As for the conference, it started... on Friday, technically, but we told our ride that we were not interested in going to any dances, so for us it didn't start until Saturday. We arrived yesterday morning after waking up unhappily early, got our registration taken care of, and then went to partake of the pancake breakfast. This was a pretty fancy breakfast, too, with all kinds of pancake toppings. There was chocolate syrup! But we went with the standard maple syrup and peanut butter.
As we ate, we talked to several of the older members of our ward (the younger people mostly hadn't arrived yet), who kept asking the same question: "Now, I've heard rumors that if I were to go to Barnes & Noble (or Borders, depending on the asker), I can find books with your name in them." (It may look more like a declaration than a question, but the intonation made it a question.) We were happy to tell them yes, but it did bring up two questions in our own minds. First, didn't they already know that? (To which the answer is, "Oh well.") And second, who's going around telling people our names are in books? (To which I guess the answer is also, "Oh well.")
After breakfast, everyone gathered in the chapel for what was basically the opening ceremony. The co-chairs in charge of planning the whole thing explained how everything was going to work, and then a member of our stake presidency gave a talk. He told a story about how he went with some coworkers to go shoot arrows at sharks. They actually caught several, but ended up having to throw most of them overboard, because the last one they caught was so gigantic it made the boat start to sink. Three of the four men were practically in tears, they were so sure the boat would sink and the rest of the sharks would eat them, but the guy who owned the boat said it was okay--that boat could not sink. And he did some stuff with the boat and they all made it safely to shore! Tadah! When the guy bought the boat, he had gone to a demonstration that explained how the boat was designed to not sink, and he knew exactly what to do and stuff, and the point was that sometimes, you may be scared out of your mind, but you have to trust the people who know better.
This story fit perfectly with the theme of the whole conference: "Be not afraid, only believe." Based on our current situation, faced with moving to Japan and everything, this was a message we really needed to hear. It's also a message that kind of freaked us out even more, because it seemed to be saying, "You're going to Japan. Suck it up, wuss." (We still might not be going to Japan. It's still undecided.)
Anyway. After the opening ceremony type thingie, everybody went to the next thing on their own individual schedules, and our next thing was the service project. We were writing letters to people in the military! Yay! ...Only not yay, because we really hate writing letters to people we don't know. I think I've mentioned this before. But we did it anyway, so we were not lame! Woohoo! And then we got to go dip things in chocolate for our next activity, so in a way, we got rewarded. But we were very grumpy at first, and that was no kind of attitude to have. Sheesh. We'll have to do better next time.
Lunch was fun because we got to talk to people and stuff, and then it was time for some more class type thingies. We went to one that was on building self esteem through trials or something. I'm actually not sure how it was about self esteem exactly. The message we took out of it was much more appropriate for our (potential) situation anyway: Sometimes you have to do scary things.
Then our next class was canceled due to a scheduling error, so we went a class on sharing the gospel! It was pretty neat, and it touched on this survey thing that was taken a couple of years ago where a thousand random US citizens were asked what they thought about Mormons. But I don't have my packet right now, and I don't remember what all it said exactly, so I can't really share any details. Anyway, it did show that a lot of people don't really know what Mormons believe, so here's a very brief and general overview: We believe in Jesus Christ, and we try our best to follow His teachings.
Next we were supposed to play human checkers, but due to the bad timing of eating some of our chocolate-dipped graham crackers, we missed the team-division time, so we had to sit out. It was just as well, though, because on of the games looked like there was too much arguing over whether or not people were playing right to be any fun. And then it was time for carnival games and socialization, but we spent most of the time talking to Brother and Sister S about Disneyland. That's one of our favorite pastimes, so it worked out perfectly for us. And then at dinner Ponyo's brother told us about his idea for a screenplay that would take place in historical Japan, so we got to chime in with little bits of Japanese history.
After dinner was a keynote presentation by another member of the stake presidency, which also seemed to boil down to this: Sometimes you have to do scary things. Also, guys, man up and ask girls out, and girls, don't be afraid to say yes.
Leaving that second part aside, it really looks like, what with the theme of the conference and all the messages about how it's important to do scary things and most of the time they're not really going to kill you, it seems like the Lord is trying to tell us that we might have to go to Japan, but it's going to be okay.
There was a dance, but we didn't want to go to it and neither did our ride home, so we skipped out. Then the conference ended this afternoon with a special long sacrament meeting that turned out to be extra extra long, because they made it a testimony meeting, and a lot of people wanted to stand up and talk about how they know the Lord loves us and the Church is true. That's always a good thing (I think), but we wanted to hear the last speaker talk (since all the other talks had been so good) and we wanted to get out to the linger longer and talk to people some more, so we got impatient and grumpy. But we got over it and then we had lunch, which involved way too much sugar. There were cupcakes and ice cream products, and they didn't want to take home any leftovers, so they kept encouraging us to take more.
And then we went to Mom's house, but I already talked about that.
Today I'm thankful for getting to play Apples to Apples, getting to make plans to do fun things with Celeste tomorrow (but it's because she's going to need some cheering up after going to court, so please pray for her!), all the great talks we got to listen to at the conference, our friend being kind enough to drive us to and from the conference, and all the rubber bands (from the eating utensil packets) we got at meals that we got to wear as rings.