’s last week in office. President Francis gets here on Monday!

While we watched the biggest zone conference of our lives on Sunday with Elder Holland conducting, we saw the camera pan over President Francis and his wife. All of us missionaries felt it–it was a rush of peace knowing that he was the man for the job. It’s been hard to watch President Christianson give his “last” everything, but the Spirit has quickly and quietly testified to all of us that President Francis will bring the Cradle of the Restoration to a whole new level. It was a small miraculous act that I’m sure the producers and directors of the meeting didn’t know they were doing.

 

Now, I can’t blow past talking about the meeting and not still be in complete awe. I don’t know if I’ve expressed this–I know I have to my family–but I’ve had a confusing time trying to figure out why I don’t cry. I mean, I do, but not nearly as much as I thought I’d be, or as other missionaries do. (It’s not just in Relief Society–our biggest criers are the elders!) I think I’ve cried five or six times on my mission, with Sunday night being one of them. With all of the spiritual stuff that’s happening to me, I expected it a lot more. Anyway, there was no expectation of what this worldwide leadership training would be, but I got out my notebook and knew it would be fabulous whatever it was. Well, to my surprise, when the choir sang “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go,” and the genius producers who put those video clips to match it, I couldn’t stop the tears running down my eyes. I’ve been pondering a lot lately about how to effectively make my home an individual MTC/mission experience for each of my kids. If any of you watched it, you know how exact my answer was. Each child in the clip had their own life, but at the beginning and end of the day, their family came together in prayer and scripture study. I was overwhelmed at the blessing of having children grow up in the gospel, and influence their friends from the first day they introduce themselves. I know they have to learn it on their own, but I’d give almost anything for them to have the same experience I’m having right now. And I don’t even know them! Right after realizing that, I was again engulfed by the love I had for my mission, so of course, I cried even more. Alright, enough admitting for me!

 

OH! I almost forgot! Guess who our new roommate is?! Sister Brianne Noble from Centerville! Seriously, the Lord has the most perfect timing. We have all the same friends, but she just got to Viewmont right when I graduated. Sarah is actually friends with Melissa–so that makes the “coming on a mission” thing a lot less weird for the both of us. We’ve instantly become soul-sisters…she’s inspired me so much. So, of course, our little quad-ship is really fun. Sister West & Noble, and Sister Steel and I. It’s always a party…well let’s be honest…serving in the NYRM is always a party. It’s also surreal for me to think I’m the old fogey of the sister missionaries, there are just two sisters older than me in the mission. Since when did I get to be on my mission for so long? This is the time I really gotta get going!

 

Out of our twenty minutes we had in our area this week (not an exaggeration) we saw a pretty big miracle happen. I’m not sure if I told you about a couple we were teaching, Ed and Barbara, but we made some good progress on them a couple nights ago. They have been “investigating” for awhile now. Clarification: they said they want to know more truth, more light and knowledge, and they believe it comes from us. However, the told us they weren’t budging from their religion. We assured them their desires were plenty to continue to learn at a fast rate. Anyway, we had a great lesson on faith, and how listening with your heart is more important than listening with your head. It was a lesson full of inspired questions, which really got them thinking. We asked them to ask Heavenly Father if we were true messengers, and if what we were saying wasn’t crazy. During the closing prayer, Barbara thanked Heavenly Father for sparing her life this week (after being hospitalized) and also asked Him to start leading her from the path she was on, into the right direction of where she should go. I haven’t heard her admit to her Heavenly Father anything of that nature yet, and we both knew it was the Spirit guiding her prayers. She was finally listening with her heart. “For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.” -D&C 98:12

 

There’s also been miracle on top of miracle going on at the historical sites, too. Nothing too out of the ordinary here in New York. 🙂 My courage to stand up for what I believe in has gotten stronger every day, but I think the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my whole mission, so far, is that each person has an individual role to play on this earth. Yeah, yeah…everyone tells you that in Primary. But REALLY. You have something inside of your spiritual DNA that is part of God’s DNA. He created plants, animals, trees–but you are His child. He didn’t create you because He was bored; He desperately needs that something you have to bless other people. But you won’t know until you ask Him, really study your gift, and acknowledge it in everyday life. Specifically ask Him to tell you how He sees you. I promise you that once you learn it, you will be a tireless worker.

 

BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes

Two by Two

The biggest question I had last year was:

How do I show You that I love You?

Well, God is our loving Heavenly Father. He continues to give us revelation to cater to our everyday needs as His children. What if my mom and dad only wrote me one letter at the beginning of my mission, and that was it? Personally, I really like getting letters from them…and especially getting letters from my Heavenly Father. That’s exactly what continuing revelation is. He still wants us to know that He is very much alive, and it’s very convenient when I have tons of questions for my Father. He definitely showed me the answer to this question…in more than once place.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” -Matthew 28:19, The Bible

I can do that! What exactly do I do?

“…We have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills…and we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.” -Alma 26:29-30, The Book of Mormon

How do You want me to do that?

“And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God.” -Doctrine and Covenants 42:6, Pearl of Great Price

I’ve had four wonderful companions in the mission field so far, and I get a new one on Tuesday. (I will really miss Sister Johnson.) We wake up at the same time, study at the same time, eat at the same time, and go to bed at the same time. But most importantly, we teach the gospel at the same time, in the same place. We teach together with the love Heavenly Father has given us. I have grown to love each girl I’ve served with because of her own individual reasons to serve a mission, and especially her desire to love our Father. We strive to have His Spirit with us at all times, so people will recognize us as direct representatives of Jesus Christ, Himself.

Even though we go two by two, we have grown to love all of the missionaries we serve with as our own family. Once a Sister…always my sister.

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Me & Sister Graham

Sister Butters & Sister Adams
Sister Butters & Sister Adams

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Sister Correia & me

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Sister Crook & Sister Adams

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Sister Torres & me

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Sister Johnson & me