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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Charity Never Faileth

The exciting news of the week is…dun dun dun…Brittany’s getting baptized! I think I briefly mentioned her last week. We met her three weeks ago, and since then we’ve taught all the way up to lesson three, been to a baptism, and went to church. When we offered the official invitation, she said, “Well, I was going to ask you when I could get baptized, and Sister Hawkes, I was hoping it was before you leave.” (YAY!) She said she felt so calm and peaceful at church, and knew she was going to be baptized while sitting in Relief Society. Brittany even told us that she was shopping the other day with some friends while picking out “mormon” outfits that covered her shoulders and went to her knees. Oh yeah, and while she was shopping, she taught her friend the Plan of Salvation. She is what you call a “golden,” and it feels like we really didn’t do anything. We are just the lucky ones that got to teach her…it’s all done by the Spirit.

This week was Fast Sunday, and Sister Steel and I decided to do a companion fast for a family in our area. The mother, Tracey, is a less-active member, but her husband Will and children aren’t members. We stop in every once in a while to check up on them, share a spiritual thought, and invite them to church with us. They always decline, but they appreciate the thought. However, on Sunday, the last couple hours before our fast, we decided to see if they were home. This time we didn’t plan just a spiritual thought, but we planned to teach them the Plan of Salvation, or as I like to call it, the Plan of Happiness. (That’s my favorite one to teach, too!) Will and Tracey invited us right on in. The lesson started quickly, and the discussion was so incredibly focused and Spirit driven. I have no doubt that our prayers were heard way beyond this earth, because when we finished our lesson, we asked the Will, the head of the house, if we could re-teach them both the discussions. He said, “Not only would I like you to come teach Tracey and I, I’d like you to come teach our children as well. We’d love for you to invite us to pray as a family, especially so my children can see you two as role models.” I wanted to do a fist pump right there, but Sister Steel is way more classy than I am, so she respectfully accepted the offer. Miracles are happening!

Aside from so many miracles happening left and right, I’ve noticed that the Lord’s real work is in the details. Many missionaries think all we have to do is what’s in the white handbook, but the details are what determine you as a servant of the Lord. It’s how you react to something that goes completely opposite of what you expected. It’s in the thoughts in your mind as you’re driving to an appointment. It’s how you treat your companion. Anyone can spit out the missionary lessons and “convert” people, but it takes a real servant of Christ to clean up the little pieces of garbage on the highway to the Celestial Kingdom. Don’t forget, we have to be the ones waiting for the people we taught at the pearly gates!

Now how do we do that? It seems easy talking about it. But when it comes into play, it takes true character. True character all stems from confidence–the confidence you have in your God. “Confidence is generated by confronting challenges and striving for and achieving meaningful goals.” And another one, “Confidence is not the certainty of success, but rather the conclusion that failure does not determine our worth…we lose nothing by trying.” (Ensign, Sept 2013) Once we can figure out the confidence required for the Celestial Kingdom, we’ve got charity. Just ask Moroni:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” -Moroni 7:45-47

 

The sites have been great this week, nothing too exciting to report as of now. All exciting things are happening in our area, which is exactly what we’ve been praying for! It’s hard to be an hour away from your area for four days a week. But the Lord makes it work–He always makes it work!

 

Sorry that haven’t gotten any of your letters…we haven’t gotten mail for a couple weeks now. We don’t know what’s going on, but don’t worry, I’m sure it will come soon. 🙂 I think that’s all for now. Thank you for everything, you are the best family (and friends) a missionary could ever ask for.

 

BE HAPPY!

 

Hermana Hawkes

Go Forward And Not Backward

pwfedit1“And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel and of Raphael, and of divers angels from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope.

Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!”

-Doctrine and Covenants 128:21-22

I’m never going home.

No, not that home. Here, read this:

“You can’t go back ‘home.’ If you do, you will break my heart and the heart of God Himself. It isn’t just two years to eighteen months…I stand here at 49 years and counting. It’s never, ever over.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Yes, my family’s house is back in Utah, and our Home with God is of course our ultimate destination.  But what I’m referring to in this context is “home.” It’s your comfort zone. Your retreat. Thanks to dictionary.com, the actual definition is, “the place or region where something is native or most common.” Now, as a missionaries, do we ever go back to something that is native or most common? No way. We’re completely out of our element, teaching something we don’t really know enough about, and somehow, the Lord qualifies us all to make it all work together.

There’s something extremely both nerve-wracking and comforting in the fact that once we sign up for missionary service, we don’t have the option to retreat. But, just because you don’t have a companion, doesn’t mean you’ve escaped your duty either. This isn’t the Hunger Games. As Elder Holland continues to say, “Your nametag does not qualify you as a missionary.” Every person baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sign themself up for missionary service.  We aren’t on neutral ground anymore. We promised to dedicate our lives to build the Kingdom of God here on the earth. It’s something that is really happening, whether you realize it or not. But, the best part is that you’re safe. You’re safe, of course, if you’re on His team. A coach knows that he always keeps his best players ready to go at all times. He’ll do anything to keep them playing…if they’re willing to take his orders at practice. In effect, God always keeps His missionaries at top notch and closest to His heart. Keep going, you can do it. Because then, you’ll be on home plate forever.

The Easiest Commandment?

My personal study has been pretty epic lately. Not that it hasn’t before, but things that have happened throughout the week have been magnified by the personal study that I’ve been doing. I know, I know, that’s what the goal is, but seriously. This has been incredible. Two major things I’ve studied: the power of the priesthood, and the ten commandments. Overall, the priesthood is literally the Kingdom of God on earth, and the ten commandments, while attatched to priesthood power, are not as easy as some people think.
 
Oh my goodness, I forgot to tell you guys. Let me start with saying that we have a celebrity in our district. (No, David Archuleta is in Chile.) Elder Smith is the grandson of the first missionary, Samuel Smith…brothers to Joseph Smith. Considering the location of our mission, how cool is that?! He’s a fantastic missionary, and very humble about it. District meeting this week with all of them was absolutely incredible. For the past week, all of us have studied the Atonement in depth to share with everyone. We all taught each other with different angles on how the atonement has worked for them personally. The best part was when each of us was done and all basically in tears, and we surrounded the piano singing, “I Stand All Amazed,” while I accompanied. Each missionary in my district has had something incredibly hard happen to them, so thinking of each of their struggles, while leaning on the same Person gives me great strength. I never realized how much I look up to those who have, for lack of a stronger word, been to hell and back, and still hold the priesthood of God. They truly are my idols. I’m surrounded by extremely young adults, being sling-shot into this world of persecution, trying to stand on their own two feet. The reality of it, is that we can’t do it all by ourselves. We all have our oldest Brother who will strengthen our legs to get up off that chair and work. For each specific priesthood holder, God has “chosen him to be a soldier.” -2 Timothy 2: 3-5. That’s why it’s so hard for them. Hello, soldiers are the ones on the front line. Also, on Sunday, we had dinner at the Trimm’s, and had the most incredible group companion study in her living room with them. Again, we talked about the atonement. The power of the combined priesthood filled the room, especially ending it with a kneeling prayer. Like I said, there is power is in the soldiers. Read 1 Corinthians 4..the whole chapter, but specifically verse 20, “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” Now that is powerful…literally.
 
Now for the other half of my recent studies. From the beginning of time, God has told us to keep His commandments. Some are easier than others…or so we think. The typical ones like “Thou shalt not steal, bear false witness,” and especially the “easiest,” “Thou shalt not kill?” However, I figured there must be more to it than just ending someone’s life. Contrary to what the world thinks, I’m being so bold as to say it’s probably the hardest one to keep. Satan is doing a good job at wanting us to think it’s easy. Ugh, he always wants to diminish everything. He’ll do anything to make you not believe something. But with the Spirit, I came up with reasons why this one is super hard, and what God means when He says it. I think bullet points might be easier to sort out my thoughts:

  • To kill, means to “slay, smite, murder, or reject.” What do you reject that isn’t in harmony with God’s will? A calling? A new friend?
  • To kill someone’s confidence. Keep in mind, that confidence might be your own.
  • To kill a testimony. Saying or doing anything that would cause you or someone else to not believe in God.
  • To kill any love. Well, isn’t that the first and great commandment?
  • To kill the prophets. Not physically, although that is prophesied, but questioning/rejecting their teachings.
  • To kill the spirit. If we aren’t careful, any comment(s) we make can literally kill the spirit. Keep your thoughts clean.
  • To kill one’s desire or motivation. If we say one word to put that person down, we’ve completely re-done anything that Heavenly Father has worked so hard to do.

I hope you’ll study what “killing” means to you. If you put a stop to anything godly, you automatically reject Him. If God creates it–it’s alive by default. Anything that’s alive (for good reasons), we have an obligation to fuel that fire in order to further God’s work. The most important one is killing any of this in yourself; killing your confidence, desire, or motivation will allow Satan to work through you instead of Who it really needs to be. It’s either going to go one way or the other, so you might as well choose the team who is already in the lead. Let’s be honest, we’re absolutely destroying them right now. It’s cute they think they have a chance.
Speaking of playing games, and going back to trivial things, I got to play a few hours of basketball at the stake center last Monday, and we’re going again today. I AM SO EXCITED. Sister Johnson still has been pretty sick lately, and so it’s good for her to get out and just relax being surrounded by none other than…the priesthood. (Can you see how relative my study was?) Being the only sisters in the zone, it definitely has it’s perks. But basketball…yep. I can’t even wait. I need to hurry up and finish this email so we can go. Workouts are getting harder and faster in the morning…however the amount that the Brockport ward feeds us, I have no control over. As long as I just keep at it, I’m sure I’ll be fine…hopefully!
Last, and absolutely not least, we have the pleasure of Elder Bednar coming to our stake conference in two weeks! That’s no coincidence that “Book of Mormon: The Musical” is playing in Rochester right now…opposition in all things. I’m really excited to hear him speak; I’ll give you details later. I think that’s all for now. Sorry there aren’t any more stories, we’ve been recooperating a lot from the effects of Celiac! Keep her in your prayers, please. I hope you all have a great week!
 
BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes