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.)

Nothing here is meant to take the place of talking with parents, leaders, or Church authorities. Please, if you need serious help, talk to a trusted adult, leader, and / or professional counselor.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What was that about Boyfriends and Girlfriends in High School???

Dear Bro Jo,

First of all, I'll introduce myself: I am a sixteen-going-on-seventeen Young Woman, having been born into the Covenant and raised in the Church by a strong LDS family. I have been home-schooled all my life, and therefore have always been very shy and I guess "socially-awkward" because all the people I've ever known were my family or in my Ward.

My mom claims I was born boy-crazy, but to be completely honest, my first real conversation with an unrelated boy was when I was twelve. But since then, I've made a great effort to become social, but as I'm home-schooled, I have very little experience with all the drama with which public-schooled youth are so familiar.

What I'd like to discuss with you deals with high-school relationships. I'll start at the beginning of my first:

All my life, my parents had taught me about casual dating and not dating until I'm sixteen, and I wanted to follow that. But a couple months before my sixteenth birthday, I started talking with a boy, whom I'll call Walter, in my stake (so yes, he's LDS) with whom I'd had little interaction in the past. He was very sweet and flirtatious and easily convinced me that I was the most beautiful girl he'd ever known; needless to say, since I was socially naive, I fell for him. Five days before my birthday, he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I accepted. The day before my birthday, we kissed.

Truthfully, we were blissfully happy together for six months. Since I'd recently moved into the state, he was my only close friend--my BEST friend. I was happier with him than I could ever remember being. Our friends were jealous of our relationship; they'd tell us, "I want a relationship like you guys have!" I thought we were "perfect." My parents had a similar courtship, dating young and accumulating in marriage, and this boy and I joked that we would "continue the trend."

Then, the day after our six months anniversary, I caught him swearing. I have very high standards for the boys I date, and would not seriously date an unworthy Priesthood holder. When I confronted him about it, he apologized and said he never usually swore, so he didn't know what had come over him. Throughout our relationship, we had a pact that we would NEVER lie to each other, even with trivial things, and I trusted and believed him. I brought this incident up with a girlfriend, who was also his friend, and she admitted to me that she was aware that Walter frequently swore--at school, when they hung out, even at church activities--but Walter would change when he was around me, cleaning up his act, because he knew I wouldn't approve.

I was so hurt by this discovery that I broke up with Walter. Apparently, my doing so devastated him (his mother even admitted that he had cried). Because I still had strong feelings for Walter, I challenged him to change permanently, and after a few weeks all of his friends claimed he'd stopped swearing altogether. So Walter and I got back together...but I was a little guarded, as now I was aware he would lie to me.

We lasted about three months longer, until one day we had a pretty nasty argument (we used to NEVER fight) and he suddenly told me he didn't like me anymore, and asked for a "temporary break." The next week, I saw him "with" another girl, and he treated me like I'd never meant anything to him. So I cut the cord completely. This was almost two months ago. Since then, whenever we chance to come upon each other, we argue. I'm the type of girl who hates to be mean, who everyone likes--I have never had enemies before, and the fact that my enemy had once been my best friend, my "true love" (...), cut me even deeper. I've never had anyone I "don't talk to," and always thought the arguments my friends had that kept them away from each other were immature.

My problem is, this is my first real relationship, and I'm not sure of the rules or what's abnormal. Recently, I tried to patch things up between Walter and me--I didn't want a relationship, but hoped we could work out a friendship. He told me he could never "just be my friend" because his feelings for me were still too strong. (Which, after what he did, doesn't exactly make sense.) All of my friends tell me to just forget him and move on, as if this is something easily forgotten.

But...even though he hurt me, it honestly makes me feel SICK to think that Walter is out of my life forever. He'd been my best friend, my shoulder to cry on, my first love--we'd clicked in a way that I never do with people; as I'm very shy I don't easily show my crazy side, but I was comfortable enough with him to do so--or he brought it out of me.

As I've said, he's admitted he still has feelings for me (he and the other girl broke up), and I can't deny that I still have feelings for him, too. I DON'T WANT HIM OUT OF MY LIFE. But is that stupid, naive, immature? Is this something that will pass? My rational side argues that I'm much better off without him, but my hopeless romantic side counters that he and I once were happy together, so we can do it again, right? I don't want a "what if?" but I also don't want to make a mistake. I've been praying and fasting like crazy, but I can't seem to get a clear answer.

Is this typical of a broken relationship?

Thank you for any advice you may have. (And please, I'm a writer: I can take heavy and direct criticism. What I think I need is someone to knock me over the head and say, "Duh!")


- Confused


Dear Confused,

Yup.

That's pretty typical of a Broken Relationship.

Regardless of the exceptions that you may read about in People Magazine, "amicable" just doesn't happen very often. In fact it ONLY happens if the two people have discovered a Mutual Uncaring about each other. "Oh, you're cheating on me? Well I've been cheating on you! Ha ha ha! Well . . . since neither of us really cares we should probably go our separate ways, eh? No, I don't care what stuff you get. What's that? You don't care either? Hey, that's great."

Life just doesn't happen that way.

What you may be gaining a testimony of (not to be sacrilegious) is why I say the Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing is NOT a good idea in High School, and why "Men and Women Can't Be Friends" (or, as seems to make our readers more comfortable "Guys Can Not Be Just Close Friends with a Girl without the Relationship Ultimately Becoming More or Dissolving Away Forever".

Here's the "Duh" moment you asked for:

You saw all of this coming. You knew having a boyfriend wasn't a good idea. You KNEW Casual group Dating is recommended, and yet you get yourself a boyfriend!

Welcome to the club!

We ALL do stuff like that. Hopefully we keep the mistakes to a minimum, but Life and Love happen.

What you need to know is that your desire to have a boyfriend is Natural and Good. AND the experience you've gained (and will continue to gain) from this relationship can be positive and educational. (You realize I'm not telling you to run right out and get another boyfriend so you can learn more, right?)

There are no rules when it comes to relationships, so most everything that happens is normal. (Which, of course, is not to say that anything and everything that may happen is acceptable.)

I do have to say that one thing I hope you learn is that No Companion is Perfect. You could find yourself married to a man for time and all eternity that doesn't swear, promises you he'll never swear, and doesn't the first 25 years of your lives together. Then one day he may hit his hand with a hammer and let loose a tirade that turns the air blue. Will that make him "unworthy" or a liar?

Nope.

It will mean he's human and struggles with stuff like the rest of us and, like the rest of us, he'll deserve the opportunity to repent and improve.

That said, should you be in a relationship with someone who consistently does something that you find morally repugnant?

Of course not.

Unless you've already married them.

(See how there are no clear rules? Everything seems to have it's exception!)

I invite you (and anyone else that might feel so inclined) to read "Bro Jo's FIVE A's of WHY NOT to MARRY" as a primer on valid reasons to stay away from, or get away from, a person.

(You may also want to check out "Bro Jo's LEVELS of a RELATIONSHIP"  to help fill in some of the other blanks.)

I also feel the need to explain just a little bit more about why relationships with guys are all or nothing, that there is no "platonic best friend zone". How did you feel when he got another girlfriend? Hurt? Betrayed? Well there's no way he's going to tolerate being "just your friend" as you go out with other guys, perhaps kissing them, unless he thinks at some point you'll take him back. Why would any guy do that? And what girl wants her boyfriend to spend large quantities of time with his "ex-girlfriend"? Even if it works out now, while you're both in High School, that will only happen if neither of you gets in another relationship (which I think is a Good Idea) and if you both only Casually Group Date, and if neither of you tells the other too much about other people you're interested in or date or . . . hold hands with.

And all of that will change the instant you're both old enough to get married. You'll either marry each other (Very Unlikely - your parents are the exception, not the rule) or marry other people, in which case the "friendship", IF it still exists (and it shouldn't) will go away (as it should). Ask your dad how he'd feel if some good looking guy, married or otherwise, was "best friends" with your mom. Taking her out to lunch. Going to the movies just the two of them. Talking on the phone all the time. Coming over to chat when he (your dad) isn't home . . .

Same thing works both ways.

For now the best thing you can do is get back to The Plan: Casual Group Dating! (Check out "Bro Jo's DATING RULES for TEENS" and review them with your parents.)

Be nice to the ex (you don't want to earn the reputation as a shrew, and you don't want to burn any bridges), and don't stop praying; everything happens on the Lord's timetable, not ours; you always want to have the lines of communication open.

Take heart. It never goes away, but it does get better.

I promise.

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Unready Missionary - part 1

Dear Bro Jo,

I just found your blog and have been reading it and I've read some really great stuff. So I wanted to ask you a question, I'm not sure if this is how I'm supposed to do it but here goes.

I am 20 years old; I'll be turning 21 on (date withheld). I have had several hard points in my life recently which has shaken my faith in the gospel and in my everyday life.

I graduated in 2007 and went to college for a semester while I was submitting my papers and waiting for my mission call. I received a call to (location withheld) in December and was scheduled to leave in April. I was super excited and couldn't wait to leave.

When I arrived at the MTC I just felt overwhelmed and didn't feel like I belonged there. I came to realize that it was because I have had an addiction to pornography and hadn't completely overcome it, and also because I stole some money from work over a year ago.

After a week in the MTC I came home early to make things right. I talked to my work and paid them back the money I took and worked on overcoming pornography, but I never completely overcame it. While I was home I started having doubts about the church and read some anti-Mormon sites which basically destroyed my testimony.

I just worked and went home and played video games for several months.

I didn't completely make up my mind about going back on a mission but I was just going along with it to make everyone around me happy, but I never worked hard at building my testimony back up. I never read the scriptures and I only prayed sometimes.

After doing this for several months and not moving forward at all I finally received another mission call back to (withheld) and I was scheduled to leave on (date withheld).

I was really excited about this because I thought it would get my life moving again, but two or three days before I became super stressed and scared about my mission.

I texted a friend who is an atheist and talked to him about being scared and everything. He told me that I shouldn't go and told me why (he would never have told me this if I didn't ask him, he won't bash on the church while I'm there and he won't force me to believe anything) since I asked him he told me several strong points of why the church is false and I went along with him.

My mom could tell how stressed I was so she told me that she wanted me to go out and stay there for at least three weeks. That way I could overcome any bugs and nervousness I felt and if I felt like I shouldn't be there then I could go home. I agreed with her and told her I would do that, but I was thinking that I just have to stay there for three weeks and then I can go home.

I was planning on going home and in those few days before I was supposed to leave I didn't have any desire to go on a mission at all. After I was there for a day and stayed the night I talked to my branch president and lied. I told him that I had a panic attack and couldn't stay there anymore. I was still super stressed and scared but that wasn't really any excuse at all.

That day I called my Stake President and he was telling me that I would regret coming home for the rest of my life. I still decided to come home and my parents have been very supportive. I then went back to work at my same job and started taking some college during the semester to try to move on in my life. I signed up for fall classes but ended up dropping all of them because of the work and I procrastinated and fell behind and couldn't catch up.

So now I am just working just like I did before I went on my mission.

I guess what I am asking is, how do I move on? I don't feel like I belong in the church but I have to keep going since I live with my parents still. I want to stay a member but I just don't believe the church, that cloud of doubt stays in my mind and I can't get rid of it.

Most of my friends either live far away or are out on their missions so I feel pretty alone. I just don't know what to do, I am very lazy and can't seem to get out of my hole and move on. I mainly just work and then go home and play video games.

I want to change my life. What can I do to become a happy person who has strong faith in the gospel and becoming a hard worker? I realize that this is a very broad thing and it's all in my attitude but I am very shy and just can't seem to move myself forward.

What should I do? I'm willing to try anything,

(name withheld)


Dear (name withheld)

Email is the best way to get a hold of me.

Let me tell you upfront that I'm a straight shooter; I'll call it like I see it. If you want things sugar coated, I'm not your guy.

Secondly, while I'm not always right, I'll do my best to follow the Spirit and I'll never lie to you.

Here we go.

I think you already know what your problem is. You've admitted it to me, but maybe haven't admitted it to yourself yet.

You were unworthy to go on the mission, and you know it. You've hidden that from everyone, right?

Rather than go through the Full Repentance Process you've been telling half truths (at best) to everyone that could help you - your Branch President, your Stake President, your parents . . .

And yourself.

You've allowed Satan to convince you that accepting the atonement and setting things right will be harder than living without the blessings of the Gospel in your life. You've even searched outside the Church, away from Christ, for your answers - it's as if you've convinced yourself that if the Church is somehow "not true" (even though, let's face it, deep down, despite whatever you've read and been told, you KNOW it is) then you haven't done anything wrong, and therefore have nothing to fix.

What you've been doing is the spiritual equivalent of going to a crooked mechanic and asking him if there's anything wrong with your car. What you need to do is go to the reputable guy, the one who actually knows the truth about your car, and has no vested interest in taking your money for repairs you don't need.

So much of what you're doing with your time is about avoiding reality, do you really want to go on like that forever?

You've given up on your testimony, stopped reading your scriptures, and stopped talking to God . . . piece it together, man! That's why you're not happy! You've driven the Spirit out of your life.

Did your Stake President know about the unworthiness, the Porn Addiction, and the lying when he told you to stay in the Mission Field?

No, he didn't, did he?

You want to get your life back and your life back together - that's excellent! Good for you!

The first thing you need to do is realize that there are no quick fixes.

The second is that bringing the Spirit back in your life will be totally worth whatever you have to go through.

The third is that you need to call your Stake President immediately. You need to meet with him as soon as possible. I'm not kidding here, (name withheld). The same way that the adversary worked on you to keep a valuable missionary out of the field, he will work on you to keep you miserable.

You and I need to recognize that you were inspired to write - that means something.

Go with that inspiration!

Call today!

Wherever you are, call this guy at home, in his office, at Church, whatever you have to do, as soon as it's a decent hour to call. If you can't reach him, call the executive secretary. Can't reach that guy? Call one of the other members of the Stake Presidency.

Make a commitment - no computer - video games or otherwise (hey, you're not the first person struggling with pornography I've ever talked to - I know what the gateways are) until AFTER you've met with the man. This is IMPORTANT - TRUST ME!

Look, (name withheld), its 12:35am where I'm at - I've got kids getting up for school in 5 1/2 hours, and I need to be at work in 6 1/2 hours. I've had a long weekend, and I'm beat, but for some reason I couldn't sleep tonight. I'm sitting here on the computer and I get the email from you - I KNOW your letter is why I'm here . . . up at this time . . .

I understand that you're struggling.

You're not alone.

I need you to know that I KNOW that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us, all of us. I KNOW the atonement is real. I KNOW that through Christ you can return to happiness.

Let the idea of the mission go for now. Let's focus on getting you Spiritually Healthy.

Make the call.

Set the appointment.

And contact me any time you need.

- Bro Jo



[Readers,
Several weeks went by without hearing from this writer.  I sent an email or two with no response, then finally tracked him down on Facebook.  Look for that next exchange to be posted as part 2 within the next couple weeks.]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dealing with the Dishonest

Dear Bro Jo,

I love the advice you always give, especially since you've been able to help me with another problem before.

It isn't really a relationship question, but I'm hoping you'll be able to help me with this anyway.

I'm wondering about honesty at school. I'm always completely honest myself- I don't look off of other people's papers, or let other people copy off of mine. That second part is hardest- I don't know if it's the same everywhere, but at least at my high school, cheating that way is so much a part of the culture that people don't even think about, so it's really weird to have to refuse letting people see my homework.

Now, I just make up excuses (sorry, I already turned it in; well, I'm not sure I got them right, so you probably don't want my answers; etc.) but I still see other people cheating all the time. My friends don't even think of it as cheating, they're just "sharing" answers. It bothers me. I guess my question is, since I'm not the one doing the cheating, do I need to tell the teacher when other people are to be completely honest? I'm pretty sure that I'd be really really unpopular if I did that - obviously, that's not as important as being honest, but I don't want to be a goody-goody and tell on people for the tiniest thing.

Mostly what I do now is just try to tell my friends not to cheat and try to make it more serious for them, but they just don't think of it that way.

I know you don't usually answer questions not related to relationships and things like that, but if you had any insight at all to share with me that would be great. Thank you!

-Not a cheater


Dear Not-a,

What a great question!

Defining that line between Brother's Keeper and Snitch can be very difficult, whether it's Cheating on an exam or Cheating on a Spouse. When do you keep it to yourself? When do you tell your Teacher, Parent, or Priesthood Leader?

In any tough decision I strongly advocate talking to the Lord first. He already knows the situation, so it's not like you're tattling; besides, he's anxious to bless us, so it's a great idea to give him the opportunity (the Spirit IS called "the comforter", you know).

Then I say, unless it could be physically dangerous, talk to the person.

That takes a lot of courage, I know, but it comes with many rewards, not the least of which is Respect, both for your self and from others.

"Look, I know that you don't feel copying answers is cheating, but I do, and it really makes me feel uncomfortable when you push me to let you copy."

If you want to go a step further, you can add: "I'm happy to help you with your homework, but I can't just give you the answers; it's not fair."

You may find that standing for what's right costs you a lot of "friends". That's actually a good thing. Anyone who will turn their back on you because you stood by your principles or who will disown you if you don't do something that makes you feel uncomfortable is not a true friend.

So . . . when do you take the Third Step, telling an authority?

When is ratting someone out not violating a trust?

When you've already spoken to them and given them the opportunity to do the right thing.

"Hey, I know you stole money out of that girl's locker. If you don't return the money I'm going to have to turn you in."

Those kinds of ultimatums work best if you are willing to go the distance or provide a deadline.

"If you want, I'll go with you to the Coach while you confess. If you don't confess by Friday I'll have to go to her myself."

The "go with" thing is pretty cool, I think.

There are times you go forward without having the discussion or making the ultimatum. One is when you or the other person may be in danger. Sister Jo and I have a strict "no tattling" policy with our kids. Honestly it's annoying as a parent to have a child consistently ratting out a sibling just to get them in trouble, but it's also important to us that they trust each other and try to work things out between themselves. That said, there are certain sins that meet our "Tattle Free Exception": anything that would make a sibling un-Temple worthy, lying to a parent (about something serious, such as where they were last Friday night), or if someone's safety is threatened (as in the case of impending violence or drug use).

If your friend is going to spend some ill advised unsupervised alone time with her boyfriend and won't listen to you, you take it to the next level.

If one of your fellow priests shouldn't be blessing the sacrament and won't talk to the Bishop himself, you need to go have the conversation.

Back to your original question: in my book Cheating is pretty serious. Perhaps one thing you should consider is brining your parents in the loop, and perhaps the teacher. You can do this in an anonymous way.

"Hey, Mr. Snorkelmeyer, we've got a problem with cheating in our class; people copy off each other's homework. I'm not comfortable saying whom because, frankly, it's not my job to police the classroom, but I wanted you to know about it. I'm often pressured to share my answers and while I don't give in, the academic dishonesty is making me very uncomfortable."

And keep your own notes on stuff like this. Write down somewhere (like a journal) when and whom you talk to and about what. (Another good reason to talk to your parents; it's always nice when they're in the loop.)

If you keep it your goal to help people, and try not to embarrass anyone or be too judgmental, you'll have the greatest chance for success.

Hope that helps.

Keep up the Good Work, and thanks for reading and writing in!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Missionary Crush

Dear Bro Jo,

I've read some of your advice, and I think that you may be able to help.

So, the set of missionaries in our ward are both really cool guys. (We shall call them N and H for quick reference and to minimize confusion)
Well, my sister likes N and I like H (a little cliched, I know)
Anyways, I am a 15 year old girl and H is 19 years old and has been on his mission for a little over 6 months. (most of which has been in my ward) My family and I are really good friends with them both and we hang out with them a lot.

I have a really big crush on H, and I know him fairly well. I'm not entirely sure about the rules of writing/e-mailing a missionary while he is in your mission, but I'm sure that it's pretty illegal. I know the chances of him coming back for me are slim (at best), but I really like him, and I feel that if he weren't on his mission, we would be a very good couple.

Transfers are next week, and the chances that him and his companion will stay again are about as good as my chances of H coming back for me. (They have been here a while N for about 8 months and H for about 5.) But my heart is kind of breaking at the thought of him leaving.

I guess what I'm asking is:
What exactly are the rules for writing/e-mailing a missionary in your mission?
and
Would it be a wise idea to pursue a relationship after his mission? (if I still like him)

I know that I have lots of time before any of this should matter, but I would really like to know.

Sincerely,


The Confused Chick


Dear CC,

I'm glad you wrote, but you won't be.

The rules for writing are that missionaries may not write or otherwise contact anyone from their previous area(s) until the mission is over and they've gone home and been released. Occasionally a Mission President may make an exception, but it's phenomenally rare and NEVER is the exception made for an Elder to contact a Girl, regardless of her age. (In my opinion it's grounds for sending someone home early.)

Although I know a few people who've done it and it's worked out well, I have a serious problem with Missionaries that go back to an area where they served to date someone they met before they were released. In addition to being a sign that they weren't focused on what they should have been, I think it's creepy, especially if that person was a YW at the time.

No, you should not pursue a relationship with this man. Even after he goes home. For the love of Pete! You'll be 16 and he'll be 21! That is NOT an acceptable age difference. At a time when you should be just starting to Casual Group Date he'll be a return missionary and should be actively looking for a spouse.

If I haven't gone far enough, I think parents (particularly those with Teenage Girls) who allow the Missionaries to "hang out" at their homes and with their families are morons. You can tell your parents I said that. In fact, you can give them my email address and if they send me their phone number I'll call them at my expense and clearly explain why what they're allowing isn't "cute", it's dangerous, dumb, and possibly robbing future Church members of their opportunity to hear the Gospel.

(Can you tell that this stuff makes me a bit angry?)

Look, you seem like a nice kid, and I can certainly understand why a YW would develop a crush on a missionary, but for his sake and yours you need to cut this relationship off now.

If the two of you happen to both be single 4 years from now, and you run into each other in college, then fine: you can date then.

So . . . you know how I feel.

If you're still "confused" it's because your hormones are overriding your judgement. If you have any trouble cutting this thing off, or if he pursues you in anyway, talk to your parents and/or Bishop. If you can't bring yourself to do it, send me their information and I'll do it. I have no problem telling a Bishop or Mission President that a Missionary in their area is hitting on a 15 year old.

I'm ornery that way.

(Not that anyone has every taken me up on it . . .)

Look, you shouldn't feel guilty about how you feel, you just need to make sure that nothing happens and that you (quickly) switch your focus to where it should be.


I don't mean to be harsh, just clear.

Seriously, if you need anymore help, let me know.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Readers' Note: Readership Update

Readers Note.

Dear Readers,

As of today "Dear Bro Jo" now has over 10,000 regular readers in over 30 countries!

(You can check the Facebook Fan Page Note to see where you're are stacks up against the rest of the world.  Click HERE.)

Thanks to all of you for your readership and support.

Merry Christmas!

and God Bless,

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 21, 2009

How to Get That Great Relationship

Dear Bro Jo,

For quick reference, I'm a 16 year old girl.

Over the past couple months, I have seen my brother get married, my brother and sister get a boy/girlfriend, and my best friend's year long anniversary with her boyfriend. All throughout this, my friends have been trying to get me to go on dates and get a boyfriend.

Now this really didn't bother me until a couple of weeks ago when I was sitting next to my brother and his wife, sister and her boy, and brother and her girl. I felt so ridiculously out of place that I stood up and left. It didn't help that the next day at school I saw my friend with her boyfriend and completely felt like the third wheel. Actually in general, I just feel left out.

I want to be dating someone. I've seen the way they all look at each other and I want that. But I have no idea how to get it or what to do. I've heard you can help. Please tell me you have something.

Thanks,

-Left Behind

Dear Left,

It’s wonderful that you want to be in a relationship like the ones around you!

Trust me, you can . . . and you will.

Eventually.

You’re only 16, so you’ve got plenty of time, r – e – l –a – x!

Take a look at my “Bro Jo’s LEVELS of a RELATIONSHIP”; it’s more for YSA’s, but it will give you a good road map to understand what the sign posts are along the way from here to there.

For now the first step for you is to start Casual Group Dating, and not just “someone” (I know girls are often predisposed to the Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing, but you’re not really at that point yet – wait until after you graduate High School before getting that serious) but date Lots of Different Someones. Check out some of my other articles, like:

Bro Jo’s HOW a GIRL CAN GET a BOY’S ATTENTION


Bro Jo’s HOW a GIRL CAN GET a GUY to ASK HER on a DATE


Bro Jo’s TEN WAYS to INCREASE CHANCES a GUY WILL ACTUALLY CALL


and most importantly “Bro Jo’s DATING RULES for TEENS


Once you’re armed with all of that information, put it into practice. Talk a friend or two into getting the local boys to take you on some Casual Group Dates!

Let me know how it all works out for you.

Have Fun!

- Bro Jo

Friday, December 18, 2009

What if Your Parents Say You Can Only Date Members?

Dear Bro Jo,

I recently moved to Missouri, and the youth sizes are about half of what they are in Utah. There are about five guys my age in my ward and they're all pretty good lookin' but the sad thing is that you can't tell them apart from the non-member guys at school. They behave the same way, sometimes even worse, they all started dating at age twelve, and I have even heard them take Heavenly Fathers name in vain and let a few cuss words slip at church. The two times they actually show up to Sunday school a month, they have their phone out constantly, most likely texting their current girlfriends.

What are you supposed to do when the guys at church act worse than most of the non-member guys at school? Who am I supposed to date? My parents say I'm only supposed to date members. Sure, that was an ok rule in Utah cause EVERYONE at school went to church, it didn't really make a difference. But here, it's completely different. Do I obey my parents and only date members? (Just in case you were wondering, it's the whole stake too. Youth conference and dances are a mess.) Or do I date ok guys from school? I know not dating is an option, but I really want to date, so that option is out of the picture.

PLEASE HELP!!

Sincerely,

Undecided.


Dear Undecided -

Now I've traveled a little, and I have to tell you, kids are pretty much the same size just about everywhere . . .

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Look, I think it's OK to date non-members in Casual Group Dates so long as everyone, member or not, sticks to the rules.

But you also need to respect and obey your parents.

Let me suggest to you, though, that your parents might warm up to the idea of you dating non-members if you a) talked to them, and b) they got to know the boys you're interested in going on dates with.

Start by talking to you folks and letting them know how you feel and what your concerns are. Tell them what the "active LDS" boys are really like - they may be surprised (although they shouldn't be, every school has bad kids, and in predominantly LDS areas you can pretty much guarantee that the "bad kids" are Mormons). Discuss that you want to date. Share your concerns.

And LISTEN to what they have to say, too.

Then plan a get-together at your house. A game night, video party or something where you and your parents can get to know some of these kids better.

One more thing you can, and need, to do is to talk to your YW Leaders and your Bishopric. Don't "rat out" the bad kids in your ward or stake, but share your concerns and ask for advice. I'm curious how they'll respond . . .

But realize that no one can address your concerns if you don't share them.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New York vs. Utah - part II

Readers: A follow-up to last weeks letter from "Dateless".


Bro Jo,


Thanks so much for the reply! I love your blog and I think it's great that you are so willing to help us out. Thanks for the advice about the dances... it's a good idea (and I'm in student council... so maybe I can throw out some ideas there!). You said I needed to not come across as too judgmental - and I think I've been a little guilty of that lately. It's not like I'm judging them and making fun of them behind their backs, but I think I've been judgmental of people friendship wise, like I'll meet people, but I guess in my mind I'm concerned that if they are popular, attractive or make friends really easy that they will think I'm latching onto them. I guess I'm afraid they will think I'm annoying or something so I'm judging them by thinking that they will just ride me off and judge me. I think I'm too concerned that if I try to become friends with a lot of these people that they won't want to be my friends... or I'm just too worried about what other people think. But the thing is, I'm not worried about lowering my standards or giving in to people who try to change my standards because I've already made that an important part of my life. The problem is that I don't know how to get past it so that I can be myself and get to know others better and let them get to know me. If I'm too "secretive" about myself, it doesn't make me seem like a very fun date prospect... I feel like if I can get rid of this idea that everyone will judge me and just work on being myself and being fun to be around then I will be able to get to know both guys and girls a lot better and have more dating and friendship oppurtunities. Sorry this doesn't really make sense and it's all over the place, but thanks again for your advice!

Dateless



Dear Dateless,

Anytime, and "Thank YOU".

Let us know if you have any success from a Student Council point of view.

As for everything else you're feeling, just know that it's all totally normal. Eventually you'll become more comfortable with who you are AND more accepting of others and their quirks. The quickest way to get to that point is to continuously build your relationship with Christ through all the "typical" things: scripture study, Church attendance, and prayer.

Hang in and have fun,

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 14, 2009

Post Breakup

Dear Bro Jo,

I've just broken up with my girlfriend. Do you have any advice for those people who have recently broken up?

Thanks,
The Teen from Utah

PS
If it helps the quality of advice, I can elaborate if you want me to.


Dear Teen,

Breakups suck, even if they're a good thing (and, particularly at your age, they typically are).

Like any trial or pain in life, do your best to find the positive; try to find the blessings in the adversity.

If you find yourself suffering a lot from withdrawal symptoms one of the best things you can do is to remove the painful stimuli; take all the mementos, pictures, letters, all that stuff, and stick it in a box. You won't forget her any time soon, but you can do a lot to make the memories less vivid and often.

(Hey, man, no one has been dumped harder than yours truly - I know the pain - one girl I dated, and thought might be "the one" - because I was too dumb at the time to know any better - dumped me twice in 14 hours - and I'll bet you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who's been dumped more often than me, too)

But whatever you do, don't burn any bridges. Don't talk garbage about her at school, don't spread any rumors, and, no matter how hard it is, don't be anything but nice to her. Trust me, there very likely may come a time when anything bad you've said in the wake of the breakup will come back to bite you.

If she gets a new boyfriend, even if he's a big jerk, keep your cool; be the Bigger Man. Kill them both with kindness.

As soon as you can, get back into the mode of Casual Group Dating. Get your buddies and set something up. No more girlfriends - at least not until you come home from your mission. Keep it light. Think of Casual Group Dating like a Priest-Laurel Activity without leaders and where you have the responsibility of treating one Laurel in particular extra nice.

And, no matter how much it may sound like a "Primary" answer, it's still true: never underestimate the Power of Prayer.

I feel for you, bud. Hang in there.

I promise it gets better.

Remember: Dating Sucks; Being Married Rocks, but you can't get to the latter without going through the former.

I'm always here for you,

- Bro Jo

Friday, December 11, 2009

New York vs. Utah

Dear Bro Jo,

I came across your blog on the Facebook thing and decided to check it out and see if you could help give me some ideas on my problem.

I'm a 17 year old girl and originally from Utah and I moved to NY about a year and a half ago. Before I moved I was always friends with guys and most of my good friends were LDS. When I moved here I turned 16 and I was really excited to start going on casual dates and just get more opportunities to meet people.

The problem is, I tend to be really shy around people I haven't known for very long, so it has been kind of hard for me to get to know people really well and I haven't really gotten to be friends with very many guys. It was really easy to make friends at church because we have things in common with our beliefs and everything but there really aren't any guys my age.

The only two, in my opinion are really immature in their attitudes toward girls and I really wouldn't be comfortable even with casual dates. And there are only two or three other guys my age in my stake and I think they are all steady dating people...I really want to start dating and just have fun getting to know people, but out here in my school people just don't go on dates!

They all just "go out" like boyfriend and girlfriend and it seems like all they are after is physical relationships. I'm one of two LDS people (both girls) at my school and the only one in my grade and of dating age, unless people actually know us, they rarely know anything about our standards... I guess what I'm trying to say is in our school actual casual fun dates is nowhere near the norm, and being a girl how can I go on dates if guys won't ask. I know today girls can ask guys out, but I think the guys would think I had big crushes on them or whatnot. In my opinion, I really think guys should ask girls out and so it’s really kind of a weird position for me, especially considering I am a little shy and not very well known at my school.

The other problem is that our school doesn't have dances like Homecoming or Sadies. All we have is a semi-formal, Junior Prom, and Senior Ball and in all honesty the dances are terrible and the dancing and music is extremely inappropriate. For semi, nobody even goes with a date and then with prom and ball, I guess they are supposed to have a date, but they just go the dance and from what I hear, everyone parties afterward. Back in Utah, there were so many more dances and girls preferences... plus, they would have activities during the day and do fun things for dates so this is nowhere near what I'm used to!

I've only been on one date, and my mom (I was really upset about it) lined it up with a ward member’s relative and we ended up having a really fun time but then he had to leave, so I really haven't had any other opportunities. What can I do?!? I feel like I'm missing out on getting to know a lot of people and creating fun memories.

Thanks,

- Dateless


Dear Dateless,

It’s tough to change the local culture, especially when you’re one of just a couple people that have your same standards and expectations . . . so the most important thing you can do is to make the commitment NOT to lower your standards. You also need to not come across as too judgmental of everyone else; you need to understand that your point of view on dating is for them Very Strange.

I wish the guys in the Church (and their parents) were more sensitive to the fact that once an LDS girl hits 16 she really expects to be take on some dates by some nice guys – in our home we see it not only as a Great and Fun Opportunity, but also a Priesthood Responsibility.

(Tangent: one girl complained that she wouldn’t want to be asked out by a boy that she thought was only asking her because his parents, like Sister Jo and I with our boys, “require” him to date. Of course she changed her tune when that, and her less than friendly attitude, resulted in No One Ever Asking Her Out . . .)

As you make new friends at your new school (which you can help along by being active in extracurricular activities and inviting kids to join you for video parties and YM/YW activities), I’ll bet you find that many of the girls like the idea of actually being taken out on Casual Group Dates, with no pressure, no relationship expectations, and no physical “requirement”. Perhaps through your example they’ll begin to understand that the only difference between them and prostitutes is that Working Girls get paid . . .

And give it time; as you acclimate guys are bound to eventually ask you on dates. Respond with joy and kindness, and explain to them that you’d love to go on a Casual Group Activity as their Date. When they ask what that is, explain it in a nice encouraging way. It’s OK to date non-members at this stage. Stick to the Rules. Make certain your parents meet the boy. Remember, you’re not just Dating, you’re Educating (and learning, too!).

You’re right: Guys need to do the asking (although it’s OK for girls to do some Strong Suggesting).
Get on Student Council and help plan some Girl-ask-Guy Dances (which, by the way, still need to follow the Dating Rules), suggest discount tickets to formal dances for couples . . . be creative!

Oh, and if it means anything, I get TONS of letters from youth “back in Utah” with the very same complaints that you have in New York.

No joke.

Dance complaints . . .

Guys not asking girls out complaints . . .

Everyone seems to be in a Boyfriend-Girlfriend relationship complaints . . .

Trust me; you’re not alone in the Universe.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Killing Them with Kindness

Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks. Knowing that "the one" thing is a myth makes it easier for me to decide what to do here. I guess I've known that seriously dating a nonmember is probably a bad idea, but for some reason I felt like I'd risk the chance of losing "the one" if I totally put off dating him.

But, anyway, I'd like to throw something else your way, if that's alright.

A few months ago, a nice guy told me he was interested in me (also a nonmember). Let's call him Tyler. He's a sweet kid and he has very high standards, but he's younger than me, and at the time he wasn't old enough to date yet. I told him right off that I didn't really feel comfortable with dating someone who wasn't old enough...if I was living by that standard for myself, it made sense that he needed to be 16, too. But I was interested in him..and I told him that. Maybe that was a mistake. But that's not really the point of what I'm asking. Nothing happened between us...we were just both aware that we'd both like dating each other at some point in the future.

Turns out Tyler tells his parents a lot. So they knew about everything, and he told them how he felt about me and everything. I'm not saying that's a bad thing...just saying that's what happened. They're a Baptist family. A couple of months passed by and he came to school one day and told me that his parents didn't want him dating a girl who "wasn't Christian". I took it badly, obviously. Firstly, I'd never even met them. I was upset at the way they judged me without even having met me. Secondly, they're a very nice family. It bothered me that a family so open to all of his other friends would shut me out so easily. And thirdly, I was upset because...Mormons ARE Christians...and I felt like his parents were telling me what I believed in. I felt like they were saying, "You're not good enough for our son, because you're a Mormon."

It hurt, a lot. I felt like I was being attacked. Eventually, I decided that they were just parents trying to do what they thought was best for their son, by telling him he wasn't allowed to take interest in Mormons. (Sorry, that just sounds like an ignorant statement..ugh.) I put it out of mind, left school for summer vacation, and came back to school with a fresh start. Tyler and I are both involved in the marching band at our high school...which means we spend a lot of time together, regardless of whether we want to or not.

Taking a tangent: My sister was asked to homecoming by another nonmember boy. They're both freshmen. She told him she couldn't go, because she wasn't old enough.

Word about my sister and this boy spread like wildfire. Soon, people started to joke with him and tell him that he was the "new Tyler". It wasn't that big of a deal, but an ugly rumor cropped up. Suddenly, a lot of the younger kids in the band got wind of it. Now, a lot of them have the idea that I led him on a few months ago and then told him, randomly and out of the blue that I'd never date him because he wasn't Mormon.

Mostly, I'm just upset. I feel like my reputation has been tainted, as well as my religion. I don't know how to fix it. I can't be upset with Tyler, because he didn't start the rumor. But people continually befriend him while looking down on me for something I didn't do.

What would you tell one of your kids if they were struggling like this?

Thanks again,

(name withheld)


Dear NW,

I'd tell them what I've told them before: Welcome to High School.

People believe what they want to believe, and you can't control that any more than you can control the weather.

Sometimes people lie. Sometimes they spread rumors. Sometimes they're mean.

They do it because they're insecure, perhaps even a little jealous. They have the misconstrued idea that if they bring you down it will lift them up.

(Isn't that sad?)

Your real friends won't care what other people say, and as the rumors fly you may quickly learn just who your real friends are.

(And remember, it's better to have a few Good, Loyal, Sincere, Close Friends, than to be the most popular person in school. As you look around you for who those friends are, don't forget to count your family, your Church Leaders, and Christ.)

As you stay to your standards you'll begin to earn the respect of Good, Decent People. I know it can be difficult, but if you can learn to let the taunting of others not bother you, and try in your best Christ-like way to be kind and understanding towards those that persecute you, you'll win new friends. You may win over those that put you down, you may just irritate them more, but there's truth to the principle of "killing them with kindness". They may not come over to the Light Side, but others will see you as the True Christian you are, and they'll know the truth.

THAT'S what being a disciple of Christ is all about.

It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.

I promise.

- Bro Jo

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ah, to U-Ward or Not to U-Ward . . .

Bro Jo,

I am a 20 year old female living in Florida. Unfortunately, growing up I did not get to go on Casual Group Dates, because it seems that is not the standard around here. There were 2 Young men in my ward that were priests when I was a Laurel, and I did not even go out on dates with them. Not once around here have I seen young men ask young women on Dates (It seems to jump from the "Hi my name is..." stage to the "Let’s go steady" stage and skip everything in between.

So not heeding the advice of the prophets and my church leaders, I throughout high School had "boyfriends". Now that I am older (not by much) I see the significance in going on Casual Group Dates, and I am wondering, if I didn't "Date" in my Youth years, is that going to hinder me at all in the grand dating scheme?

Also, I am wondering if you could help me out. I attend church regularly (but not the local Singles Ward, I'm going to be honest with you, that place is scary.) I go to the dances, I attend Institute, but I do not seem to be getting any dates. Now I know the LDS population around here is not very high, but you would think that with all of the people I try to surround myself with that I would get asked on a date every once in a while.

I flirt with the YSA aged men at Institute (not that I'm particularly interested in any of them, but don't really know, I've never been out on a date with one!), I can't even get the men to ask me to dance at the YSA dances. Is there something more I should, or could be doing?

Thanks in advance

Your friend,

Too many "Boyfriends" not enough dating.


Dear Friend,

Great questions!

And "Yes" there's a lot more you should (and can) be doing . . .

But before I get to that, and your other questions, would you mind elaborating on "that place is scary"?

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo - 


lol, I just have never seen the singles ward as being a friendly place, it's very clique-ish and the few times I did go, I felt like I was alone! They don't seem to welcome new people, everyone sits with their groups (like families tend to do in a Family Ward) and they give off weird looks when new people try to join them.

Am I making any sense?


- Friend


Dear Friend,

Oh, yeah.

I only went to the "Student Ward" twice - AFTER I was engaged to Sister Jo - and I didn't like it. (Some guy actually asked her out Right In Front of Me WHILE I was holding the hand I'd placed a ring on!)

But, let's face it, if you feel alone at Church it probably has more to do with you than it does with other people, regardless of the Ward.

It may seem like a tangent topic, but I see it in "Family Wards" all the time - people stop attending because they "claim" that no one was friendly . . . of course they didn't stick around long enough to find out, and they never bothered to make friends . . . and they pigeon-holed everyone into cliques before they really got to know anyone . . . and they assume that no one else in the congregation is anything like them (which we all know isn't true) . . .

New Ward or New School or New Job, we get out of it what we put in.

Sure, you might find that the first day someone comes right up and becomes your New Best Friend, but remember: if you want to have a friend, you've got to be a friend.

And the reason I bring all of this up, Friend, is it's directly related to your main issue.

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

That's how our student ward, it's very... student-y, I don't know maybe it's the lack of maturity, but I have been attending the Family ward that I am in for some time now, I go out on exchanges with the Sister Missionaries (Am I planning on going on a mission? I'm not quite sure, we'll see what The Lord has in store for me a year from now, but I might as well do what I can to prepare), and am active in the other ward activities. 

What else could I be doing?


- Friend


Dear Friend,

There's nothing wrong with you attending the "Family Ward", in my opinion, as long as you stay active and be of service (which it sounds like you are), but you need to realize that by failing to attend the local University Ward you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

No matter where you might happen to go, you always run the "risk" of landing in a new ward where the current members are a bit stand-offish (or at least interpreted to be) towards new move-ins. These "cliques" are often the result of long term associations, hesitancy in getting to know someone new because of laziness or the fear that once you get to know them they'll just move away soon, or the insecurities of the members.

It's a perceived problem Church wide.

Remember, you have to be a friend if you want to make a friend, and like so many other things, if you want to get something out of Church and your associations therein, you have to be willing to give. According to your emails, it doesn't sound like you've given the members of the local U-ward any more of a chance than they've given you; probably less.

You need to get over your fears and start taking control of the world around you.

I think you should do that by heading back to the University Ward (they're no less mature than you are, goofy, maybe, but no less mature), but whether you do or not, there are still things you can do to increase your dating moments.

Your original question was whether or not failing to heed prophetic advice when you were younger is going to hinder your dating life now, I think you and I can agree that it has. Those High School committed relationships kept you from developing the skills that help you to get to know a wide variety of people, set up dates and come out of your shell.

So, let's jump start that and get you back on track. If the Lord calls you on a mission, great! But until then I suggest you go to work getting guys to ask you out.

Flirt. Let guys know you're available to be taken out and that, as a Daughter of God, you're worth the time and effort. Talk to single guys (again, this is easier if you're actually in Church classes with a bunch of them), and if need be tell them they should get up the courage to take you out.

Don't allow guys to "hang out" at your house. Instead give them encouragement to take you out of the house.

Oh, and I've got to say: if you don't already, learn to bake. I was about to ask out a girl I had my eye on for quite a while. She made me brownies and that just about sealed the deal. Then the Future Sister Jo made me Cream Cheese Tiger Stripped Brownies and I asked her out instead. 


There's a lesson there, Little Sister.

- Bro Jo


Friday, December 4, 2009

Dating Your Brother's Girlfriend After He Moves Away

Dear Brother Jo,

I really appreciate all that you do for LDS youth. I am confused right now about a girl, and hope that you could help me out.

First off, I am 15 and a half, and haven't dated yet.

I don't know how to put this without sounding big-headed, but girls seem to like me, especially girls from the stake.

My older brother had a really good friend, let’s call her Jan, who was pretty much his best friend throughout high school.

Jan is, in my opinion, a babe. She is a year younger than him, meaning she is a senior this year (at a different school about 30 minutes away from me).

My brother has just left for college, and I am a sophomore.

Well anyway, I never knew this girl before my brother left for college. No, my brother and her never were romantic (I understand this goes against your policy of guys and girls not being just friends), but it was more like my brother had a huge crush on another girl in the stake and she would comfort him and give him advice about what to do.

I officially met her at youth conference this summer (my brother had already left for college), and we immediately became good friends.

She has a car and unlimited gas (her grandparents pay for her gas when she hangs out with church people), and we have hung out a few weekends this year. She would usually come pick me up (about 30 minutes from her house) and drive me thirty minutes to a party with stake friends.

I understand that this seems pretty weird, but she says she has unlimited gas and that it’s no big deal.

Well anyways we text kind of frequently. She has texted me some things that could seem romantic but I see how they could also not be. For example: she said she was going to take me out on my first date when I turn 16 (but there were some lol's and haha's in there).

I got the impression that she just wanted to get me dating Mormon girls and "introduce" me to the field (just one date), she calls me love (not really sure what that means, considering my doctor calls me that too).

One time after hanging out with a bunch of friends she and I were texting and I told her my family seemed to like her, and she responded something like “good it will be easier for us to date that way jk”, which really puzzled me.

But maybe a couple of days after this we were texting and somehow we brought up the subject of what if we dated, but she responded like “no your my brother would kill me haha”.

I am really puzzled. I know I am two years younger than her, and sort of think she is out of my league (after all, she has been proposed to and asked to wait twice by missionaries about leave).

She has had a rocky life, very strained relationship with her parents for being a member of the church and being forced to live with her grandparents, unstable relationships, consequences of not choosing the right, etc. and I sort of wonder if maybe she thinks I am her own personal 'comforter', the cute younger sensitive kid (again I don’t want to sound full of myself, but to make you understand me better I added these adjectives of things I have been described before).

I sometimes think about what my dad told me before: to be careful with the girls with low self esteem, that I especially would attract them more than other young men, and I guess you could say she sort of does have low self esteem, even though she is one of the 'popular' girls at her school and liked by many (she told me once that the reason she wears bikinis is because that’s how she was raised and has never had the self esteem to wear a one piece).

Or maybe she expects me to be the replacement of my brother (he and I are a lot alike) and expects that she and I will have a relationship similar to theirs (just good friends who help each other out with problems and issues we face).

Overall I am just confused.

I guess my main question is what should I think about the relationship I have with her?

- The Brother

P.S. I'm not sure about your policy of what to post on your blog, but I would appreciate if you didn't post this.


Dear Brother,

Sorry for the delay - it took me a while to break down your letter into individual thoughts / paragraphs.

My policy on posting is that if someone asks me not to, I don't, but I'd like you to reconsider. I could change the names and fix the syntax so it's not likely anyone would figure out it's you writing, and your letter may help lots of guys in similar situations.

- Bro Jo


Brother Johnston,

Sorry about my confusing email, I'll try to keep it more organized. And about posting my question on your blog, go ahead, but please do what you talked about earlier, changing names and changing syntax, etc.

- The Brother


Dear Brother,

Thank you.

To clarify, it's not that I have a "policy" against guys and girls being friendly, it's that I'm smart enough to know that No Guy will spend lots of time with a girl unless he's somehow romantically or physically interested in her. It freaks girls out to hear that, so I often phrase it differently, saying "Guys and Girls Can't Be Close Friends without the Underlying Tension of a Romantic Relationship".

And you know firsthand that what I say is true. This girl wants to be your "friend". She looks at you as a Little Brother, a Replacement Friend. She might one day allow it to become more. If she does it will probably be because she fears losing you or she feels obligated in some way. She may find you attractive, but risking losing that "friendship" for her is not worth the trade off. For now, you're a "safe" companion; male companionship with no entanglements.

She won't understand why you can't "just be friends", nor does she understand how you feel when she flirts with you. (And, sorry to say, she may not care.) If anything, playing with your hormones probably provides her with some external validation.

She's in a tough spot. According to you, she's very pretty, and that might be the problem. Perhaps she's been praised for, and gotten so much attention because of, her looks that she wonders if she has anything else to offer.

However irrational our insecurities may seem to others, to us they're very real.

I don't think she's intentionally being malicious, but I do think she's got some serious "Individual Worth" things to work out.

Look at the bikini comment . . .

At first read people may be thinking "what the heck! That doesn't add up", but I think it's a very honest and telling remark. How can a more revealing garment be a choice based on lack of self-esteem?

Because of the reactions she gets when she wears it.

Ponder that.

Your dad is a wise man when he advises you about girls with Low Self Esteem. Listen to what he says.

Should you pursue a relationship with her?

No.

You should be friendly. And polite.

But under no circumstances should you be alone with her in a room or car or anywhere to secluded or dark. That includes no more riding in the car with just the two of you. Life is full of enough temptations without inviting others to tempt us.

Even if your brother didn't have a Romantic Relationship with her, he likely thought about it (and I’m almost certain that she did – keep in mind that she may be using you to replace him, or even to “get even” with him). You should talk to him; I'll bet he's got some good perspective and advice.

Girlfriends at your age ARE NOT a good idea. When you turn 16, go on some Casual Group Dates. You do the Planning, Paying and Picking Up. If you want to include this girl as one of your dates, that's fine, but stick to the Dating Rules.

(You can read the Dating Rules by clicking HERE.)

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

I appreciate all you have said, and it has helped clear some things out for me.

Thanks,

The Brother

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just Words?

Bro Jo-

Okay so I’m 16, I'll be 17 pretty soon.

Everyone in my ward teases me because I haven't been on a single date yet.

I've been asked on two, once I missed a call and when I returned it the boy had already found another girl. The other with a boy madly in love with my sister, and I had other plans, plus to be honest I really just would rather not date him.

It doesn't really bother me much I don't date. I just don't like the fact that everyone thinks its hilarious I don't.

It's not that I don't interact with other guys, I do, I have tons of guy friends, more than girls even. Guys regularly flirt with me. Just no one asks. Should I be wanting to date?

Before I was 16, lots of guys showed interest in me, but I turned them down because I didn't want to date before I was of age. Now it’s like no one really even wants to. Is it wrong of me not to mind?

I figure I have time to date, there isn't much rush. But I'm also wondering if there is something wrong with me because it doesn't bother me and no one asks?

Thanks.

Slightly confused


Dear Slightly,

You should date, even if you don’t necessarily want to, but you should never go out with a guy that makes you afraid or uncomfortable.

Why?

Because Dating teaches us important social skills that we can’t really learn any other way, and those social skills help us get where we’d like to be eternally. Hiding within our comfort zone typically isn’t a good thing.
It IS good that it doesn’t bother you that you haven’t been asked out much, but I don’t believe you. If you weren’t bothered you wouldn’t have written, right?

What isn’t good is the grief others are giving you. There’s a lot of power in learning how to let that stuff not bother you – in sports we talk about not letting things (like what the referee does) get to you that you have no control over – but I can certainly understand how you feel.

If I were you the next time someone said something, even in a teasing way, about you not having dated yet, I’d turn to them, look them right in the eye and say (perhaps with a bit of humor) “So, just exactly what are you hoping I’ll feel when you say those hurtful things? Are you trying to be mean, are you intentionally insensitive, or are you just oblivious and non-caring about the feelings of others?”

I don’t think people should be allowed to get away with insulting others, even if (and especially if) they’re “just doing it in fun”.

But then I’ve been told I’m a bit confrontational . . .

If it helps you can take heart in this axiom: often the best girls, the most fun, the most beautiful, the ones that are truly sweet, just don’t get asked out much in High School.

It’s true.

Guys are dumb, what can I say?

That said, the only thing “wrong” with you may be your attitude towards dating. Perhaps if you worked a bit on being more positive and acted as if you’d LIKE to go on dates . . .

Just a suggestion,

- Bro Jo

Monday, November 30, 2009

How to Have a Great Mission

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm leaving for my mission in nine days... and I am really excited!! But I have two worries that are, well, worrying me.

1. I've heard a few stories about missionaries who hated their mission, who felt that it was one of the biggest mistakes they ever made. I would like to come home and be able to say, I loved it and I did a lot of good. What makes the difference between happy RMs and miserable ones?

2. I'm going to be a sister missionary. Hopefully, a great sister missionary. But I've met the most amazing young man, and I love him very much. I get the distinct feeling he won't be around when I get back, and I feel sad to let him go. I have prayed about it, and I do know that serving a mission is the right thing for me to do right now. I don't ever want to look back and covet what I'm giving up. Is there any advice or help you can offer me? Even if I never get married, I don't want to be kicking myself 10 years from now.

I have a lot of other questions, but these are two I kind of wanted to ask you.

Thank you so much! I think the advice you give is just fantastic.

-Sister Soon-to-Be


Dear Sister Soon,

I'm excited for you!

1. Attitude is the key. A mission is WORK, hard work. Not every day is going to be Dancing Flowers and Singing Trees, but every day you serve the Lord is a Gift and a Blessing. Have a positive attitude, always look for the blessing in the adversity, be consistently grateful for the trials and opportunities, and LOVE THOSE WHOM YOU SERVE AND SERVE WITH.

Do that, and you'll be fine.

2. He probably won't be around when you get back, but right now that's not important. If you want to leave him with a letter to the effect of "I'm really happy to know you, I think you're a wonderful guy, please don't put your life on hold for me while I'm gone, but I want you to know that if you're not married when I come back I'd love to rekindle our relationship" I think that's OK.

Anyone can get married to a great person if they're realistic, willing to work hard, and ready to put someone else ahead of themselves. If you struggle with that, or how to get there, when you come back, I'll still be here; we can talk about it then.

I promise there will be plenty of Good Guys when you get back, so don't worry about it.

Thanks for the kind words, I hope you have a wonderful even if difficult experience!

(just remember that it depends on you)

- Bro Jo

Friday, November 27, 2009

Readers' Note: Dating Rules Amendments

Readers' Note: Dating Rules Amendments

With a little more experience under our belts, Sister Jo and I are considering some slight modification to the “Dating Rules for Teens”.

(If you’re not familiar with the rules, you can read them HERE.)

The first thing we’re considering is an exemption to the “no dating the same person twice in a row”, adding “unless it’s been one month since your last date with that person”. The reason for the original rule is to discourage The Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing, but it makes getting dates for formal dances very difficult and, at least with my teenage boys, we’ve discovered that in our predominantly non-LDS area many people (not just teens, but adults, too, and not just non-members, but Latter-day Saints as well) are not yet “converted” to the idea of Casual Group Dating. This amendment would makes it easier for a guy to ask the girl he dated this month to next month’s formal dance and make it easier for our boys to meet the 12 dates-a-year standard. If adopted we would add the proviso that “you can’t date the same person more than twice in a row”.

The second amendment was alluded to in the first: instead of “requiring” (“rewarding” might be a better word) our boys to date once a month, minimum, we would change that to 12 Dates per Year. Our reasoning behind that change is that some months are very easy to line up dates, often more than one, while other months just seem to have so much going on. In our family April, July, November and December are easy months for the boys to go out more than once, while sports and other activities make it difficult, even stressful, to line up dates in January, March, August, and October. The change would allow our guys to skip October, for example, and then date twice in November or December. Get it?

What do you think? Are we getting soft in our Old Age, or do you think these Amendments make a good system better?

If you’d like to comment, feel free below. If you’d like to join the Facebook discussion, click HERE.

If you’d like to comment on this post on the Dear Bro Jo column site, click below!

The Third Wheel

Dear Bro Jo,

First of all, I'm sorry if this seems more like a venting session than a question/answer type e-mail. But you have to know kind of the history behind all this before you can give me good advice. At least, that's how it works in my mind.

I'm not sure what my question is, exactly. Maybe if I explain my troubles, you'll be able to see where I'm coming from.

First of all, I'm very competitive. I like competition, the thrill of the game-usually basketball or soccer, but it can be any game really-and I don't mind getting hurt. It's not that I like to get hurt, but I feel that pain isn't as bad as it's made out to be. I even like to show off bruises and scars. I don't know if that's normal, but that's just how I am. I'm also a bit of a tomboy. I'm a physical person I guess. It's how I express myself, is through contact. I didn't start caring about what people thought of me until my junior year in high school. Even then, I liked how I was. But now I'm not so sure.

I became so aggressive because I was bullied from third grade to seventh. But we'd moved towns, and so the bullies were different. I guess I didn't realize they were really bullies until now, when I look back on it. But finally I stood up to someone, I was tired of being shy and constantly feeling put down because I was the only Mormon girl in town. So I stood up to the guy, and he left me alone. Then later I realized during our PE class that though I didn't completely understand what we were doing, I was giving the older guys a tough time playing basketball or soccer, I was just.... intimidating, I guess. As small as I am, it's hard to believe. Anyways, that's when I started to get competitive. I was always full of energy, and I'd play games with friends, but it was never really a competition to me until seventh grade. Now that aggressiveness and competitiveness have become ingrained into the fabric of who I am.

I am an actress, and I love to put myself in others' shoes. I love to find the story behind a person's life, to see why they act the way they do. In our production of Robin Hood, when I told my character's story to our cast, they all sympathized with the character, who happened to be evil. Lately I feel like I've been acting the part that I used to be. More elaboration on that later.

I also get good grades, and I like math.

I had one boyfriend in High School. Again we'd moved towns, and this time I wasn't bullied, I was accepted. There were other LDS youth, there were THREE whole wards. But anyways, my boyfriend. He hadn't graduated because of the school's political corruption, but he had his GED, and he was smart enough for himself. Now I look back and think that he wasn't everything I thought he was. Anyway, he left on his mission in April. But before that, in February, he admitted he'd cheated on me. I wasn't mad, and I don't know why. I forgave him right off. Then prom night came around.... we didn't have sex or anything like that, but we were in the car and we were on top of each other and.... passion makes us stop thinking. He was supposed to be leaving on his mission in four days. So I stopped it. He didn't feel we'd done anything wrong. I did. But I didn't want to take it to my bishop or my family, because I didn't want to see the disappointment in their eyes. I lost many a night's sleep over this. Praying and wanting to be forgiven.

Then three weeks into his mission he wrote a letter telling me he'd cheated on me again with two other girls before he left. This time I was sick of it. I'd given him my heart twice, and twice he'd ripped it up and thrown it in my face. Add to that that he didn't feel ashamed about what had happened on prom night, I was done. I told him I'd still write, but that even when he did come back, I didn't think we'd date again. He was fine with that, and asked that we'd still be friends. I agreed.

I came to college, and thought it was over. I didn't have to see the car sitting in his driveway, I didn't have to see all the places we'd been together, or even sit on the same couch where we'd spent so much time watching movies and talking. During the summer, I'd finally thought I was over it, and over him.

But something in sacrament meeting brought it back up. Just some off-hand remark made by one of my friends brought me back to that car. So I went to my new bishop. He explained to me that God had already forgiven me, I was at the point that I needed to forgive myself. I'm still not sure I have.

I was happy here at college. It's great to meet so many new people, to be able to be away from family and be able to strike out to be my own person. The thing is, I'm not sure who that is yet.

Then one of my closest friends found this amazing guy, and they started going out. I was happy for them. Sure, I was the third wheel, but I got along fine with them, and it wasn't awkward because they're not the touchy-feely type. It felt like I was with friends, and I was still happy. And then, if I needed a break, I'd go hang with one of my other close friends.

But then SHE found someone else totally amazing. Again I felt like the third wheel, even though they aren't really going out. They know they like each other, and he's an RM, but they're happy just remaining friends.
Again I'm the third wheel. This is where my acting comes in. I'm now acting the happy-go-lucky me I used to be. They don't see the lonely me. I see how happy my two friends are and I'm so happy for them, but I can't help thinking, "Why can't I be happy for ME? Why am I so intimidating that guys don't see everything?"
They see the tomboy me, the aggressive, independent, I-don't-want-you-to-feel-sorry-for-me-even-though-I'm-on-crutches me. They don't see the girl who loves to act, and sing, and dance, and read Shakespeare all night. They see aggressiveness, and independence, not sweetness, or playfulness. Do I really intimidate them because I'm smart as well as athletic?

Then I made the mistake of telling one of my friends some of this, and now she feels guilty that she's happy and I'm not. I don't know what to do anymore. She says I fit the stereotype heroine in books. The strong independent one who sweeps her man off his feet. and even though those are some of my favorite characters, I'm still harboring the desire for someone to come sweep me off mine. Like the song Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler, it's gonna take a Superman to sweep me off my feet.

It would be easier to sweep someone else off his, but first of all I have no clue how, and second, despite being competitive, I'm also shy. Mostly because I don't want something like what happened at prom night to happen again. I was afraid that night, because I liked the feeling. I liked being alone with him, feeling the passion sweep us away. And I don't want it to happen again. the few people who know about it have said that since I know what it's like, and since I'm scared of it happening again, it won't happen again because I won't let it. I'm not sure I completely buy into that theory.

So now you know my story, maybe you could give me some advice? For an independent, strong, confused, shy girl?

sincerely,

Confused in College


Dear Confused,

First of all, you need to know that lots of guys LIKE strong, independent, competitive, athletic women – I married one!

Secondly, with respect I suggest to you that you’re not necessarily any more independent than anyone else; and you need to realize that’s OK.

It’s OK to depend upon others once in awhile, and it’s Very OK to depend on Heavenly Father and Christ all of the time. You may not want to see disappointment in the eyes of you parents or Bishop, but when we truly repent of what we’ve done wrong we can be assured that, even though the guilt we feel may linger (which is some ways is a good thing), what we won’t have to endure is the disappointment in the Lord’s eyes. Instead he’ll welcome us with open arms and approval, and THAT, little sister, is more valuable than any earthly things we need to endure on our path back to Him.

Now, whether or not you still need to repent of the incident you mentioned is between you and the Lord. If you’re uncertain, then by all means do talk to your Bishop again, but my instinct is that you can trust him when he tells you that you’ve been forgiven.

Let me say a little something more about “guilt”. We’re told in the scriptures that when we’ve repented the Lord forgets our sin, not that we forget our sin. I know we often hear in the Church that if you’ve truly repented the sin doesn’t bother you anymore, and that Can be true, but isn’t necessarily always so; and, as I said, I think that can be a good thing.

Yes, it’s a sign of faith in the atonement that we are able to let the sin go, to trust in the Lord, and to feel the warmth of His redeeming love; however, we’re also supposed to learn from our Trials and Tribulations, even those we bring upon ourselves.

You may always remember how expressing your passionate feelings at an inappropriate time made you feel. While I believe that the guilt will fade over time, I also believe that it can help you stay on the straight and narrow path. By realizing you don’t want to feel that way again, you can be motivated to make correct choices.

Later in life, when you testify of the Savior’s love and the power of the atonement you may remember this time when you were personally healed. (Readers: please note that Bro Jo NEVER advocates sharing WHAT we repented from, especially in public or to young people, lest we give the wrong impression that what we did was OK because we’re fine now. Everyone needs to repent, but no one should sin with the excuse that “so-and-so” did it.)

Regarding being the Third Wheel, I think you should knock it off. You have great friends that care about you, and that’s wonderful, but return the favor by allowing them to be alone on their dates. Touchy-feely or not, you need to not allow them to allow you to inject yourself into their relationship. It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for you.

You need to find a way to trust Good Guys again. Let’s face it, the guy from the car was NOT a Good Guy; he used you (and several other Young Women). How you feel is understandable; while I often tell women that they should go out with any guy that is brave enough to ask (even if he was prodded to ask), she should NEVER go out with someone that makes her feel un-safe.  Ever.

There’s nothing wrong with putting a positive spin on how we feel, or as you say ‘acting happy”. Keep it up! I’m not saying to bury your feelings, but there’s a lot that’s attractive about someone who works at Being Positive.

Allow yourself some actually happiness, too. You sound like a fun person with lots of interests – let others (including Good Guys) into your life; let them get to know you better.

When guys ask you out (and trust me, they will), if it helps you to be more comfortable, keep the dating locations public and the timing earlier in the day. If a guy asks you to dinner at his place Friday night while his roommates are out of town (and you don’t think this is a sign he’s a Creeper), you can certainly say to him “Thank you for asking me out, but I like my first few dates with a guy I like to keep it kind of casual” (then make a suggestion, with a compliment helps a lot) “I’d love to go out with you! Can our first date be something more like a lunch date, and not at your apartment?”

If he’s unwilling to work with your request and comfort zone, then he’s not really a nice guy (or he may just be dumb). No big deal; move on.

However, I think you’re going to find that most guys, if not nearly every guy, will be happy to plan a date activity that you’re comfortable with simply for the privilege of taking you out.

And it IS a privilege!

(Sisters, never let guys forget that they’re lucky to spend time with you! And not because they’re getting “lucky” . . . that’s a bit of a joke, you know.)

If you’re struggling getting guys to ask you out, there’s a host of suggestions on the Facebook Fan Page, but if you’re still feeling very shy, there’s nothing wrong with asking one of those great friends of yours to set you up – that’s what friends are for!

If you ever need to vent again, I’m always here.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much. Between you, my bishop, and President Uchtdorf's CES broadcast talk, I feel a lot better now. I am ready to face guys again, and to let the good ones in.

Sincerely,

(name withheld)


Dear NW -

That's wonderful!

- Bro Jo

Readers you can access President Uchtdorf’s CES talk that “Confused” mentions by clicking HERE.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Church Dances: The US vs. Australia

Hey Bro Jo,

Typing from Australia here . . .

Have a few things to ask.

Over there in America do you do things differently at dances? Over here after you dance with a guy they say thank you for the dance and will, if they are shy (or uninterested :P) they will give you a hand shake. If they are really shy they will sort of wander away awkwardly and finally, if they have courage (or I suppose like you) they will give you a hug.

In my stake, all the girls (well, almost all) wear skirts or dresses. Is it the same there?

Here, leaders encourage girls to ask guys to dance because guys almost never ask girls to dance. which I find silly because you sit there waiting for this one guy to ask you to dance than some girl asks him to dance :P

Sort of less regarding the "is it the same thing" do guys actually find it that intimidating to ask a girl to dance when there in a group of friends? I can’t really complain because my group gets pretty tight but still....

It seems so awfully weird to do the things you say about dating here at least in this part of Australia. Everyone sort of knows everyone and who's interests are whose and you generally wouldn't just go out on a date with a random person just to see what there like. It’s more like here, if you like them; you ask them out on a group date with another couple.

I guess you could say we are a rather laid back group here in the great land of Aus. all the guys I know (and I know all the guys in my stake) that have had pretty long term relationships and haven't followed the dating rules totally have gone on their missions and a lot of them I’ve known are now happily married.

That’s about it. I guess you could say I’m:

- Lost in translation


Dear Translator,

Great questions! I'm glad you wrote.

I don't know if I can speak for everywhere in the US, but I've chaperoned a few dances, in and out of my own stake, and here's what I've seen.

Most kids don't dance with a specific partner unless the song is a) slow, b) a Big Band, swing-type song. There's some Line Dancing, and some songs where all of them seem to be inspired to take the floor and dance in a group. When I was a kid, many, many moons ago, everyone danced with a partner, regardless of the speed or style of the song.

Often here, particularly at the end of dancing to a Slow Song, when the song is over, the kids seem to just . . . drift apart. Sometimes they'll exchange thank yous or other pleasantries, but mostly they just ways, turning their backs to each other and then wandering off the "dance floor area" searching for their friends or something else, trying desperately to look like they have somewhere to go, and that's why they've stopped dancing with that person.

It's a bit awkward.

And it happens either because of a lack of Dancing Experience and Etiquette Education or because the Dancing Moment itself was awkward.

The latter I understand.

What is a couple supposed to do when they're dancing? Unless you're In Love, or Mutually in Like, you're can't just stand there and stare at each other . . . right? So you look off into the distance, scanning the dance floor, make faces at your friends . . .

What you're Supposed to Do is converse; get to know the person better. Many dancers think that's really difficult with someone you already know, someone you've gone to Church with since Sunbeams, but I disagree. With those you know well, you simply ask more topical or deeper questions.

For ideas about what to talk about, check out "Bro Jo's LIST OF STUFF YOUNG GUYS CAN ASK GIRLS ABOUT WHEN DANCING"; it's written for young guys, but works well for old guys and girls of all ages, too.

The other element that can make the whole dancing thing awkward is the Romantic Component. Even if you're not particularly interested in the person you're dancing with IN THAT WAY, you are standing relatively close to each other, probably touching, and typically in a darkened room . . . You're at a very self conscious age anyway, now you're mind is easily drifting to concerns over how your breath and body smell, and whether or not you look like a dork . . .

So, the answer to the unasked question "What do you do with her after the song is over and you've finished dancing with her?" is that you escort her Back Where You Got Her From. Take her hand and fold it over your arm, and walk her back. Thank her for the dance, smile, and that's it. Keep it simple.

If you're the girl and he starts to drift away, help out every girl he'll ever dance with in the future by teaching him what to do: put your hand around his arm and lead him back to where you came from. Thank him for the dance, and send him on his way. Keep it simple.

I think all Church Dances should be in Church Attire, which, to me, means skirts or dresses for girls, but here we play A LOT of fast music, and it's awkward to get your Church Clothes all sweaty, so most of our dances are one step above casual. Jeans and T-shirts are not allowed, and other modesty standards are supposed to be enforced, but frankly I don't think we do a real good job with that. My personal opinion is that dances should be much slower and semi-formal, but I think I'm pretty alone in that opinion. (Although I will say that the number one complain I hear from Young Women about Church Dances is that the boys are sweaty and smelly . . . the number two complaint I hear is about the music, but I'm not certain that's an endorsement of more slow songs.)

Here leaders push the guys to ask the girls to dance. Many of our guys are socially awkward, some even running from the room if a leader Strongly Encourages them to ask a girl to dance - now THAT'S what I call shy!

As a father and leader I tell my sons, the guys I've taught in seminary, and all guys from my ward that I believe they have a Priesthood Responsibility to Dance WITH A GIRL every slow song. Whom they dance with (and whether or not they listen to me) is of course up to them, but I look at it this way: no girl (really) wants to stand on the sidelines while other girls are asked to dance, and girls by Divine Nature as Daughters of Our Heavenly Father deserve to be put on a pedestal - we as Priesthood Holders have a God Given Responsibility to Respect and Honor Women (and girls), and therefore should never allow a girl to sit sadly on the sideline if we can do something about it.

"Man Up!" I say. Put your feelings of shyness aside and do the right thing: go ask her to dance!

(Brethren, the key is to always be scanning the room a couple songs ahead for a girl or two you'd like to dance with. You never know when the next slow song is coming up; Be Prepared, Boy Scout! And act quickly!)

So, Trans, to that end I respectfully disagree with girls asking guys to dance with them (unless it's an announced special dance or special girl-ask guy song). I think it's a mistake to let the guys off the hook, and sets a bad tone for dating, which, frankly, is what Church Dances are supposed to be preparatory for. (And you can forward this to your leaders if you want, and tell them I said so.)

Yes, guys find it intimidating to ask a girl to dance in front of her friends, but that goes away with experience. I recommend that guys approach a group of girls As A Group. Take a Wingman or two (or three, or four) and ask the whole bunch to dance.

And, to be fair, sisters you need to say yes. Unless the guy is a stalker, or scary (sincerely scary, you know what I mean), if he asks, you should dance with him. At least once.

The comments you made about what I recommend about dating being weird in Australia are comments I hear from around the world, including the States. How people act and react around each other is pretty much universal. The Group Dating you mention is Exactly what I endorse. "Bro Jo's DATING RULES for TEENS"  exists because so many teens struggle with where to start, how to behave, and developing a base plan for putting together a Good Casual Group Date.

I don't recommend pre-mission, pre-adult Boyfriends and Girlfriends because those type of commitments bring a lot of stress to otherwise very difficult years, plus it limits opportunities to get to know lots of other people and introduces a lot of worthiness risk. Do some people have High School relationships and still stay worthy and do the right things? Of course they do! But some people can fly an airplane, too, that doesn't mean just anyone and everyone should fly before they're mature enough and have taken a few lessons.

I'll bet you're not as "lost" as you thought . . .

Thanks for Reading and Writing In,

- Bro Jo


PS - A side question back to you: How many of the Return Missionaries in your area come back and marry the Girlfriend from before they left?


Dear Bro Jo,

Haha thanks for all of that. I’m a girl ;D

makes a lot more sense now. Glad the two worlds aren't so different!

We don’t have any big band or anything like that. Just popular songs of the music culture at the time (modest of course) we only dance to slow songs together.

I'd say that slim to none of them have ended up together. haha so I guess there was no point in being in a relationship for so long if they weren't going to end up together any way.

- Lost in translation


Dear Trans,

I know you're a girl!

Cultures certainly have an impact on our lives, but generally people are the same just about anywhere you go.

Isn't that interesting . . . about the Boyfriends and Girlfriends not ending up together . . .

Keep dancing!

(And check out the new Facebook Discussion about Church Dances that you helped inspire! CLICK HERE)

- Bro Jo