We’ve taught a lot of people this week…and a lot of first lessons.
I spent Thursday in Henrietta, and Friday in Victor on exchange. We taught some pretty neat people, including a woman who flat out told us that she had been praying to find her purpose. She happened to be there while we visited her friend…coincidences just don’t happen like that in missionary work! Which brings me to yesterday, as we were on foot going towards a less-active’s apartment, we walked past the laundry facility and saw a woman sitting on a crate, with her head down, lighting a cigarette. Sister Steel and unanimously turned around and went towards her. We had huge smiles on our faces, and introduced ourselves. She said, (very humbly, might I add) “I need you to tell me something that’s going to bless my life.” We handed her a Book of Mormon, and sat down. One by one, employees all kept coming out saying, “Whatcha doing?” One lady even said, “Oo! The Mormons are here to bless my life!” We quickly expanded our circle of crates and taught the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is after getting a million “I already have Jesus” comments by people of our own race, it took us two, little white blonde girls to touch the hearts of people who were truly wanting something more. After about fifteen minutes, they had to go back to work, and they told us that their whole week was made by the message that we shared. It was a missionary lesson in which every kid dreams about–sitting in the slums and teaching about Christ. On our way out, we came up on a woman smoking that said, “I’m all set. And, I’m 75 and in good health. Now you figure out that one, girls.” Hm…
As much as I love missionary work, this week has been really hard. It’s more mind control, knowing that I’ve still got to focus more than I ever have before for just a couple more months. There’s been a lot of things I’ve blamed myself, for, very stupid little things, but coming across this scripture was Heavenly Father speaking to me directly: “Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and His mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart…” -Alma 42:30 Then the next line tells me that I am “called of God to preach the word unto this people.” It’s not about me! Nothing is about me! The hardest thing is to forgive yourself, but once you do, it’s pure freedom.
I’m sorry this e-mail isn’t very long, or too terribly exciting, we just don’t have too much time on this computer! I did take Elder Jay Jensen on tour this week at the Book of Mormon Publication Site. Grandpa and Grandma, he gives you his love. Anyway, God works in mysterious ways, I am sure of that. There has been so many miracles that have happened in association with the not-so-good things. I know, surprise, surprise, that I’m the one that’s had a hard week! But it’s inevitable for the work that I’m doing out here. There’s opposition in all things, and I have no doubt that I’ll be just fine. Sheesh, I am already just fine. I’ve just got to learn to rely on God just a little bit more. 🙂
“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.
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.
What’s the big deal about the Hill Cumorah, Joseph Smith, and the gold plates?
Let me tell you.
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.
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
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.
I think the experience I’m having right now feels closer than it’s ever been.