Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with occasional additional posts, too).

This is column is just one guy's opinion, and while he does his best to keep what he thinks, says and writes in-line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Bro Jo is not a spokesman or authority for the LDS Church. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

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Friday, November 27, 2015

Follow Up Question to "Short Engagements"

Dear Bro Jo,

Just wanted to send a quick reply thanking you for posting the Will Girls Date Him Even Though He Didn't Go on a Mission?

If you do not remember I was the one who sent that, seeing that and some of the comments helped me out.

I was going through a slightly tough time and this really helped. Just a quick question you keep saying long courtships and short engagements what do you mean by short engagements out of curiosity.

- Name Withheld

Dear NW,

My personal opinion (and Sister Jo happens to agree) is that after a couple formally decides to get married (meaning an actually proposal) then the Sealing should happen in three months or less. 

All the reasons couples come up with for waiting are worldly ones, and the temptations to no longer be Temple Worthy become pretty darn strong. 

I know one couple that had a two-year wait between engagement and Sealing, and they made it to the Temple, but they'll tell you that it only worked because: 

     1) they lived a 10 hour drive apart with no decent flights between, 

     2) they were both phenomenally busy, and 

     3) when they did see each other they were never left alone for very long. 

And with all of that, when they were together, they could barely keep their hands off each other . . . and they often didn't. 

And they're two of the most focused, righteous people I know. 

So I say "short engagements". 

If you've made the decision, pull the trigger. 

BTW - Did you see the almost fanatical response I got from readers one the Facebook page who had married men who didn't serve? 

I thought some of them were ready to reach through their computers and punch me. 

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Confession to the Fiance

Dear Bro Jo,

What I am about to share with you is kind of complicated.

When I was in my early teens, I was introduced to masturbation by some very immature friends.

I started indulge in masturbating and viewing pornographic material.

It soon became a vicious habit.

My struggle was more with masturbation than pornography. Pornography was more something I used to make it more exciting.

I viewed pornography (almost never hard-core pornography) because I masturbated, I didn't masturbate because of a pornographic addiction.

I had this problem for years.

The problem is that I was never taught about this sin (of masturbating) and I justified my pornography problem my telling myself it was "not really pornography".

I never had a "father to son" talk and the subject was not really mentioned at Church, though deep inside I knew it was wrong.

But I thought only sexual intercourse needed to be confessed to the Bishop (or at least I tried to think it that way).

I thought I could just resolve the problem myself.

I then decided to go on a mission.

My Stake President asked me if I had masturbation or pornography problems.

I foolishly said I didn't (once again I justified that I would stop to do it by the time I left for the mission).

I got to the MTC and was successful at forsaking those evil practices for about 1 month when I gave in while in the mission field (not to pornography but masturbating).

I did it a few times and felt so so so guilty (I could barely eat) that I confessed to my Mission President.

However I was so scared of being sent home that I lied.

I said I had stopped the practice a year before my mission and that I had one it only once on the field.

He asked me if I had used pornography and I said no.

He said it was not a sin a missionary got sent home for but it needed to be cleared up.

But obviously I had to see him again to fully confess.

I finally told him that I had actually used pornography along with masturbating.  I had actually indulged many times the year preceding my mission and that I had stopped only for a month at the beginning of my mission.

He asked me if I had stopped a month before my mission.

I said no, but I was not exactly sure when was the last time I did it before leaving (it was not exactly true, I knew I had done it a few days before entering the MTC).

He finally asked me if it was a habit (I think he meant asking me if masturbating was a habit when I left on my mission) and replied that yes it was.

Since I had not given in and had been clean for 5 months, he told me to forgive myself and move forward.

He gave me a blessing telling me I was forgiven for my sins.

It was hard for me to believe that my sins had been forgiven.

I went back to see my Mission President many times throughout my mission.

Every time he told me to stop thinking about it and forgive myself. That I was worthy and a great missionary (it is true I had a great mission. I was a hard-working and obedient missionary).

Though my mission went great, I always had these issued on the back of my mind.

I was not tempted to fall again but I had a hard time believing my confession was complete and that I was forgiven, though my Mission President kept on saying that I had not what I needed to do and was forgiven.

I regularly felt guilty for nothing.

When I had a "wet" dream, I felt horribly guilty!

My last night on my mission, I met with my new Mission President (who didn't know a thing about my past transgressions).

I shared with him my problems, that I had left on my mission with a masturbation and pornography problem, that I had masturbated a few times on my mission but that I had confessed to the previous Mission President and forsaken.

I told him that I had a hard time forgiving myself and that I never felt that I had done enough in my repentance process.

I told me he had received a spiritual witness that I was forgiven and should move forward.

I returned home with honor. I still don't have any problem with those past sins.

When I encounter pornography or even just suggestive images on the web, I naturally and automatically look away and go on an other website.

My problem is that I am always afraid that my confession was not complete enough, that because I still feel guilt, I probably was not 100% honest in my confession. Though I told him everything important that needed to be said, it is true that I was not completely honest about very minor things ( for example when I told him that I didn't know exactly when the last time was I had masturbated before my mission though I knew it was a few days before).

And I now feel silly going back to see my Bishop when my mission president said he had received a spiritual witness that I was worthy.

Should I just forget about it and trust my Mission President?

Or go again to see my Bishop anyway?

I am really trying sincerely to do what the Lord expects of me but I am often confused about what I should do.

And I am now engaged to a great LDS girl.

Should I tell her about my past transgressions before we get married?

Thank you for reading this long email,

- Name Withheld

Dear NW, 

First of all, nocturnal emissions are not sinful in and of themselves, so I don't think you should feel guilty about it. 

Yes, it can be a byproduct of spending too much time in lustful thought during the day, but that's not always the case; and it's not like we have any real control over what happens when we're sleeping. 

So I say don't worry about that stuff. 

Secondly, I think that a little "guilt" (or "regret") can be a healthy thing. 

I know we're taught that if the Lord forgives us we should forgive ourselves, and I believe in that . . . but I also think that we should never "totally" forget everything wrong we've ever done. 

I think that's a misunderstanding that lots of Latter-day Saints have about repentance. After all, how are we supposed to learn from our mistakes if we "forget" them? 

Part of becoming better people is that we remember Not To Do the things we regret. 

Now, if you're worried about it, by all means go talk to your Bishop . . . but I think you should trust your Mission President . . . and in the Savior and the Atonement. 

As for your fiance . . . I've written a few times about Things You Should Know Before You Get Engaged (here's one of the links); it's also in the Notes section on the Facebook page. 

I don't think you and your fiance need to tell each other everything in graphic and gory detail before you get sealed . . . and I think too often people say they're "being honest" when they care less about the person they're "confessing" to and more about alleviating their own guilty consciences . . .

But I do think there's value in sitting down (perhaps in more than one sitting) and going through that list of stuff. (If you read it closely, the items that come closest to what your challenges have been have more to do with repentance of sin than the details of the transgressions.)

You're going to be okay, my brother.

Trust in Christ.

And congratulations on your upcoming wedding! 

- Bro Jo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Should She Slow the Relationship Down?

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey, Melody again.

Well, I am now at the Y, and a lot has changed since last time I wrote.

I recently halfway Dear Johned "my missionary" based on promptings that I needed to put some distance between us and open my heart to other relationships.

We still care about each other and plan to date when he comes back, and I'm still going to write him, but it's more of a friend thing for the next 10-11 months. Shortly thereafter, I met a great guy, who I've kind of been seeing. He's spiritual, kind, fun, affectionate, just a great guy. I mean, the first time we spent time together, it felt like we'd been dating for months. Basically, it's been moving really fast, everyone who knows us thinks he might ask me to be his girlfriend soon.

Don't worry, I've been setting boundaries to help slow it down, which he has completely respected.

The only problem is he doesn't ever verbalize his feelings about me, so I have no idea where we're at (at the end of our last date, I asked, but he changed the subject).

He's also an RM of about two years.

Anyways, I'm a little torn because I'm significantly younger, I've only been in one relationship ever, and I haven't known him that long (3 1/2 weeks or so, and we've been "dating" for about two, though he's tried to see me every few days, so it's pretty frequent), but I feel ridiculously drawn to him (perhaps this is one of those things I was supposed to open my heart to) .

So, I was wondering…do you have one of your magical lists floating around in your head about Stuff You Need To Know Before Getting Into A Serious Relationship With Someone?

Something like that?

- Melody

Dear Melody,

I don't see a reason for you to artificially slow things down. 

And I don't think 19 and 23 are too far apart. 

It's still a bit early to be verbalizing feelings, or expecting him to. 

I think the list you're looking for is Bro Jo's Levels of a Relationship . . . 

or maybe Things You Need To Know Before you Get Engaged

- Bro Jo