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

Earned Not Given

…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.

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

Only One Way

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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.

Our Divine Potential

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“A woman’s richest rewards will come as she rises to fulfill her destiny as a devoted daughter of God. To all faithful Saints He has promised thrones, kingdoms, principalities, glory, immortality, and eternal lives. That is the potential for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is exalting, everlasting, and divine.”

—Russell M. Nelson

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.”

 

BE HAPPY!

 

Hermana Hawkes

 

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

Never Too Young…or Old!

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Something huge I’ve learned throughout my mission is that I really haven’t been on a mission for only a year. I received my “mission call” to New York on March 27, 2012, but I actually received my real mission call on March 27, 1999…exactly 13 years previous. It was the day I was baptized, around the same time this picture was taken. Once you’re a member of the church, you immediately qualify to become a missionary. You’re obligated to share everything that you know to be true, because of the impact it’s had on your soul.

As I’m currently a “full-time teacher” instead of a “full-time finder,” (as Elder Bednar put it) I’ve realized how much healing missionary work can do to one person. The Lord doesn’t say, “The people who don’t really care and scrape on just the surface of the gospel get to heaven.” In the scriptures, He specifically states that the “Laborers in the Lord’s kingdom gain salvation.” If you seriously want to find the truth, you have to ask for it, and you have to work for it. There’s no way around it.

“You may make the winning touchdown, cross the finish line first, swish down the mountain on perfect powder, drive “a beauty” to the left-field stands, or pitch a no-hitter. You may do and thrill to many things. But you will experience few feelings equal to the quiet, even tearful moment when you record in your diary: “Today we baptized Mr. and Mrs. Brown and all their children.” -A. Theodore Tuttle

The nametag only qualifies me as one of those “full-time teachers.” We fully rely on the members of the church to share this incredible message with their friends. It’s not awkward, it’s not scary…it’s your obligation. The best moments in your life will be sharing your happiness with others, so they can do the same thing. This moment has been prophesied for centuries–this is the gathering of scattered Israel, people! Take part it in while you still have time.

It’s never too late.