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
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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

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!

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.