Brittany’s story has to be one of the most note-worthy stories I’ll ever tell about my mission.
On Thursday, we went to the sites with her…well, just the Joseph Smith Farm, the Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon Publication Site. I noticed it’s a whole different thing knowing Brittany’s spiritual journey, and then applying the history at the sites to her. While in the Sacred Grove, we read Joseph Smith’s experience straight from his history, and she mentioned how much she can relate to him. However, her whole spiritual journey has magnified by a million in just the past few days. After a really rough night last night, she sent us the scripture in 2 Nephi 1:15, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” She gets it–she really gets it. Brittany is now tearing up Irondequoit with us, teaching lessons, and even basketball tracting! (Note: basketball tracting is recruiting for our Tuesday night basketball games at the church…one of the greatest finding activities in my opinion.) She wasn’t afraid to just go up and knock on doors, even if we got a door slammed in our faces. I wish she had any idea how much she was teaching us instead of what she thinks is the other way around. By teaching with her, we’ve been able to hear more of her conversion story, which puts mine to shame. Thankfully, it’s not a competition, and all that matters is that we get the same end result.
That reminds me of a lesson I’ve learned the past year and a half–nothing ever is a competition, especially when it has to do with the Spirit. I don’t need anything big to happen to me to be truly converted; I don’t need the scriptures to shake as I read them, to hear a “voice of thunder” of confirmation as I am bearing my testimony, or that I don’t need to cry throughout the whole sacrament meeting in order for me to feel the Spirit. Elder McConkie said, “Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous they get written up in the scriptures.”
As for the other events of this week, we had an exchange with the Victor sisters, and then two exchanges coming up this week, where I’ll be off to Henrietta and Fairport. The leaves are beginning to change, and that means more bus tours! This week we had a bus tour while Sister Tran and I were serving at the Hill Cumorah. I read on the schedule that it was a mission reunion, but lo and behold, did I ever know that it was the Mexico Monterrey Mission from the early 1970’s. Just my grandpa’s missionaries themselves! A few of them came up to me, introduced themselves, and fortunately I got to talk with all of them in the Christus room. (The painting of the Sacred Grove right behind the statue of Christ.) We talked about our missions, the thoughts the Spirit has given them throughout their lives, and what specifically their missions have done for the rest of their lives. A few of them came up to me after and told stories of how Grandpa has a lead foot, how Grandma was so patient with all of the Elders…I was just beaming with pride to be their granddaughter. We did get a picture of a few of us that I’ll have to show you later.
The last, but definitely not least, thing I want to mention was the anniversary of Joesph getting the plates on September 22, 1827. He met Moroni for the first time on September 21, and since that day fell on a Saturday this year, we decided to plan “the walk” for that morning. Most of us sisters, senior couples, and President Francis walked from the log home at the Joseph Smith Farm to the top of the Hill Cumorah, which was about four miles. (I’m proud to say that Sister Gillespie and I were the first ones to the top, after President started racing us!) What a great walk to remember Joseph Smith and the things He did for Jesus Christ.
Miracles are piling more and more on top of each other as I head towards the end of my journey here in New York, As I’ve thought about that though, I’ve noticed they’ve been happening not just my whole mission, but my whole life, and it’s great to finally realize His hand in many more things.
Keep staying strong, and remember that God always has unlimited minutes.
…said the Nike slogan right above President’s head projected at Zone Conference. I knew I came to the right mission.
We had to earn absolutely everything this week. (Nothing new, really.) Who knew that filling up our car meant we had to earn things, too? As we were coming home from an appointment on Saturday night, we stopped at the usual place to get some gasoline. To our surprise, it said, “Please see attendant for cashier,” which to the both of us, meant “someone in there needs you.” We walked into the store armed with our Book of Mormon, when immediately a man yelled, “You’ve got to be KIDDING me!” He proceeded to tell us he knew all about our church, and that we had no idea what we were talking about. Obviously, the conversation was pointless, so we ended professionally. Not much time later, the cashier announced to the rest of the convenience store, “These girls have a really cool church, and it’s all about families!” We immediately had three different women with their children come up to us. One, Joy, said that she had been talking to her sister just the day before about how she needed to join a new church that actually had something for her two little girls. I think we pulled up to the right gas station, don’t you?
Most of the week was filled with exchanges, baptisms, and both Rochester Zone Conferences. Sister Steel and I had to present trainings about online proselyting, and it went really well. We took a couple of our investigators, Brittany and Mandy, to the baptism at the singles branch in Rochester. Both Sister Steel and I were independently praying so hard through the whole thing that they’d feel just something. Not to our surprise, right after the closing prayer, Mandy turns to me and says, “Everytime I come to one of these things, I want to be a better person.” Whoo! They are coming closer and closer to their Savior everyday, and progressing so well. I wish I had more time to expound on them, but seeing as I typed more than half of this letter, and accidentally deleted it, I don’t have too much time. Don’t worry, it’s all in my journal. Find me later.
A huge lesson I learned this week was simply just to be absolutely positive about everything that goes wrong. It’s incredibly hard to slap a smile on your face when you just want to crawl in a hole for a couple of days and only come out when everyone else is smiling, too. But it really doesn’t work like that. The only way to actually get a smile on your face is to go to one of your “holy places,” as they call it. These experiences I share with you are literally the highlights of the week, work wise. The rest of the week was like Alma’s, “Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance. Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts, saying unto him: Behold, we know that thou art Alma…and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions.” -Alma 8:10-11 I’ve literally been on my knees more than ever, just wrestling with God that He would deliver those people from out of their bondage. It’s not like it hasn’t worked; coming home each day, I felt as if the Lord had run marathons for us in working miracles. It’s not that the miracles aren’t happening, it’s that free agency that always gets in the way. 🙂 We are working as hard as we can. I can feel the Lord is proud of the work we are accomplishing. But let me tell you–it’s a battleground!
I appreciate the prayers and support you still continue to give me.
It’s a scary thing when you don’t know where you’re going. Thankfully, Heavenly Father loves us so much that he’s provided a way to not only return back to Him, but to become just like Him. It takes some effort on our part, but what good thing do you have that you haven’t worked for? Missionaries (like myself) are online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week ready to help you start your process on finding your road map back to Him. Check it out:
I now realize the phrase, “I’m humbled to meet you.”
On Wednesday for our weekly site meeting, we had Joseph Smith’s great-great granddaughter, Kim Smith, and 3rd great grandson, Brian Davis, come to the Hill Cumorah. They told us of their conversion stories, how they came to realize the importance of their grandfather, and what they had heard of him throughout their lives. They sang a couple of songs they wrote, one called “Willow,” based on a tree Emma used to pray near, and another one, “Serenity Blue,” describing the prophet Joseph’s eyes, and what was seen through them. I’m pretty sure no one’s eyes were dry the whole hour.
The next day, we had shift number two at the Joseph Smith Farm…since I have come back to the sites. We all couldn’t wait to talk about what we learned the night before! As we were talking, a car pulled up, and lo and behold…it was Kim and Brian! Guess who’s turn it was to take a tour. MINE. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the one who would be giving the tour. Ha. Anyway, we greeted them at the door–more excitedly than we did last week with the lead singer of The Killers might I add–and I re-introduced myself to them. She remembered I was from Centerville, and immediately asked about me, how my mission was going, and what I had planned after. Hello, I didn’t want to talk about me, I wanted to talk about them! So I quickly answered the questions and jumped into shooting my questions in the opposite direction. As they were talking, I noticed the pictures of Joseph and Emma so perfectly framed right next to their faces in the background, and couldn’t help but see Joseph’s blue eyes and wavy blonde hair in Brian. We are talking exact DNA people. So, “their” tour started by going into the humble log home, and her telling me what she knew from what was passed down from her fathers. Kim and Brian were two of 80 direct descendants of Joseph Smith that are actually baptized into the church, and 200 in-direct…with marriages and everything. Horror stories have been told more times than she’s wanted to hear, and she knew there had to be something positive about her grandfather. As we were standing in the same space where Joseph formulated the million-dollar question, little old me got to be the one who got to hear them the behind-the-scenes of the consequences of abuse in his posterity.
We eventually made our way to the Frame Home, expecting to spend just a couple of minutes there for them to take a few pictures. We walked in and Kim said, “How much time do you have, Sister Hawkes?” “You tell me,” I said. “Sit down, let’s talk.” I asked her question after question of the character of Joseph, the moment she became truly converted, and how they’ve been missionaries to her family. From growing up, she heard horrific stories all about the “Utah Mormons” and the “Brighamites,” and was basically forbidden to go to Utah. Kim knew they weren’t true by the power of the Holy Ghost, that had come into her life at an early age. She was always taught from her mother, “the Holy Ghost trumps everything.” So, she decided to always follow Him, and never listen to what anyone else says. Since then, she’s always poured out her heart to the Savior, and she’s never said no to a prompting–because she knows exactly where it comes from. After half an hour of an uninterrupted quizzing session, we took a slow walk back to the parking lot on Stafford Road. I walked right in between the two as they continued to tell me stories…including how the missionary discussions they took at Meryl Osmond’s home went. (I couldn’t help but think how intimidated those poor sister missionaries were.) On the third discussion she knew she needed to be baptized. About the members of the church, she said, “there was something in those people that I couldn’t deny, and that was the Holy Ghost.” Kim was baptized June 7, 1998, and her son, Brian was baptized a year later. Right at the end of our visit, she said they would love to come do a fireside in Centerville when I return home. I gave her my e-mail address, and planned to set it up! (Mom, I think I’m going to turn that over to you for now.) We’ll make sure you all know when that’s going to happen!
Basically, that’s been the highlight of my week so far…if not my whole mission! Luckily I’ve had many highlights, and many experiences that turn me closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. Every experience that I have as a servant of the Lord gets me closer to Him. It doesn’t matter how “famous” these people are. If I meet them on the streets of Rochester, and I put a smile on their face–that’s really all I care about. All of those combined make up the “highlights” of my mission. More often that not, it’s entertaining to see how that smile actually got there in the first place, but regardless, it’s a blessing. Anyway, we found three more investigators this week, and we’re teaching two tonight and another one on Thursday. They look promising, and I’m really excited!
It’s been another beautiful, rainy week in Upstate New York, and I’m so happy to still be wearing this nametag.
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.