The Blackpool District, from our very silly (too silly for me) April Fools' Day district meeting. I'm having trouble viewing the photo, so I can't go left-to-right and tell you who's who, but I'll do my best. You know who I am. Elder Carter (the brand-new missionary in our district, who I went on exchange with yesterday) is the other elder with glasses. Elder Empey is the one crouching down with the bunny ears on, and Elder Smith (my companion and our district leader) is the fourth elder. The sister with the green glasses on is Sister Sommer from Germany, and the other sister is Sister Coffin from Idaho.
Congratulations to Ruth for her college acceptances! I'm way excited! And also to Dad for his law review acceptance!
[Ed. note: Ruth got admitted to a stunning array of prestigious universities. David got one very lonely -- and somewhat less impressive -- offer to publish his latest article.]
Ian's baptism has been postponed to the 12th of April. It turns out we hadn't taught the Word of Wisdom clearly enough, and he didn't realize how important it was not to drink coffee. He'd seen it not as a commandment but as good advice for spiritual well-being, along the lines of not listening to bad music or watching movies with violent or suggestive content. I guess it just goes to show the importance of teaching and reviewing the commandments clearly. He was apparently pretty sad when he found out that he couldn't be baptized on Saturday (since our mission has a rule that investigators have to fully live the Word of Wisdom for two weeks before baptism) but he says it will be no problem for him to stop drinking coffee and is still committed to be baptized. In some ways this is for the best - the Saturday baptism wasn't publicized well, and the two weeks will give us more time to get the word out and bring members to teach him with us so he can get to know the ward better.
One of our investigators, Chris, came to church for all three hours this week which was great. He and his partner Jane, who was once very active in the church and is now trying to come back after a long absence, have been coming to sacrament meeting for several weeks and enjoying it, but, as they explained to us last week, they haven't felt very welcomed by the ward, feel like they don't really know anybody, and were worried about trying to stay for longer. This week, though, many members came and talked to them and they stayed for the whole meeting. When we taught them last night, they said they'd had a very good experience, and it sounds like Chris at least is planning to stay for all three hours regularly.
Last Thursday we had interviews with the President in Lancaster. Lancaster is a really interesting place - it looks and feels much older than Blackpool, with lots of narrow cobbled streets and an old castle (which is now a prison). We got to wander around the town center a bit after interviews while looking for a place to eat lunch. My interview with President Jacobsen and the associated training meeting went well. In his part of the training, President Jacobsen split us into two groups (the southern and northern parts of our zone) and had us each complete a little quiz of gospel knowledge and trivia. It was a lot of fun. I think I'm going to miss President Jacobsen when he leaves in July.* During the zone leaders' training President Jacobsen poked his head into the room and asked to speak to Sister Jacobsen for a minute. She stepped outside, and just afterwards a couple of other people came in the door on the other side - one of the Jacobsens' sons and one of their grandsons - and sat down in the back of the room. Their visit was a surprise for Sister Jacobsen. When she came back into the room, it took her a minute to notice the visitors in the back, but when she did she jumped out of her chair with happiness. It was kind of fun to be in on the surprise.
* We found out a few weeks ago who our new mission president will be but I think I forgot to tell you. His name is President Bullock (I think David is his first name). He's from the Denver area and he is President Boyd K. Packer's son-in-law. So hopefully President Packer will come visit our mission . . .
On Sunday all four of us Blackpoool elders did a presentation in joint Relief Society/Priesthood meeting on member missionary work. The entire UK area (I think) has a goal for each member to help bring someone into the church during 2008, and our stake president asked the missionaries in each ward to give a presentation about how to help make that happen. Elder Smith and I talked about developing faith and Elder Empey and Elder Carter talked about giving away copies of the Book of Mormon. We also showed a video about member missionary work called "Small and Simple Things" produced by the North Carolina Mission, which is really great - when I watched it earlier this transfer, it made me want to go home from my mission so I could be a member missionary. : ) The presentation went very well, although (as always) we had too much prepared for the time available.
I went on exchange with Elder Carter in our area yesterday after district meeting (which, due to April Fools' Day, was full of very silly antics). This was the first time I've worked in our area without Elder Smith, so it was good to do, especially since Elder Smith has a good chance of getting transferred next week. I discovered that I know the bus routes pretty well - I think I should be fine if I get a new companion next transfer. Elder Carter and I had a full day (4 lessons) which was great, and I enjoyed working with him a lot. During the exchange, he also showed me a really good technique to sew on buttons (I'd been trying to remember the way Grandma Pimentel showed me, but I must be missing a key step since the buttons have kept on falling off). Elder Carter used to practice martial arts before his mission, and he also showed me a couple of good exercise routines he uses in the morning. I recommended that he read Iron and Silk when he gets home from his mission.
For the past three(?) weeks our ward organist, Brother Thompson, has been out of town. Brother Thompson is a friendly older gentleman with an accent identical to that of the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean. He's been in the ward longer than almost anyone else has played the organ since 1975, I believe. With him gone, the ward hasn't had anyone to play the organ, and for the first Sunday that he was gone the chorister brought along a CD player and played recorded hymn accompaniments. That Sunday I volunteered to play the piano in priesthood meeting and have since been drafted to cover sacrament meeting. One Sunday, I was also asked to come into Primary at the beginning of the third hour and play through a new song so that the Primary kids could learn it. When Elder Smith and I came back into priesthood meeting, they were two verses into the opening hymn singing a cappella, but the chorister beckoned me to the front and had me accompany them for the final verse. : ) Brother Thompson is home now, though, so I should be off the hook this Sunday.
President Johnson (at the all-mission conference) and President and Sister Jacobsen have all encouraged us strongly to prepare for General Conference. President Johnson spoke about how one of the sessions will be a solemn assembly, since President Monson is being sustained, and how that is a particularly unique and powerful opportunity to seek personal revelation. I'm pretty excited. We're hoping to get a lot of our investigators to come.
Congratulations again to Ruth! I'm pretty stoked for her. Now begins the agonizing decision process . . .