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


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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The Hill Cumorah

What’s the big deal about the Hill Cumorah, Joseph Smith, and the gold plates?

Let me tell you.


Getting ready for companion study on top of the Hill Cumorah.

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.


The top of the Hill Cumorah.

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


Don’t worry, these aren’t the original plates. It’s the replica we have in the Book of Mormon publication site. But they’re now back in the hands of Moroni, where they belong!

Voice of a Trump

…that is until I lose my voice! I guess when the Lord said to “declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump,” I took it literally. (D&C 29:4)This week back at the sites has been the most I’ve ever seen myself grow. The last time I took tours at these historical sites was in my first four transfers as a missionary. Now with a year of missionary service under my belt, I can see the drastic difference it has made with just four left. Not only were my tours completely guided by the spirit, but they were backed up by scripture and testimony of prophets…regardless if I shared everything that was in my mind or not. Three different men came into the sites to specifically ask about the Bible and how it correlates to Mormonism. Let me tell you a bit about each of them:

1. Louis, a businessman, a husband, and a  dad of two daughers, walked in to the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center on my first day back. He had dropped by the VC before about a year ago, but only had time to watch the 20 minute version of the Restoration. This time, he wanted to see it all. After he was through watching the 60 minute version of Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration and the 15 minute God’s Plan for Families, he had tons of questions that had been burning in his mind. He was trying to find unity in any church, and specifically the unity between Jesus Christ and His church that He established on the earth 2,000 years ago. “I can’t figure out the gap between Jerusalem and the Americas,” Louis said. “There’s got to be something that ties the two together if you claim to have Christ as the center.” I opened up the copy of the Book of Mormon that I was holding in my hand to the title page. I asked him to read the first few paragraphs where it talks about Lehi, where he came from, and we talked about Lehi’s journey to the Americas, along with the Jaredites and the Mulekites. I then brought him over to the display, “The Restoration of the Priesthood.” (It’s extremely convienent to be at a VC.) I explained that Peter, James and John, who he agreed got their authority straight from Jesus Christ, came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and gave that same power to them. It was powerful to see it click in his mind, and for me to bear my testimony about the priesthood. It was perfect for it to come from a young girl like me, because I don’t have the priesthood. There’s no pride in it for me–I have to rely on it completely, through other men that I trust do their duty. I explained how my own father’s priesthood lineage traces back to Christ, how that power is in my home, and how it helps me even when there are hard days as a missionary. We spoke for about 45 minutes, and Louis agreed to have the missionaries in Pennsylvania teach him and his family in their home.

2. Keith, a very tall, bearded man with long gray hair and thick coke-bottle glasses came into the Book of Mormon Publication Site to ask a few legitmate questions about what the Lord revealed in the book of Revelations. Since I have had my share of persecution, I wasn’t going to go in this without backup. It wasn’t a coincidence that my two zone leaders from Brockport were there with about half an hour to spare. We all went into a seperate room with another senior couple that was working their shift at the time. So you can imagine: five missionaries surrounding this one man who said no one could ever explain to him what he was feeling. Before we even started, I asked him if he knew the Book of Mormon was true. He has read it cover to cover and said he knows it’s a book from God, but he isn’t sure about the whole thing. Keith then jumped right into his quesiton from Revelations 7:1: “What is the Lord going to do about getting these angels on the four corners of the Earth?” Immediately, 2 Nephi 28:11 popped into my head. I asked him to turn to it, and we read it together. “For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them…”I explained that was missionary work, and that exact thing was happening right now–to him–at that moment. We were clarifiying scripture from Jerusalem with the Lord’s other word that came from the Americas…with missionaries from all parts of the world. The next thing he said was, “God just told me that what you said was true.” (That still never ceases to amaze me, by the way.) We invited him to do the same thing with each verse of the Book of Mormon–to ponder and to pray about it–and to do the same thing with the First Vision. He left with the promise that He would do just that.

3. Robert, a less-active member who wasn’t too sure about his testimony, came in just for a “normal tour.” (I love it when people call it that.) I could tell he was questioning his testimony when he told me that “not very many missionaries make it out alive.” I wanted to turn around, put my fist up and say, “YA WANNA BET?!” But, I didn’t…I tried to be professional. I asked him if he was doing everything he could to serve the Lord in his best possible way, and not to worry about what anyone else thinks. He brought out some scripture with statistics of those who really do what they say. Once I felt my person on the defense, I knew it was time to turn it over completely to the Spirit. I bore a powerful testimony of what we were doing as missionaries was the right thing to do–even if only one person in the whole world had accepted the gospel. I bore my testimony about the power of the priesthood, restored by Joseph Smith, and how that power had changed people’s lives through the things I’ve taught them. It came to the point where he just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and walked off. Seriously you guys…bearing testimony is the most powerful tool for any missionary ever, it is everything talked about in Ephesians 6–the Armor of God.
Yes, that all happened within the first 48 hours back at the sites, and yes, I taught plenty of other incredible lessons at the sites in between these as well. Because of that, I haven’t had a voice in about a week! But ya know what, Alma and Amulek, Ammon, Captain Moroni, and definitely Paul probably had the same problem. It’s actually a problem at all.Teaching these three men was a symbol of the power of three to my testimony, and that the Lord really does call his weakest to confound the strongest. I’m just so dang happy. I know that’s not the most professional word, but I don’t know what else to use to describe my emotions. Hermana Steel and I comment about every five minutes about how much we love our mission. Oh yes, we had Emergency Transfers on Thursday, and I am training a new missionary! It’s a long story, but now she’s with me, and we are both Cast Training together. She was only in the field a few hours before we had these ET’s, and it’s been awesome flush training her in Irondequoit. Hermana Steel came pre-trained and is one of the best missionaries I’ve ever seen. She has already taught me way more than I could ever teach her in the time we have together. (That seems to happen a lot…) But, we live in downtown Rochester, with an hour commute to the sites four to five times a week! It’s great, we get a lot of studies done in the car, since we have SIX hours: personal, companion, 12 Week, site, language and now, pageant study. The cast gets here in six weeks and I’m trying not to make myself over-excited about that, because I’m already jumping out of my chair for being back at the sites! I do miss Brockport, but there’s something about the sites that has every single part of my heart. The sites, combined with the sisters, the senior couples, and the landscape is enough to convince me to buy a burial plot here.


Wow, I know that was a really long letter…I hope you didn’t get bored. I could go on for another few pages, but I’ve only got a few minutes left. The power of study is REAL–and it really does build confidence in the gospel. I encourage you all to set a specific study schedule, preferrably in the early morning hours, so you can have that time to put on your armor of God every single day. Start with Ephesians 6, and I promise that you will feel 100% ready for anything thrown your way.


Hermana Hawkes

Fruit of My Labors

 Where do I start…
Sunday was the tip of the iceberg for me this week…Steph gave her first talk in Sacrament Meeting! We had a missionary from our ward come home from Thiland, so the bishopric first had Steph tell her conversion story, then a re-activated member explain why and how he came back to church, followed up by this missionary that told our side of the Lord’s work. It was one of the most spirit-filled sacrament meetings I’ve been to, I think just because I saw Steph’s testimony grow from the beginning. When she got up, she told the congregation simply how happy she was that she had multiple friends throughout her life who had the gospel, who always invited her to come to church. It wasn’t until December when she she met the “ladies with the nametags at church every week,” and she decided she wanted to follow her heart. Her simple testimony was enough to make everyone want to drop everything and invite their neighborhood to church: “It’s just this happiness inside–you know you’re doing what’s right. The gospel changes lives.” That’s what you call seeing the fruit of your labors.
I got a trainer call last night, which means that I’m going back to the sites to flush train next week—a new area with a new companion. She’s going to absolutely love this mission, and I can’t wait to show it to her! But…I’m really going to miss this ward. Apparently in seminary this week, the seminary teacher had the class guess the missionaries love languages. (We had dinner at their home and took a test…not the generic one, but one that had just three: visual, touch, and talk.) When Brother Griffiths asked the class what mine was, all of them jumped up and said, “OOO! SHE HAS TO BE TALK!” It was funny…they were spot on. I was 6–visual, 17–talk, and 4–touch. Ha! It was funny…and a little bit (a lot) heartwarming that the young men/young women knew me so well. We’ve spent a lot of time with the ward getting to know them and their families the past six months, and it really pays off when we get people like Anne and Steph into the water. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything in my life so bittersweet as leaving Brockport and then going back to the gorgeous historical sites in upstate New York. My heart is literally split in two. So many people to love in so little time.
This weekend, however, Sister Johnson and I did get a little get-a-way to the sites. We took another member that had just recently come back to church since she was baptized in 1988, and showed her around all four of the sites. We spent all day with her, and the one-on-one time was just what she needed to keep pursuing that temple recommend. That is one of the huge perks about serving in the NYRM, we get to take investigators, new members, and less-active members to our favorite places to strengthen their testimony. We get to show them the Restoration first hand, and let them feel the original spirit that has been their constantly since the miraculous First Vision in 1820. The next day we scheduled our temple day, which happened to be the same day as we had planned to do weekly planning. We decided to get up early and save our studies to do on top of the Hill Cumorah. While we were up there, Sister Johnson and I met the most wonderful couple from the Southern Tier who had never been to the sites before. They were just driving past the Hill, noticed a tall gold man on top of it, and decided they needed to stop. What a great choice they made! They had the Restoration taught to them in the Visitors’ Center by the sisters, but then came up to the top. We happened to be reading the last few chapters of Mormon which describes the battle scenes that took place on the very ground we were sitting, and we got to testify to them the sacredness of the spot. That was the first time I ever got to teach while looking out over what used to be the Nephite and Lamanite lands. Of course I’ve taught on the Hill before (see any email about the Pageant), but this was literally…on the top. Mormon 8:16 popped into my mind, “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; yeah it shall be brought forth 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.” I know for a fact that I was not just called to western New York, but I was specifically called to the Cradle of the Restoration. If that would have been in Kansas, I would have been sent to Kansas. If it would have been in Florida, I would have been sent to Florida. I am so humbled at the fact that the Lord will allow me to lift up my voice on the very ground this is taking place, not only to bless my life, but to bless the lives of those who have no idea the happiness that they could have.
Other than that, we’ve done tons of service projects this week again. We have even more planned for this week! (I promise I’m not just trying to get out of wearing a skirt all day.)


Hermana Hawkes


Book of Mormon: Challenge Accepted.

“You’re the one in your family that came here [to the Hill Cumorah.] If you think I’m putting pressure on you–I am. We are the guardians of the story of the Restoration.”
-President Christianson

Having Zone Conference at the Hill Cumorah is probably one of the best things about serving here in Rochester, and especially under the direction of President Christianson. Yesterday, President and the Zone Leaders tore up the Book of Mormon and pounded into our young little minds how powerful this book is, right at the foot of the Hill where the Book of Mormon was born to the latter-days. The reason for this training may or may not be that The Book of Mormon: The Musical is coming to Rochester next month. In fact, he told us from now on that we need to carry a paper-back copy around with us everywhere. Not just in our backpacks like we do reguarly, but have it in our hands. We need to hold it at the grocery store, the library, walking the streets…anywhere. That way people can see the power of the book, and not wonder about it. Today as Sister Torres and I went out, we both grabbed our copies and hit the streets. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more of an invisible sheild around me in my entire life, but especially noticed how quickly something worked. President gave a promise, and the Lord followed through. Yes, the gift of the Spirit is a shield in itself, but physically–I have this power that no one can take away from me. I’m holding revelation from God right in my hands. I don’t care if people look at me weird. That’s their problem. All I care about is that one person that might see us and say, “I want what they have.” 

President expounded on the whole reason why we have two witnesses of Christ, and how important it is that we feast upon the words of Christ. (2 Nephi 32:3) We really don’t have that much information compared to everything that has been written, and everything that will be written. He even went so far as to say his least favorite scripture in the entire standard works is 3 Nephi 26:11. When one of the elders stood up to read the scripture, this is how it went…in a nutshell:

Elder: “Behold, I was about to write them…”
President: “AGGGHHHH…ABOUT TO?” (pacing back and forth)
Elder: “…all which were engraven up on the plates of Nephi…”
Elder: “…but the Lord forbade it…”
President: “WHAT?! FORBADE? GIVE ME SOME MORE!” (still pacing back and forth)
Elder: “…saying: I will try the faith of my people.”

This is coming from a man who had a (friendly) little argument with Elder Holland about who loves the Book of Mormon more. Obviously the Bible and the Book of Mormon aren’t enough, or the Lord would already be here to rule and reign. However, right now, it is enough for the faithful.  President continued to comment on when we do get more scriptural revelation in the future as soon as the world is ready, “Why do you think we have iPads? It’s not like we’re going to truck around our little red wagons with all of the scripture that we get.” God is still the same yesterday, today, and forever. Of course he’s not going to stop on March 26, 1830. Personal revelation is the key to lifting the condemnation that Nephi is speaking of. Then, when the Lord sees fit, He will give the whole world some more. Until then, I’m going to continue my feast, and show the world what the Book of Mormon means to me–by literally wearing it on my sleeve.

I’m in a Dream!

Not too much out of the normal has happened in four days…but I’ll try!
Our investigator, Sandee, is doing really well. Even though she hasn’t come to church yet, she’s excited about coming to the Relief Socity Broadcast on Saturday night. However, our lesson with her last week, I’ll never forget. During weekly planning, we planned to teach her about following the prophet and how he gets direct revelation to guide and lead the Church. But when we got there and sat down on her couch, we both knew we weren’t going to be teaching that. Let me back up–before we got into each lesson, we always say a prayer that the Holy Ghost will be the senior companion, then we evaluate after if He was the “senior companion, the junior companion, or no companion at all.” Anyway, as we were making the spirit the senior companion, we felt like we needed to teach the Law of Chastity–out of all of the lessons! Let me tell you though, that it was the most powerful lesson we’ve ever taught. Even the most powerful lesson I’ve ever taught on my mission so far. The spirit was oozing and once we taught her what it was, she just said quietly, “that makes sense,” almost like she was waiting for someone to give her an excuse to move out of her boyfriend’s house. She listened to everything we had to say–like she always does. Of course she said more incredible things that I recorded in my journal–don’t worry. Sister Graham and I were on cloud nine for the rest of the day. It’s amazing what two 21-year-old girls can accomplish when the Holy Ghost is the senior companion.
Saturday was the 185th anniversary of Joseph getting the plates! I attatched pictures for all of you. It was such a neat day getting to work at the Smith Farm. When we were driving there, we saw President and the AP’s along with a few other elders walking from the Frame home in Manchester (on the Farm) to the Hill Cumorah. It’s about three miles. I will not miss the chance to do that next year, what a cool thing to do. Dad, you told me that Jake remembered he was exactly the age that Joseph Smith was…how weird is that? I bring that up in most of my tours…that I have a 14 year old brother, who was born on Joseph’s birthday, and looks a lot like him. It’s neat to think that just a boy that age had such a mature question. (Jake don’t worry–you’re mature.) But Jake, when you’re 17 on September 22, we’ll have a huge celebration! Anyway, it was a big day at the Farm. We got plenty of visitors that were excited about coming on that day. I got to bear my testimony in the upper room of the log cabin multiple times about Moroni’s visit to Joseph, just 185 years previous. Wow, I have the coolest mission.
And, I have the coolest companion. I just had to let everyone know! Everyone thinks we are sisters, well basically…we are! I absolutely love being her companion. I don’t even feel like her trainer. We’re on equal ground…and I feel like she teaches me more than I teach her by far. I love her a lot and am so glad we don’t have to do missionary work alone. 🙂 Especially with her teaching me ASL all the time. I have a couple of verses in D&C 4 down in sign language! Maybe I’ll be fluent by the end of the transfer. Who knows?
Today we’re headed to Chimney Bluffs for P-day to hike around and to have a cute picnic on the shores of Lake Ontario. I’m just dying at how gorgeous New York really is. Fall up here is incredible. Especially the leaves in the Sacred Grove…most of the time I feel like I’m in a painting. I may or may not have quite a few moments, daily, that I have to snap myself back because I think I’m in a dream. Who gets to completely let go of their life and focus on the Lord for 18 months? With this beautiful scenery? And the most beautiful people? I think the blessing of serving a mission is the mission itself. I could never imagine my life without one. THIS IS AMAZING.
I guess a missionary can pack four days full of fun stuff. It’s never ever boring here. Seriously, if you’re reading any of this, serve a mission.
Sister Hawkes
p.s. someone’s gotta cheer harder for my Cougars…


Miracles Everyday

Yeah, I’m pretty convinced I have the best mission in the world.Each mission around the world bears testimony of our mission every single day, if not every hour! It’s pretty surreal to be here and to witness really what happened in these areas. As Sister Missionaries, we have four different sites that we get to serve at. We switch off during the week. We also have site manuals for each of them. So as you can imagine..it’s a LOT of studying. I have learned more about church history in the past week that I have ever learned in my life. We’ve gone into some pretty great detail about the plates, about the life of Joseph Smith, the Whitmer family, and the Hill Cumorah itself. Really, if any of you have questions, please ask me because everything you would ever want to know is in those manuals.

I started out the week at the Hill Cumorah. We gave tours there, but not just tours. We get the opportunity to teach and bear testimony right where it all happened. Being able to stand on the exact hill where the plates were buried for over 1400 years is a miracle. I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky to be here.

The Joseph Smith Farm. What an amazing place. We get to teach members and non-members right in Smith Log Home, the Frame home that Alvin built and where Joseph hid the plates under the hearth, in the Cooper shop where Joseph hid the plates under the floorboards, and not to mention telling story after story about how miraculous the plates have been preserved. I love talking about it. I think my favorite part is going into the upstairs bedroom of the log home several times a day to witness that the angel Moroni came and spoke to Joseph Smith. That room is where the Book of Mormon was revealed, and where Joseph knew he was going to be a prophet. I can’t wait to take you guys back here! Not to mention the fields upon green fields that we drive through. It’s farmland EVERYWHERE. So gorgeous. I’m completely in heaven.

So, the Hill Cumorah pageant is coming up in a few weeks. We gave a presentation to our ward (the Lyons ward) on Sunday about inviting their friends. They looked pretty bored the whole meeting, haha. I tried to liven it up by doing some role-plays…hopefully that worked. We also have been passing out at least 10 pageant cards a day–just inviting people to the event. We went to Wal-Mart to find some people on Friday. Sister Correia was like, “K, Sister Hawkes. You take the first one.” So we’re walking in, and there’s an old man and his wife that come out. I go up to him, and I just said, “Hello sir!” He immediately put his hand up and shouted, “NO, NO! NOT YOU AGAIN!” hahaha apparently he hates the missionaries. It was hilarious. I tried to sweetly talk to him but he completely ignored me. It just made me determined to conquer Satan and whatever he puts in his path. So of course in Wal-Mart we found a couple in the cereal isle that looked pretty scruffy at first, but talking to them for about 15 minutes seemed to be pretty helpful. I was talking to the man while Sis. Correia was talking to his wife. He had been a Presbyterian, but really never went to church. After talking a few minutes, I asked him if he’s heard of the missionaries before. He said, “yeah, but I thought missionaries were weird. You aren’t weird!” He agreed to taking the missionary lessons, and we left with giving them both our number so they could call anytime they needed service. (We couldn’t get their number…hopefully we’ll get lessons with them sometime…) but it was really cool! Sometimes we can’t pass out anything in Wal-Mart, but if you do it discreetly…we can get away with it. Especially a couple of sister missionaries. They’re not going to say no to us! 🙂 We even got the ice-cream man in town to listen to what we had to say. He is a very nice fellow. Apparently he didn’t want to do anything with the missionaries either, but he told us we were normal! WOOT! So it’s been pretty successful. I’ve got several stories every day where God has put miracles in our path. I’ll share one more, then I must go!

We were working at the Grandin Building in downtown Palmyra on I think Thursday afternoon. Maybe Friday. All the days run together. Anyway. A Hispanic woman pulled me aside in the middle of the tour and asked if she could talk to me. Of course I said yes, and we just stepped outside while my companion took over. She began to tell me that she felt so strongly she needed to tell me something, but she wasn’t sure what. She said she had this overwhelming feeling that she needed to talk to me. So I didn’t really know what was going on….haha I just let her talk. To my knowledge, I wasn’t in need of anything at the time. She eventually just said, “You know, when I came and stood next to you for the first time, I had this explosion in my heart of love that you had for God, and that God had for you.” I immediately smiled super big and gave her the biggest hug. I said, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” haha I was really excited. She just laughed and started to cry in broken English and said, “yes. As soon as I got in your area, my heart just exploded.” My mind went straight to the day at the airport last Monday. We weren’t allowed to proselyte at the airport, so I said a quick prayer that someone would literally just see me or walk past me and feel the light of Christ. Well, this was the woman that did. I told her of that experience, and she just cried even more. It was a beautiful moment we had together, and I’m so thankful the Spirit reminded me of that prayer I had said just a few days before!

Missionary work is amazing. Things like that are happening every day. I do have to go, but just know that I love each of you so much! Your support means the world to me. (Speaking of that–Jake! I haven’t gotten a letter from you in a couple weeks! Come on dude!) Anyway, God bless this week and I will be moving the work forward with a smile on my face!

Sister Hawkes