Things to know

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

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

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Everyone Needs a Friend

Dear Bro Jo,

I have never been able to make friends with girls very easily so most of my friends are boys. I haven’t ever found really common interests among the girls here and never clicked.

Don’t get me wrong I've tried many times.

So after being the only girl on the school’s football team for the last three years and seeming to like things that mainly guys like resulted into most of my friends being guys. I just can relate to them better.

So I recently read on how boys and girls can never be friends I don’t know what to think. I mean there is a lot of truth to it.

I have had problems of some of my friends liking me but I always cut it off when I found out and I also have the guy friends who are like my 'girlfriends' meaning they actually listen and we hang out and I consider true friends but they never pulled anything and they like other girls cause they tell me about them and stuff.

So my question is what should I do??? Should I no longer hang out with them? And how do I obtain more friends that are girls when we don’t have much in common and most of them give me the time of day???

I mean I tried many times. I found it easier to keep my standards with guys than with the girls just trying to give a picture of how it is here.

The guys always were there like a brother. And now after high school I’m being shipped off for the military with a MOS that hardly any women go into.

What is your advice on what I should do???

-Confused Young Woman


Dear CYW,

We could go into a long analysis of why you make friends easier with boys than girls (which isn’t than uncommon, by the way), but that doesn’t seem to be the real issue . . .

Instead, let’s focus on the questions you actually asked.

1) Should you “hang out” with guys? Yes and no. If you’re talking about spending time with your fellow soldiers as a group, I’d not only say that’s fine, but an appropriate and required part of your chosen career; soldiers stick together like family. If you’re talking about having a couple guys hang out at your house, treating you like a Girlfriend, Wife, or Mother, I’d say “no”. You need to establish a line that separates you from “pal” to “woman” in certain social settings. It will be tough, but you’ll need to work at defining and identifying who are your “brothers” in arms and who are your potential boyfriends. You may want to draw that line at work, choosing not to date anyone you serve with – that’s what I’d recommend.

2) How do you get some good girl-friends? Start at Church, looking for Sisters that you can bond with. You have to be a friend in order to have a friend. Rather than alienate, look for opportunities to serve. Women are territorial (written as I brace myself for an onslaught of comments about THAT one), so don’t be threatening or condescending. No woman will be excited to be your friend if she fears you may steal her husband or boyfriend.

And remember that you're a Daughter of God, and as such have intrinsic value, not just as a future spouse, but as a Good Friend, too.  Don't write off every woman out there; there are sisters that have something to offer you, and you have something you can offer them as well.

Beyond that, let’s open this one up to our readers.

Sisters, what makes another Sister a Good Friend?

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Relationships, Conversions and "The One"

Hey, Bro Jo.

Who am I? Wellll. I'm a barely-seventeen year old girl, born and raised in the church, and all that. Trust me on this one, I'm very interested in keeping the standards and doing what's good for me in the long run. That's pretty much why I'm here.

I've been struggling for a long time now (we're talking a couple of years) with knowing how to handle a particular aspect of my life. I have a good friend that is, yes, a boy. And yeah, as we have discovered, you're right, guys and girls can't be friends forever. We met on my first day of high school, and kind of hit it off...I'm not anti-social or anything, but it can be kindof hard for me to get to know people. But with this guy, it's always been easy, just to talk to about anything or to confide anything in. Actually, a couple of weeks after school had started, he asked me to a movie, and I explained to him that I couldn't go, and why. (I wasn't old enough. I guess this is where I add that he's not a member.) He respected that; he always has. He even started to date a good friend of mine. But it never stopped us from developing a really awesome friendship. His family moved out of state, and while it took some adjusting, it was never really more than a minor inconvenience. We have kept in contact, despite living in two different states, for almost two years now.

For a long time, we didn't talk about feelings we had for each other. It just wasn't appropriate, because he's had a couple of girlfriends, and besides that, it's awfully hard to date someone when you live hundreds of miles away from them, anyway. And, thirdly, I guess, I think we'd both convinced each other that the feelings were one-sided and not returned. But the feelings have always there, and, as I have been reminded more than once by friends and mutual friends, it's been painfully obvious that there was some kind of attraction there that neither of us would admit to. Actually, to be honest, there have been times when we've even admitted it, and then a couple of days later talked about it and made the decision to NOT act on it, because of the distance, and gone right back to living in denial. I'm certainly not about to have a closed relationship with someone, and since we can't just casually date, we were better off keeping things friendly.

For a long time, we've just been best friends.

ANYWHO, now that you have allll of that background, here's the thing. About a month ago, he started to act a bit..clingy, I guess? I don't mean to make that sound negative..I just mean, he called a lot more and made it a point to tell me a lot that I was his best friend and I'd done more for him than I knew and..well..stuff like that. So I started to wonder if maybe something was up..and one night, I asked. And...catching me a LITTLE bit off guard..he wound up spilling a lot.

He told me that he felt like he could tell me anything, and that it had always been easy for him to trust me with anything, and he said he'd do anything for me and he felt like I was the only person other than family that he could trust not to abuse that...and he told me that he "had known for a long time that I was the one" and talked about this and that...and he told me he loved me, Bro Jo! Oi vey...

And I feel like maybe its important to mention that he didn't talk about sex. He told me he wanted to kiss me, and told me multiple times that he thinks I'm pretty, and what not, but he didn't dwell on those enough to make me worry that that was the only thing he was after. He knows my morals back and forth, because my religion is just something that comes up a lot as a topic of conversation.

I guess I'm just looking for guidance. Firstly, because I know I'm only seventeen. And..that's young, right? I know I should only be casually dating. And I plan to. I have a date coming up with another guy, in fact. I've told this friend that I don't want a committed relationship, and I've told him why, and he's been good about that. But secondly, I just want to know if it's wrong to be feeling this way about someone. He's not a member of the church. Right now, I am firmly rooted on my decision to marry a priesthood holder, in the temple. But this guy has shown interest in the church, and there's a very real possibility that he could be a member a few years down the road. I've read here before that you think it's possible to find your eternal companion when you're young. I really, really like this guy, and he's someone that I could see myself with (when the timing is right). But, he being a nonmember and us being...once again...seventeen, I don't want to do anything now that will throw me off what I need to be doing in order to get to the temple one day with the RIGHT guy.

I meant to mention it earlier, but since I haven't, I love this blog...thanks so much for clearing up some of the gray areas! I feel like you really know what you're talking about and can help me out a little...

--Me


Dear You,

Thank you, you're welcome, and I'll do my best.

First of all, I apprecaite your being thourough. Secondly, I'm glad you're so committed to following the principles that lead us back to Heavenly Father.

Yes, I do believe that it's possible to meet someone who will be a good spouse long before either of you are old enough to either realize or act upon those revelations and feelings. And I also believe that converts make good Eternal Companions.

(Let me offer a slight tangent here: in order for any of us to be a Good Eternal Companion we must become Converted to the Gospel, and that certainly includes those that are members of the Church from birth. Conversion is something that happens in the heart and soul, not because of what are parents believe, how we are raised, or becuase we turn a particular age.)

But let me also say that a person needs to join the Church for them, not for you or me. It must be a personal decision, not something that's done because it's the only way we'll marry them. To that end, while I think it's OK for you to date the Young Man (Casually and in a Group, as you noted), I advise against anything becoming serious between you two until After he's converted, should that indeed be the case.

More to your core question: No, there's nothing wrong with the attraction you feel. Men and Women are SUPPOSED to be attracted to each other!

Longing to kiss and be kissed, looking forward to physical intimacy, those are all natural things, and I believe that those feelings can be a gift and a blessing. Remember that the Natural Man, who ACTS upon his instincts, is an enemy to God, but the man (and woman) that follow's God's plan for us, including marriage and savig sex for then, is the Lord's friend because he (and she) is obeying his commandments, doing things in the order He prescribes, and working to raise a righteous posterity.

As for you being "the one" (Oy vey indeed!) . . . well . . . first of all, as much of a Romantic as I am (and just ask Sister Jo, she'll tell you it's true) . . . there's no such thing. The truth is that there are LOTS of people that could make a good spouse and eternal companion for you, and likewise there are LOTS of people you may be right for.

(My favorite anecdote about this is when the future Sister Hinckley had a young man tell her on a date that the Spirit told him that they were destined to be together, and she countered with that she had yet to receive that revelation.)

Stay committed to your goals of Temple Marriage and an Eternal family, and try to not allow attraction to become confused and mixed in with conversion.

Keep up the Casual Group Dating; you're still young.


- Bro Jo

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update - Love and Respect

[Readers - the following letter is an update I received.  The original column was titled "Love and Respect" - it posted June 12, 2009.  You can read the original letter and response by clicking HERE.]


Dear Bro Jo,

So you asked me to keep you posted...

I talked to my bishop the very next day, and we got that cleared up. I also spoke to my Dad who gave me some sound words of counsel and a blessing from my Heavenly Father.

Bishop asked to see both of us together and strongly encouraged him to have the discussions. He agreed to start the discussions - so i and a whole heap of family and friends fasted together that he may feel the spirit and know of the truth of the gospel. Since then we have had some AMAZING spiritual experiences! I never could have thought it possible! It is so amazing!

He is now excited to be preparing for baptism on the 30th August! We are also to be married early December, with the goal of being able to go to the temple in a year’s time to be sealed for time and all eternity.

Thank you for not asking me to choose. I cannot tell you what affect your words of counsel had on my life - although you might possibly understand! Since May I have been blessed to receive my patriarchal blessing and am able to feel the spirit frequently.

Thank you so much - I hope the Lord continues to bless you and your loved ones for everything you do for young people like me...

- Your Friend


Dear Friend,

That's wonderful!

Thank you for the kind words and for following up.

Blessings back at ya,

- Bro Jo


Dear Friend,

It just dawned on me after sending that last letter that the Baptism is scheduled for today!

Very excited for you both!

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

The baptism was amazing, it was so special - especially because my dad performed it and he had also done mine :)

Thanks for everything again - you and your inspired advice.

May God continue to bless,

Your Friend

Friday, October 23, 2009

Too Young to Marry? (Take 2)

[Readers' Note: The following conversation took place via email over a couple weeks, with several of the emails being quite short. Rather than add all of the salutations and signatures, I've assigned the writer and I different colors to help you keep track. I've edited the conversation for clarity. - Bro Jo]

Dear Bro Jo,


Me and my girlfirend have been dating for a year and half im still in high school a senior and she has graduated last year. I truly feel like she is the one. She helps me in everything that i do. We go to the temple once a week. we are planning on getting married next year once i graduate. i was wondering if you think that is to young i will be 18 and she will be 19 we want to get married in the salt lake temple. just wondering if you could give me some advice. thanks

What about a Mission?


- Bro Jo

I've really thought about it. but i cant leave her for that long nor my family. i guess i just have a soft heart ha. i get home sick really easy. i have 4 brothers and all of them have gone on one. I have a brother right now serving in (witheld)

Why do you think you can't leave her, or your family, for that long?

Because when i go on trips i get sick and i cant stop thinking about them. i always try not to go place where im gone longer than 3 days. cause i get so sick. its more leaving her than it is leaving my family. ive prayed and have asked heavenly father if she is the right one. and i have got my answer and i know she is. i can feel it and i can see it. she completes me. she has all the standards that i have looked for.

OK, I'll buy that she may be the right one (or at least A right one - there's no such thing as "the") - I totally believe it's possible to meet someone who will make a good spouse when you're young - so the next question is: is now the right time?


And perhaps we follow that with: are YOU ready?


I've got to tell you that I'm concerned with the anxiety issues you have about leaving home. I love my wife, I hate it when she and the kids are gone on a trip with out me or when I have to travel for work; I'm lonely, but not nauseated.


To be honest, it sounds like you have some dependency issues. One has to wonder if you're mature enough for others to depend upon You yet, like a wife . . . and children . . .


If you're not emotionally stable enough to go on a mission, and I mean this with sincere respect, then you shouldn't go.


Consider this: what if, to support your wife and children, you need to leave town for work . . . for 6 months. It's not unheard of. Could you do it?


I'm not saying she's not great, and I'm not saying that the two of you shouldn't get married some day, but I AM suggesting that you, at least, aren't yet ready, and that the things that make you hesitant about a mission are things you'll need to overcome before you propose.


That said, should you choose to ignore that, what are your plans for school and job? Where will you live and how will you support her?

I'm planning on getting my masters in computer science. I curently make 17 bucks a hour and she is going to school to get her doctorates in psycology. She makes 12 a hour. we were talking about just living in an apartment for a few years until we can aford a condo or townhome etc... when you say support her what do you mean?

Those are both good plans. Will you both be attending the same school? What's the "when she gets pregnant" plan?


When I say support I mean temporally, spiritually and emotionally.


We haven't really talked about this, but I'm guessing that you're worried that if you leave on a mission she'll find someone else . . .

Yes we will both be attending the same school. im going to wait a year before i start so that we can get up on are feet better. I never thought about the pregnant plan. but i guess we will just have to be way careful. and if we have to we can move into mine or her parents houses. and I'm not worried at all if I go on a mission. She feels the same about me as I do her. I know she wouldn't leave so I don't worry about it. But I guess their always is a chance I just look past it.

Well there are a few realities you need to address.


First of all, there's no such thing as "way careful". I'll be candid with you: I have 7 children and more than one was conceived while we were using more than one type of contraceptive at a time. So if you get married, you better expect that at any time she may be expecting. That means you'll be the sole bread winner and it may mean no school for her and limited if any school for you.


Moving into a parent's house is an option in extreme cases, but to me that's more like having your Girlfriend sleep over than a marriage.


I'm very curious about what your parents (both sets) have to say about your marriage plan . . .


And I'm having trouble buying the "homesickness" as a real thing . . . other than immaturity.


Plus, I think if you really thought she wouldn't find someone else, you wouldn't be in such a hurry to get married.


Unless you're just eager for sex . . .

So in other words you think its to young?

(That's a pretty interesting response to my challenge that you're focused on sex . . . )


I think it's more that you're not ready.


I think you may be using marriage as a crutch to avoid other things in your life, including some very specific things you need to deal with.


For a marriage to work it requires putting our spouse's needs ahead of our own - all the time. It just doesn't seem like you're there yet. I think you will be some day, perhaps some day soon, but you're not now.


And I think it's very telling the questions I've asked that you've chosen not to answer . . .

You didn't ask any questions is why. but I have been putting her first ever since we started dating. Even before I met her I didn't want to go on a mission. Does that mean im not mature enough? No, I think not. Do you think Pres. Monson [being] immature is why he didn't go on a mission? 


I will just tell you my opinion. I think if we are finacialy ready we can make it. but if we arent finacialy ready we were going to wait until we are.


Also we still have another year to become ready.

OK. I'll use a question mark.


What do your parents and her parents say about your plans?


Why are you so eager to get married?


Is the "homesickness" real? A diagnosed clinical problem? Or are you just using it as an excuse?


Are you both Temple Worthy?


At what age did you decide you weren't going on a mission? (And, as I said, at this point I'm not convinced you should go, either.)


Have either of you ever gone on a date with someone else?


Further, I didn't say you're immature BECAUSE you're not going on a mission, I wrote that your reasons for not going on a mission may be immature, and that those same reasons indicate to me that you are not yet ready for marriage.

My parents I haven't told yet.  My all my brothers and sisters think its to young. her parents said its fine but it would be better if I went on a mission. and yes we are both worthy.  We attend the temple once a week. And I guess the homesickness is just an excuse. but I really would be home sick. but I guess I would have the Lord's help on that. but I just cant imagine 2 years with out her. and we want to get married so fast cause we have been together for so long we want to move to the next step. and yes I have dated other people.

Just imagine the all the years of your life when you weren't her Boyfriend - that will help you imagine the 2 years.


You can't have dated That Many other people . . . 


I'm impressed with your weekly Temple attendance, but wonder: when do you go? I mean, you've got school, right? Do the two of you go, just the two of you, as a date?


So, if the Homesickness is just an excuse, can we now say that she's the reason you're choosing not to serve a mission?


You're what, 17, 18 now? You shouldn't have started dating until you turned 16, and if you've dated other people . . . I'm wondering just how long you've been "together"?


Why do you think her parents are suggesting that you go on a mission first?

I'm 18 now and we go at night after school some times its just me and her. but then their are times when we go with friends to. we have been dating a year and half. ive always had girlfriends throughout jr. high and high school. even though you arent suppose to date until 16 I have gone with girls just as big groups to hang out. But the thing is even before i met her i didn't want to serve a mission. But now we are getting closer and closer it makes it even harder to leave. So yes and no thats the reason. Well i know if i do go i would become closer to god and have a greater testiomy. and be more ready to be married since i have been away from home for 2 years.

you've mentioned twice now that you've known "even before [you] met her" that you didn't want to serve a mission . . . can you elaborate on that?

so she plays apart of it now. but i never have had the will to serve one. i dont know what else to say about it.

Why?

I dont know i just never have. there is no reason. just besides i dont want to leave everyone.

there's always a reason


and I'll bet you're thinking it's inconsequential, but I think uncovering this issue will help answer the other


so . . . what is it?


and one more question: why aren't you in school today?

i just dont want to leave for 2 years. I want to get married so i can spend more time with her.


I'm at lunch. and since i take computer classes at college i can check my email there to.

sorry "I just don't want to leave for two years" is not an answer


you said you're still a senior in High School . . . how does that work?

I have always had the thoughts of not going on a mission even before I had her. I am scared to leave her. I don't know if I could do it. I'm not afraid she will leave me even though there is always that chance. I know she will be there no matter what. we really love each other and want to be together. 


It would be so hard to leave her. She's the reason I struggle with the choice of a mission even though leaving my family does play a major part too.


I'm a home body; I have never been away from home that long. I just don't know what to do. and I am in high school but I take college courses at a college so that i can have a better job when I graduate and start on my education.

Taking the College courses is a good idea.


But you still haven't answered the question: why have you "always had the thoughts of not going on a mission?"


What have been your concerns? Your reasons? Your fears?


You say you had those thought BEFORE her, but have yet to come up with a reason why.


Then you say you're scared to leave her for two years; why? You say you're not worried about her marrying someone else . . . fine. What IS IT that you're afraid of?

I've just never had the desire to go on one. Just like I never have had the desire to live in Brazil. its just one of those things that I don't want to do. I don't have any fears of going on a mission. Not really any concerns either. At least none that I can think of.

yeah, that doesn't add up

we're not talking about sticking a pin in your eye . . .
. . .
. . .


There are lot's of places that wouldn't be on the top of my list to move to, but I have reasons (I like snow, my kids are in school, work).  However, sometimes we have to move somewhere that isn't our favorite simply because it coincides with what we need to be doing right now.

[Note: I never got another response - probably made him mad . . .]

Dear Too Young,


So here's what I think: You've got three main issues:


A) Are you too young to get married?


B) Despite growing up in the Church and a family full of missionaries, is it OK that you don't want to go?


and C) What should you do about your abandonment issues?


As I've implied, I think all three are tied together. Let's take them backwards.


Abandonment? I don't believe you get physically-nauseous homesick. I think it's an excuse you toss out to justify behavior. If it is real, get some professional counseling. I miss my family when I go away, too (we all do), but it doesn't imobilize me. Frankly, I think you just tossed that out there to dodge the Mission Question; you wrote in hoping you could prove to me that you've got it together enough that I'd give my blessing for your wedding - you've probably either gotten away with this "excuse" for years, and aren't used to having it challenged - and when I pushed for more information, I think you started making things up. It's tough for me to help people who aren't either honest with me or themselves, which gets us to . . .


The Mission. You're only 18, so you haven't done anything "for a long time", and that certainly includes a Life Long realization that you don't want to go on a Mission. You started by telling me that you were going to miss your family too much, but a man that gets married LEAVES his family to be with his wife . . . (another reason I think the "anxiety" is bogus) . . . you certainly don't feel the same way when it comes to leaving them for her (except that your "backup plan" includes moving in with them - OK if it Has To Be Done - but never a great choice). But you eventually confessed that you don't want to Leave Her for two years - which I suspected but, again, it took you a long time to get to it.


She's The Real Reason you don't want to go. We can all see it. In fact I'll bet your family has discovered this very thing, and given you lot's of grief about it, so you figure I'll do the same thing here (and you're probably right). You try to divert the conversation from addressing what's really going on, and that makes it difficult to help you.


The bottom line is, whether it's Love, Infatuation, Horniness, Fear of Loneliness, The Need to Possess this Girl (which may include the fear that she may marry, and thus have sex with, someone else) or some combination of those, She's why you've decided not to go. Those are all Very Real feelings . . .


But whatever the reason, in my humble opinion, you're not ready to go on a mission.


Now, I do think you should talk to your Bishop and Stake President to see if they agree; knowing you better, they'll be better able to assess your readiness.


If you go, will you lose her? Yeah, you probably will. Maybe not, but probably.


One thing you (and many people your age and slightly older) need to realize is that there's more than just one person in the world that will make a good eternal companion for each of us. No one is Destined to be with anyone else. (I'll let you readers wrap your heads around that for a while.)


If either of you were to ask, I'd tell you to "break up" until you got back from the mission, giving her the freedom to see if there is someone else out there for her, and you the freedom to focus on the Lord's work.


But, as I said, I don't think you're ready to go. I think you've got some issues either with dependency or honesty that need to be addressed first.


The Wedding. Yeah . . . you're Too Young. Or, more specifically, you're too immature. That's not an insult, it's a fact of life. I think your "Temple Dates" have distorted your perspective - (I love, and fully endorse, going to the Temple, but I think "dating" at the Temple as an unmarried couple is a Bad Idea. With respect, I think you're abusing your Limited Use Recommend, and whomever gave it to you should rescind it. We go to worship and serve, not hangout with our Girlfriend) - mixing the Spiritual feelings you have while there with your "love" for your Girlfriend.


If you actually go, which I'm not sure is true, either.


Bro Jo believes in Short Engagements, and in your case I suggest you Court for quite a while longer before wandering down the isle. I say give it at least one year BEYOND your High School graduation.


If you're still in love with her a year from now, propose sometime between Halloween and Christmas 2010. Set the wedding for June 2011; that's soon enough.


Perhaps by then you'll have grown enough to be the Husband and Eternal Companion that she needs . . .


Just remember that getting married isn't about you; it's about the other person. Her needs, her happiness, her Spiritual and Temporal support need to be more important that you and your needs.


- Bro Jo

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Can ex-Boyfriends Be Friends?

Dear Bro Jo,

For quick background information, I'm a girl and I'm 16 years old.

I was on Facebook when I saw your ad about Dating Help for LDS Teens, and I figured, why not. After reading a few life experiences from other people and seeing the help and advice that you gave them, I too realize I need some help and advice...

Almost a year ago, I started liking a boy who is one grade older than me. We had a couple classes together, we would always talk, have lunch together, and we would go on a few dates here and there. After about a month, he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes. I wasn't always steady dating him though; I occasionally went on other dates with other guys because I knew that's what I was supposed to do. He didn't like that I did that, so after a while, I stopped dating other guys.

I invited him over to my house a lot with parents permission, my parents were always home when I invited him over, and I wanted it to be that way so nothing bad would happen. My parents liked him a lot, and his parents liked me a lot. If I could, I would always go to support him at his basketball games and anything else he was involved in, and if he could, he would always do the same for me. I was glad to be with him, we always had so much fun together, and he was one of my best friends.

About three and a half months into our relationship, I was told by my boyfriend's best friend that he had gone to a party and made out with a girl there. I was infuriated that he would do that to me, to his girlfriend. I talked to him about it and he denied it. He said that he would never do that to me. He told me that people were making up rumors so that he and I would break up. He was crying when we were talking about this... and I beloved that he didn't make out with another girl. As the week went on, people were still telling me that he made out with her, and then I'd had enough. I told him that I just needed a break, and that I was tired of everyone telling me that he cheated on me... So I broke up with him.

We were still friends after the break up, and we still acted as though we were together, but without a title. I traveled 5 and a half hours to watch him play at state basketball, and he traveled with me to watch me play at piano competitions. He asked me to prom and we still hung out a lot.

Then one day, he admitted that he did make out with that girl at the party, so then I told him off completely, I was extremely heartbroken, that not only did he cheat on me, but he lied about it too. By this time, it was summer vacation and I rarely saw him or talked to him. Then I got a job and he would visit me almost every day I worked there. I forgave him for what he did, and so we became good friends again, which was all I wanted.

I started to like him again, and he still claimed to like me. The first two weeks of school were good; we talked and hung out a couple times at the football games. Then everything happened so suddenly, it was like he just started hating me. He wouldn't talk to me, and he wouldn't let me talk to him. He wouldn't even look at me when we passed each other in the hallway... I gave him some space for a couple weeks, hoping that maybe he would just forget about it and we could still be friends, but the space didn't help.

Now he calls me bad names and he says he doesn't want anything to do with me and he doesn't care anymore. He's told other people that I'm a bad person and they all come to me and chew me out for supposedly being a "bad girlfriend" to him when he and I were together. I hate that he hates me, and I don't know what to do. All I want to be is friends with him; he says he doesn’t want to be friends at all. He says that I did something wrong, that I somehow hurt him, but he won’t tell me what I did. He says that I'm all drama, that all I do is create drama and I either need to control it or straighten out my life. He has hurt me so much, and he's pulling me down. All he does is tell me what a bad person I am and how everything is my fault and how he didn't do anything wrong. I don’t understand why he just started hating me, how we were best friends, then suddenly we're worst enemies.

What should I do?

-Battle Field


Dear BF,

Welcome to the group; I tell it like it is (or at least like I see it) and I don’t hold back, so brace yourself.   Know that while it may be harsh, it’s written with love.

What you should do is VERY clear: move on.

First of all, “Men and Women can’t be friends”. It’s a movie quote, but it’s also true. You see (and I should mention that this is one of those things I write that is the most “controversial”, particularly with my teenage girl readers) guys typically just CAN’T (not “don’t” or “won’t”) spend time with a girl unless he’s attracted to her. That’s a fact.

Now as we’ve discussed this in the column, and on the “Dear Bro Jo” Facebook Fan Page (click here for the Page – click here for the Discussion)  a more accurate statement may be “Men (which may include Young Men, but not “boys”) are never Close Friends (meaning “hangout with one-on-one, call late at night, go to dinner one-on-one”) with any Dating Range Age Woman (which includes Young Women, but not “girls”) that they’re not romantically interested in”.

Now that’s a mouth full but, again, it’s true.

And therein is the truth about your relationship with this guy. He was never your friend and he’ll never be your friend, so you can put that notion out of your head right now. He was FRIENDLY, but that’s because he wanted to date you. You broke up and he became friendly again (now read this carefully) BECAUSE HE WANTED TO DATE YOU.

(And, let’s be honest, by “date you” we may just be saying that he wanted to touch and kiss you. For all we know the “lack of touching”, or advancement of things physical, is why he’s telling people you were a “bad girlfriend” – and that’s just sad. Sisters, NEVER NEVER NEVER give in or give up or give away to “keep a boyfriend” – do that and I promise the only thing you’ll do is loose respect – from him and you – plus, and I promise this, it NEVER works.)

He’s not “your friend” anymore because the possibility of dating you whether forever or, in his mind, just for now, is gone.

My wife is my Best Friend, but I have no Close Friendships with other women, and haven’t since we’d been dating long enough for me to realize that I wanted to marry her. Look back at the definition of Close Friends, and you’ll realize why.

You will be friends with guys in the future, and I pray that one of them will be a good spouse for you. Once you find that man, all of your other Guy Friendships will, by necessity and definition, go away.

Secondly, I don’t think this guy was ever that great to begin with. Look at the story: his first move was to ask you to be his girlfriend, and then your whole relationship was about him manipulating and controlling you. He lied, to your face, more than once. Did he come clean because he wanted to clear his conscience, get back together, manipulate you further, or all of the above?

He even cried! What was that about? Was it guilt? Or was he simply manipulating you again?

Sure, he was a good guy once in a while, but it’s not like he’s the only guy your age within 500 miles now, is it?

(That’s a good thing!)

Everything you’re feeling is so much of why I tell kids your age to stay away from the Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing; those relationships bring with them the “drama” that you just don’t need at this point in life. (For the record, I know we’re only reading this story from your perspective, but it sounds like your boy here has demonstrated a little drama of his own.)

So Cheer Up!

You’re still young, you’re a Daughter of God, and you have a lot going for you!

Go on lots of Casual Group Dates with friends who have similar standards and will follow the Dating Rules and have fun!

As far as your ex-Boyfriend is concerned: take the High Road. Don’t stoop to backbiting, be kind, but as far as dating him again, I recommend you tell him “no thanks”, at least for the next several years.

- Bro Jo

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Meet Girls

Dear Bro Jo,

First let me say that your blog and facebook websites are amazing!

Anywho, I'm a 16 year old young man. I just got out of a relationship which lasted for well over a year, quite a while back. I do regret being in such a relationship, due to the fact that during the time i was in that relationship, i was not living to the church's standards, e.g we were alone neally all of the time.

However, my young men's leader has seen a definate change in my attitude, and now im living the church to the best of my abilities. For example, ive stopped swearing, and am attending the temple next week, which im looking forward to!!

But now i think im ready to "date" young women from church, only problem is, im in a ward that has very little youth (im 1 of 3 young men and the only girl is my sister).

I guess my question is, how can i go about apporching the young women of my stake?

Thank you for reading my email

- AG


Dear AG,

Are you talking about approaching / asking out members or non?

(not that it matters too much, just curious)

(and thanks for the kind words, BTW)

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

Members

 - AG


Dear AG -

By "approach", I'm guessing that you're asking me how to get to know them better and ask them on Casual Group Dates . . .


First of all, people are people, inside the Church or out.  If you want to get to know more people, you have to put yourself in Social Situations where people are at.  To meet more LDS Young Women in your Stake, you'll want to attend all the activities you can, including Sunday meetings and Seminary.

I'm a Big Fan of Church Dances - they're low pressure, and a great opportunity to meet a lot of girls from around the stake that you might not otherwise have many opportunities to approach. While you're dancing use your conversational skills to get names and phone numbers (and do a little Age Verification - some of those Not Quite Old enough to Date Sisters will look much older than they are).

Get a couple good Dating Buddies. Develop a good Casual Date Plan. (Sister Jo and I strongly encourage our Dating Age sons to go out at least once a month)

Plan - Pick Up - Pay

You don't have to know a Young Woman super well to ask her out. Getting to know each other is what dating is all about.

And at this point, Casual Group Dating, there's no need to Only Date Church Girls. You do need to make it clear that your attitude about dating is that you're not in this to find a Girlfriend; you simply want to have Good Clean Fun. Follow the Dating Rules.


Ultimately the key is to just be the best You you can be. Be Kind. Be Courteous. Be Nice. Be Approachable. And, as in any situation where you're meeting new people, focus on making the conversation about them, not about you.

I hope you enjoyed the Temple trip, and I'm glad you're turning things around.

- Bro Jo


Friday, October 16, 2009

Big Crush, No Dates

Hey Dear Bro Jo,

I have written to you before, and thank you for your previous answer. But I have another question for you now. I have now moved away from where I was before, and just started my senior year in high school on Wednesday. For my question you'll need a little background info first, so here it is:

When I was in ninth grade I lived here and went to school and seminary with this guy. He was awesome and all the girls had a crush on him at one time or another in ninth grade, even the nonmembers. I talked to him a couple times in our history class that year and I saw him at all the youth dances. At one youth dance he asked me to dance with him, but I didn't think much of it, since we were only 15 and lots of the guys from seminary asked me to dance. In fact, I was asked to dance by most of the young men in my stake that year.

Anyway, by the time he asked me to dance I had told everyone I no longer had a crush on him, which I thought was true. After that year I moved away and where I was I turned sixteen and seventeen, but all the guys I knew there were paired off with girls and weren't really interested in me. The only guys that ever talked to me only talked to me because their girlfriends were my friends and they couldn't not talk to me without seeming rude.

This summer I moved back to the town I lived in ninth grade and I am now seventeen, almost eighteen and have never dated. I have a couple classes with the guy I had a crush on in ninth grade and during the second class I had with him we were working on an assignment and he got up and walked over to me (clear across the room) to ask me how I liked the other class we had together so far. We talked for a couple of minutes and laughed about a couple of things, then he walked over to the hand sanitizer and walked back to his desk. Anyway, I told my cousins about it and they remembered ninth grade and how I had a crush on him then and they keep teasing me about having a crush on him once again, and I keep saying I don't even though I know I do. They seem to think he must like me too, but I don't agree.

What do you think?

And if he does like me, what can I do to convince him to ask me out on a date and to find out if he really does like me?

I was thinking I'd ask him out for Sadie-Hawkins in January if I still like him and I know he likes me. I usually feel shy around guys, but I've never really felt shy around this one. I talk to him like I would a normal friend that I've known my whole life. What does this mean?

Anyway, I know you probably get alot of emails but can you please reply soon? I don't care if you post this on your blog, after all I read your blog all the time and maybe some other girl has these questions as well.

Thanks,

~Girl with a Crush

PS: I know I like him, but what should I do if he does like me? I want an RM, so I don't want to become too close to a guy before he leaves on his mission, I want him to be able to concentrate completely on his mission when he leaves.


Dear Crusher,

I don't know if he BIG L "Likes" you; isn't it possible he's just a nice guy?

And let me ask you this: does it matter whether or not he likes you?

I do think you need to get some dating in. Do the kids in the stake you're in now date? What have the experiences of the other girls been?

As you're pondering these things, let me suggest this: you need to date, but not to find a boyfriend, and you seem to be hinting that's what you'd like this boy to be. I think you should avoid that for now.

It can be very awkward for a Good Guy when a girl confesses her feelings, especially if he’s Mission-focused. Sometimes a girls can take herself out of the “Potential Casual Group Date” list by being too forward. I’ve known boys to respond by deciding to never take out those “too forward” girls. Ever.

Be Nice, but Be Casual.

(Hmm . . . maybe I need to Create "Bro Jo's BE's" - that's not disrespectful, is it?)

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

It is possible he’s just a nice guy, though most of the girls I've talked to about him (let me tell you, there are too many girls who like him... hahaha) say that he just says "Hi, --insert name here--." He doesn't usually ask how they like a class, even if he happens to be walking past them on the way to the hand sanitizer.

No it doesn't really matter whether or not he likes me. I guess mostly I just want to get to know him because he’s such an awesome guy. (I don't use the word awesome very often... it’s a sacred word in my opinion, only the very best people I know are associated with the word in my mind.) He’s really popular because he is very nice, so maybe he just saw me sitting there and decided to talk to me since I was right there, I don't know.

I have talked to quite a few of my friends here and let me tell you, they hardly ever date. In fact, if what I've heard about the girls having "no luck with guys" is anything to go by, the guys just don't ask. Either that or everyone around here is paired off.

I agree, (and so do my friends) on the staying away from the "boyfriend" scene. (At least until college in a year.)

I've told a guy I liked him before and it turned out badly, so now I don't usually tell anyone at all that I like a guy. In fact I usually stay away from even talking about a guy I like because I don't want it to get around that I like him and for him to hear about it. So usually only my confidants know that I have a crush on a guy and I know they'd never tell anyone. I never write poems or notes or anything. Mostly I just talk to them and get to know them if I have an excuse or they come up to me first.
I'd love it if you made Bro Jo's List of BEs. It'd give me something to go by.

I thought of most of this stuff after I wrote the letter. I do need to date but I get really shy around guys and unless they come up and talk to me first I don't usually even talk to them.

Thanks again for reading my email.

- Girl with a Crush

PS: I always did hate crushes... they make you irrational and I like being rational...


Dear Crusher,

Ha! I can understand how you feel, but there’s something wonderful about being in love and a little irrational.
At some point Confessing Your Feelings will be more appropriate. For now I think it’s wise to only confide in a small group of close friends. You’re also on the right track to be using this time in your life to get to know people better. That’s what Casual Group Dating is all about.

I’m sorry to hear that so few of your peers date.

It’s a delicate but important balance for Teens to strive to achieve,: Dating but not Seriously, being Casual without gaining the reputation of being “easy”. Playing without being a “Player” . . .

The key is to hold back on the physical stuff; to see Teen Dating as developing important social skills, not as a path to a committed relationship.

And then for many an even greater challenge is to completely shift your dating purpose when you cross that magic line as a Young Single Adult where Dating is exactly for the purpose of finding a spouse.
In our world those two different types of Dating are muddled and confused.

So let’s tackle that issue: getting you and your friends to be asked out on some Casual Group Dates.
First of all, as a group of girls you need to let it be known that you don’t believe simply going on a date constitutes any kind of Boyfriend-Girlfriend commitment.

Secondly, create casual group situations where you can all get to know each other better, like video watching parties. Boys are more comfortable asking out girls they know. Have lunch at school together.
Third, be the type of girls that seem like it would be fun to date. Be Positive and Be Fun (there’s some of those Bes again).

Fourth, if the boys still don’t get it, as a group of girls ask a group of boys just exactly why it is that they’re not Casual Group Dating. When you ask, LISTEN to what they say. As I’ve so often said, Communication is the Key.

- Bro Jo

PS: If “awesome” is truly a “sacred word” for you, I don’t think you should apply it to a guy at this point in your life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do Not Procrastinate - Part 3

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much.

I saw my Bishop yesterday. It was probably the most challenging thing I've had to do so far in my life. But I'm so grateful that I did it. He was able to help me resolve some things. My testimony has been strengthened of our Savior's love for each of us, and I know now that these men were truly called of God and act in His name.

I think coming across your blog has been one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

Thanks again,

No Longer Lost


Dear Found,

That’s wonderful!

I’m happy and humbled.

God Bless,

- Bro Jo

Monday, October 12, 2009

Do Not Procrastinate - Part 2

Dear Bro Jo,

I can feel the spirit through your words. Thank you.

I would like to meet with my Bishop from back home, but I'm currently in another state. I actually attend BYU-Idaho.

Ta da! Maybe you guessed that.

I haven't even spoken to the Bishop in my University ward. And I honestly don't think he's the person I should go to, since he doesn't even know who I am.

I'm afraid that if I talk to my Bishop from here, there's the possibility that I might get sent home. I have no idea how great that possibility is, but I know it could be a possibility. Each semester that I've been up at BYU-Idaho, I've progressed more and more. I've become such a better person. It's the times that I've been home that I've slipped back into temptation. I know that I can't run away from my problems, but I ended off contact with the boy from this summer and we've reached a mutual understanding about why I don't see him. I recently had another relationship with a young man that did not involve the same serious acts that I've done before. I was better able to avoid and resist temptation.

That last bit of information probably doesn't really matter. I go back home in November for Thanksgiving. Should I talk to my Bishop from school who doesn't even know me? Or I could talk to my Bishop from home in November. I guess my Bishop from back home could also get rid of my ecclesiastical endorsement. But in all honesty, I think it would be better to talk to him. I've decided I won't attend the temple until I do so.

What do you think?

- Lost


Dear Lost,

I don't think you should wait until Thanksgiving.

The man that has the keys to receive the revelation needed to help you though this ordeal is the man that is your current Bishop, the Bishop where you currently live.

You're still trying to put off repentance because you either fear or want to control the consequences of your actions.

That, Little Sister, is not repentance.

Let me be blunt (I know, BIG SURPRISE, Bro Jo being blunt, right?): what if you die tomorrow?

Or next week.

Some time before Thanksgiving.

Do you really want to dace Judgement before God knowing you could have repented but instead chose not to?

You're focusing on "losing your recommend" or "being sent home", but Little Sister, in the Grand Scheme of the Eternal Universe, should those be the consequences of your actions and deceit, It Doesn't Matter!

What matters is that you make things right with the Lord.

Look at your history.

I'm proud of you for making the progress you have, and I encourage you to share all of that with your Bishop. I sincerely hope that you've gained the will power to overcome that which ails you, but you've been here before with out the help of your Bishop and slipped.

That's not to say that a Bishop is a magical cure-all, but each time you've "gotten better" and then gone back, the only thing you've failed to do is talk to Priesthood Authority.

Could that make the difference?

What if it does?

There's no harm in calling and making the appointment. You're already holding a Temple Recommend that you lied to get, so you're not going to use that, and school is school. Do what's right, not what's convenient.

Let me try to convince you with one more scenario; one that's a little less morbid and statistically more likely.

What if you meet the man of your dreams at a Halloween Party? You fall madly in love and want to marry in December. He proposes and you realize you can't even set a Temple Date because you have no idea if things are right with the Lord. You go home for Thanksgiving and your Bishop feels inspired that as part of your repentance process you need to be denied the opportunity for the Blessings of the Temple for 60 days.

No December Wedding, and now you have to go and tell your fiancé why.

Do you see what I'm driving at?

I want you to know that I have Faith in and a Testimony of the Atonement and the Blessing and Power it is in the lives of Heavenly Father's Children.

Make the call.

- Bro Jo

Friday, October 9, 2009

Do Not Procrastinate - Part 1

[Readers – once again I share with you a deeply personal letter I received about a very important subject. I think this letter writer is brave for sharing what she does, and I applaud her efforts to do the right thing. The letter is at times graphic. If at any point the Spirit directs you that this material is something you don’t need in your life at this time, close the blog and return in a two weeks when it’s no longer part of the main page.]


Dear Bro Jo,

This is a pretty heavy subject that I'll be talking about and asking questions about. You can post it on your blog if you'd like and feel free to edit things out if you deem it necessary.

Just first to let you know, I am a girl. My whole problem began when I was just thirteen years old (I am now almost twenty). I've been a member of the church my whole life. At thirteen, I was curious about my body and the changes it was going through. I was also more curious about sex. I was very naive and I was also very confused; I'd heard so many different things from my friends at school. And no way was I going to ask my parents all the questions I had. I think I was afraid that I would've gotten in trouble if I asked.

So I turned to the internet.

Yup. Worst decision of my life.

At that age I also enjoyed reading romantic fiction on the internet. One day I came across a story that contained explicit descriptions about sex. My curiosity got the better of me, and I read the whole story. However, my curiosity didn't seem to be satisfied. So I read more stories that contained similar descriptions. Everyday I would get on the internet and find more and more stories to read. I felt bad about reading it, but I wasn't sure if it was really wrong. I had heard several church leaders give talks about pornography, but never once have I heard of a woman struggling with it, nor that it could be found in other places besides images.
I don't think my parents had any idea this was going on. When they would come upstairs to the computer room, I would hear them, and quickly close down the site. They were both busy with church callings, and my dad was especially busy at work. My parents weren't internet-smart either, and didn't know about checking your internet history. When they did find out that you could check the history, I had already started deleting my history so that they couldn't find it.

From reading this stuff on the internet, I began to notice feelings I got when I read it. They were completely knew to me and kind of exciting. This lead to self-stimulation. I didn't even know that self-stimulation was wrong, because it's not something commonly addressed to young women. Especially when you are thirteen, no one thinks a little girl does things like that.

I struggled with these two problems for almost two years, well into my high school years. Eventually along the way, I came to grips with the fact that they were indeed wrong and very serious sins. I would try to commit to stop reading the pornographic material online. I would make it two or three days and then cave in again.

But one day, I don't know what it was I and I can't exactly remember, but I just told myself that I would stop.

And I did.

I haven't read another story since. It's amazing that I so easily broke from that addiction, when I know that with others it takes months and even years of counseling and whatnot. I also temporarily broke away from self-stimulation, but other things soon led back to it.

I got my first boyfriend when I was fourteen. He was sixteen, and I thought that I had struck gold by getting an older "man". We would only see each other at church dances because we were in different stakes (he also couldn't drive). Often before the dance ended, we would sneak outside the building and kiss. Which led to making out, which led to necking, and then one night he felt me up. I didn't really like that, and I think that's the only time it happened with him. But I felt so guilty and awful inside. I still refused to tell my parents, bishop, or anyone what had happened. I was so ashamed, and afraid that if I confessed, I would also confess about the pornography. Looking back, I can't help but think how stupid my parents were. I wish they had intervened more. They kind of knew that I liked a boy and he liked me back. My boyfriend called my house everyday to talk to me (I didn't get a cell phone until my senior year). But my mom never took the phone away and never limited the time that I talked to him.

After almost a year of with this guy, I broke up with him. Because I liked another guy at my school. He wasn't a member of the church, but I liked him a lot. Soon after I broke up with my first boyfriend, I got together with this other boy. We did the same stuff that I'd done with my ex, even the feeling up part; I didn't mind it with him, because I'd already done it before. My mom usually picks me up from school, and one day she saw him with his arm around me. She was furious. Especially because he wasn't a member. But, I still talked to him on the phone and saw him at school.

A couple months later, that relationship ended. I still continued the self-stimulation by recalling the memories of kissing my now ex-boyfriends and the feelings I got. I dwelled on those feelings quite often, and that's why the self-stimulation continued.

Two years later, I'm seventeen. I met another guy at a church dance, and he too is two years older than me, soon to turn 19. We hit it off, but I decided I didn't really like him and I had told myself that I would wait until I was 18 to have another boyfriend. Eventually though, we became "friends with benefits". I now could drive and I had my own car, and I would drive over to his house to "hang out". What usually happened is we'd watch a movie at his place and end up making out. I developed the habit of lying to my mom about where I was going. I knew she wouldn't approve at all, especially since this boy and I would often be alone in his house.

One night, I felt that this boy and I crossed a line. I don't know how to talk about it without being explicit. We were on the couch, alone. We had our clothes on, but while we were kissing, he moved his body on top of mine. We moved our hips together for a bit, but then we stopped. I think he asked me if I was sure if I wanted to do this. I said no. Guilt and shame overwhelmed me. I left soon after, and when I got home, I cried for hours. What had I done? How could I go to the Bishop? (The Bishop was actually my next-door neighbor and old childhood friend of my mom.)

Again, I told no one of what had happened. The next month I left for college which was out of the state. I hoped to run away from my problems.

This whole time, even from the time I was thirteen, I have gone to church and partaken of the sacrament. I continued to do so when I was at college. But I desperately wanted to change. I wanted to stop these awful cycles of sin. I then committed to this change. Every time during the sacrament, I would pray ferevently to my Heavenly Father that He would forgive me and give me the strength to change. I desired to be closer to Him and to be free of my sins. Every Sunday for months I prayed to Him during the sacrament. The second week of school, I broke off communication with the boy from back home. I also stopped the self-stimulation. I started to study the Book of Mormon. And occasionally I would say my morning and evening prayers. When I came home for Christmas break, I felt like a changed woman. I continued to pray to Heavenly Father for strength, guidance, and forgiveness.

Eventually, I did feel that the Lord forgave me. But I still worried that my repentance wasn't complete because I hadn't confessed to my Bishop. Also, when I had been asking for forgiveness from the Lord, I was only asking for forgiveness for my recent happening with the boy alone in his house.

When I came home from the summer (this past summer), I started talking to that boy again (stupid, I know). We went to a movie together. I hoped that since we were in public, nothing would happen. But then again, the movie theater was dark and not many people were in attendance. We ended up doing something new that time. He felt me up. I don't know why! I hated myself for doing so, for giving in after all the progress I had made! I also committed self-stimulation once more. Then again, I vowed to myself that I'd stop. I refused to see the boy at all. I got busy with working during the summer, and I stopped studying the scriptures, I stopped praying all together, except for maybe three or four times.

I am now back up at school. I have started studying my scriptures again and I desire to go to the temple and do baptisms for the dead. I got a limited-use temple recommend right before this school year started. When I was asked about the law of chastity, and when I was asked if there has been anything that should've been resolved with priesthood authority, I think that I have already repented and that I don't need to bring up an old sin that I repented of. So I told the member of the bishopric that I was worthy. And my dad happens to be a member of the stake presidency. He asked me the same questions, and I told him the same thing. But then again, technically I committed the sin again, even if not so serious.

Also, I have never officially repented of the reading of pornographic material, nor the self-stimulation. I just stopped both of them. They don't cross my mind when I think about if I've kept the law of chastity. I only think about the stuff I've done with boys.

This may be a stupid question, and I'm sure that anyone else who does read this will think I'm stupid for asking this, but do I need to talk to my bishop and turn in my recommend? I want to be done with wondering what I should do. I've wondered for seven years. I want to be better. I want to change.

Please help me.

--Lost in Idaho.


Dear Lost,

Yes. You need to go talk to your Bishop.

Will he ask you to turn in your recommend? I don’t know. He’s the one who has been called by the Prophet of God to be a Judge in Israel over the people in your Ward at this time.

(Did you know that ALL calls to be Bishop are approved by Salt Lake?)

I don’t think I’ll edit your letter much before publishing; I think you’re brave for writing and I think that our mature reading audience can handle what you have to say and can profit from your story.
If you go back and read what you’ve written with open eyes and an open heart, I think you’ll see what I see: that every time you’ve tried to conquer these temptations on your own, even though you do really well, you feel horribly and eventually fall back into the same pattern.

Masturbation is masturbation whether you’re a man or a woman, boy or a girl. Because the physical reaction is similar to sex the endorphins can be addictive, much like any other drug (which I think you’ve realized).
Like drug use, it’s often accompanied by pornography (which includes the books you read), but not always, and like drug use we’re compelled to give in to the short term “feel good” even though we know we’ll feel bad after.

Unlike drug use, pornography and masturbation is largely excepted (and encouraged) by our society. It’s depicted as a victimless crime or not even a crime at all. After all, it feels good, and no one is getting hurt, right?

Wrong.

People who endorse pornography and masturbation will tell you that the guilt you feel is because you’ve been raised with oppressive beliefs and that “the church” has no right to make you feel guilty for what you’ve done.
But they’re denying the Spirit. The Spirit doesn’t “make you feel guilty”, he communicates to you the will and wishes of Heavenly Father for you in your life. You “feel bad” because, deep down, you know that what you’re doing is wrong.

Why is it wrong?

Because it distorts our perceptions and expectations of sex. You’re essentially cheating on your spouse (or future spouse) with yourself and your fantasies. Those feelings, emotions, and sexual responses are best when shared with an eternal companion.

(Note: many police officers have told me that on drug raids they find piles of pornography. Isn’t that interesting? I’m sure it has something to do with making the decision that all behavior is OK and the nature of addictions.)

How you feel, your desire for sex and your enjoyment of sexual things, in and of itself, is not wrong; just your timing and your method. Find yourself an eternal companion, get married in the temple, and then entertain each other as much as the two of you can stand.

Remember that Heavenly Father wants us to be together as eternal families. I believe that things like self-stimulation and pre-marital sex can remove or lessen our drive to get married; they’re part of what’s breaking down our society.

An equally large issue that’s buried in your letter is your lack of testimony of you Bishop’s calling and ability to do his job to help you. I can understand the hesitation you feel in revealing personal issues to a man you’ve known for a long time that is suddenly now your Priesthood Leader. (Imagine what it must be like for people who need to talk to their Bishop and their Bishop is suddenly their spouse’s father or Girlfriend’s dad or their mom’s brother . . .)

We need to develop a trust in the Lord that He is the one that calls these men to this sacred position. Is every Bishop perfect? Of course not. Are there Bishops that maybe shouldn’t be Bishops? Sure; it’s a big church, and not everyone is right with the Spirit, properly repentant, or truthful n their interviews (sound familiar?).
But our job is to Trust in the Lord. People who are in positions of authority that should not be will be held accountable; we’re blessed for our efforts to repent, and that’s not tainted by the unworthiness of the authority to whom we confess.

I’ve worked with many Bishops. Everyone I’ve ever seen in action has been deeply moved by a desire to help his Ward grow closer unto Christ, remarkably able to separate the need for repentance from personal ties, stunningly confidential in their ability to guard the secrets of members.

So, “Yes”, you need to go talk to your Bishop.

Set the appointment right away (do it now!). Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance for the coming of the Lord is nigh.

Know that whatever we’ve done we’re still loved. There’s nothing we endure that Christ does not know of or understand. I care for you and pray that this burden will be lifted from you as you chose to do what you know in your heart is right.

Go back and read through this letter. Notice the things you’ve done that have helped in the past: Prayer, Scripture Study, Church Attendance. They NEVER fail!

Take that extra step, the one you know you need to take but have avoided for so long. Whatever the consequences, you’ll be comforted by the knowledge that you’re on the right path.

Remember also that the Lord tells us that He will forget the sin, not that We will forget the sin (this is, I think, a common misconception in the Church). The memories may fade, but I believe we can be blessed by always remembering those things which we’ve done wrong so that we know not to do them again.

May the Lord bless you in your efforts to become closer unto Him,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Same Ol' Same Ol'

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey Brother Johnston! How are you doing? This is the second email I have ever sent to you (maybe you'll remember me as the girl who had problems with a boy she liked in "When a Good Guy Goes Bad"), and once again, I need some advice! I feel kind of embarrassed to say that my current obstacle involves yet again the same boy, but it's a different situation this time - I promise.

When I received your response to my email, I did decide to take your counsel and give it a try. In the process I regained back my old self and found that life wasn't all about the current 'love interest,' or whatever you want to call it. And you know, I also found that I was selling myself short! Dang it, if a guy can't respect a girl the right way, I honestly don't know what makes them think that's okay. Luckily, I also know from experience that not all guys are like that.

(Special thanks to all those good guys out there who do know the sanctity of Womanhood and the value of dignity in the presence of women. You guys are the ones that make us GIRLS want to be better persons. Promise that you won't ever change; we need you men! To not only be the examples to other guys who are having trouble, but to rise to your callings in life and prepare yourselves to be the future leaders of the Church. Not only do we know guys look to us for answers, but we also look to them.)

So to the story: Over the long 3 months away from him and finding new-found strength at EFY, the summer was a perfect opportunity to brace myself for school. Oh, and when it started, I felt at the top of my game! Seminary also added another defense to everything tempting around. It was just...PERFECT. Except for one thing: This same boy (we'll call him Brandon 'cause I like that name), was sending some strong signals that he still liked me. Uh...But I was determined not to let all that I had gained just slip away - no way, dude! I later found out that we didn't have classes together, though...thank goodness or else if I did, and I still had more-than-friend feelings, it would be hard to bear, let’s just say.

It has also been decided that I'm done with all those feelings of attraction I had for him. I'll be his friend, but only a friend; it's better this way. I'll also mention that Brandon has more than one girl who likes him and wants his attention, and I am NOT going to be part of that pause! Neither will I fight over a guy.

Now back to the problem: The second week of school I actually needed to get a schedule change and ended up getting switched into a math class with him. It was only one class, and I thought "Well, okay, maybe I can use all that I've learned and influence him for the good! Brandon is Brandon....This way I'll also be able to reestablish our friendship." And yeah, it started out that way. This is a new school year, and it felt like a breeze at the time. No problem...broken hearts...regrets? So far it HAS been the best! But just this math class...I also ended up accidently picking a seat beside him and in front of a girl I used to be good friends with until she found out I liked Brandon. (Yes...the usual girl drama you hear about...the thing is, though - I'm the kind of person that doesn't get any drama!!!!) Long story short, Brandon began to show some feelings toward me and this girl didn't like it all too much from the way she started treating me. (Sigh...why must we be mean to one another for no exact reason?)

Well, when I thought things wouldn't get any worse, he began to want hugs from me. Usually I'm okay with giving/receiving hugs from friends, but these were different. They weren't inappropriate, just unacceptable, for me. I just would never define them as friend hugs. So it's here part of the problem lies.
How do I get it across that I'm okay with friendly-affection, like hugs, without it meaning something more than mutual? He has seen me give out hugs to my other friends in certain situations, but when it would come to him, I’d either skip him, or give him one half willingly.

This is only because I'm afraid of what is going on in his mind when I give one out to him, or vice versa, and I don't want him to get the wrong kind of message from me. Right here I'm in trouble because I don't want to hurt him, but then I want to be firm. He also supposedly asked another girl I know to be his girlfriend a few days ago, but he is still showing more than wanted attention toward me, which is extremely confusing.

I have been told from close friends and people that know him that he respects me. I've talked to my close girl friend about this and she says that from what she's seen and knows, if nothing else, his good RIGHTEOUS side has feelings toward me; he only lets "his worldly, un-steadfast, and moveable side" get in the way...Which is why I've been told that I'm the one who needs to take him aside and talk to him about the bad decisions he has made, and let him know how disappointed I am in him. Only then, if what has been said is true, he'd be willing to listen.

I'll admit that I've noticed some difference in the way he acts around me, but I don't want to make too many assumptions. What is your view, and what do you think about this? I think I've covered everything, but incase some things are a little vague to be sure, I'll be happy to explain anything if you need it to be!

Thanks Brother J!

-Another Young Woman=)


Dear Same Young Woman,

Hi.

It’s OK to feel embarrassed, especially if you don’t mind being mocked.

Seriously, I don’t know if I should be flattered you’ve written again or depressed that we made no progress.

But, what the heck, let’s try again!

My dear young sister, you’re in need of a serious reality check; don’t tell me you don’t get into any of the “usual girl drama”, I’m not buying it.

You’ve never stopped having a crush on this guy, you still want to be his “friend” and you still think you can “save” him.

I’m glad you feel stronger, I’m glad you’ve had Good Spiritual Experiences, but one EFY and a summer does not change everything.

Please, know that I say this with love: it’s time to find the brain and put it back in. There’s no such thing as a “friendly hug” between a teenage boy and girl. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I can promise you I know what he’s thinking.

You CAN’T “get it across that [you’re] okay with friendly-affection hugs”; whether this guy really likes you, has the hots for you, or is just trying to win the manipulation game, he’s winning and you’re losing.

  A) You shouldn’t be doing so much hugging (it’s not nearly as harmless as you think) and

  B) As Sister Jo says: “who cares what this guy thinks?!?”

Skip him. So what. No Young Woman should EVER give into the notion that she should feel obligated to hug, or kiss, or WHATEVER, with any guy (and yes, guys, that street runs both ways).

You’re not his Bishop. You’re not his Mom. You’re not his Therapist.

Don’t make ANY assumptions.

My view is that you’re still being drawn into treating him like some kind of project’ that you’re still flattered by the idea that you might be helpful and you enjoy the fact he seems to have feelings for you.

I’m not suggesting that you shun this boy; you should still be nice, but don’t send out mixed signals and don’t give him any impression that you want to be a couple.

(If anything, you may want to shun some of those bad-advice giving friends of yours . . .)

I think you still have a ways to go on the self-esteem train. It’s a bumpy ride, but well worth the fare.

Keep your standards high.

Look, I don’t mean to be overly harsh, just very clear. Often, it’s when we find ourselves on the right course that we’re tempted to let go of the rod the most.

Yes, we’re our brother’s keeper, but we can’t let go of the rod for a moment, thinking we can gather others in and bring them back, lest we too get lost in the fog.

Encourage this boy to make the right decisions. Be THAT KIND of friend. Then, when he’s firmly holding onto the rod on his own, then you can consider including him in your group of Potential Casual Dates.

Before I close, let me cover one more thing, for you and all of our female readers that I’ve written before but bears repeating: Guys lose intelligence when we’re around women. You can’t sugar coat information and expect that we’re going to understand. If you don’t like us, “in that way”, you’ve got to tell us and make it clear. If you don’t, what we’ll hear is “try harder”.

And that’s not what you want, is it?

- Bro Jo



Monday, October 5, 2009

Homecoming Dilemma

Dear Bro Jo,

The question that I have is actually about what I do for a friend of mine.

One of my friends really likes a guy and the guy likes her back. They both know that the other one likes them, and they talk a lot.

My friend was nominated for homecoming princess and she has to find a guy to be her escort in one of the school assembles. She wants to ask the guy to be her escort but her mom says that to be nice she should ask one of the "special" kids to be her escort. She asked me what I thought that she should do, and I am not sure what to tell her. They are both Mormon so they can't date until they are 16 and she is 14 while he is 15.

Also my friend, talks to the guy a lot but her parents don't know that she talks to him, but they do know that she likes him and he lies her, they say that they really like each other, they tell each other that they like the other one, and she is not sure if she wants that to go on.

She likes him and all but knows that right now she just wants to be friends for now because that is all that they can be. and sometimes is bothers her that they say that to each other and she kinda wants to tell her parents but at the same time she doesn't because they tease her, and she gets tired of everyone bugging her about him.

Yeah, she tells me just about everything and asks me what I think she should do but I am not sure.

- D


Dear D,

One of my boys was just in the Homecoming Court at his High School. He was paired randomly with one of the Princesses (ironically the girlfriend of one of his buddies), but everything was pretty platonic. She held his arm; they walked out in the middle of the Homecoming Game, waived at people and got a picture taken. No big deal.

What is an "escort at the school assembly" supposed to do? Are you sure there's not an escort provided?

I know not every school is the same, but I think it sounds suspect that the school is expecting the Princesses to find their own escorts . . .

To be honest, it sounds like she's looking for an excuse to spend time with this particular guy, probably because she feels "safe" with him . . .

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

I don't know if she needs an escort at the dance. Yeah, they told her that she had to find someone to be her escort, because we don't pick princes at our school.
He is basically just someone that walks her in the gym that way we can vote our choice of the top 3 for the freshman princess.

Is it a good thing that she is trying to find time to spend with him?

- D


Dear D,

Ah, I see, there's a Dance as well . . .

From my perspective, and certainly not intending to disagree with her parents, if all we're talking about is a guy that walks her into the gym, it doesn't really matter who does it, so if she wants to ask this guy she likes, that's fine.

If, however, this is an attempt to get a date for the dance, that's an altogether different story. She's too young to date.

Sister Jo and I see Homecoming as a "Date-Dance", meaning that even though many kids here go sans-date, it's really one of those events that you're supposed to take a date to, so we don't allow our boys to go until they're 16, and then they need to go with a date (and in a group).

My advice for parents (and their teens) is that if one of their "not-yet-old-enough-to-date" children is expected to attend Homecoming festivities because of Royalty selection, the public escort (in the Gym, at the game) is OK. A short, parental chaperoned appearance at the dance for the brief requirements there is a parental decision, but I see no problem with it. Leaving your son or daughter there un-chaperoned (even if it's inconvenient for you to stay) is a Bad Idea. If that's the only option, and if it's required that the child attend the Date-Dance as part of the honor, then it should be declined.

What's more important: following the advice of the Prophets or being nominated as Homecoming Prince or Princess at 14?

It may be hard, but should it come to declining the nomination because of her (or his) faith and commitment to follow the advice or priesthood leadership, the child's peers will have an increased respect for them and their religion, even if that respect isn't manifested for several years. And I firmly believe that such obedience comes with the blessings we're promised.

One of the trials we have as Modern Day Latter-day Saints is that, as we become more "in the world" we become more "of the world". It's a sad irony when we become apologist or ignore the tenants of our faith because of the lure of popularity or the promise of worldly success.

Where your friend is concerned, D, I think a bigger issue than her Homecoming Dreams is her relationship with this boy.

I'm sure he's a very nice guy, but you've hinted at two things that raise some Red Flags.

One, she keeps confessing her "like" for him even though she thinks it's a Bad Idea.

Two, that she feels she needs to talk to her parents about this relationship, but doesn't.

No one should continue down the path of a relationship when they're being prompted by the Spirit to get out. Your friend is suffering from a self-worth issue, justifying being in this relationship because, even though it feels wrong, she likes the security and attention. On that basis alone I'd tell her she needs to back WAY off on the amount of time and attention she's spending with this boy, nice guy or not.

Lines of communication need to be opened. Again, it sounds as if she's being prompted to turn to her parents for council, but isn't.

Parents: take note! This Young Woman is justifying NOT talking to her parents because she's afraid of them teasing her or being too judgmental. If our children can't turn to us for guidance, whom will they then turn to? Heed what was said in conference: have regular, open and encouraging Listening Sessions (not lectures) with your children.


In both cases I'm concerned that your friend isn't listening to the promptings of the Spirit. Tell her I said that. Tell her I suggest that she make certain she has personal prayer both day and night. (One of my favorite "remind you to pray" tricks is to keep one's shoes under the bed. Pray at night when you're on your knees sticking the shoes under, and remember to pray in the morning when you get on your knees and reach under the bed to get your shoes.)

Best of luck to you both.

Thanks for writing, and let me know what happens.

- Bro Jo

PS. Finding excuses to spend time with a boy she likes isn't necessarily bad. If anything it's normal, and in 5 more years will be Highly Recommended. But for now, given all you've said, I think she should slow down a little.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jail Bait - part 3

Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to the questions from "Perturbed." I appreciate your insights and her concerns. I spent some time looking over your website, as well as your response to her email, and think you generally give solid, smart advice to young people and their parents. Which is why I'd love to ask you a few more questions.

I'm going to call Perturbed "Mac" and my daughter "Cheese" ok? They've been friends since birth, and really have a relationship that's more like cousins than friends. I think you may have read something into Mac's original email that wasn't there, namely jealousy. Mac currently lives about 2000 miles away from us, and maintains friendship with our family via email and vacation visits. So I think it's highly unlikely that she's in any way jealous of Cheese--I think she really is just concerned about her.

I'm concerned about Cheese, too. She turns 14 this week, but it seems like every YM on the inside of the Zion curtain thinks she's turning 24. She has always had lots of boys (older, younger, same age) with crushes following her around like little puppy dogs, but has never been willing to give any of them the time of day before. She has a solid testimony, but is also beautiful (i know, i know, every mom thinks her little girl is beautiful...) fun, outgoing, talented, and, conveniently, has a brother 3 years older, which provides an excuse for guys that age to swarm around like flies.

Daddy and I have only had one of said swarm that gave us any heartburn, and that was because Cheese said, "Mom, he creeps me out. How do I get rid of him without hurting his feelings?" This is where suddenly "Boy #1" came in; he had been hanging out with Older Brother, and volunteered to help Cheese deep-six "Boy #2". He showed her how to block his phone #, and when that didn't deter him, eventually met him at the door and told him, in no uncertain terms, to leave Cheese alone. I know it seems dumb that I didn't see that as a problem, but "Boy #1" had always acted like a protective big brother towards Cheese, and Daddy and I were so worried about the other boy that we failed to consider him as a potential problem.

Which, I suppose brings me to the question part of the email. I'm not sure he really is a problem. He's a great guy, has never shown any romantic inclination towards Cheese, and definitely never gets any "alone time" with her (as you put it.) Cheese clearly has a crush on him (duh--he's cute, sweet, gallant, rescued her from Creep...) but that's normal 14-year-old girl stuff. I am just beginning to wonder about "Boy #1" as well. He's committed to "playing by the rules" (YAY!) meaning he wouldn't date Cheese because she isn't 16, and he casual dates lots of girls the right age for him (YAY!) and is very opposed to any kind of Serious/Exclusive Dating before his mission (and has repeatedly counseled Cheese's big brother the same way.) But he also seems to find a lot of excuses to be at our house. And there is a lot of texting between him and Cheese. I can't decide whether I'm being overprotective and paranoid, or whether there may be an actual problem here...

What to do?
(Name Withheld)

Dear NW

Thanks, for so many things.

One of the "most controversial" (and by that I mean that it tends to get the most responses) things I've written is my belief that "Men and Women Can't Be Close Friends" (a slightly modified quote from "When Harry Met Sally" - which I caution my readers to only see the edited for television version).

In short, the point is this: No Man (which this senior boy is) will spend large amounts of time (particularly alone) with any Woman (which he may soon see your daughter to be, if he doesn't already, which he probably does) unless he's interested in her (and by that, yes I do mean there's a sexual component, which is not to say that they are or will have sex, just that the attraction exists).

[And believe me, as the father of teen-aged boys and a coach at the local high school, I completely understand the reality that a 13 year old girl can come across as MUCH older, especially if she's tall.]

He may be a Big Brother-type now, but even so he wouldn't be doing what he's doing (including the Stand Up for Her stuff - which IS admirable) if he didn't like her. They're not THAT far apart in age . . .

So what's a parent to do?

At this point I'd say "not much more than you're already doing".

I don't advocate teen relationships, and often caution my readers to stay out of them; keep dating casual and appropriate, but do date (glad to read that this Young Man has is act together). One reality we sadly have to face as parents is that if we actively work to break a couple up, especially if we voice our dislike for an individual AFTER a relationship has started, all we succeed in is driving a wedge between us and our children.

And, let's face it, we're not talking about a BAD kid here; he sounds like a pretty good guy. Plus, ready or not, five years from now this may be the Man that takes your daughter to the Temple - and if he really is a Good Guy, that will be a Good Thing.

So if you and your husband Over React, you could find that marriage starting Too Soon (and I'm sure you know what I mean).

So my advice is to (with respect to President Hinkley) BE PRESENT. Just as you've said: no alone time. 

Ever.

No exceptions.

You should be limiting her Texting anyway, so perhaps you can find an excuse to back her minutes off (I advocate surrendering all cellphones during family time, Church time, and between 8pm and 6am, unless the child is out of pocket - but to be candid, we actually only let our boys have access to a phone if they're on an outing - or date - or coming home after 11pm from an away-game).

Be careful to not present anything you do as punishment for her crush or to focus your limits strictly on this boy, lest she get the wrong message ("well, I can't text Boy #1, so I'm going to show them by texting Boy #2").

And, if you're truly brave, give her excuses to have this boy at your home when lots of other kids are there as well - like video parties, Ice cream socials, stuff like that.

And just in case I haven't been clear: Ed (as you call him) HAS shown LOTS of inclinations that he's had romantic thoughts about your daughter.

  a) He's a guy
  b) He's alive
  c) He talks to her
  d) He's concerned for her and focuses on her
  e) He's over all the time

Ask your husband; only A & B are required for there to be an interest.

Thanks for Reading, Writing In, and Being a Parent that is involved in the life of your child. I can tell you as the writer of this column, I wish more parents were.

Best of luck!

- Bro Jo

PS - I should clarify the "jealousy" accusation - with out all of the facts - which I rarely get - I need to cover all the angles and, let's face it, what 13 year old girl isn't a little jealous that her friend is getting attention and she's not?