Tourism 101

I don’t know if I’ve had 20 minutes to sit down and eat a meal in the past week.

Between President Francis and his family arriving last night, SLC Headquarters giving us trainings in the a.m., working shifts at the sites and preparing for the Hill Cumorah Pageant cast training…I don’t even have time to remember my name! (I really did forget it the other day…it took me a second.) The best part of it is that I don’t look exhausted. (At least I hope I don’t.) My pace right now is a little bit faster than normal, but the Lord is making up for the rest so I can actually hold fun and normal conversations with people. Phew!

Yes, the Francis family arrived, and we just got back from the mission home ten minutes ago! We live just a few miles away from them, so we decided to make some cookies and a little note to take over to them on our way to Palmyra. Well, it was basically an excuse to be the first to meet them. 🙂 But they are WONDERFUL!  I’m so excited to get to know them all better, but I’m especially excited to observe how they raise their kids in the mission home. They’ve got four handsome boys they brought out, two kids serving their own missions right now, one that just got home in August…so they are a complete missionary family. I know you’re not supposed to covet, but that sounds really fun!

Now for the site updates. On Friday, Hermana Steel and I worked at the Peter Whitmer Farm out in Fayette. In the afternoon alone, we had six buses come from Virginia, North Carolina and Boston! We started Pageant mode a bit early, which means instead of taking a group all the way through the site, we were stationed at a point. For a few hours, I had the inside of the Visitors’ Center just before they went out to the log home. From the beginning of my mission, I’ve vowed to myself not to make any tour the same, and it’s next to impossible to do that in Pageant mode. However, I think I accomplished it pretty well! I literally just opened my mouth, and the words fell from me. I was talking about things I studied a few weeks ago, things I studied just that morning, and things I haven’t thought about in years. We discussed confidence vs. cockiness, conversion, being instruments in the hands of God, the sacrament…etc. The thing I noticed is that if the visitors respond, the spirit flows more freely and gives more communication. (That’s a lesson for being a visitor at the sites: ask as many questions as you can, and truly bear your testimony, and your experience will be out of this world.) Another thing I noticed about myself, is that it’s taken me this long to feel comfortable enough to be bold within the first couple of minutes. I’m going to take a whack at it and suggest it comes from personal conversion. It’s my studies that help me feel not just like a missionary for 18 months, but His servant for a lifetime. It’s not even my words that hit to the heart of the visitors, it’s the spirit–if they’re truly listening. “See that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength. Use boldness, but not overbearance…that ye may be filled with love…” -Alma 38:11-12

Besides the big groups coming all at once, I got to take some pretty neat people through the Joseph Smith Farm. The BYU track coach, Coach Robison and his family, Elder Chiddister (my area seventy from Davis County!), and a few other people that know my family. It is so much deeper for them (and for me) when you start with a connection. It’s also a lot more obvious when people actually want to be there, and don’t just drag themselves there because it’s some Mormon mecca or something. It’s a very sacred, spiritual place, and when visitors take the time to intently study before they come, and even take Moroni’s promise in Moroni 10:3-4 and apply it to the sites, their experience will be a farther reaching effect than just themselves. It will affect their families back at home, their co-workers, aunts, uncles…whatever. These historical sites were preserved and re-constructed for both members and non-members to come and strengthen their testimony of Jesus Christ. Contrary to popular belief, we are not out to get your referrals! I think that’s all the “being a visitor” advice I have for today.

Personal study update real quick. In my personal doctrine and covenants notebook, this week I asked “How do I demonstrate the pure love of Christ?” I got part of my answer on Sunday when President Christianson spoke (for the last time) in our ward. Come on, I didn’t even cry when I left my own parents! From my experience, I left with the spirit reminding me of Elder Holland’s quote, “The crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty,” then going home and looking up ‘charity’ in the dictionary. I read, “the act of loving all men as brothers because they are sons of God…lenience in judging men and their actions.”

Thanks for everything, and remember to send all mail for the next 3 weeks to Kreag Road, if you haven’t being doing that already! We move out to Palmyra on Sunday night and will be there until the last week of July. Ten girls with two bathrooms? Whoo!

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

p.s. Here are us Cast Trainers for the Hill Cumorah Pageant at our temple trip!

 

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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.

 

BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes

Study Series: The Power of the Priesthood

Let’s see if I can accurately put into words how much I’ve learned about this subject lately.

Being a full-proselyting sister (not currently working at the sites) we’re surrounded by only Elders.  It has motivated me to study their calling in great detail. As you can imagine, having the Kingdom of God on speed-dial is pretty great. Yes, the Kingdom of God on Earth is the priesthood. I know that is true, because I can feel it at Zone Conferences, District Meetings, while receiving blessings, and even stuff as little as playing basketball at the stake center on P-days.

The “Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” is to restore the proper authority straight from Jesus Christ back on the earth. Joseph Smith said, “That priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy…it is no other than the Priesthood of the Son of God Himself…It is a channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the Plan of Salvation, and every important matter is revealed from Heaven.” What does a baptism mean if your clergy just woke up that morning and decided he had power to baptize you? The whole idea of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to let the faithful, worthy men be called, by God, to bear His authority. They do not give the honor to themselves. It is a process by which the Lord has promised blessings to those who strive to live worthy.

The phrase, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” keeps ringing in my ear. Especially after personally hearing Elder Bednar speak recently, I noticed how much he must make himself available to the Spirit at all times. In Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage says, “Their inner natues, not their outward accomplishments, were taken into prime account in the Lord’s choosing.” The Lord can’t choose anyone who won’t give themselves up completely. Even before they were chosen, they had to become close disciples of the Lord. They had to openly confess Jesus Christ was the Son of God, with a sincere desire to serve. They physically could not be chosen unless they first dedicated themselves to His work.

Biblical apostles have spent time stating some of the duties and direct blessings of the priesthood–when these men fulfill their callings. If they are willing and ready to “feed the flock of God which is among [them,]” they will “receive a crown of glory that will never fade” (1 Peter 5.) If they are “true, honest, chaste, just, and pure,” they will be promised that “the God of peace shall be with [them].” (Phil 4.) If they “fight the good fight of faith…and lay hold on eternal life,” they will have “charge in the sight of God,” and a good foundation for the future. (1 Timothy 6.)

Now, keep in mind, that men aren’t the only one who have to fulfill these duties. Our job as women is to magnify what they’ve been given. For example, in order for me to access the atonement, I need to go through the priesthood. Joseph Smith said, it is a “channel through which…all important matter is revealed from heaven.” We have been created equally in order to fill every measure of the creation God has intended. God would never create anything without giving it the chance to receive all blessings He’s promised. Different talents in different people make up what we need to become gods ourselves. We each can’t pass “GO” and collect $200, unless we have the other side that balances it out. That means we all have to expand each talent we have been given so they will work together properly.

Okay, this isn’t even half of what I have learned. I hope you’ll all go study it and find some more duties and direct blessings the priesthood can receive. Having a dad, a brother, and best friends who hold the priesthood not only makes my life easier, but it makes it much more peaceful. And having peace in this insane world of ours…only comes from the One who gave it to us in the first place.

“He died. He is not dead.”

That’s the “sum up” quote from Elder Bednar yesterday at Stake Conference. Am I on a spiritual high? Yes. As you can imagine, the whole eighteen months for a missionary is a spiritual high. But then when you get days like yesterday, with an Apostle, you don’t go just to the moon–you go straight to Kolob.
 
It was an incredibly eventful week, to say the least. I’ll start you out at the beginning. On Tuesday, we helped Crystal again with her home. We organized a lot of her bills, and helped her get rid of things she really needed. I wanted to give you an update on her closing prayer, because last week’s was just as good. This time, it was, “Please bless Sister Hawkes and Sister Johnson to get someone extra special, with a beautiful ring, and a beautiful home. And thank you to their families who love them enough to share them with me.” How cute is that? She keeps asking if she can adopt us–simply because of the feeling that she has when we are around her. We told her about Stake Conference, and was so excited to come. She got to hear and understand an apostle of the Lord speak to her personally for the first time. I have no doubt that if she was the only reason I was sent to Brockport, I’d still have been sent here. 
 
Wednesday was Specialized Training with President and Sister Christianson. We had an incredible discussion on Preach My Gospel Chapter Four–Recognizing the Spirit. It really came in handy for Sunday’s events. I recorded it on my little device, so Mom, I’ll be sending it your way soon. It’s pretty incredible. That’s really all I have time to say about that.
 
Thursday was the first day of Spring. It was a blizzard…of course. What do you expect? We visited a few less-actives and our investigator, Maria. (The one we helped wrap Christmas gifts with.) She’s come to church a couple of times since then, but something hasn’t clicked yet in her to actually get in the water. She knows that; she told us. At church, I even told her that she needs to be baptized already before I leave the area, simply because it’s going to be a real hassle for me to come back from anywhere else! She laughed–she’s got a great sense of humor. It also doesn’t hurt that her laugh is contageous…she’s probably one of the funniest people I’ve met on my mission. So random, and so…New York. 🙂 Anyway, we stopped in and taught her about living prophets and apostles, and the importance of Elder Bednar coming on Sunday. It was a wonderful, spiritual lesson, until the end when she asked me where I was going to school:
 
Me: “I’m going to BYU.”
Maria: “BYOB…bring your own booze?”
Me: “No! Brigham Young University!”
Maria: “Oh…bring ’em young? Wow, you just get going as fast as you can!”
Me: “NO! It’s a college! In Utah!”
 
Now…to the weekend. We had prepared more spiritually for this conference than I think I ever have in my life. We had companion studies around it, personal studies around it, and Sister Johnson and I helped each other think of questions for the Lord to answer through Elder Bednar. Sunday rolled around, and we arrived at the Westfall chapel at 7:30. We got 2nd row seats…front row was available, but it was just a little too close! We needed to see the whites of his eyes, people. But when he walked in at 10 a.m., a brick wall of Spirit just hit everyone. It was completely obvious to everyone (member or non-member) that this man was sent straight from Christ Himself. In his talk, Elder Bednar taught the first discussion. Yes, he taught the first discussion. Do you know how many times I hear/speak/listen to that? Out of everything he could have talked about…all of the doctrine, knowledge, apostolic insights he could have given…he taught the Restoration–in the most simple terms I’ve ever heard. I realized that our investigators get the best of the best when they hear the first lesson being taught. I also recorded that, too, Mom. As expected, all of our questions were addressed and answered.
 
After the conference was when I actually saw firsthand what Elder Bednar was talking about. I was introduced to a man who was so put together, clean cut, and obviously had the light of Christ. I didn’t know until he told me, that two weeks prior to that, he had long hair, earrings, and didn’t really care about anything spiritual at all. But something in what the sister missionary said one night at a member’s home, after many missionaries coming through, just clicked. He took his earrings out, cut his hair, and prepared for the coming Sabbath day. I couldn’t help but notice the two empty holes in his ears, and realized the two holes that Christ had in His hands saved every single one of us. He wouldn’t have done any less if it were just for that one man. The holes in his ears will eventually go away, but the way he used the Atonement will forever change his life. It was a huge eye-opener for me to realize there are unique, individual ways every person uses what has been given to all of us. As long as we use it, it will clear anything and everything.
 
There is so much more that has happened this week that I wish I could write in this email, but I’m afraid if it’s too long, you will get bored. I’d totally love to go through my mission journal with whoever wants to when I get home, though. I write anything and everything in that book–it’s one of the greatest resources a missionary has. A journal is the best counselor and teacher, because it allows the Spirit to teach you things while you’re thinking it out in your head. I’m a huge fan of journal writing.
 
Thank you all for the support–oh, and transfer calls came last night. I shockingly get to keep Sister Johnson another transfer in Brockport! President always keeps us guessing on these things. I am so relieved. I know I would have been fine with anyone anywhere, but her and I really have a strong companionship and I love being with her. Have a great week!
 
BE HAPPY!
 
Hermana Hawkes

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