Picture Updates from the Hill Cumorah


Elder and Sister Poulson–our Cast Trainer supervisors!


The whole cast on stage for the scene where Christ visits the Americas.


Meghan and Emily–returned and future missionaries!


The Gospel of Jesus Christ


Hundreds of wigs in the costume shop



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.


Hermana Hawkes

I Wonder When He Comes Again

I think the experience I’m having right now feels closer than it’s ever been.


More often than not, I find myself outlining my name tag with my finger, wondering how in the world I got to be here. Especially when the HCP cast rehearses the Resurrected Christ scene in the Ancient Americas. (See picture below.)


The real second coming feels even closer the more persecution we get. We have men and women standing outside the gates trying to attack our beliefs as audience members come in. Actually, it’s a spiritual experience for everyone. They feel the darkness–then immediately feel the stark difference of light as they are greeted by the cast in costume as varied Book of Mormon characters. It’s been prophesied that they’d be here, so we thank them for their help!


Anyway, this week really has been spiritually powerful for me. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this prayer: “Heavenly Father, could You just carry me through today? I promise to completely rid my body of anything but what You want me to say…I just need you.” It’s been exhausting, but as expected, the very moments I need an extra boost of energy, it comes. It comes straight from Christ who, through His Atonement, has already paid for everything. We have to be completely empty vessels in order for Him to work through us. It is a mind game, that requires us to forego everything we want and need, and turn it over completely to the Lord. Once we do that, a new light will come in, but it won’t be our own light. It will be the light of Christ, shining to other people. So you see–you don’t even need to come up with anything yourself. It’s all Him that shines through you, as long as you let Him.


Along with the “exhaustion to non-exhaustion” testimony I’ve received this week, I’ve noticed enthusiasm in general comes from how converted you are. If there are doubts in my mind, I’m not as energetic to share the gospel. If I’ve had a great study, I want to grab a microphone and shout it over the loud speaker at Yankee stadium. Seriously–enthusiasm comes straight from conversion. Dictionary.com says that enthusiasm literally means, “having possession by God, or having God within.” If you’re not converted, and I mean truly converted, how can you have God in you?


Now to what we’ve actually done this week. Between directing traffic in the Visitors’ Center, role-playing with the cast, welcoming everyone that comes to the Pageant, oh yeah, and sleeping, we haven’t had much time to think about ourselves. It’s just in those little moments that we can take a breather, and remember why we’re here. It’s also nice when visitors that know more history than I do, actually share what they know, and kinda count it as our companion study for the day. We had a few BYU church history professors come in, and we asked them a bunch of questions of details on top of what our site manuals say. They shared some pretty cool information, but the most important piece of information I got out of the whole conversation was, “Who are you if you don’t know Joseph Smith?” We do not worship Joseph Smith–we worship Christ–but he is the first prophet of this dispensation. If it wasn’t for him actually acting on a prompting, I wouldn’t know that I could be with my family forever. I wouldn’t know that I can eventually have unlimited time with the Savior. That’s what eternal life means. Unlimited time. How does that sound?


Last thing. We had sacrament meeting at the Hill Cumorah yesterday, and the Palmyra Stake President ended his talk with this, “Follow the Savior everywhere He went…not just on those fun trips to feed the thousands.”




Hermana Hawkes


p.s. Never, let me repeat, never ask a site sister, “Where are the regular missionaries?”

All Good Things Come From Hard Things

…said President Francis at our missionary fireside on Sunday.

After having sacrament meeting at the Hill Cumorah with the Pageant cast, we had a pow-wow to get everyone pumped up to go out and do some more missionary work. President Francis spoke along with the Hill Cumorah Pageant Presidency. President Hare seared a statement in my head with, “You are creating a benchmark memory that will take you through your whole life.” Man, do I agree with that! I think I’ve finally realized that my mission is SO not normal. I keep getting cast members coming up to me and saying, “How’d you get this gig?” I just answer them back by shaking my head, shrugging my shoulders and flashing a huge smile.
I don’t know if I’ve explained what we’re actually doing here–I know I probably did last year, but I’ll tell you again. Every day before the Pageant actually begins, we present them workshops that help them understand how they can do their best missionary work. We teach them how to effectively share the gospel by asking questions, sharing the Book of Mormon and their testimony, and how to invite other people to act on the promptings of the spirit. It’s an MTC crash-course, if you will. We teach eight different classes a day, presenting the same thing, so they can come to whatever one fits with their rehearsal schedule. Today, right in the middle of one of our workshops we heard a, “CRASH…BOOM!” Then walked in a bunch of soaked, tired looking kids. Turns out they were practicing the destruction scene in 3rd Nephi, right before Christ comes. I think my mission is pretty normal, don’t you?
The cast members at the workshops have blown me away. Especially when the children come in and break out of their own comfort zone. It’s scary to talk to complete strangers! But these families have given me a new perspective on how impactful my job really is. “I could have been on the all-star baseball team, but I came here instead,” said a 9-year-old boy. Another boy his age said, “I would have gone to Germany, or one of my family reunions if I hadn’t of come to the Hill Cumorah Pageant.” The one that blew me the most away was, “I was going to go to the 2013 National Jamboree for the Boy Scouts of America, but He wants me to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon.” 
So yes, it’s been a beautiful, but hot week at the Hill Cumorah…not to mention the humidity that you could just slice through the air. (We’ve all given up on what our hair looks like.) But it’s kinda surreal to walk across the Hill and say hi to Alma, Moroni, King Noah, Lehi…you name who. Especially when they’re in costume. It always reminds me of the scripture in Moroni 8:14-15, “…but the record thereof is of great worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God.” I can’t think of a more literal way to bring the Book of Mormon to light than with 900 smiling saints, huge spotlight towers lining the Hill Cumorah, and 9,000 chairs set-up waiting for opening night.
I know for sure that what I’m doing is good, because it makes me happy. Not even happy…man I hope I can describe this. It fills my inner soul with a joy that could never be produced from men. Well, I tried, but I don’t think I really accurately explained how I really feel. Anyway, it makes me feel like that, so it must be inspired of God. “But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve Him, is inspired of God.” -Moroni 7:13. The Book of Mormon is true, I have no doubt about it. This Pageant is not just changing audience members’ lives, it’s changing the lives of the people who are in it. This morning, I had a mom come up to me today and tell me that her son finally knew why they went to church every week. This work is greater than I can even wrap my brain around, and bigger than any universe a million light-years away. Like President Francis said, “All good things come from hard things.” My weeks keep getting harder and harder, but my days keep getting better and better.  I know it’s true, and I thank my God every day to be a soldier in His army.
Hermana Hawkes

The Hill Cumorah Pageant

“And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.” -Mormon 8:16

Every year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints puts on the Hill Cumorah Pageant: American Witness for Christ. It is a huge production with hundreds of men, women and children who devote three to four weeks of their summer to bring the Book of Mormon to life.

So, why is it called the “Hill Cumorah” Pageant? Well, it is set on the hill where the ancient American prophet, Moroni, hid the record of Jesus Christ visiting people in the Americas soon after He was resurrected. Moroni (being a resurrected being) appeared to Joseph Smith in 1823, and told him where this record was hidden–just three miles away from his home. Joseph obtained and translated the record, and it is now known as “The Book of Mormon.” It is an account of the ancestors of the American Indians and how they worshipped Jesus Christ. We celebrate their efforts in keeping this precious journal,on the very ground they stood–only 2,000 years later.

The coolest part is that it’s all volunteer work–no professionals allowed!

via [The Hill Cumorah Pageant facebook page]

The cast arrives just five days before opening night to get cast in their roles and rehearse all of their scenes. By the final dress rehearsal, the audience is welcomed in, and they are expected to keep the show running smoothly.

via [The Hill Cumorah Pageant facebook page]

My favorite part about this is what I get to do with five other sister missionaries. We get to train the cast and work crew to be missionaries during the show’s run. Two hours before the actual production starts, the cast spends that time actively talking to visitors who have come to see the performance, and sharing their testimonies of why they came, what they will see in the Pageant, and what spiritual significance this whole thing is about. Member or non-member, if you come to the Pageant, you’re bound to have a few friends by the end of the night.

via [The Hill Cumorah Pageant facebook page]

So…these guys get here in two months:

Work Crew 2012

They are our fine work crew. They build the stage and…pretty much make everything happen. Anything that is “cool,” that’s what they do.

But then these guys get here in two and a half months…not that I’m counting down or anything:

Me and some of my favorite cast members from last summer’s Pageant.

 I can’t say enough about the cast and work crew. They come from all around the world to make it the best two weeks of the summer for us.

The Hill Cumorah Pageant coming in July 2013!

Transfer #1: Check!

Pageant is over. I’m definitely going through HCP withdrawls. I have the battle scene songs stuck in my head, and it feels so empty thinking about the cast not being here! I have to wait until next year. But at least we get time to think now. Kind of. 🙂 It’s been so busy, but it will get just as busy with more people to teach…more investigators hopefully coming our way…etc. I can’t believe I did all that in my first transfer.

Pageant was absolutely incredible. The spirit of the cast was so strong all day, everyday, because every single person wanted to be there. There wasn’t one person that was ruining it, but all together made it amazing. With 900 people bringing the Book of Mormon to life, and within a couple hours having everyone leave, was really hard. Especially being the 75th anniversary! We had an awesome turnout with so many people that came, “just because they felt they needed to.” Members, and non-members both. What was really neat was that every night, I saw at least someone I knew, if not multiple people. It’s making me feel less weird about being on a mission, it’s actually helping me focus even more on the work! Anyway, at the last Sacrament Meeting we had with the cast, they had the PR woman come and tell us how the media received the Pageant. She said they were intrigued by these young kids that knew exactly why they were there, and not because their parents signed them up for it. We had the Discovery Channel, the New York Times, Time Magazine, a bunch of international television stations, and of course all the local newspapers and magazines. I actually got to talk to the producer of Discover America on the Discovery Channel for about 5 minutes. He came up and just asked me about why I was here for 18 months, if I got paid, etc. We had a fantastic conversation and from what the PR woman said about them, they were very impressed with everyone they talked to! Apparently they came here for another reason, but it turned into a documentary about the Mormons and how devoted we are to their faith and our Savior. Hopefully that’s how they will portray it on television, but regardless of the fact, it was an amazing opportunity.

Even though that was a cool experience, the thing that made it all worth it was what one of the cast members told us on closing night. He said that there were girls who said they wanted to go on missions because of us six sisters, because we proved that missionaries could be fun and spiritual. The boys also raised their standards to girls who not necessarily were returned missionaries, but were girls “just like the sisters.” We spent a LOT of time with them, and every single second was worth it because of that comment. If we could change just one life, it would have been all worth it. But I, with the other sisters, are amazingly blessed to have been able to influence at least 900 lives over the course of 2 weeks.

Yes, today is transfers. But Sister Correia and I are staying together! This is her last transfer. 😦 I’ll miss her so much. She has taught me a lot about missionary work! She loves everyone she comes in contact with, and puts all of her trust in Heavenly Father. And, we are getting a new sister in our apartment tonight! It will be really fun to start off with a new transfer, and have time to go knock doors and testify of the Savior in the most interesting places. 🙂

Well, sorry I don’t have that much else to report on. You can check out my pictures on my missionary facebook from the Pageant! I can add you, but I can’t communicate with you on my missionary page, sorry. Just my investigators. 🙂 This is the most important work in the world. I’ve been thinking lately how much I had to give up to come here–but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Missionary work is the hardest work, but also the most rewarding. If anyone is thinking about turning in their papers–don’t think about it. Just do it. I can promise you that you will have an experience that could never be duplicated anywhere else. The Lord will guide you and bless you in your efforts.


Sister Hawkes

Rewards, rewards!

This is probably going to be really short.

The past week, me and Sister Correia have been pretty sick. We have been talking all day every day, and our bodies just ache. Haha. But the work is still SO GOOD! I can go into more detail later, but I have seen so many people I know. We also brought two investigators we met at the sites to the Pageant last night, and one of them was just crying because as soon as Moroni read his promise, she goes, “That is it right there. That right there is what I needed.” It was the best reward out of anyone I’ve ever seen. And the best part: SHE’S FROM SALT LAKE! So she said when I get home she’ll be a member, and we are going to general conference together. She is just amazing. And another one we met did almost the same, only when she came to the sites she straight up told us that she didn’t want to learn more…half an hour later…we had her committing to come to Pageant and then came and sat with us! She is also AMAZING. I got the actor who plays Moroni to come talk to her before hand too.


Apparently that was a good move on my part, because they were talking for a really long time and simply him just being in costume and testifying of Christ really got to her. She came up to me after they talked and just gave me a huge hug and said, “I love you.” Again. Best reward ever.

Yesterday was such a fantastic day…including Brother Johnson telling me he had seen you all the day before!  I saw the Hammonds from St. Anthony, and also Ray’s youngest daughter and her family! And a bunch of other people…so odd to see them while I’m a missionary. But so awesome. The work is progressing. We have been working so so so hard. I literally fall in my bed every night. It’s a complete miracle that I can actually smile and be friendly with people. 🙂 Love you all!


Sister Hawkes

Enjoy the following pictures, complimentary of Monica’s facebook account. 🙂