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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Saturday, February 28, 2009

When Flirting Becomes Abusive

Dear Bro Jo,

There's this guy at my school that I'm sort of friends with. We joke around, shove each other, and tease just like siblings.

Sometimes, anything and everything I say offends him, because he's colored and I'm white. The other day, after I had grabbed his hood to slow him down, he pushed me down so roughly, that I fell and scraped/bruised my knee on the football field during PE.

Later that day, my friend looked up the n word on her phone because I had commented on how I had heard that it meant 'black' or 'stupid.' 'I turned out to be wrong, and I said "Oh, well, I thought it meant 'stupid' or black.'" The guy was there and he said "Of which you're neither!" in an insulting way.

Me and my friend started laughing, because he'd just called me smart and white. He grabbed my backpack and threw it in the trash. He'd done it before, and my knee still hurts, even now, so I retrieved my bag and shoved the trash can on his head.

I know we are both at fault, I'm not saying I'm innocent, but should I stay away from him? My councilor and my mom say that I should, and I've prayed, but I really want to help him out. What should I do? confused but wanting to help

- Confused but Wanting to Help


Dear Wanting to Help,

Um . . . first of all . . . "tease just like siblings"? Yeah, I don't think so! We call that "flirting". Not very sophisticated flirting, but that's what it is.

The pushing is just an excuse to touch each other.

The problem is that your flirting has taken on an aggressive edge (you're getting hurt) and the "teasing" has escalated to bullying (your back pack being put in the trash). We get shy and don't know how to communicate how we feel, so we act out in inappropriate ways.

I don't think the solution is to cut off all communication. If this boy is typical, and I think he is, he'll be hurt and confused, and probably respond by being more aggressive. What the two of you need to do is TALK.

You're probably going to have to make the first move. Invite him to talk to you one on one. In that conversation tell him how you feel. The trick is to not be judgemental or confrontational. Don't use accusing language like "you do this" or "you said this", instead say "when my backpack was put in the trash I felt annoyed" or "when I'm accused of being racist it hurts my feelings because I think I ignore skin color".

If you choose words that depersonalize a situation, being less accusatory, you remove the defensiveness that can keep real communication from happening.

Once you begin real communication, especially if you both LISTEN, and are open to accepting responsibility for changing your behavior, then you'll find that choosing to feel offended will stop.

It is possible that this boy is not ready for a mature conversation. There's nothing you can do about that. If you make an honest effort to communicate your feelings about his behavior and he's unwilling to talk, or more likely, unwilling to listen, then it's time to move on.

If he continues the negative attention, don't get caught up in retaliation, that will only escalate the situation. Rise above it. If you can show that his negative behavior doesn't get your attention, he'll likely stop. If he doesn't, and it increasingly takes an annoying or violent tone, you must go to a school authority. Keep your parents in the loop, and if you know his parents, talk to them and ask for help.

What can start out as relatively harmless can escalate to dangerous if communication doesn't happen, first with him, then with others if necessary.

- Bro Jo

Is Pornography Ever OK?

Dear Bro Jo,

I overheard some adults in my ward talking (they didn't know I could hear them). They were talking about it being OK for married people to watch porn together, that it's OK because they're married. Is that true?

- Confused Teen


Dear CT,

Yikes! No! It certainly is NOT OK for people to watch porn just because they're married. The addictive nature of pornography and the way it taints a person's perception of love and sex wrecks marriages, current and future.

The justification of sin is a dangerous thing - steer clear! You're not confused - you're smarter than some of the adults you know because you question behavior that you know is wrong. Stay strong!

And, if you want to help these Confused Adults, it's time for a talk with your Bishop. Be prepared to name names; you're not squealing, you're being your Brother's Keeper, and trying to help those that really need to be helped.

- Bro Jo

Homosexuality

Dear Bro Jo,

I think I'm gay. I believe in the gospel. What do I do?

- Gay in New England


Dear N.E.,

Well, which is it? Do you "think you're gay" or are you "Gay in New England"?

Not that either will change my repsonse, I just think the contrast is interesting . . .

First of all, let me qualify my position by saying that I agree with everything the Church has said on this matter, AND I have a lot of gay friends. I'll tell you what several gays have told me: "being gay isn't something you are, it's something you do".

(boy am I going to get the letters and comments on this one)

There's no "gay" gene. That's Science boys and girls. First of all, if there was, it would by design be recessive (propogation of the species and all) and since gays can't naturally procreate (at least not unless they "cross over") "gay-ness" would have been bred out of the species centuries ago. Secondly, you control your behavior, not me or anyone else.

(side note: if you claim to believe in cross-species evolution, you know, one species into another, you can't by logic also believe in a "gay gene" - again, it's Science, boys and girls, Science!)

One good friend explained it this way: "When young gays say that they 'have no choice' and they were 'born this way', they do it as a way to break the news to their parents and judgemental heteros who can't accept that anyone would choose this lifestyle".

Chew on that for a minute.

What he was saying is that just because he's Gay, it does not mean he lacks agency. Unless it's rape, no one forces anyone to have sex, homo or hetero. We do it by choice. The label describes the action. Anyone could choose celebacy, could they not?

The confusion comes in the push for the acceptance of the life-style choice by famous people and those that believe one should not be "labeled" by one's actions (the later of course being ironic, because people who label themselves "gay" are already choosing a label - they just want to define how everyone else views that label - Chew on THAT).

News flash! A guy can be effiminate, like pink and curtains and think so-and-so is a good looking guy and not choose to have sex with other guys. Likewise, a girl can think other girls are pretty, lift weights and cut her hair short, and that doesn't make her a lesbian. The act of sex with the same gender makes you a homosexual (it's in the word, kids) not your feelings hobbies or thoughts.

And, something that certain folks hate brought up: Sex does not equal Love (oh, if only more young women would realize that . . .). You may choose to have sex as an expression of love, or give in to sex because you know the person you're with likes it, but for the most part we do it because it Feels Good. Good enough that too many people ignore the consequences of having sex with someone that is not their spouse - and there the "natural man" (and woman) can lead us in to Huge Problems. If you give in to what "feels good" (outside of a marriage as husband and wife as God requires) you invite all kinds of trouble, Homo or Hetero.

(Do I need to mention all the people that were straight, but now, later in life, are gay? Or those that were gay, but now are straight?)

If you're stuggling with sexual desires that you know are inappropriate (this goes for ALL), take the following steps:

1. Evaluate who your friends are. If we surround ourselves with those that encourage bad behavior, the tendency to give in to temptation is greater.

2. Give up the Porn. You read that right. Take your movies down to PG, stop watching inappropriate Television, and change where you surf on the net. Spend your time with Christ in the Scriptures and at Church. Gratification is the opposite of respect, and whether it's visual, actual or other, indulgence leads us from that which is holy; have some self respect.

3. Talk to your Bishop; now is not the time to be prideful.

4. Know that You're Loved, even if your behavior is not. The Lord loves you, Heavenly Father loves you, and so do those of us that are your friends.

Sex is to be saved for marriage, and marriage is to be between a man and a woman.
One last thought: love the person, even if you don't love the choices they make. I don't agree with all of my friends choices, and they don't agree with mine. We're still friends. Everyone has value, and Everyone is a Child of God.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Letter from Someone Thinking of Converting

(Readers: I received the following question the other day, and while it's not a relationship question, per se, it is from a young person. After contacting them personally, and at their request, I'm posting it here.)


Dear Bro Jo,

I am considering converting to the LDS faith, but I don’t know how to or any of the requirements to doing this. Is there any specific things that I should know about?

- unsigned reader


Dear Reader,

I think the first thing to do is to attend Church. Everyone is welcome, member or not. If you have a Latter-day Saint friend, talk to and plan on attending with them. If that's not an option, go to the Mormon.org website and click on the "Worship with Us" button. By filling out the information it will help you find a chapel and service time nearest you (world wide). It's also a great website for finding out more about the LDS Church.

If you want to learn more, the next step is to take what we call the "Missionary Lessons" or "Missionary Discussions". I've checked, and there are LDS Missionaries in your area. When you attend church you can ask anyone to introduce you to them, and they'll be very happy to do so.

You can of course learn from the LDS Missionaries without attending Church, and attend Church without talking to the Missionaries, but if you're new and want to learn more, it's a good idea to do both together. You'll probably find when you attend Church that there are people there that you already know. Either way it's a good idea to introduce yourself to people: whatever religion you belong to, it's always a good idea to make friends.

The Members and Missionaries will teach you about LDS Doctrine and answer all of your questions. You set the pace, and they'll be there as you need to meet your needs.

I can tell you that being a member of the LDS Church has brought a lot of meaning and joy to my life. Like so many things, you get out what you put in; if you approach Church with a willing heart, you'll be blessed - I promise!

Lastly, to you and to all my readers: if you have further questions about this, or any other topic, I'm always here for you. I answer lots of questions that I never post, so you can always let me know that you want to keep the discussion between us, and that's exactly how it will be.

- Bro Jo

Getting Motivated

Dear Bro Jo,

Being a guy who (if i do say so myself) knows how to treat a woman (and for that matter how to court a woman) my question is: how do you regain motivation to continue the effort of courting (or for that matter just dating for fun) after a slump that's left you not so thrilled at the aspect of trying, just to potentially fail again?

And what are some possible things to do to prevent falling into a slump when you have failed to do what you know you need to do to pursue a relationship, and consequently been placed in the just friends category?

-Sincerely Complacent as Single


Dear Complacent,

No you're not.

I don't think you're "complacent". I think you're motivated enough to realize you don't want to stay single, or you wouldn't have written the letter. And that, my friend, is Good.

I had an uncle who once suggested to my cousin and I that when asking a girl out "the worst thing she could say is no". That wasn't motivational! "No" sucks. Once you finally muster enough courage to ask a girl out the prospect that she might say no is The Worst thing imaginable, right?

Of course the way she says no could make it even worse . . .

I've had girls LAUGH OUT LOUD when I asked them out; boy did that blow.

And LDS girls aren't necessarily any better than anyone else. Oh, sure, there are lots of nice ones, but not all!

Trying to belay the fears of my oldest son at his first Church Dance I said "Hey, this is a Church Dance; any girl you ask will dance with you". So when he finally got the courage to ask a girl to dance for his first time what does she do? SHE WALKED AWAY.

Looked him dead in the eye, turned around, and walked out.

No joke.

He looked back at me stunned. I was dumbfounded.

When he came back and we discussed it, we came to the only conclusion we could: some girls are dumb.

(OK, she may have been shy, or suddenly realized an immediate bathroom need; she may have even been just plain mean, but all of those reasons are her problem, not the boy's; he needed to find a reason to try again)

So the next slow song he went up to a different girl. This time, and almost every time since (not every time, almost every time) girls have said "yes".

So what can you do to break out of the slump? What can you do to escape the "friend zone"?

I submit to you that both problems have the same source and therefore the same solution.

The first thing you need to decide is that you're a Man of Value, and you Want to Find A Wife. That's your mission, should you choose to accept it.

Once you make those decisions, you'll realize that you don't have Time to be in the "friend zone". Stop "hanging out" out girls' houses, you don't have time. When a girl drops the "let's be friends" garbage on you, counter with: "that sounds nice, but I'm looking for an eternal companion, I need to spend time with girls who see me as a possible husband. If you change your mind, let me know".

And MOVE ON.

(BTW - you may be surprised how many girls realize that if you're not always going to be there as a "back up" that they should move you to the front of the line)

Seriously. Finding a spouse is like finding a job. You're not going to do it sitting around home or hanging out with your friends. You've got to line up as many interviews as possible. If you're out of work you should spend a massive amount of time trying to get hired. Not married? Time to dust off the resume and start applying.

You're going to fail. Trust me. I've failed more "husband interviews" than anyone you'll ever meet. None of that matters because once you get hired, it's Forever. Plus, and if this doesn't motivate you I'm truly sorry for your future spouse: Sex with Your Own Wife is Really Great!

So is kissing, and talking, and holding hands, and presents, and dinners together, and everything else!

Now shake it off and go call a bunch of girls until you've got five dates lined up. Seriously! Go start calling right now. Break out the Ward List. Have friends set you up. Crack open the phone book if you have to.

I mean it! Stop reading and go call!

Go on!

Go on!

This message will self destruct in . . .

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dating Non-Members

Dear Bro Jo,

As a member who dated predominantly nonmembers all throughout high school, I was wondering what your thoughts were on that whole concept. What are your thoughts on dating nonmembers? What do you think are some pros and cons of dating nonmembers? How do you know if its a relationship that you should pursue, or when it is time to steer clear?

- Just Curious


Dear JC,

I have no problem with my boys asking out, and my daughters going out with, non-members in High School so long as the Dating Rules are followed.

That includes the Church's recommendation that dating start after your 16th birthday. (Both of my High School aged boys have been asked out by not-yet-sixteen year-old girls, and have politely said "thank you, but I can't go out with you until you're 16. I look forward to taking you out then")

I think things get muddy when we start talking about "relationships". If you follow Bro Jo's advice that High School dating should be "casual", and avoid the boyfriend - girlfriend thing until after graduation, then that problem is solved!

I know that relationships "happen" in High School (for a variety of reasons, BTW) but now that you're out of High School, wouldn't you agree it's a bad idea? Yeah it's nice to have someone in your life that affirms your value, but as we all know, the longer a relationship, the greater the pressure and likely hood that things are going to go too far (you kids know exactly what I mean).

So the next question: Is it a good idea to have a "relationship" with a non-member after High School (for girls) or after Mission (for both)?

Nope.

Look, bringing up children in a mixed faith marriage is tough. You've got to work as a Parenthood Team, and if you're not both on the same page about Sunday Meetings, Baptism, Scouts, Priesthood, Activity Days, Young Men and Young Women, you're going to feel alone . . . a lot.

Do some people make it work? Absolutely. Do some spouses eventually convert? No doubt. And more power to all of those couples; I respect and admire them for what they're able to accomplish, but every single one of them will tell you they wish they'd been of the same faith from the beginning. Every one.

We need to remember the purpose of One-on-One Exclusive Dating: it's to find a spouse! When you hit that point in life you should date as much as you can, looking earnestly for someone you can spend eternity with.

But you're wasting your time if you stop dating everyone else and focus all of your time and energy on one person who has no intention of ever stepping through the Temple Doors.

Many of you get frustrated that there aren't many LDS Singles in your area, or that the quality of those singles is "less than choice" - I totally understand. Let me say this: in every bad bushell there's at least one good apple; if you can't find a good one, look harder.

Sisters read my columns on getting guys to ask you out, and Brothers, get off your lazy Xbox-playing rear-ends and take these good Sisters on a date - NOW! Too shy? Read my columns on getting up the courage and MAKE A MOVE!

In every area there are quality LDS Singles - get active in your ward! Be the type of spouse you're hoping you marry some day (Involved, Worthy, Kind, Active - and, expecially for guys, EMPLOYED).

If that doesn't solve things, hey, you're young; get over your biases and move to Provo or Rexburg.

Side note: Sisters, let me be clear: guys will say lots of stuff to keep you in their lives (especially if they're getting something physical - anything physical - out of the deal) that they may or may not mean.

Even the best guy

May be willing to lie

To a young miss

So he'll get a kiss

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Little Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

You mention that you dated a lot, care to explain?

- Just Wondering


Dear Wondering,

Well first of all, this column is for and about the readers, not me, but fair is fair I suppose. It's not like I can blame you for being curious about my obvious charm and magnetism!

(no one will roll their eyes more at that last statement than my wife)

My first official "date" was my Sophomore year of High School. From then until I became engaged just a couple years later I dated somewhere between 50 and 60 different girls (it's too long ago for me to remember accurately), most of them more than once. One Christmas Break I went on 12 dates with 11 different girls (the one girl that wouldn't go out with me that break I eventually married - I'll let you draw your own conclusions).

There were lots of girls who I wanted to ask out but never did, usually either because my buddy liked them or because I was intimidated.

(truth? it may be that I dated a lot because I was lonely, because I was insecure, or because I got unloaded more than a Tonka truck in a public sand box)

And, to answer your unasked question: yes, I did keep a journal of whom I went out with when, where we went, and what we did on our date. None-the-less I did have a couple awkward moments seeing the same movie more than once (and not being surprised at the ending) and waitresses required a sizable tip to not spill the beans with a well placed "didn't you order that yesterday when you were here with that other girl?"

Other than my spouse I never "exclusively dated" anyone for more than 11 weeks. It took a lot of work to get my first date with the future Sister Johnston, and even more work to get the second date. We still go out often. She's absolutely worth the effort; then and now.

- Bro Jo

Dating Rules for Teens

Dear Bro Jo -

My high school age son loves your blog! I heard somewhere that you have a list of dating rules for teens, will you post that here please?

- Bozeman Mom



Dear Mom -

I'll do more than that: I'll list the rules here but I'll also post them permanently on the side.

For the most part we follow the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet from the Church at the Johnston home, but we've added some specifics. The list changes as we (and our children) gain in experience.

- Bro Jo


Johnston Family Dating Rules (for Teens)

General
  • Date in groups of 2 or more couples minimum, 3 or more couples is recommended
  • Pick Up boys first, then girls; drop off girls first, then boys
  • Be clean - literally and spiritually
  • Plan must be pre-approved by the Parental Committee
  • Borrow a Cell Phone from Parental Committee - for emergency use only
  • Only date people Mama and Papa have met (a pre-date meeting may be needed)
  • Don't flirt with another person's date - you can go out with them next time - focus on the person you're with
  • Remember why you're dating: to get to know someone better, to discover what type of person you like to spend time with, and to practice this important social skill
  • First Date is with Opposite Sex parent - prove that you're ready
  • Keep the conversation going - spend more time asking questions than talking about yourself
  • Focus on your companion - DO NOT TEXT YOUR FRIENDS WHILE OUT WITH SOMEONE ELSE - it's rude and, well . . . lame
  • No dating the same person twice in a row

Boys

  • Home by 11:30pm
  • Plan / Pick up / Pay
  • Plan communicated to date - no surprises!
  • Sisters deserve to go out with decent guys regularly, be one of those guys
  • Chivalry isn't dead - show respect by opening doors
  • It's scary to call, get over it (practice), it's your job to phone
  • Be prepared Boy Scout: make sure the car is clean and has gas, be familiar with where you're going, have enough dough
  • Keep dates simple and not too long
  • No gifts (keep it casual)
  • Meet the parents
  • Minimum of one date per month

Girls

  • Home by 11pm
  • Know what's planned - and pre-communicate that plan to your parents
  • Dress Modestly
  • Teach your date that you deserve to be respected (make him open doors and insist that he use proper language)
  • Don't call boys - make them call you (this is a respect tool)

Exceptions

  • Formal Dates (like dances) can extend the curfew 30 minutes
  • Flowers may be an appropriate "gift" for formal occassions

Rules for Parents

  • Set the Example (married parents should be dating weekly)
  • Know your kids' friends, their dates and potential dates
  • Communicate Expectations
  • Help to Plan Ahead - especially in the beginning
  • Discuss the Plan - offer council when asked, but don't take control
  • Review the Rules
  • Pray
  • Don't Spy (if it's your date night too, go somewhere else - and get home before your teen)
  • Wait Up - near the door, not in your bedroom
  • Debrief - Discuss the date with your teen when they come home, before everyone goes to bed
  • Be positive and encouraging
  • Don't "arrange" dates for your kids with other parents - if the kids find out it'll be bad

Monday, February 23, 2009

Too Much Date Showing

Dear Bro Jo,

What do I do if when I pick up my date she's dressed immodestly?

- L.A. Good Guy


Dear Good Guy,

If you're college age, say:

"Wow, you sure look great! But to be honest I'm a little uncomfortable with what you're wearing. I'm already attracted to you; I'd like to get to know you better as a person, and with you wearing that, well, I'm just not going to be focusing on the right things. I hope you don't think I'm being weird, but would you mind changing into something more modest before we go out?"

See? You're making her feel good about her appearance, and at the same time telling her that she doesn't need to dress that way to make you like her - you're a man of quality and you're interested in more important things (girls dig that).

If you're in High School you could try the same conversation, or, if you're really bold (and since you're casually dating anyway, what the heck) try excusing yourself for a minute and asking to talk to her dad (or her mom if her dad's not around) and say this:

"Hi, Brother so-and-so. (you can use Mr. if you're more comfortable) Can I ask you for some help? (dads dig that) I'm really looking forward to taking out your daughter tonight, but, well, I don't know if you noticed what she's wearing, but it's a little immodest and it's making me uncomfortable. Would you talk to her please?"

Say THAT to a dad and you'll be known as a "Good Guy" for life.

Frankly, I wish more dads would pay attention to what their daughters are wearing . . . Dads, your daughter dressing cheap doesn't make you cool, and moms, boys thinking your daughter is "hot" (or popular) does not mean that you're sexy too.

By the way, if the girl refuses to change, be prepared to suggest that you cancel the date and reschedule for another time.

That'll teach her.

- Bro Jo

Peek-a-boo

Dear Bro Jo,

There's this girl at work, she's very sweet and very pretty. She goes to one of the other student wards here at school. At work she wears stuff that's not necessarily inappropriate, but she's always bending down and stuff. I can't stop looking down her shirt. She wears low-ride pants too. I like her and want to ask her out, but I feel guilty for checking her out. Other guys here have noticed and they say stuff. I don't like what they say or how they look at her, but I'm looking too. I want to tell her, but then I don't want to tell her, and I'm afraid she'll think I'm a bad guy.

- Can't Stop Looking


Dear Can't,

First of all, it's not that you "can't", it's that you "won't". Right? It's not like you're hiding in a closet every time she comes by. I understand. I've meet with more than one woman where I've had to hold a piece of paper up while I talked to her.

No one expects you to go to an art museum and not notice the sculptures . . .

Secondly, it's OK that you like to look at girls. If it didn't come so naturally, I'd recommend it. Noticing is one thing; gawking is another.

Those feelings and drives are what we call "the natural man", and you may be beginning to understand why he's an enemy to God - not feeling too Holy when you're looking, are you? (Happy, maybe; but Holy? No.)

While it's good to be physically attracted to women, it's not good to use their immodesty for your gratification. You've got to tell her because you need to be able to respect her, and if you care about her in any way you'll want her to be respected by the other guys as well. It's going to be difficult, but if you don't tell her, you're going to have to avoid her, leaving her to associate only with guys who are less quality than you are; and what's that going to get her?

Ask her to have a private conversation. Here's what you say:

"This is difficult and a little embarrassing for me to say, but I want you to know how important it is for me to respect you. I think you're a good person. You often wear clothing at work that encourages guys to look at you in ways that are, well, not professional."

If she doesn't get it, be blunt:

"When you bend over in front of us we can see down your top, and the pants you wear often show us your underwear".

Be honest, but not judgemental or demeaning, and don't add any comments or commentary. We often talk too much, especially when we're embarrassed.

She may be grateful. She may be embarrassed. If she's neither, get the heck out of there!

I don't know why some girls reveal so much. Maybe it's fashionable. Maybe they're clueless. (Sisters, never wear any outfit if you haven't done the "bend-stretch-twist" test in front of a mirror - ask a friend or family member for help if you can't see all the angles)

Some women never get it (I've had to change seats at more than one sporting event because some lady in front of my family "wanted" to show us her thong - the evil side of me wants to carry a roll of pennies to these events to see how many coins can be tossed in before these gals clue in) and some are doing it fully aware and they like the negative attention.

Girls, every guy over ten-years-old that you pass will look at you. Get over it, that's just the way we're wired. Do you want us to think you're slutty or sweet? You'll have much more control over that than we will, and even though you may think it would be fun to be thought of as "sexy" once in a while, know this: no man will ever love you if he doesn't respect you, and no one will respect you if you don't respect yourself.

As for dating this girl, have the conversation first, then wait a couple days. IF the conversation goes well, and her attire adjusts, and she respects you for respecting her, by all means ask her out! By talking and waiting first, then both of you can be assured that you're asking her out because you like her AS A PERSON; yes, she's attractive, but you're not just asking her out to get more peeks at her cleavage.

If she doesn't change (or won't), or whenever you're in this position again (and unless you join a monastery, you will be) master the discipline of looking someone in the eyes when you speak. It's a very valuable skill.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kissing

Dear Bro Jo -

I'm a girl in High School. Is it OK to kiss my date?

- Sixteen in Belgrade



Dear Sixteen -

On behalf of your father: No! It most certainly is NOT OK for you to be kissing your dates!

Now go to your room until your father has picked out a nice husband for you to take to the Temple!

(Now that Bro Jo is married and has children of his own, he's a big proponent of arranged marriage and has tried to convince his daughters that kissing is for Honeymoons and Husbands are picked out by fathers)

Alright, let me put on my Serious and Honest hats: kissing is pretty cool. I love kissing my spouse (stop making sounds and faces, I can hear you readers from here).

Let's talk about what kissing means. If it doesn't mean anything to you, if you've become that worldly and desensitized, I feel bad for you. How sad!

Kissing in western culture (and because of Hollywood, now most of the world) is a sign of love and affection. One fellow parent teaches her daughters that kissing is a sign of commitment (although I don't think she knows how much kissing her girls do), and she's right: when a relationship has reached a level where you're comfortable touching lips and swapping spittle (and germs - that's a fact of life, you know, we're not just talking "cooties" here), you're saying something more than "hey, let's be pals".

The troubles arise when our kissing is driven not by commitment (because of our age or place in life) but by passion. If MJ is the gateway drug to everything else, Kissing is the gateway drug to sex. It's exciting, it feels nice (when done properly), and it gives you the sense (although often incorrectly) that you have value. If someone is kissing you, the MUST like you, right?

(not necessarily - they may just like kissing - and that's not good)

Passion is good - in a marriage. Passion is dangerous before marriage.

I know High School kids are going to kiss, I'm not THAT old, but keep it special, would you please?

Don't kiss everyone you go out with, don't get caught in make-out sessions, and don't ever forget that while we kiss people we love, somebody trying to kiss us does not mean they're "in love" with us (and if it does, that may not be a good thing at this age). And stay a kid for just a while longer - believe me, childhood will be gone WAY to fast: you don't want to be in a relationship so committed in High School that you're kissing between classes.

(Note to both YM & YW - there's a lot of GOOD kids out there that will lose interest in you if you become one of those people with serious - and that includes public kissing - relationships in school. Want to date lots of different people? Stay out of the serious relationship)

One Bishop I know advises youth about kissing this way:
  • never on the first three dates (and never date the same person without three or more different dates in between)
  • never in a car
  • never where you're going to be alone for a very long time
  • if you must, make it the "at the door drop-off", under the porch light, afraid any moment your dad may open the door, and keep it short
Now, for those of you that are older, post-mission, ready-for-marriage readers, I've got a different set of rules and advice . . .

- Bro Jo

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Pre-Mission "Freshpeople" Dilemma

Dear Bro Jo,

You've said that "mutually exclusive" is what you want post mission, and open, fun "hanging out" in high school, but what about pre-mission freshpeople? Is it better to start getting experience in steady dating, or to avoid heartache that may come as a young man prepares for a mission?

-Transitioning in Swaziland



Dear Swazi -

Ah, the man in the middle question. I've had guys tell me that being a Freshman at an LDS college is either the worst year or the best year. Seems that either no one wants to date him because he's going to be gone in a few months or he's very popular for casual dating because, well . . . , he's going to be gone in a few months.

As a "glass is half full" guy myself, I'm going to go with the "very popular" choice: keep dating, but keep it casual. When I was your age I believed that there was only one girl out there for me, but if that were true the odds of finding her in this great big world would be nigh impossible.

(Perhaps this is why so many LDS Singles stay single for so gosh darn long - rather than recognize the possibility that the person they're dating will make a wonderful spouse, they keep searching for "perfection", as if, you know, they themselves were perfect . . . but I digress).

Ergo, if there's more than one girl out there for you, no need to do any serious searching (or make any serious commitments) pre-mission. Single-dating is OK, but be upfront about your status: you're there to have fun and get to know someone a little better, not form an Eternal Partnership. Be prepared to cast this fish back into the sea. You can go fishing again when you get back and, should you hook her again in two years . . . well that's a different situation, isn't it?

Have fun; avoid the heartache. If that means you don't get a lot of dates Freshman year, that's alright, because in two short years when you get back, my friend, you'll have to beat 'em off with a stick! LDS girls dig RMs!

- Bro Jo

Two side notes:

1) Girls, shame on you if you're trying to lock a pre-missionary into a commitment; it may be the dumbest thing either of you do. Yes, I know that a great many prominent Latter-day Saints had pre-mission commitments, but two years is a long time for a single girl to not date or for either of you to expect that the other won't change. For every "Other Side of Heaven" story there are five "couples" that didn't happen. If you happen to still be available when he gets back, look him up, but don't wait around doing nothing.

2) To clarify, I'm not an advocate of boys and girls only "hanging out" once they reach dating age (16). Get togethers and parties are fine, and encouraged, but dating still needs to happen, in groups, as prescribed. Pair up but don't be exclusive, it's part of the training.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dating on Valentines Day

Dear Bro Jo -

I'm in High School. What's a good date for Valentines Day?

- Happy in Utah Valley



Dear Happy Valley -

Nothing.

Seriously. Don't go.

You're too young to give a girl the impression that you want that much romance in your relationship. Plus you haven't planned far enough ahead. Go out the weekend after. Much safer and much smarter. Keep your High School relationships simple.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentines Day Gifts

Dear Bro Jo -

I've been dating this girl exclusively for two weeks, what should I give her for Valentine's Day?

- Not Sure I'm In Love


Dear Not Sure -

Ordinarily Bro Jo has a strict "no perfume", "no clothes", "no make-up" policy when it comes to giving girls gifts, but that's because I've personally messed up with each of those - perhaps that's a column for a different day . . .

Valentine's Day presents a special set of dilemmas because our culture uses it a relationship defining moment; that's why so many single guys see it (correctly, I might add) as a lose-lose situation. You feel this pressure to get the right thing. You want this girl to know you're still interested, but not have her picking out china patterns and reception halls; you want her to know you like her, but not scare her into thinking you're more ready to commit than she is, right?

Communication before the Holiday would have been helpful, but let's face it, it's not as if every time a girl says "don't get me anything" that's what she really means . . .

Here's the deal: if you two really are "mutually exclusive" - recommended for post-mission LDS guys, and strongly advised against for you pre-mission types - then you do have to give her something.

Flowers are always a safe bet, although you need to be prepared to be gouged at the register. Keep the quantity and color indicative of your place in the relationship. Engagements call for Roses and lots of them(one dozen or more) , and they better be red (unless she's told you of a different favorite flower or color). Back down from there. At only two weeks of serious dating, unless this is a girl you've known for a long time, thus advancing the seriousness of the relationship, at two weeks I'd say Single Red Rose is OK, or a bunch of "Spring Time" colored mixed flowers.

If you're on a tight budget, or the local flower shop is requiring you to fill out paperwork for financing the bouquet, try your local grocery store or a good alternative "two week dating" gift like a handwritten letter (no text messages, you losers) expressing your appreciation (keep it short and simple, Casanova) or a small present that reminds you of her (not her of you).

Best of luck,

- Bro Jo

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why Aren't All Mormons the Same?

Dear Bro Jo,

I recently moved to Utah for school. The members of the Church are so different here! I can't wait to live outside of Utah again. Am I too judgmental?

Sincerely,

Stuck in SLC


Dear Stuck,

Yeah, you're being judgemental.

But I understand.

Latter-day Saints who've only every lived in Utah, or who've never lived inside the Zion Curtain, don't get it, but the Culture of the Church is not same everywhere. Anyone who tells you there's no cultural difference is, well . . . let's just nicely say that their faith blinds them to certain realities. Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .

(For those that are wondering, the "curtain" is bordered by Boise on the West, Rexburg on the North, St. George on the South, and runs to the Utah-Colorado border on the East)

I joined the Church in California, lived in Salt Lake City for four years, and now I live in Montana, so I know whereof I speak. A sister and I were discussing that very thing today, and I'm not certain that I can precisely define what it is or why it is. She suggested that when you live in a predominantly Mormon area you don't feel the need to bond with like-minded, same-standard individuals the way you do when you're the minority religion, the way you are at other schools. That results in a day-to-day detachment that the Saints in Utah often treat each other with. In an area where everyone is LDS (or at least the majority are) being a member of the Church isn't special, so it seems to be valued less. In fact, I think it leads to an anti-Church attitude, even from Latter-day Saints, that you don't notice much anywhere else.

At my sons' high school they're treated differently by many students because of their religion. Does anyone at Orem High School ever point out that a particular student is a good guy simply because he's LDS? No, of course not; all the kids are LDS, even the "bad" ones.

Outside the Zion Curtain we don't take for granted that everyone approaches every issue with our same bias, and, whether out of necessity or because we're missionary minded, we tend to be more open to the perspectives of non-Church members.

Those aren't just opinions, folks, they're facts.

That said, I really enjoyed living in Salt Lake City, and I wouldn't be surprised if I moved back some day. Sometimes it's nice not to be the only one around talking about Church at work on Monday mornings.

For those of you moving in or out of Zion for a period of time, try not to be too judgmental. We all bring to the table our own experiences and biases; or lives will be enriched if we look for and acknowledge the uniqueness of individuals rather than categorize everyone into one large cultural mass.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why Won't Boys Ask Me Out?

Dear Bro Jo -

I think boys think I'm hot, they keep asking me for my phone number, but they never call. When I finally call them, they don't ask me out, they just want me to come over to their house and hang out. I go over and we watch a movie or I watch him and his friends play video games, but he never asks me out. I think these boys like me, or they wouldn't ask for my number, right?

Confused in Missoula


Dear Confused Miss -

OK, there are several issues here.

First of all you need to stop acting dumb. I'm not saying you are dumb, but you're doing some pretty stupid stuff. You're not being dated because you're a hang out buddy; you've put yourself in the position of being the make-out safety net - why go out and work for a girlfriend when, if he ever gets around to thinking he wants one, and if no one better than you comes along, you'll be there waiting in the Living Room?

You may be thinking "that's ok with me because then he'll finally be my boyfriend" . . . yeah, you're wrong there, too, kiddo. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but if he doesn't have to work to earn your affection, you be miss "ok for now" not "miss right", it doesn't matter how "hot" you may be.

Why should some guy ask you out if you're conveniently at his home anyway? Why go out to a movie if DVDs are delivered to your door for free?

In "The Old Days" guys used to spend several dates trying to figure out how to "get the girl back to his place"; you're eliminating the need for all that work. Why woo you if you're just going to hang around waiting for his friends to go home so he can try to smooch you (if he ever has the courage to do so)? Even if you're not "putting out" (and I really hope you're not THAT dumb), you are easy. Have some self respect!

The second thing you need to realize is that, while it takes a bit of courage to ask a pretty girl for phone number, some guys collect numbers like Baseball Cards (does anyone collect Baseball Cards anymore?). Asking you for your number is all the courage he's got. True, he wouldn't do it if he didn't think you were attractive enough to impress his friends (that's an article for another day), but if he doesn't call it's because he's just not "man enough" yet. You're right, he wouldn't ask you for your number if he didn't like you, but You calling Him is not going to suddenly make him more mature.

My wife refused to call boys when she was single, including me. I don't think she called me one time until we were engaged to be married. She understood the value of making boys work. We value more the things that take effort.

Clearly you think you're attractive, and I'm sure you are, and that's good. Now you need to start acting like you have Value. Those, my friend, are two different things.

Not just on dates, but all the time, everywhere you go. No man will ever love you if he doesn't respect you, and he'll never respect you if you don't respect yourself. You can quote me on that.

If a boy asks for your number but never calls, he's not ready to date a girl of your caliber and worth. If he does call and wants you to come over and "hang out", tell him "No". Parties at his home with lots of people are one thing: that can be a nice low-pressure way to get to know someone better and decide if you want to date them. Hanging around and doing "not much of anything" is a bad idea on oh-so-many levels. As the wife says "Once you become a Buddy, you'll never be the Girlfriend even if he treats you that way because you're convenient or he just wants to pass the time until someone better comes along".

Tell the guy that calls and wants to "Hang Out" that you're not looking for a buddy; if he wants to date you he can call again. You'll be surprised how demanding a little well-deserved (you are a daughter of God, right?) respect goes a long way.

By the way, a great tool for teaching a boy that you deserve to be respected is to require him to open doors for you on your date. Show him that chivalry is not dead, and that you expect him to be the man and you to be pampered. When you get to his car, or where ever you're going, stand by the door and wait for him to open it (stand enough out of the way that it's clear what you want and he doesn't accidentally bean you with the door). He may not clue in until he's inside and you're not (I've know some guys to actually drive off without their dates), and he may act incredulous ("What are you doing? Get in the car!") but hold your ground ladies! Respond by sweetly saying "aren't you going to open the door for me?"

If he refuses, you might as well turn around and go back inside, this guy is not ready to treat you well. If he capitulates, well then, NOW we're courting!


For those of you boys and girls who read the column and are still in High School or pre-Mission, now is not the time to be looking for a serious relationship, but the rules of respect still apply. There's nothing wrong with practicing them now.

I know several of you (especially the Young Women) think you have lots of opposite-sex people in your life that are "buddies" (I'm sure I'll get a chance to address the "men and women can't be friends" thing in a later column), but the dangers of "hanging out" still apply and the need for self-respect is no less important just because you're under 18.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How Do I Know?

Dear Bro. Jo. -

How do I know if the girl I'm dating is the right girl for me to marry?

- Unsure


Dear Unsure -

Way to help me christen the blog with an easy one - NOT!

Many Latter-Day Saints have this vision that they'll be walking through Temple Square with the girl of their dreams; they'll pause for a moment by the reflecting pool, and then suddenly the clouds will part, light will shine down and encircle them, and The Voice of God will boom "Thou hast chosen well! This is the one that thou shalt take unto the Temple."

Angels will sing, flowers will bloom, and trees will dance.

Almost never happens. If that's what you're waiting for, you're going to be single a long, long time.

Yes, you should pray for confirmation when making any big decision, but remember the principle that "information preceeds inspiration" (you may have heard that once or twice before).

First of all, you need to actually be dating. Remember the talk from a few years back? That means: "Plan, Pick Up and Pay". Hanging out won't get you there.

Assuming you've already gone on several dates with this girl (if you haven't, you're asking this question way too soon Turbo), then my next question is: "how's the conversation going?" Eternity is a long time to spend with someone you don't like to talk to. I know you think she's "hot" (and that's nice), but you need someone that you'll be able to tell your hopes, dreams, goals and fears.

Have you talked about the important stuff? Children? Quantity? Timing? Where to live? How to live?

If the two of you haven't talked about marriage, you're not ready to propose, and she's not ready to answer (even if she thinks she is).

One more thing to ponder: "do you like doing things together?"

No, Captain NiCMO, put the hormones aside, that's not what I meant.

Do you both like the same kinds of movies?
Are you both indoors people or outdoors people?
Do you fight about politics or share similar views?

Look, I'm not saying you need to marry your clone; I am saying that life comes with a lot of hills and valleys, it's best to pick someone that you can enjoy the journey with.

Sister Johnston and I are both opinionated people. I knew she was the right person for me because no matter how much (or how loud) we disagreed, I still couldn't imagine life, or eternity, without her.

Lastly (for now) meet each other's families; you're going to be spending a lot of time with those people: you'd better get to know them.

-Bro Jo

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reader's Note - How to Write to Dear Bro Jo

Reader's Note - How to Write to Dear Bro Jo


Email Dear Bro Jo at dearbrojo@gmail.com, letters that include a name and town are most-likely to be published, but it's not necessary. If you want to use a pseudonym that's not only OK, it's suggested; just let me know what you'd like that to be or I can make one up for you (although I think it's more fun if you make up your own).

Also, if you want your town to remain anonymous, simply write "please withhold town"; you can also ask me to "please withhold name and town", and I'll respect your request for anonymity.

No subject is taboo - ask me anything you want! - but I will edit letters for content, spelling and punctuation (and maybe grammar, but not necessarily). If you have a question that you need answered but don't want the answer published on the blog, that's OK too; just let me know and you and I can correspond without the entire Internet knowing. But remember this: if you have a question you need answered there's a pretty good chance that somewhere in this great big world someone else needs help, too. They may just be too afraid to ask.

Letters on behalf of your friends are OK, but I'd rather hear from them directly, so encourage them to do their own writing.

Letters can be philosophical questions, not a problem you're personally having; as I said, nothing is taboo, but remember that this blog serves the purpose of helping LDS Teens and Young Single Adults with their relationships as they tackle the worlds of dating, courtship and marriage.

Any letter that I do publish becomes copy written by me. I reserve the right to respond to and publish what I want.

If you forget the email address, simply click on my signature.

- Bro Jo