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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Have You Been Inconvenienced Today?

“Life was very inconvenient for [Jesus Christ], and, unless I miss my guess, it will often be so for you and for me when we take upon his name…If for a while the harder you try, the harder it gets, take heart. So it has been with the best people who ever lived.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

This address from Elder Holland that I studied this week has helped me really overcome my extreme selfishness that I’ve tried to get better at on my mission. I really encourage you to read this talk–it’s from one of the speeches at BYU given on February 27, 1982. Now, when I’m inconvenienced, I take it as just one more opportunity the Lord has given me to prove that I’m good enough.

Anyway, this week has been a miracle week. On Sunday, as we walked in from ward council to the chapel, Tracey and her daughter Shay were there in their Sunday best! I almost fell over. I ran (as reverently as I could) over to them to welcome Shay to her first time, and Tracey to her first time in over ten years. What an experience it was for her, especially during the sacrament, to renew her covenants that she had made so long before. Right after the bishop closed the sacrament service, Tracey leaned over to me and said, “I hate this. My heart is getting fuller and fuller, and my testimony is getting bigger and bigger.” When we first showed up at her house about four months ago, she had just lit a cigarette and said, “Of course the sisters would show up. You know, you’re never going to get me. You should just give up right now.” I then remember looking her right in the eyes and saying, “Get ready to get sick of us,because I’m never giving up.” When Alma talks about conversion, he is dead serious.

“Behold, he changed their hearts; yea He awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word…And I again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, where they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed., and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love…” -Alma 5:7,9

Tracey also asked us this week if the Elders could come over and give her husband a priesthood blessing. As we all sat down, Tracey began to explain to her children what the priesthood is, and what it meant to her. Right in the middle of her sentence, she said, “OH! We didn’t have an opening prayer!” She then got straight on her knees and looked at us to follow. She told our Heavenly Father that she was now out of the drivers seat, and that He completely had the reigns with whatever happened to Will and the treatments they have to go through for his cancer. Which describes more life-application from that section in Alma 5:

“And according to his faith, there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true.” -Alma 5:12

The other big miracle is how many things Sister Gillespie and I have done, and how not as exhausted we think we should be. We went on two exchanges in a row again this week, one with the Brighton sisters, and one with the Pittsford sisters. Then we woke up really early on Saturday morning to make three hours worth of pancakes for the House of Mercy 5K that our Rochester Stake put on. It was a blast! I have pictures, but unfortunately we forgot the camera. You’ll see them soon. President came and showed up in his suit–as always! (It’s a good thing we were in our skirts.) His son, Jason, completely smashed everyone and won the whole thing. It really is so much fun having kids in the mission home. I look up to their family so much, and I’ll get an even better idea of it next week!

Other than that, it’s been a really busy week at the sites. I worked my last shift at the Peter Whitmer Farm yesterday, only to finish up super strong this week at the Hill Cumorah tomorrow, Book of Mormon Publication Site on Thursday, and the Joseph Smith Farm on Friday. This week is going to be the hardest working week I’ll ever see on my mission. I’m committed to build up stamina for the rest of my life. So, if you’re going to pray, put your prayers in help of us softening the hearts of Irondequoit. President told us it should to be translated by the end of this transfer. We’re well on our way, don’t you think?

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

Faith Into Action

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“I wanted to put my excitement and my faith in Jesus Christ into action. When I played football, I thought in terms of game plans. There was no question going into a contest that if our team was prepared with the right plays, we were going to be successful. However, I recently spoke with BYU’s legendary coach LaVell Edwards about our game plans, and he said, ‘I didn’t care what play you called just as long as we scored a touchdown! …Since we are all on the Lord’s team, do we each have our own winning game plan? Are we ready to play?'”

-Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, October 2013 General Conference

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It’s Not A Competition

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.

BE HAPPY!

Hermana Hawkes

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

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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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For more information, check out:

http://josephsmith.net/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=91fa0fbab57f0010VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD

Be a Flashlight…Not Just a Glowstick

It’s taken me this long to figure out the best way to start off a transfer…

To see one of your sisters get baptized! Brittany has grown into our “5th companion” as she got baptized this week, and already has taught lessons with us and the Webster sisters. Apparently she told one of their investigators that he needed to back off if he wasn’t totally ready to change his life. She’s my hero.

Man, so much has happened this week. Sister Gillespie is on fire, and we are tearing up Irondequoit. Even though we have trainings to plan, exchanges to do, sites to serve at, we are finding time to talk with everyone. President likes to remind me that I don’t have much time to sprint to the end, and last week he said, “Irondequoit better be translated when you leave!” (He doesn’t leave much room for laziness.) I’m pretty sure I’m his biggest fan. I could go on forever about how much respect I have for him, but unfortunately I’ve only got so long to tell you about the rest of my week. The Francis family is perfect.

As for an introduction to our training (that trained me more than anyone else in the room):

“Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled.” -2 Nephi 7:11

We started off by giving each missionary in our zone those little glow stars that children put on their ceilings at night. We charged the stars a bit with our flashlights, then all walked into a dark room with Sister Gillespie and I holding the flashlights, with the whole goal being to find the Starbursts in the front of the room. In order for them to find them, we just shone them in every which way, but we didn’t really point them in a specific direction. The point was for us to invite them by pointing the beam of light in a specific direction in order for them to easily find the candy…a.k.a. eternal life. How hard is it for missionaries to focus and shine their light they received from Christ? Are we bold enough? Are our batteries charged? The other missionaries (investigators) had a glow star…why couldn’t they find it just from that?

The point is to be the flashlight. We are commanded to be a flashlight once we are baptized into the church. What happens if we are just a glow star? We still have a light, right? Yes, we do have a light, but it is unreachable. It is something that is only glowing, and not pointing towards a specific direction. Now, there are a million other analogies to that concept, and I hope that you think about how you can be the flashlight in the darkness. Offering a ride to a Mutual activity? Giving someone an invite to your Family Home Evening? The light of Christ you have can not only charge the other glow stars you work and live among, but so you can use Christ to literally change their state of being to a flashlight. Now, read that scripture from 2 Nephi again, and never look at a flashlight the same again.

On Thursday I had the opportunity to take a couple from Boston around the Joseph Smith Farm. Robert and Jean have been dating for quite some time, but their religious background won’t allow them to get married. After just a few minutes in the Manchester Frame Home, Robert the atheist, turns to me and says, “I’ve never seen anyone so happy…I usually can fake it on a Saturday night at the bar. But are you for real?” I explained to him the Plan of Happiness, and related it to Joseph Smith and how he wanted to know his identity so badly, so badly enough that he had a confidence in God that He would answer his prayer. I expounded on the Restoration and my personal witness of the things that happened here. After about a twenty minute conversation, he said, “So…this is why you’re happy.” I almost was in tears defending what Joseph learned in the grove, just a few hundred feet away. I mentioned to him that missionaries are throughout the world teaching the same message, and it was no coincidence that I had my best friend Rebecca’s picture of her serving in the Philippines on the back of my Book of Mormon. I showed it to Robert and Jean, and even if they don’t act on the prompting, I knew they felt it was right that what we both were doing was the absolute truth. Their faces look at her picture gave it away, and the spirit testifying to them was way too strong to deny. After sending them into the Grove, I vocally expressed thanks to my Heavenly Father on the walk back to the Welcome Center on Stafford Road.
Along with success from the less-active members of the church, potential investigators, and hilarious journal entries, this week has been one of the best on my mission. It’s also been one of the most trying…thus being the best. I’m completely convinced we don’t learn anything if we don’t feel any urgency to complete tasks ahead of us–especially those that have to do with Christ’s work on the earth. He’s not chastising us, He is giving us the opportunity to grow because He loves us that much. A coach doesn’t yell at the people he’s going to cut!
I can really feel your prayers, and letters of encouragement are completely inspired from everyone. Thank you! I can’t pay you all back, so I’ll pay Him forward.
BE HAPPY!
Hermana Hawkes