Ian is dated for baptism! The original date was March 22nd, but it looks like we may need to push it back to the 29th because there's a ward social on the evening of the 22nd. He's doing really well. Up until now he's had a tough time reading the scriptures because he's partially blind, but yesterday we gave him a giant A4-size Book of Mormon, which he says he should be able to read fine. We're pretty excited about having him dig into the scriptures.
We had an all-mission conference yesterday in lieu of zone conferences. I enjoyed seeing the missionaries from my old districts in Runcorn and Barrow and catching up with them, as well as people from my MTC group (including one missionary I hadn't seen for almost six months). It must have been kind of stressful for President and Sister Jacobsen and the assistants to the President to coordinate it all, though. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve had planned to come and speak to us, but he got sick last week and had to cancel the trip. Instead, President Kenneth Johnson, our Area President, came and spoke. It was a great meeting, very lively. President Johnson invited a lot of questions and participation from us, and he kept putting the assistants to the President (who were seated on the stand) on the spot, calling them up to the pulpit and asking them to quote from Preach My Gospel, answer difficult questions, etc. President Johnson spoke mainly about the Spirit and the importance of both seeking revelation for ourselves and helping investigators to receive it. He also underlined the importance of helping our investigators really understand and appreciate the sacrament instead of just asking them to come to church, and he suggested a way of using the scriptures to leave stronger commitments. The evening after mission conference, Elder Smith and I tried out the suggested commitment pattern in a lesson with one of our investigators, using the words of the scriptures to form the commitment, and it worked really well! I think we were both surprised at how powerful the commitment was.
I really enjoy serving in a ward with two sets of elders in it. We see the Blackpool North elders quite a bit: at district meeting, at church, twice a week when we do service with them, and usually on preparation day. On Monday night we had to get up really early to get to mission conference, so we slept over at their flat; then after mission conference on Tuesday, we had dinner with them before heading off to our appointment. It was good fun.
Elder Carter, Elder Empey, and I spoke in sacrament meeting this past week. Originally it was going to be just Elder Carter and Elder Empey, but they volunteered me when they got their assignments. : ) We spoke about faith, obedience, and repentance respectively. Mine went OK - I talked about how it's important that we not only get but retain a remission of our sins. I'm not sure how well my talk flowed and whether people understood it fully or not, but at least I learned a lot from preparing it.
Up until now, I've mostly cooked separately from my companions, but so far Elder Smith and I have mostly been cooking together when we don't have a tea appointment with a member family. In any British supermarket you can get a variety of curry sauces in bottles (like pasta sauce), to which you then add stir-fried vegetables and/or meat and serve over rice to make a really nice meal. A very common British dish, it turns out. Maybe before the end of mission I can figure out how to make some of these sauces from scratch.
Today we're going to Preston for a zone activity (well, a half-zone activity - Preston zone is so large geographically that the zone leaders are organizing two separate activities, one for each half) - I think the plan is to play table tennis and volleyball. Should be fun.
Thanks, as always, for your letters! I ended up receiving five on Tuesday (three at mission conference, two through the post), which made me very happy. I've developed some photos, too, which I'm planning to send home soon.