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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Friday, August 31, 2012

Saying the "L" Word

Dear Bro Jo

Hello!

I don't know if I know the answer already...

Would it be wise to tell him that I love him, even though we may or may not have any future together beyond our relationship now? We have discussed the relationship a lot, and have agreed that slow is the good way to go, we both feel right moving slow.

Our maturity levels are nowhere near ready for marriage, and we're happy that we each agree on this.

However, we do kind of hope this will stay. It would be nice, but we know it could possibly not happen. Don't know how it's going to work, seeing that I'm moving in January and he graduates in May (though he could get a job anywhere with his field of study), but we both kind of figure if we feel, when the time comes, that we can and/or should make this work, then we will, but right now neither of us can tell. And we should just focus on getting to know each other better first.

In the mean time though, would it be wise to tell him that I love him, or would that be a mistake and make things harder than they should be if we figure we should just go our separate ways eventually?

We both know that is a possibility, and know it won't be easy, but we both agree the Lord knows what is in store and will help direct us to the right path as we remain faithful and diligent and keep ourselves open and worthy of the spirit for guidance and direction.

I am a very loving person, I love many people, it's in my nature. He heads home for 11 weeks later this week. If I tell him, I think I want to tell him before he leaves. But I just don't know if that is a bad idea or not. I don't want to rev the relationship into something a lot faster than it should be, but I don't want to never tell him I love him, either. I don't think saying that would be revving it or not, but I just have no idea. All I know is how I feel, and it feels wonderful, but I just don't know what to do about it.

Many thanks,

Name Withheld,



Dear NW,

I suspect that you DO know the answer already; just go with what your heart and the Spirit tell you to do.

How do you know when to tell someone you love them?

It seems like such a big risk, right? Because what you're really wondering is if he loves you, too.

If it was simply a matter of expressing your feelings and you felt compelled, well then . . . you'd just do it. But the worry is "what if he doesn't feel the same?"

And what if you're at that point and he's not yet? Will spilling your feelings, leaving yourself open like that, will it scare him away???

My thought is this: if you're going to regret NOT telling him . . . if it's the last time you ever see him (not to be morbid, but what if he gets hit by a bus?) . . . will you look back and regret not having taken the risk, then you absolutely need to tell him.

The worst case scenario is that he doesn't feel the same, right? Well, as painful as that will be (and it will probably be cry-your-eyes-out painful - trust the old guy, he knows) at least then you'll know, and that's way better than spending 11 weeks waiting around. (Plus, you could possibly find that in that 11 weeks he wakes up and realizes what a wonderful catch you are.) If he sets you free then you can date other people.

When you're ready.

But . . . if he returns the sentiment . . . well, then . . . that's one of the best feelings in the world!

Love is about risk. And venerability. Not every jump off the cliff results in flight; some of them end in crashes at the bottom.

But if you never leap, you'll never fly.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doubts and Questions

Hi Bro Jo!

Long time no talk!

Life is going really well for me. Still waiting for the mission petition. I can't submit it till a year from my divorce. Until then, I've been thinking about my testimony and finding areas that could use improvement.

And I know you're the go-to guy for advice (who is not family and won't be biased). Even though I talk to you as if you were an uncle or something! You rock.

Anyway, I have been thinking about good VS bad. I've really been able to see it in the point of view that good is GOOD, and bad is BAD no matter the source. Mormon charity isn't any more holy than Catholic charity, or even Atheist charity. It's all equal in God's eyes. It reminds me of the quote by Abraham Lincoln, "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion."

I've grown up believing that Mormons are the best, and we are all better and more "knowledgeable" than the rest of the world. But I've come to realize through the amazing non-members I've met, we sure as hell aren't! (haha...) And there's just as many screwed up Mormons as there are people, anywhere you go. On the other hand, there are just as many (maybe even more) wonderful Mormons with great educations and work ethics.

It's not like I'm doing anything contrary to "gospel principles". I've just found myself questioning the things "I’ve never doubted" in life. And how many phony people get up and say "I know the gospel and Joseph Smith and God are true, with every fiber of my being!" Well, no. You don't. Because any scientist will argue that faith cannot be measured empirically. To "know" the Church is true is a contradiction.

We will never know in this life unless God himself came down and said otherwise. We can believe the Church is true. But on my train of thought, it follows with "of course you'd say that, that's the pathway to apostasy Grace. Don't think that way." I always feel guilty for thinking and questioning that way.

Any thoughts or advice?

- Hopeful Future Missionary Sister


Dear Sister,

Nice to hear from you again.

Charity is good, and you're absolutely right that one act of charity, given in love, is not "better" than another.

But not all good things are necessarily equal. I invite you to read Elder Oak's talk "Good, Better, Best" from October 2007's General Conference (http://lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/good-better-best?lang=eng).

The problem with many "scientists", (or more accurately perhaps, people that call themselves such), is that they rely on "inductive reasoning" as opposed to "deductive reasoning". This "loophole in logic" allows them to declare that things that are just theories (i.e.: the evolution of one species into another, particularly as accidental biology and not part of a greater plan, despite the lack of "empirical evidence" to be fact, and yet in the same mind declare that an individual's knowledge of the things they believe to be true as impossible to know. For my part, as a reasonably intelligent human being, I think both arguments are garbage.

Because of Faith I'm able to "know" the truth of things Spiritual without having had to physically witness them. If people want to doubt me, that's their right and prerogative. I suspect it makes them feel better on some level, that they take comfort in declaring the testimony of others as invalid because they themselves are struggling with certain spiritual concepts. Lack of faith on their part should not and does not make my faith any less real.

To paraphrase scripture, believing is knowing what's true without having seen. It's like the movie "The Santa Clause". Remember? The step-dad is trying to convince Charlie that what he knows to be true (Santa) - isn't, and Charlie ask him "have you ever seen a million dollars?"

Neil answers "no", and Charlie replies "just because you haven't seen something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist".

I did not, to my knowledge, witness the Atonement, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and yet I know those events to be real and true. I may not understand how it all works, and I may wonder about it from time to time (as you may have, which by the way, is very normal), but nothing anyone can ever say or do will make those events less real. Even if I chose to not believe it, that would not change their reality.

Are some of the people who bear Testimony of the Restoration, or the Prophet, or the Gospel, or Christ, being insincere?

Probably.

Is everyone?

No way.

And even if someone is being insincere in their Discipleship or Testimony, does that mean that what they're saying isn't true?

Not at all.

And even an insincere Testimony can lift the Spirit of those that hear it. What one person may scoff at may be the thing that someone else needs to hear to feel better.

My advice?

Stop seeking for Truth among the doubters and unbelievers; realize that it's okay (and NORMAL) to doubt and to question; but realize that ultimately all Truth comes from He who is the Way, the Truth and the Light. I'm not saying to drop your friends or associations, but you don't go to a dry well to get a drink, you know?

Don't feel guilty for thinking and questioning, but if you want answers, go to The Source.

Primary is right, Sister: Pray, Read your Scriptures, and Go to Church.

Two last thoughts:

1. There are many times recorded in the scriptures where a visitation from God or Christ or an Angel still isn't enough to convince people of the truth or change their behavior. Cane, after all, was on one-on-one personal speaking terms with God; that didn't change what he chose to do.

2. Don't get hung up on the semantics. Is it really important that we debate the meaning of the word "know"? Isn't our time better spent studying truth than dissecting language?


Thanks for the thought provoking email!

Wishing you well,

- "Uncle" Bro Jo


[Readers,

I thought you may find it interesting to know that this sister did indeed go on a mission.  Cheers,

Bro Jo]

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Short Distance Between "Kissing Alone" and "Hello Fellow Parent"

Dear Bro Jo,

I am 17.

I graduated from high school this past June and am now attending community college and working saving money so I can transfer to BYU next term.

Here's my dilemma...

Where I work there's this guy that I have become pretty serious with.

Because of where I live and the losers in my ward, there aren't very many people to date, so when this boy first asked me out I was really excited about it, because I haven't dated much before.

Well, he's not a member, doesn't really have much future ambition (well, he wants to be a musician), and I don't think that I will ever want to marry him, but, I thoroughly enjoy his company.

He makes me laugh harder than anyone I've ever met, and he treats me so well. We both know that I'm going away to school next year and that I don't intend on continuing our relationship once I leave.

We spend a lot of time alone, but we never do anything more than kissing. No making out, no necking, no petting. I have very strong feelings against petting, and he knows that.

So I don't really have a specific question, I just want your advice. I know that I should be going on Casual Group Dates, but that option isn't really available, and since I'm in college does that rule not apply to me?

Is it fair to him that I am continuing this relationship even though I know it's going nowhere?

Would it be possible for us to go back to just being friends?

- No Name



Dear Sister,

You know, I had written my response to you a couple times before it finally dawned on me what's going on here.

I wrote about being 17 and out of high school and Serious Single Dating vs. Casual Group Dating . . . blah, blah, blah . . . and then it hit me; the key issue is the situation you've chosen to be in and what that says about how you feel about yourself.

Here's what I'm getting: you're in a "relationship" that you know won't go anywhere, spending a lot of time alone with someone who, nice though he may be, doesn't share your spiritual goals or have your same standards. And why? Because you haven't dated much, and he seems really nice.

I just see this whole thing as dangerous. Remember, I have seven children; I know just how short the distance is between "just kissing while no one else is around" and "good morning fellow parent".

Being a nice and funny guy who shows you attention and is a good kisser isn't enough.

In fact, to be honest, he's lacking the two qualities I pray the men my daughters marry will have:

1) be hardworking

2) be a worthy and active priesthood holder.


If you're going to be Serious Single Dating (which you ARE doing, even though you should wait just a little longer), then there's no point in getting into a relationship with anyone who doesn't meet those two minimum criteria.

It’s not fair for either of you to continue as you are, and lead to a big mistake. You'll never be able to be "just friends", unless calling your relationship that makes breaking up easier. I think you're fine to Casually Group Date him until you head off to school, but no more time alone.

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

Funny story. I had this really strong prompting to break up with him on Tuesday, and so I did. I was so strongly against it, but it was too strong to deny, so that night I went to his house and broke his heart. He was so upset about it, but we've been able to talk about it and have decided this really is what's best for us right now. I'm really happy about my decision, it's amazing how God really does know what's best for us.

- Sister



Dear Sister,

He does, indeed.

And good for you.

Not that you asked, but when you break up with someone it’s a good idea to get some distance; don't confuse things by acting as if nothing has changed.

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 24, 2012

What to Look for in a Spouse

[Readers,

As sometimes happen, I failed to publish the following column two years ago. I alluded to it, but didn't follow through.

My thanks to reader "Mel" who realized my mistake and kindly pointed it out to me.

- Bro Jo]




Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The One":

I know you've said that there is no such thing as "THE ONE" person whom we're destined to be but what are traits that can help you tell who is good marrying type guys and girls and who aren't?


Dear Readers,

The Above comment was left on a “Dear Bro Jo” column titled “The One”, which you can check out by clicking HERE.

I thought it deserved its own column, so here it is!

- Bro Jo



Dear Anon,

I’ve written before about “The 5 A’s of Why Not to Marry” (which can be read HERE), and on our Facebook Discussion pages both Guys and Gals have commented about what types of things they’re looking for or find attractive . . . but I think you’ve presented a great opportunity to discuss the qualities that are important to look for in a spouse.

I should perhaps start by saying that, while even though we’ve been together for over 20 years, I still find Sister Jo to be stunningly beautiful. I’m certain that we’re one of those couples that people whisper about when they see us, saying to each other “How did HE get HER?!?”

I honestly have no idea, except that, since Sister Jo is typically sober, bright and alert, it must have been one of those rare moments in time where I was smarter than she . . .

That said, some of what I love and find beautiful about Sister Jo now is stuff that, after many, many dates, I was educated enough to be looking for then, and some of what I love is stuff that I was not smart enough to be looking for . . . I think I just got lucky.

There are certainly different “types” of people . . . we’re all going to be attracted to different things (thank the Lord), but there ARE some general qualities that I hope my children, and each of you, are smart enough and lucky enough to find in a spouse.

To that end, here is:


“Bro Jo’s LIST of THINGS that YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR in a SPOUSE”

1) Someone you can talk to.

2) Someone you can put before yourself.

3) Someone you love.

4) Someone you can respect.

5) Someone you can trust.

6) Someone you can support.

7) Someone who has the faith to be happy and positive.

8) Someone who you enjoy spending time with, in a physical way.

9) Someone who you enjoy spending time with when there’s no possibility of anything physical.

10) Someone who feels all those things about you.



Here are some other things to consider:

1) A spouse should be your Best Friend; someone you can tell your hopes and dreams, your fears and concerns. You DO NOT want to raise teenagers with someone who won’t advise you; after a long day, with the kids or at work or after you got in a fight with you parents, you’ll need someone who will listen to what you need to express; you’ll want a voice you can tolerate, an ear that gives you comfort.

2) Love is about sacrifice, you’ll need to do things you don’t want to do, at times that are amazingly inconvenient, often at some kind of risk, for the person you call Eternal Companion. Will you watch the kids even though you’re tired because your spouse needs a break? Will you run to the store to get them something even though you’d rather be doing something else? Can you put their happiness ahead of your own?

3) Do you honestly care about this person and their wellbeing? Does knowing them bring you joy? Do you wish for them to be happy, even if it means you’ll be sad?

4) Can you look this person in the eye? Do you hold them in high regard? Do you see them has having Great Self-worth? Do you admire them? Do they treat others well? I’ve said often, you can’t love someone you don’t respect.


Remember that even in the best marriage, conflict, disappointment and frustration are real. We make mistakes, we have regrets, we say and do things we shouldn’t. Marriage isn’t about being perfect; it’s about two people growing towards perfection, each helping the other to be a better person.

- Bro Jo



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Follow-up: A Sister Missionary Comes Home

[Dear Readers,

Nearly three years ago I got a letter from a sister who asked about "How to Have a Great Mission". (You can read the original post HERE.) She had two concerns. One was how to make sure she got the most out of her mission; two was what to do about a young man she had fallen in love with.

Below is the follow-up to her story.

- Bro Jo]



Dear Bro Jo,

I returned from my mission last night - it was the best experience of my life. Thank you so much, for the wonderful advice.

Hermana



Dear Hermana,

Welcome home!

Sister Jo and I are both proud of you, and are thankful for your willingness to serve.

Where did you go? What made your experience so wonderful?

And whatever happened with "that guy"?

When you get the chance, we'd love to hear more.

For now, welcome home!

Bro Jo



* * * 11 Months Later * * *


Dear Bro Jo,

I went to San Jose, California (Spanish-speaking!). You were right, I'm not sure if you remember, but you had mentioned to me that a mission is not all dancing flowers and singing trees.

What made it wonderful was putting my heart into it, and the people I met and loved. What made it wonderful was never wanting to leave, then coming home and seeing my family again, and beginning to realize the millionth part of how worth it it was.

I wish I could say I made my mission wonderful, but the wonderful part wasn't me. It's like Ammon said, "Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever."

Believe it or not, that same guy was still here when I came home. We're deeply in love, and we'll be married in the Cardston, Alberta temple in August.

Thanks again!

- Hermana Getting Married



Dear Hermana,

Congratulations!

We wish you an eternity of happiness,

Bro Jo  and Sister Jo



[Readers,

Life doesn't always work out exactly this way; but the Lord always blesses us for our sacrifice and service.

I suspect there's much to be learned from the stuff Hermana doesn't write, the stuff that happens during the 11 months between emails. It reminds me that things are on the Lord's time table, not ours.

Hope you enjoyed the follow-up!

Cheers,

Bro Jo

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Steps of Repentance and Knowing if You've Been Forgiven

Dear Bro. Jo

I've followed your blog for the past couple years and I love it. First time I've needed advice though. Here goes.. (this story happened before I found your blog, so I realize all the mistakes we made) I grew up with this boy we'll call Ryan. I've known Ryan my entire life, he was best friends with my older brother going up, our families were very close, yaddy yaddy ya.. His dad was stake pres. My dad was bishop. He was looked at as the perfect kid. Always did everything right.

Well..

We started talking and dating some. Not many people knew we really liked each other. It wasn't too serious of a relationship.. Problem was I was very naive and head over heels for him. (I was 16 he was 18.) We texted WAY too much, never enough actual talking I realize now. We started to joke around about kissing, and everything and one weekend we were going on a double date with some other LDS kids. We kinda planned that we were going to kiss then. We drove to meet the other couple about 20 minutes away and then on the way home he stopped and parked the car. (Bad.. yes I know)

We started kissing.. and it seemed to happen so fast looking back now, but he put one of my hands on his abs and then he put his hand on my back under my shirt. That was it. Went home. It happened one more time. Same kind of thing, kissing I put my hand on his stomach he rubbed his hand on my back.

Then I started feeling reeeally guilty. I understood I shouldn't have done this. I realize that. In my head I rationalized and said that he was a good kid and that is must be okay. Yeeah.

Even if he's a good kid, good kids do stupid things.

We called it off a few weeks after all this. I had prayed about it a few months after for forgiveness but I'm not sure it was completely a humble and sincere prayer (looking back now) I kind of stopped thinking about it, and hadn't thought of it too much until a lesson in YW's.

It talked about how a girl was about to get married but then started having regrets for what she did with her ex-boyfriend. They had pushed the limits and she felt guilty and told her fiancé a week before the wedding and they had to push everything back... anyways that story really hit me! I mean they didn't say of course what she did. So I don't know how serious it was. But It made me think more about what we did those couple nights. I prayed sincerely for forgiveness for what we had done. I felt really bad.

Afterwards I felt like I needed to talk to him about it.. I wanted to talk to him before he left on his mission but I never did. Last August he had been out a few months and I couldn't shake these feelings. I sent him a letter . Told him what I was feeling and I guess I wanted confirmation?

I'm not really sure.

Anyways.. he told me he had told the bishop before he went on his mission and he felt he was forgiven for it and everything. I have prayed quite a few more times for forgiveness on this matter and I guess the bottom line of me writing to you today is this: How serious of a sin needs to be committed to go to the Bishop?

I know what we did was wrong. But it wasn't as bad as many other sins you go to the Bishop about. I've heard that if you feel like you need to, you should see the Bishop. I hadn't even thought about it until Ryan brought it up. So.. I'm not sure exactly. I touched his stomach/chest, he touched my back, and we made out. That was it. No more, no less. I've prayed, and I think I've been forgiven but I don't want to be like that woman on the week of her wedding who has to put off a temple marriage because of it. Also, my dad is my Bishop and that would be double awkward. I'm going into the Singles branch soon though, and headed out to BYU in the Fall. I would really like to get it all taken care of, IF I haven't already. I just have mixed feelings. I think I have been forgiven, but then on the other hand occasionally I will feel still occasionally feel the guilt from it. (I understand we should still feel guilty, but.. idk)

Confuseeddd.. (or whatever signature you would like to put lol)

PS: Sorry so long. I rambled.. even after I told myself I wouldn't.





Dear Signature,

While you've gone further than I like for someone your age, I don't know that what you've done qualifies as a "must go talk to your Bishop" conversation.

However, if it bothers you, Make The Appointment. It's always better to have the conversation and be sure than to assume you don't need to have it and be wrong. You won't be telling him something he doesn't already know, but sometimes vocal confession is part of the repentance process.

Repentance is between you and the Lord, so only you and he will know for sure if you've repented, but your Bishop can help you understand the Steps of Repentance and work through them should you need his help. Bishops are great at giving spiritual advice.


To review, the steps of repentance are;

1. Feel sorry for what you've done. (Godly sorrow.) Not just that you were caught, but understand the pain you've caused.

2. Confess. To Heavenly Father (not that he doesn't already know, but it needs to be said), to the person you've wronged if necessary, and to your Bishop if the sin is grievous enough to put your Temple worthiness in question.

3. Ask for forgiveness. Ask God, through prayer, to forgive your sins. Ask for forgiveness of those you've wronged if appropriate. This humbling step will help to open your heart to the Savior's love.

4. Make Restitution. If possible, replace what you've taken and repair what you've damaged.

5. Turn away. Show Heavenly Father and Christ that you mean what you say, and leave the sin in your past.


(Sometimes people will add an intermediate step between 2 and 3, which is acknowledging that Christ is our Savior and it's through Him and His Atonement that we can receive forgiveness of our sins. I've also seen an additional "last step" which is to "receive forgiveness"; which is also called "forgiving yourself" - the step you're struggling with.)


And I think you're right, we'll still have regrets and feelings of guilt from time to time. That's part of how we remember and how we learn.


Trust in Christ. You'll never go wrong.

- Bro Jo

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Turning Down Dates

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm turning 16 this week and I’ve been very excited to start dating and to get to use the advice that I had read about on your column. I had talked to a lot of guys that I have been interested in from Church, but unfortunately no definite plans have been made.

The reason I am actually emailing you that I was actually asked out by a non member guy that I really have no feelings for at all. If I go out with him it would be my first date.

And quite honestly I don't know if I would want to date him at all let alone have him for my first date. Now I have read all about how to get guys to ask you out and the rules for dating, but I’ve never read about when it’s ok to say no. This leads to my questions...When is it ok to say no to a date? Is it ok to just say no just because you don't want to date them? and How to do it in a way that won't hurt their feelings?

Thanks so so much,


Guilty




Dear Guilty,

At 16 dating shouldn't be limited to only guys you're interested in.

Casual Group Dating is not about the guys you "having feelings for"; it's about practicing social skills and having fun. Unless a guy is Creepy or Scary, so long as he's willing to follow the Dating Rules, I think you should go.

Now, he may very well be Creepy or Scary, and that's certainly a good reason to say "no thank you". But "not interested" and "not good for my social status at school" are not reasons to turn him down.

As far as how to turn him down gently (should he fall into one of the acceptable categories), as I see it you've got four options.

1. Hedge your bets. Tell him that you only go on Casual Group Dates and that he'll have to follow Church standards and some additional rules. That alone might be enough to turn him off. When he hears that you expect him to Plan, Pick up, Pay, meet your parents before hand, and have a Good Group together, he may just decide you're not worth the effort. (No offense.) But it may also be a big risk. It may just motivate him. (Guys do like a challenge, you know.)

2. Level with him. Tell him he's a nice guy and all, but you're just not interested in dating him. You'll have to be clear; anything less and he may start stalking you. He'll probably get hurt, but if you deliver the news in a nice way, then it will be easier for him to get over it.

3. Get a date with someone else. Call a guy you know and say "so and so just asked me out, and I've told him I might be busy; can you or one of your friends put together a Casual Group Date and ask me out? I'd SO much rather go out with you." This one has its obvious benefits, but it does require some courage. If it means anything, the Jo Boys have gotten this call . . . a lot.

4. Lie . . . sort of. Not a big fan of fibbing, but sparing someone's feelings can be more of a Christian act (IMHO) than brutal honesty. Frankly, I'd rather you say "I can't" and leave it at that (even when he pushes for an answer), than "my parents said no" or "I already have plans . . . forever!", but if your parents are willing to help you out (and, believe me, we often are more than willing to help you avoid bad dates), you may find that "my parents said no" isn't really a lie.

"Mom, Dad, can you please tell me that I can't go out with this guy on Saturday?"

"Sure we can, honey."

Not exactly a lie, right?


But, again, before you say no, make sure you have a better reason than just being a snob.

Because, and trust me on this, those girls that are too stuck-up eventually don't get asked out by any of the Good Guys, if at all.

- Bro Jo

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Little More Action

Dear Bro Jo,

First off, I'd like to thank you. My older cousin gave me your Guide to Casual Group Dating for my 16th birthday, and I love it! It's got great advice and I've spent hours thinking about how I'll put them into practice. I can tell that you know what you're doing, which is good because I wouldn't come to you with this otherwise.

The actual issue is that I've been 16 for three months now. I want to go on a date, but the entire high school mentality is thwarting my efforts. Teens where I live want to get a boy/girlfriend and stay boy/girlfriends. They don't leave any room for a dating option. Not just this, but my 'primary candidates' (who are members) have 'paired up' with my best friends, and I don't feel comfortable asking them, or any girl that has already 'paired up', on a date. I know these girls well, and I think they're great people, but it's becoming increasingly harder to be around them and my friends.

I don't have many other options. Anybody I feel like I possibly could have a chance with dating has either paired up, or I don't feel comfortable enough to ask them (Keep in mind that I'm really shy and take a long time to make friends). I also feel like I've put myself at a disadvantage. In school, I'm a smart one. I pay attention, I can reason, and I've got a very good memory, enough to make classmates look at me odd when I answer a questions. I'm an Eagle Scout, but other teens don't recognize it's value. I feel like I've got my goals and standards in the right place, but I'm not sure they recognize that. I feel a little out of place with the local teenagers. Does that make sense or am I just confusing you?

In counseling with my parents, we've come to the conclusion to wait. In October, my 6 month driving restriction will be lifted and I can take passengers ,I'll be back in school and able to actually take people on dates, and things may happen among my friends and their relationships over the summer that will be to my benefit.

I'm the kind of kid that gets information and advice from every possible source, and then makes a battle plan based off the 'data'. I'm hoping you can help me out here!

Sincerely,


Grey Skies in Seattle





Dear Seattle,

There are always options.

You may be forced to break out of your comfort zone. That's one of the great lessons that Casual Group Dating teaches, and frankly why I think it's a good part of preparing for one's mission.

You may be alone in your area, but you're not alone in the world. Guys everywhere are facing the same problem: the Church teaches us to avoid serious relationships in our teens, encourages us to go on Casual Group Dates, and yet even within our own membership many teens and their parents just don't get it.

I'm not going to disagree with your parents, but I wouldn't encourage you to wait, either. In my opinion many of us misread the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet. We read that teens can go on group dates when they're ready, and we misinterpret that to say "don't have to go on dates if they’re not ready". Not to play semantics, but those are two different things.

[Note to parents: Don't "shield" your child from dating! Just because you're not ready, or you’re panicked, irrational or overprotective; just because they're nervous and inexperienced; those aren't reasons to stunt your child's social growth. Hesitation isn't always righteous or inspired; sometimes it’s an excuse not to do what it’s Time to Do; sometimes instead of helping, in our paranoia we become the problem.]

Setting up those first few Casual Group Dates are like getting a shot or jumping in cold water: it needs to get done, even though it’s scary, and you'll be better off once you do.

The thing is, Seattle, you're going to have to step up and be a leader on this one. Someone has to be the first person to do it right, and in this case it sounds like it will have to be you.

That may mean including people in your dating group that aren't LDS. (There's nothing wrong with that, by the way. As long as everyone follows the rules, it doesn't matter who you team up with or whom you ask out.)

It may mean asking out someone's "girlfriend". (You'll be surprised how many "boyfriends" never actually take out on dates the girl they're "dating" and how many girls would love to go out with a guy who isn't expecting anything physical from them.)

It may mean asking out girls who don't fit your criteria of "primary candidates". (Which means, my brother, you need to expand your thinking.)

Stop worrying about others recognizing your greatness, and put your training and skills into practice, Eagle Scout.

Fewer excuses. More action.

You can sing the Elvis song now . . . if you want.


- Bro Jo

Monday, August 13, 2012

How Long Before it's Time to Move On?

Dear Bro Jo,

I need help. I've been dating this guy for nearly two years, he is so good to me, and he treats me amazingly well.

I just got back from a holiday where I met this really awesome guy, a friend of extended family.

I know it might seem like a stupid crush, but we got to talking and he has so much in common with me, he is an outstanding member of the church and all around a really amazing person. I could not stop thinking about him. While I am realistic and realize that (sadly) most likely nothing will come out of this, it really got me thinking about my own relationship:

Honestly, I really have nothing to complain about. He's a convert, and I think he struggles with the Gospel a bit, so I do wish that he was stronger in the Gospel, because I have weak moments where I need reassurance -- it's definitely a blessing to have a solid testimony on both sides.

Other than that, he's kind, generous, considerate, and I know he loves me more than anything. If I broke up with him, it would absolutely break his heart.

Anyway, when I got back from vacation, I felt kind of weird around him. I can't even put a finger on what it was, it just felt like things were different maybe? Different for me.

This is so confusing for me, but I have been thinking a lot about where I want my current relationship to go, and how I'm not even close to being ready for marriage (but maybe it's just with this guy??).

So, my question is, was my (BIG) stupid crush on this guy some sort of sign that my current relationship isn't that great? Is it wrong to start to have feelings for someone else while I'm in a relationship? Was it just a dumb crush-of-the-week?

Please help me out here, I'm overwhelmed with thoughts!

Girl with the dumb Crush :)

PS - If it helps, I'm 21. Not 16. Haha.



Dear Girl,

Two years is a long time for an LDS girl your age to be dating a guy with no real commitment. Sure he's a great guy, and as a guy myself who's been dumped by more girls than I care to count, I appreciate that you don't want to break his heart . . .

But if you're not close to ready for marriage, and he doesn't sound like he is either, than the both of you need to be dating other people. Serious Single Dating isn't about just sticking with someone that you find comfortable, it's about finding a good eternal companion. Sometimes "comfort" isn't enough.

Maybe this other guy was nothing more than a crush, but it may also be as you've suggested: an opportunity for you to realize that you're in a dead-end relationship. I think you need to have the difficult talk with your boyfriend, and I think you need to do it now.

I wouldn't burn the bridge, but both of you need to realize that if this relationship isn't going anywhere, then you both need to keep looking.

And who knows. Maybe a little separation is just what you both need to realize you can't stand to be away from each other.

Just realize one thing: you can't gain your freedom without giving him his as well. He may just find somebody else when you realize you should have never let him go. That's the risk you take, but it's a risk you kind of need to take given how you're feeling right now.

Good luck,

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 10, 2012

When Guys and Girls Are "Best Friends"

Dear Bro Jo,

I've read your columns on about how girls and guys can never just stay close friends and how it’s going to end up in either drifting apart or marriage, usually.

I'm not emailing you to debate it; I'm in the situation.

And we both like each other.

It started off as just friends, well for me it did.

And now we're best friends.

But he’s just barely 17 and I'll be 17 this summer so we know and accept that nothing can nor should happen. We know that there is the possibility of marriage. In like 5 years.

And we understand that’s its just a POSSIBLITY. And we're continuing to casual date with a bunch of different people and we restrict how much we see each other too bc physically we don't want to go past being friends (since we're pretty much out of the friend zone in other aspects) until after his mission if I'm single and we still have feelings for each other.

I'm wondering if being such close friends is not the smartest idea at this stage in life. He is my bestest friend ever and I'm closer to him than like...pretty much all my other best friends. We are really close.

I've talked to my mom and a few leaders but I seem to get a different answer from every. I was just wondering what your opinion is.

Concerned



Dear Concerned,

To clarify, its "men and women", not "guys and girls", which does make a difference. That said, I think the only caution I can give you is to not be alone together. There's nothing wrong with two teens who have a lot in common and get along so well being friendly and paling around together, but if you have any thoughts that this guy might someday mean more to you than "just a guy you used to know" and since you both seem to be attracted to each other, I'd say that one-on-one time is a no-no.

It's like Dr. Seuss.

Not in a room
Not in a car
Don't get too close
Don't go too far

Not on a couch
Not in the dark
Or alone in a house
Or in the park

Beyond that, just as he says, "wait and see".


Oh, and taking this opportunity to clarify, what I've said is "Guys Can't Stay Just Close Friends" . . . the point being, that Guys just don't spend "best friend" level time with girls unless they're hoping it will someday be more.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Priesthood Unworthiness

Dear Bro Jo,

I've written to you before, gotten good advice, I'm a longtime reader of your blog and always love what I read. Everyone says those things, but, I had to say them for myself, because they're true!

All right, I'll dive right in.

I'm a 15 year old girl (surely, you must be getting pretty tired of receiving letters from us :-] ) but I'm about to turn 16 in a couple months.

Originally, when I thought about writing to you, I was going to ask you for advice on a different problem then I actually am. You see, there's a guy (there always is). I've been putting myself out there lately, being a little more outgoing with church boys and everyone as I approach dating age. I'm really excited to soon be able to jump into the world of casual dating. But anyway, over winter break, a guy from my seminary texted me a couple times. We had really nice, long conversations and I liked getting to know him (although yes, I know that relationships shouldn't be based on texting). And then at the Stake New Year's Eve dance, we sat after it and talked again for a while. It was fun.

In a later conversation texting, I casually slipped in my excitement for turning 16, being able to date and drive and everything. I don't know if he picked up a hint or if he already liked me or what, but he responded by telling me that he'd take me on a date for my 16th birthday, he could take me ice skating or something and it would be a lot of fun. I agreed and said that we should definitely plan on something like that.

So, when I was originally intending to write to you, I was going to ask about what to expect on my first date, how not to be nervous etc. because he's the first guy to ask me on a date where it's actually feasible that he could take me on one (he's already 16, turning 17).

But just today, something else has come up that I wanted to ask about.

When talking, we got onto the subject of missions, and he said he probably wouldn't go on one. Surprised, I asked why... And turns out, he just doesn't believe in the Church. Or God. Ouch. He's even my seminary class president... So we delved into the matter a little bit. What got me though is that he doesn't believe in the very priesthood that he holds. That's where my problem is... He doesn't want me to tell anyone, and I'd like to honor that.

But, what about his sacrament duties?

I'm not sure whether one should be involved in all of that without believing in it. All the same, there has been no sin committed to make him technically unworthy. My gut tells me to stay out of it and stay quiet, I don't think it's my business. But all the same, I'm a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of sacrament being blessed by someone who doesn't believe in it. So, here's where I wanted to ask you... What do you think I should do? If anything?

I'd also like to help him gain a testimony. But I don't know how. If you have any tips on that...

Anyway, sorry for all the background here. Hopefully you can make sense of it, and the questions.

Thank you,

- Mary



Dear Mary,

First things first.

When you start to date (and I trust you'll require boys to take you on Casual Group Dates and follow the Dating Rules) you should expect that the date plan will be followed, to be treated kindly, and to have fun. You should not expect everything to be perfect.

And expect to be nervous sometimes. That's natural.

As for this boy you like . . .

Someone need not have a testimony (or even be a member of the Church) to go on Casual Group Dates with them.

Should he have a testimony to bless the Sacrament?

That's between him and the Lord.

And the Bishop.

Now, if you know for a fact that someone is unworthy to participate in an ordinance, and that person intends to anyway, then you have a moral obligation to approach them and tell them that if they don't withdraw and talk to the Bishop, you'll be forced to talk to the Bishop. (Privately, of course.)

That includes blessing or passing the sacrament AND going to the Temple.

(But you have to know for a fact. No rumors and no guessing.)

Each of us need to gain our own testimony (and that sometimes is harder for people raised in the Church, BTW), and we do that in our own time and our own way.

Once we have a testimony, it needs to be nurtured and grown.

This guy may truly be struggling. He may also not care, which is much sadder.

The best thing you can do for him is to share yours (when the Spirit prompts you to). Pray for him and encourage him.

But also be aware. It's odd that he decided to use you as his confessional. He could be hoping that, being the good person you are, you'll help him get on track. He could also be setting you up to excuse his current or future inappropriate behavior.

No alone time (other than in public settings) with this guy.

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 6, 2012

She's Ignoring Him

Hi Bro Jo,

I am 15 and a half, and need some advice regarding a girl from a neighboring ward.

We met at a couple of dances last year, and I saw her on Facebook and added her as a friend. We talked on Facebook all summer pretty often, about every other day.

We saw each other at youth conference, it went smoothly, and we kept talking then one day in August, just as school started back, she abruptly stopped talking to me.

I saw her again at a dance in October, and we danced and talked, but all she said was she hadn't had time to be on Facebook. Which is true, she updates her status about only once every two months now, whereas it was almost every day.

Anyway, the few times she does get on, she never talks to me, and I won't see her again until youth conference next month. I have not seen her since October. I was thinking of saying something like, "I miss talking to you on Facebook."

Would this be a smart idea?

Because I really want to talk to her.

The only possible explanation I have is one girl from my ward who does not like me, at girls' camp last year told her I wanted to marry her (which I totally never said), but she talked to me for months after that anyway.

Thanks for your help!

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

Maybe she's just matured enough to realize that she'd like to talk to a person instead of a computer.

Make sense, right? I mean, after all, she's nice in person, and she clearly told you she doesn't have much time for Facebook.

You should do the same.

Be a talker, not a stalker.

Oh, and at 15 1/2, my friend, you need to lighten up. I believe you when you say you never said you wanted to marry her, but you need to back that up by realizing she's not the only girl in the tri-ward area.

Six months from now you'll be old enough to start going on Casual Group Dates. When you get there, date all the girls, not just that "one special girl" you have your heart set on.

You can date her too, when you're 16 (Casual Group Dates!) but don't make it exclusive.

Have fun!

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cheese Contemplates College - To Y or Not to Y

Hi, Bro Jo!

I have a question for you--not dating related, or male-related. (But it is mail related!) I recently got an acceptance letter from Montana State University (which was weird because I didn't apply and I'm technically only a sophomore in high school.) But it started me thinking about college, and specifically MSU.

You teach there, right?

What can you tell me about it, in terms of the LDS people there.

My dad kinda freaked out at the idea of me going out of Utah (ok; out of Provo!) to go to school because he said the chances of me finding a great guy to marry go way down if I do. So help me out; about how many single guys who meet Dad's Big 3 criteria are available at MSU-Bozeman (or close by) at any given time.

The Big 3 criteria are:

1. Righteous (like he says usually returned missionary is a kind of "starter" indicator on this one, but not an absolute necessity, and also not a guarantee either.)

2. Kind (speaks for itself) and

3. Will be able to support a family.

(Let's face the facts: I want to be a stay-at-home mom with a bunch of kids, which is expensive. And I don't really want the home I'm staying in to be a cardboard box. I don't need to be married to a Bill Gates, but the guy has got to have a way to do the "provide" part that the Proclamation on the Family talks about. He needs to do the "preside in love and righteousness" and "protect" parts too, which is what #1 and #2 on the list are about, I guess.)

Anyway...I'm interested in MSU because I think I could get a pretty good scholarship there.

I'm nearly certain that I'd make their cheer squad, which would be a full scholarship, and all my AP classes and concurrent enrollment stuff would transfer. So I think it would be an economically good choice. And it IS pretty far away from my parents, which I think would be good for me.

But if it's someplace where the RM population is really small, Mom and Dad will probably veto it.

- Cheese


Dear Cheese,

Hello Cheesy!

I can't imagine how you go accepted to a school you didn't apply at . . . that just doesn't make sense. No offense, but it's got to be some kind of clerical error . . . or perhaps it's a "gee, we sure would like you to come here" letter? Trust me. I know the Admissions Office: if you don't apply, you don't get in.

Yes, I do teach there. I'm the head of the Design-Drafting Department. I can tell you anything about it you want to know.

In terms of LDS People let me just say this: life is a bit different on my side of the Zion Curtain.

And then again, it's not.

The Church is the same everywhere, but there's a big difference between living in an area where nearly everyone is an active (or so they claim) Latter-day Saint, your entire ward lives in your neighborhood and your home teacher lives on the same street you do; and an area where it takes three hours to drive from one end of your stake to the other.

We have ONE Student Ward here, with about 80-100 active members, (I think).

Are there righteous RMs here?

You bet!

There are also dorky guys that aren't advancing towards marriage like they should be.

Just like there are in Provo.

The only real difference is that the numbers of each are much smaller.

Plenty of young people, whether originally from this area or here from somewhere else, have met wonderful eternal companions and started families in my little town. Just like they have in thousands of locations all over the world.

Including Provo.

The thing we dads like about the Y (and the Y of I) is the odds. While it may not be correct math, we're convinced that 1 in 50,000 is a lot better odds than 1 in 50 when it comes to finding a Good Eternal Companion.

I totally understand the desire to try something different, move away, going to college somewhere other than your home town. Given the culture and atmosphere, Sister Jo and I have wondered if, for kids that grow up in the shadow of the Y, attending there doesn’t feel a lot like High School.

You still have tons of time. Whether it's MSU or somewhere else, go check it out. With your parents. Go to the Institute Ward and meet their Bishop and other members as well as checking out the school.

When you come to visit, make sure you come say hello!

The Jo Boys say to tell you that there will be at least two good-looking RMs (them) that they know of if you decide to come here for school . . .

Unless, of course, they're at the Y!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Holding True to the Faith

Dear Bro Jo,

Lately I’ve been going through a really tough time at home, and until about two months ago I was a regular at Church on Sundays, Mutual and every other gathering my ward had going on.

When I say '' I’ve'' I mean me alone. I’m only 17 and would call people on their way to the chapel for a ride because my family is strongly inactive members and out of 15 I am left to stand strong alone.

Anyways, it started about two months ago when my Mum (the most inactive out of all) started accusing me of only going to Church for a social event and to see boys.

After much disagreement and reassuring her that I’m there purely and honestly attending for the right reasons I gave up the fight and left the Church.

I’m not saying I didn't love seeing my young men friends but I was there for the right reasons.

A lot of my cousins go to my ward (and I mean A LOT ) and they're always encouraging me to come back to church my Mum still won’t let me go. My Dad was once a First Counselor.

Last week I was suspended from school and I still have 2 weeks until I go back. My house isn’t really a home at the moment and I don’t want to sound like a bratty teen, but I have so much running through my head that it’s hard to think what is right anymore.

My Mum's not a two-sided story kind of person and is violent and I think this is where I get all my anger from. I do anger management classes every fortnight and it seemed for a while I forgot about our Heavenly Father above who is supposedly watching over us and leading on the right paths of life.

Through this past week I’ve been VERY SCEPTICAL whether he still knows I’m here and need him or if he even exists.

It makes me so sad to think that all this time of believing that there is a chance of him not being there to help me and if he’s even there, because I sit and cry too myself and think if he were watching over me then why all the suffering?

Why all the heartache and pain?

Why all the bad in my life?

Why?

And these are the things which make me question. Do I hold my scriptures with me while I pray to him for no reason?

If he loves me like you say he does, then he would help me and strengthen me, but here I lay weak and crying. I’m not perfect and I have done bad things in my life, but in your columns you talk about forgiveness and repenting.

Am I repenting for no reason?

Please Bro Jo, let me know what to do and how to get through if he doesn’t love me anymore.

- Name Withheld



Dearest Little Sister,

I hope I can help. Let me give it to you straight ('cause that's what I do).

"Not going to Church" never makes things better. So go. You need strength and testimony, especially now, and Church is a great place for that to happen.

The Lord most certainly makes "weak things (like you and me) become strong". That doesn't mean we'll live our lives in ease or trial free. It means that, like steel, we'll be tried and tempered; go through fire and seasons of cool healing, increasing our testimonies and understanding.

The Savior will never stop loving you. He loves you so much that he endured all things for you. He knows your every trial and temptation, and endured the eternal consequences of all of us so that, if we chose to repent of our sins (and we are all sinners) and follow him to the best of our ability (always needing improvement, of course) we can live with God again. The celestial end is always worth the challenge and difficulty we go through to get there.

I don't know why you have to suffer the things you're going through right now, but I know that suffering doesn't last forever, and that as you endure your trials you WILL be made stronger (though it may be hard to see that right now) and I know that your strength will be a testimony and strength to others (including yours truly).

I'm sorry your family is currently choosing to live their lives distancing themselves from the Gospel, and with you I pray that will change. When you're old enough for it to be appropriate, it may be best for you to move out. Don't burn any bridges; they are your family after all. But go away to school; move somewhere new; something that will allow you to escape the pressure and bad influences.

It's kind of like you're a rescue swimmer. (Have you ever seen "The Guardian"?  Before you can help someone else, you need to be sure you're safe and they can't drag you under. If you allow them to drown you, then you won't be able to help anyone, including yourself.

Hang in there!

Repenting, or doing what we can to become better today than we were yesterday, is always a good thing. As we grow closer to God our trials don't go away, but they become much easier to handle.

We're thinking of and praying for you,

- Bro Jo