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, June 28, 2013

Dating a Non-Virgin

Dear Bro. Jo,

I am wondering; is it too prudish for a YSA to not want to date someone seriously if they aren't a virgin?

Even if it was something in their past that they have cleared up?

Jack




Dear Jack,

I think that's a tough line to draw. Unless we have Spiritual Stewardship over them, it's really none of our business whether or not someone has repented, or "cleared things up".

They also shouldn't be advertising past transgressions. It really seems inappropriate to me when people do that.

So I don't know how you know what you know, whether or not you really know what you think you do, or are just asking a philosophical question . . . I do know that I wouldn't use the word "prudish". "Self-righteous" might be better . . .

I also understand the desire to marry someone who has held high enough standards and lived those standards when it comes to saving sex for marriage. Despite what the world and many people in it say, it IS a big deal.  (So is knowing that the person you're having sex with has no possibility of a transmitted disease and can never . . . "compare" . . . you to any former sex partners.  I think those things are a pretty big deal, too.)

I guess my final answer is this: if it's something that doesn't bother you then go ahead and date them; if it’s not something you can live with, then don't.

Perhaps the circumstances of their past will sway you one direction or another; would we view a former porn star in the same light as someone who was pressured to do something dumb one time when they were young?

I mean, repentance is repentance . . . but not all things are equal, you know?

And then there's the principle of "planned repentance not really being repentance".  That's where someone sins with the thought that they'll simply quit later and "repent" . . . that ain't the same.  If you don't regret what you've done (I believe President Kimball called it "Godly Sorrow") then you really haven't turned away . . .

Regardless of your choice, I think you should keep it between yourself and the Lord.  Maybe that's the part of this that's bothering me the most . . . the "how do you know?" part.  I might look at this situation one way if this person is constantly bragging or telling stories about their indiscretions (drives me CRAZY when people in the Church try to portray themselves as "cool" because they were "rebellious" when they were young . . . who are they trying to impress???), and I might look at it another way if this is information you have because a good friend felt the need to confide in you . . .

See the difference?

Humility, while it escapes me more often than it should, is something I really admire.

 - Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meet the Parents

Dear Bro Jo,

So I've been sixteen for about six months and I've been having fun going on group dates. But I was reading some of your other messages and saw a few things about the boy meeting parents before the date.

I've gone on quite a few dates, and my parents haven't asked to meet any of the boys I've gone on dates with. I don't know why they don't, but I think sometimes I would like them to.

I've only dated guys that I think my parents would approve of, and they ask questions and such about them and ask how the date went when I get home.

I guess it could be a sign that they trust me, but is it not normal for them not to meet the boy?

I mean sure I sometimes think my parents are weird, but they are just being parents... and I'd like them to meet my dates.

Should I say something to them next time I get asked out?

Would it be weird for my date if I invited him in to meet my parents first?

And if I did invite him in how does that usually go, like how long should we stay and talk to my parents? 

Thanks!

- Sixteen and Dating




Dear Dating,

I think there are a couple things that should be adjusted in your dating pattern.

1. When a boy comes to your home to pick you up (and that's how that should always happen, btw), it should be one of your parents that answers the door, not you or one of your siblings. This is when the parent meeting should go on. 
Even if a boy has taken you out several times before or it's someone your parents know very well, by meeting him at the door they have a chance to confirm the Date Plan, and show this boy that they care who their daughter is going out with and what she's doing. The formality is, to me, part of the fun! 
I believe in looking the guy in the eye and give him a firm hand shake so he understands just exactly who's little girl is going out on the date; until someone marries her, she's mine, not his, and he'd better be responsible and treat her well. 
2. You should be upstairs or in your room or somewhere away from the door / entry area when the boy arrives. He needs to wait for you, not you waiting for him.  Setting that tone will help both of you socially.
3. If it's a first date with a particular boy, then there needs to be a "this is what I expect from you when you date my daughter" talk. 
(Side note: the Jo Boys are actually very disappointed when the talk doesn't happen. One was so impressed with the father that showed him his assault rifle and weapons collection - making a point, sure, but more of a joke since he knew my son very well, that he has increased respect for this man. When his younger brother took out one of the other girls from the same family and didn't get the same firearms demonstration he was kind of bummed.*
It doesn't have to be threatening, but it's a good idea to remind the date how much the daughter is loved. 

And it doesn't have to be the father having the talk; Some people may think I'm "too old fashioned"; I think they're being lazy.

Parents should greet all of their kids' friends when they come over to the house; date or otherwise.

Parents, to get to know your kids' friends.


It's great that your parents trust you. They may not know that you want them to meet your dates. Communicate!

Don't wait until the next guy asks to talk to them about it. Bring it up at dinner tonight. Tell them what you'd like, and ask them if they're willing. Then, when the next opportunity arises, remind them.

Parents can be pretty cool if we give them a chance.

Happy dating!

- Bro Jo


*Note:  All of this stuff needs to happen in context, of course.  This particular father new our family very well, and while he was making a point, he was also bonding with my son who not only got the point, and enjoyed the spirit and humor in which it was made, he also really liked seeing "the arsenal".

I mention this because there's always some people out there who think that this all adds up to "boys bad, girls good", which is . . . frankly . . . not what's being said at all.  I had one young man gleefully write to me once about how when a father had (I believe in humor) done the whole "I have a shotgun" routine, the boys dad then proceed to assault that girl's father, claiming he was protecting his son from this threatening man.

The young man and his father were both morons.  IMHO.  And likely didn't get the jail time they deserved.  I suppose the irony is that, given the overblown reaction, this man really did have a reason to fear for his daughter's safety . . . and both he and his daughter were undoubtedly better off that she never dated this boy.

So . . . dads (and moms), don't run right out there and start copying the "I have a gun" routine.  We live in a world now that's, sadly, full of idiots.  But do make sure you know the people your sons and daughters are spending time with.  Do know the Date Plan. Do make sure that everyone knows that you expect them to act the way Disciples of Christ are supposed to act.  Especially on dates.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Helping a Friend Who's Socially Awkward

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey Bro Jo :)

I'm at BYU-I right now, but this isn't a boy-girl relationship dilemma!

There's a girl a couple dorms down who I have become friends with. We have science together, and since we found out we've been walking together and sitting by each other.

I don't know this girl super well, but she's comfortable with me and she's said some things that have made me feel like she needs a little extra boost of encouragement.

She has a very difficult time making friends because she's socially awkward. She's really caring and nice, but she also has this habit of being very openly degrading towards herself.

I think these feelings stem from her family life where her father isn't very kind to her or to her mother (apparently he doesn't like girls much and only got married to have sons--and according to her; her mother can attest to this).

From what she's said, I don't think her father is physically or sexually abusive, but she does have emotional (for lack of a better word) difficulties. She told me a few days ago that she has been having troubles with her roommates because she doesn't feel as if any of them like her, and that she wishes that she could have more real friends.

She's had people "pretend" to be her friend by being nice to her, but they've ditched her shortly afterwards. I can understand that since she can be very clingy, which can be very overwhelming to people who just want to be nice to a girl who needs it.

I've been thinking about what I can do to help this girl, but I would like to get your insights.

I know I can't change her attitude, but I do believe that, as a friend who does care about her, I can have an influence. I believe in the worth of souls, and I've been blessed with the ability help others see their strengths and feel loved as well. I've been considering sending her conference talks to read, and of course praying for her.

Maybe I should talk to her and bear testimony of the love Heavenly Father and the Savior have for her?

Anyways, having talked to and helping tons of youth, I would very much appreciate your ideas!

Thank you for your time and love!

Friend at the Y of I



Dear Friend,

Thank you.

Thank you for who you are and what you're trying to do.

A little social awkwardness is okay, so long as it's not crippling (and this may just have crossed that line).

IF she wants to make some new good friends and expand her circle (the emphasis is intentional), then there are some things you can do to help.

One thing is to include other people in the things you and she do together.

Time where just the two of you can bond is great, but she'll need opportunities to get to know other people, too. And they'll need to get to know her.

Game nights, movie parties, going to a fireside . . . there are tons of things that the two of you can do together and in a larger group that will give her some more social opportunities.

You can also seek out her talents and opportunities for her to use and be appreciated for those talents.

As she gains confidence in what the Lord has given her, she'll likely open up a little and feel more comfortable around other people.

Just remember, as you do all of this, that ultimately she needs to be loved for who she is, not what you or I or someone else wants her to be.

And Be Patient.  Love isn't rushed; like change, it happens at it's own pace.

 God bless,

 - Bro Jo

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Send in Photos from Your Casual Group Dates and Group Activities!

Dear Readers,

I've been thinking that rather than use stock photos for the Dear Bro Jo Facebook Page, I'd like to use photos from your Fun Dates and Activities.

Email your photos to DearBroJo@gmail.com and I'll put them up on the page.

Photos, of course, need to be appropriate (attire, location, activity) and it would be great if you could include a line about what the occasion was, what you were doing, and/or who put the activity together.

Hope you're all having a great summer!

Cheers,

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 21, 2013

Should She Ask Out the RM She Wrote on His Mission?

Dear Bro Jo,

So hey Bro Jo . . .I’m 18 and have never really been on a date yet (which is not really important) and I really like this guy from my ward.

He’s an RM which I wrote to while on his mission even though at that point I never met him before, but I did it because his family moved into the ward and stake and I figured that because he was new I’d make friends with him before he came back so at least he would feel more at home.

We usually go FHE and other YSA events together normally just us two and while doing that I really developed feelings for him because:

1. I felt the spirit really strongly and when I really talked to him for the first time we were alone, which I’ve never really felt when talking to a guy about general things.

2. Whenever I tell myself that i should just give up and move on it never happens even how hard I try.

3. He makes me want to become a better person and I’ve realized I’ve matured somewhat because of how he’s made me look at things in a different light.

For example before him I would always like guys who are “hot” which was really shallow and immature of me but with him I don’t really care what he really looks like because his personality what’s really the reason I like him so much.

The question I have for you is should I ask him on a date?

My friends think he likes me too but I’m not sure because I sometimes think he likes my friend which everyone denies... but on the other hand, as I have said my friends say he likes me and I have sometimes caught him taking cheeky glances at me but I have no idea what’s going on...

Anyway back to the point:  should I ask him on a date because I know that he can be shy too and also the worst scenario is if I don’t ask him out he might go with another girl...?

Please help

- Confused British Girl




Dear Briton,

No. You shouldn't ask him out; you need to get him to ask you. It’s simple, really. You just say "hey, are you ever going to ask me out on a date?" That's it. And if he doesn't ask you, stop wasting your time with him and move on.

-Bro Jo




 Dear Bro Jo,

Okay thank you Bro Jo!

May I ask why it is important not to ask a boy out.. is it maybe it's not very lady like?

- Briton




Dear Briton,

It may not be "fair" or "right", but when a girl asks a guy out he immediately labels her as either desperate or aggressive or easy.  (That's why some guys like to be asked out, by the way.)

For Good Guys being asked out is a huge turn-off; except for a traditional girl-ask-guy event (and even then its better if the girl asks a guy that has already taken her out), otherwise it’s always bad for a girl to do the asking.

Good Guys need to operate under the illusion that we're in-charge.

Sad game playing?

Perhaps, but it’s true.

-Bro Jo 





Dear Bro Jo,

Hey Bro Jo thanks for the advice and I haven't asked him out, but I did tell him I liked him which lead to him rejecting me and now he doesn't really talk to me.. but life goes on and i'll get over it

- Briton,





Dear Briton,

First of all, I'm sorry it didn't work out the way you were hoping, but telling him you like him is not what I suggested you do, . . .

But at least now you know where you stand and can move on.   And that's a Good Thing!


Secondly, he reacted negatively to what you said, but you still have value.  He's just not smart enough to see it.  Don't think of it as him rejecting you, think of it as him not realizing the great opportunity he missed!


Third, as you said earlier, look at how this experience has helped you to grow and improve as a person!  Good for you!


You'll be fine.  Hang in there, and don't be afraid to try again!

-Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Can You Do or Say When Your Single Mom is Having Sex with Her Boyfriend?

Hey Bro Jo,

I have an issue with my mom and I'm not sure what to do about it...you're so good at helping people out I thought maybe you'd know!

My parents are divorced; Mom grew-up in the Church, Dad's a convert (guess why). They lived together before marriage and my mom got pregnant. She has said that it was stupid and she doesn't want any of us to make the same mistake. And now she has a boyfriend and they are currently sleeping in her room as I type.

She says that the "roads are bad" (they're not, at all).

She says they're adults and they've both been married before and that it's not like they're doing anything...after all, they nap together all the time.

But something about this makes me want to seriously rebel against her.

This little whiny voice in my head keeps saying that if she chooses not to obey her heavenly parents why should I obey my earthly ones?

But I know that's immature of me and as much as I want to go on a no-sleep strike every time he spends the night I know that won't get me anywhere.

They're also buying a house together and plan on moving in together (and taking me and the little sisters too) ASAP. Before marriage. I've talked to her about it, we all have, but she just gets mad and says that we "don't appreciate everything he's done for us" (referring to the fact that he pretty much pays for whatever bills the church and child support can't pay).

I have no choice but to go along for the ride until I can afford to move out so until now I've just been living with the "whatever, it's her life" attitude.

She's right in the fact that it makes better financial sense but, honestly, we live in a pretty big place and could probably sell a lot of stuff and move into a smaller one (my mom insists that wouldn't work though, and she does have more experience than me).

And then he started spending the night here.

Now I don't know what to think. If I had a boyfriend who was unable to get home and I wanted him in my bed, you can bet anything she wouldn't allow it; he'd be either on the couch or at a hotel (which is, of course, how I would have it anyway).

But I know better than to follow her example.

I'm worried about my kid sisters.

To me it seems like, by example, she's almost giving permission to her young girls to do whatever she does.

And that's what worries me.

Backtracking a bit...when she first said she wanted to move in with this guy I told her I'd be fine with it if I heard an "okay" or got a signed note from the Bishop. She rolled her eyes and said something along the lines of "like that'll happen."

And yet, she still asks the Church to pay for rent???

The Church is the reason we still have a vehicle, and yet she's still going around behind their backs like this?

She teaches in the primary, should she really be allowed to do that?

What do I do?

Do I go to her Bishop?

Do I go to mine (YSA ward)?

If I do go to a Bishop what will they do about it?

Would they stop helping with our bills? Or am I just sticking my nose where it doesn't belong? Thanks in advance and I apologize if none of that makes sense...I just don't think it makes sense either and am rather confused...sorry for being so scatterbrained! Signed, Lost Daughter


Dear Lost,

I think the best thing you can do is what you're already doing: learn from the mistakes your mom is making, live your life such that you don't make the same mistakes, and teach those around you (including your sisters) about the how this kind of selfish behavior affects more than just the two people involved.

I'm sorry that you're having to deal with this, but don't allow her loneliness, lack of self-esteem, and plethora of other issues become your excuse to mess up.

Because she's your mom, and because of the legitimate concern you have for your sisters, what's going on is certainly your business.

Sadly, I don't think there's much you can say or do to convince your mother to behave differently.

People who are doing wrong things, justifying them in their own minds, aren't really open to rebuke . . . especially from their children . . .

She knows what she's doing wrong; she just either thinks the "benefits" outweigh the consequences . . . or she doesn't care right now.  (She's totally wrong, of course, but you and I both know she's not going to hear that from either of us.)

When this man finally leaves her

(which I believe he will do once he's gotten everything he wants; or when she finally realizes that he:
A) doesn't love her because he
B) doesn't respect her because
C) you can't respect someone who doesn't respect themselves
and she tries to rectify that by getting him to make a commitment, he'll eventually bolt or cheat)

then perhaps she'll be open to change.

Of course, that won't be the moment for "I told you so", but rather "I love you, mom; you're worth more than that" and "let's find you a man who will love you more than he loves himself".

If you're struggling with all of this Spiritually, then by all means confide in your Bishop.

It’s not your place to rat out your mom to her Bishop; besides, trust me, he probably has a good idea of what's going on, anyway. That's between her and him.

Let it go.

No, I personally don't thing she should be in a position to teach children, or be receiving financial assistance from the Church.  I think discovering her immoral behavior could undermine her authority and credibility with those she's teaching . . . and I think the example she's setting is a horrible one.  (And have I mentioned that she's kidding herself if she thinks people don't know?  Not that the opinions of others should always drive our behavior, but believe me, she's not "getting away" with anything.  People know.  And, right or wrong, they talk.)

I do think it’s okay to talk to your sisters. Don't undermine your mother, don't tell them that she's a bad person, but teach Correct Doctrine.

Talk about how Heavenly Father wants us to save some things for marriage; teach them about value and virtue and chastity and the Spirit. Focus on the Goodness of the Gospel, not on mom and what she's doing wrong.

They'll put two and two together on their own.

You're not "judging" your mother; you love her and can possibly even understand why a lonely and confused person would be making these mistakes.  But you are "judging" her behavior.  What she's doing is wrong and selfish and harmful to herself and others.

Remind your siblings that she's still your mother, and you all should still love her, regardless of any faults she may have, because that's what Christ does; He and Heavenly Father love us unconditionally regardless of the mistakes we make.

And that's pretty darned cool.


You’re not scatterbrained, just a young person having to deal with some adult-type stuff. Hang in there. And when it’s your turn to be faced with similar temptations and challenges, make the better decision.


- Bro Jo


PS:  I think you're learning a lot about how people justify their bad behavior, about the value of self-worth and self-respect . . . and, for the record, when all factors are considered, no, it does not make financial sense for them to buy a house together or live together before they get married.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Is Marriage Worth It?

Dear Bro Jo,

My parents are divorced and my mom's forays into the dating world have not been great experiences for her.

As such her view on dating, marriage and sometimes even men in general is not very positive.

I really would like to hear how great being married is and how it can last, happily, forever.

I know it's possible but sometimes this negative perspective really brings me down and sometimes I begin to doubt.

Sincerely,

Anon




Dear Anon,

Being married is lots of hard work, and sometimes even getting there seems like a huge mountain to climb. 

There are trials, heartaches, arguments, and every emotion you can imagine.

There are tears, fears, and things so difficult you can't possibly know what they're like until you live them.

Despite all of that, being married is the best thing in the world!

Find a good companion and be a good companion and every trial and tribulation will be worth it.

Not easy.  But worth it.

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lacking a Testimony of Fathers and Family

Dear Bro Jo,

I love your blog and all the wonderful advice you give, thanks so much for being willing to tell it straight! Now, I have a question (bet you didn't see that coming!) and I was hoping you could help me out.

I’m 18 and getting ready to serve a mission.

And I mean, getting ready.

I've only fasted, prayed and gotten an answer, I haven’t even started the paperwork yet!

But as I think about serving a mission there are some misgivings I have and they have to do with my faith and testimony.

Now, there are some aspects of the gospel which I find very easy to embrace and some I find much more challenging. I am, of course, worried about the parts I find hard to embrace, mostly because they seem like pretty big parts.

I have trouble with the concept of the family, and more specifically the father, which has led to a lot of problems regarding my faith in the Church.

I've never left and I still believe the Church is true, I’m not about to disregard it all just because I’m a little unsure about a few things. And it’s not that I think it’s wrong or anything, I've just struggled with certain things it teaches.

Starting with the family.

My family is a little messed up (from my perspective anyway). There is my mom, me, my two younger sisters, and then my two younger brothers. I love them all dearly!

But, then there is the problem of fathers.

My mother married an RM (not in the temple) and then they had me.

One thing led to another and they divorced.

My mother then remarried another RM and then had all four of my siblings (over a period of time, not all at once!).

Their marriage certainly lasted longer, not that that is really a good thing.

She is currently going through her second divorce and it’s a real mess!

Now, if I was going to write down every reason I have daddy/family issues this would be a very long e-mail indeed!

So let it suffice that, I don’t trust men very well and I have serious doubts about the family unit.

Now, I’m worried that when I get out there in the field I’ll have to talk about the family (seems kind of inevitable) and I won't be able to, or know how.

One particular reason I worry about this is, when I was in an institute class on Eternal Marriages (my roommate wouldn't go alone and I needed another class so I opted to go with her, and it was a super fun class!) well, one class we got to talking about the family (shocking , right) and our teacher wanted to call on someone to bear testimony about the family and it’s importance, or something like that.

Fortunately I wasn't called on, but that’s the problem. I started thinking about my testimony on the family unit,wanting to be ready to answer just in case, but I came up blank. If I had been called on to testify that the family is important and what not, I don’t know what I would have said, because I don’t have a testimony of that.

When I think of families being together forever I freeze in horror at the idea of having to live through eternity with the people that I've had to call family thus far! (I have been reassured on countless occasions that I won’t actually have to live with them etc, etc, etc.)

And when I hear how important it is to have family in your life, I wouldn't know. I don’t know any of my biological-paternal family.

I don’t know any of my maternal family.

And as for my step-paternal family, well I was lucky enough to know pretty much all of it, and they had nothing better to do than blame me for every problem in my parents marriage and refer to me as ‘the other child’ or more commonly, ‘it’.

So, no, I don’t think family is all that important. Quite frankly, I could have gone completely without.

Then, I have problems with Heavenly Father.

I've heard before how our earthly father's love is like a reflection of our heavenly father’s love, and having never really received any love from my earthly father’s you can see how my perception of my Heavenly Father might be a little less than stellar.

I’m not saying that I would compare our Heavenly Father’s love to mortal mens, even when they do love you it can’t compare, but I started hearing this really early on, before I really understood that it wasn’t REALLY the same, just a sort of metaphor people were using, but I assumed Heavenly Father must not love me since my own father and stepfather didn’t. I’ve never seen him, and there are a lot of times I felt abandoned by him simply because that’s what I’m used to... If he doesn’t love me, why should he stick around or care what happens to me. I know I’m supposed to have Faith in things like this cause it’s not about ‘seeing’ and such, but I was naive before and had faith in men who were supposed to love me and look where that got me! So faith is hard for me now, especially since I’m very ‘why’ and ‘how’ oriented. I like to KNOW things, I don’t like to just accept them (and it’s been both a blessing and a curse at times.) So, I had TWO opportunities to learn of a fathers love and BOTH times I ended up worse off than before and my heavenly father hasn’t exactly been there to tuck me in at night and read me bedtime stories and my faith isn't exactly at full capacity right now to make up for it (or even Mustard Seed capacity at the moment), so the idea of 'Father' is pretty negative to me, whether it be heavenly or earthly. I had three families I could have learned to love and be loved from and the only one I got to know was the one that left me worse off. Are these problematic thoughts/beliefs to be having before going on a mission and declaring his gospel, or is it just me? I mean, there’s a whole proclamation on the family, so it’s not like these are topics I can just leave to their sunday school teachers once their converted! And I’m worried. If I’m having troubles with these topics, will it affect my ability to preach the rest of the gospel? I don’t want to go on a mission only to find that I’m holding back my companions. Or that I can’t seem to get any converts...don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not all about converts! I just mean that I don’t want their to be someone out there, ready to hear the gospel, and then I come along and they think, hmmm don’t think so, that Sister didn’t seem to believe what she was teaching... or something like that. There’s a mormon message (Stay within the lines, I think?) that talks about how you can’t be a hypocrite with the spirit, how the words will stick in your throat! (I know it’s referring to moral cleanliness/worthiness, but still, I would think that would apply to all things, right?) Ok, so I’m sorry that was so long, and that in the end it seems like there’s a million questions, but I’ve never been known for writing short…anythings…I hope it at least made sense. I guess, in the end, I just want to know if it’ll really affect my mission to not have a testimony of these things? And if it would, what can I do about it? (I can’t exactly whip up a new family to just teach me Family Love 101, right).

Thanks,

Worried Future Sister




Dear Worried,

I don't often do this as part of "Dear Bro Jo", but allow me to teach you some Doctrine. And maybe some math. We'll start there, actually. Have you ever heard of a Venn Diagram?

That's when we use 2 or more circles to explain how you can have two things that are true that sometimes overlap and are both true, and sometimes don't overlap.

Let's look at the facts:

1. Heavenly Father loves all of His Children. How do we know? The most important reason is because He gave His only begotten Son (Christ) to atone for our sins and be resurrected (two different things, btw) so that we can return to live with him again forever. We also know of his love for us by the things he has given us, like: Life, Promptings of the Spirit; Temples, Prophets, The Church, Commandments, and things like the Covenants we make with Him.

2. An Early Father's Love CAN be a reflection of the love our Heavenly Father has for us. No, not always Exactly the Same, but there can be similarities. Earthly Fathers can make Sacrifices for us, sacrifices of Time, Money, Health . . . and they give us stuff sometimes to show their love. Not just presents, but Life and Shelter and other Basic Needs. 3. Some Guys are Good Guys, and some are not. So here's how we'll illustrate these principles. 1. Draw a BIG circle, and label it "Love Others have for Me". 2. Draw a second circle that overlaps the first. Label it "Men".

3. Draw a dot in the space where the two circles overlap and label it Heavenly Father. 4. Draw a dot outside the overlap section, but in the "Men" circle. You can label that one with your earthly father's name. And add one for you step-dad, too, if you want.

What do we see? That some of the men you know will love you, and some won't. I wish that the men who have thus far had been more like Heavenly Father, but they weren't. 

Believe me, one day they'll regret that. Just because you've drawn the short stick when it comes to fathers, that doesn't mean that all fathers are unloving jerks.

If your school experience has been anything like mine was . . . I had some teachers that were horrible. I had a high school science teacher that was drunk every morning, one that cheated on his wife with a girl that was just a year older than I was, and more than a few that either put in no effort at all or that clearly didn't care.

 And I had several that were so bad at teaching I'm sure none of us learned anything. Does that mean that the "whole concept of teaching" is a bad one?

Heck no!

I had many teachers that clearly put in extra effort, that were great communicators, that cared for me an the other students, that honestly worked hard to help us succeed.

Now I'm a teacher, and I try very hard to be one of the good ones because of the positive influence they had on my life.

Perhaps your mother was a better dad than either of your fathers. Perhaps your brother, uncle, sister, aunt, Bishop, Home Teacher, Good Friend or Mission President will fill that role for you. Perhaps your first experience with someone who's a Great Father will be watching your Eternal Companion be a great father to his children, loving them in a Christlike way, having learned how to be a great dad from his father, just as Jesus learned from Our Father in Heaven.

One thing you clearly have a testimony of, dear sister, is the Importance of Strong Family Connections!

Isn't that what the Gospel is all about?

You say that you don't, but what I read is that you wish yours had been better.  And that desire is, I think, because you know how important they are!

Family is more than just a dad . . . and it's not just a one-way thing.

Where would your mother and siblings be if they hadn't had you in their family to help them get through these difficult and trying times?

Recognizing how important family is, building a good family, and striving to all be together for Time and All Eternity?

THAT'S the message you need to proclaim.

And while it stinks that you're currently 0 for 2 on the Good Earthly Dad department, you're 1 for 3 when we include Heavenly Father, who loves you SO MUCH . . . even when you have struggles and doubts.

If you count the "father of this world", who is Christ, then you're 2 for 4 . . . add in a good "father of the ward" (your Bishop) or two, a mission president (or two) and you're ahead of the game! 

And, consider this: don't you think that there are others out there that have had similar (or even worse) experiences to yours when it comes to earthly fathers?

Don't you think they could benefit from your love and experience?  Aren't there people that need to hear your testimony that even though sometimes we end up with a less than perfect family (that's all of us, by the way), that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still true?

Of course! 

I hope that some day you'll be able to help them find the Joy in the Gospel that you need to find.

But mission or no, you know what I think is most important?

That you learn from your mother's mistakes and pick a man who will be a better father to your children than these men were to you.

No, simply being an RM is not a guarantee (as you, and your mother, well know), but like many RM's you'll want to find a Good and Worthy Priesthood holder who will take you to the Temple.

One other thought:   if you serve a mission you may meet a few guys that you can picture not being good guys even when they go home from their missions . . . but I bet you'll meet a TON of Great Guys who you'll grow to know will be outstanding fathers.


Lastly, let me share one other Gospel Fact with you:  our Testimonies of all or part of the Gospel need not be perfect for us to share them or for them to be true.  Everyone has doubts and questions from time to time.

Everyone.

We all get tempted . . . we all struggle . . . we all wonder . . . we all question . . . we all ponder.

That's part of the nature of being human.

It's like you said at the beginning of your email:  while our experiences and ourselves may not be perfect, Christ and His Gospel are.  It's okay to be his representative and to help others find joy with out "knowing" everything.

I think we, as a culture, often make a mistake (perhaps even mislead people) when we bear testimony.  It's very common within the Church for people to stand up and say "I know" . . . and perhaps they do . . . but it's also okay to stand up and say "I believe" and "I hope".

As a missionary the Spirit will guide you, will help you know what to say.

But then . . . that can happen to each of us every day.


 - Bro Jo


[Dear Readers,

Can you help this Future Sister Missionary with her Testimony of Fathers by sharing positive stories of your own?


 - Bro Jo]

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tolerance VS Acceptance: What to Say to a Gay Best Friend

Dear Bro Jo,

My Very Best Friend is a guy. (Yes, I know how you feel about that, but it's true).

We have been friends for over 7 years.

Now, I don't tell him my deepest darkest secrets, nor do we have sleepovers and gossip like girls, I have my girlfriends for that. However, we do just about everything else. Go shopping, out to eat, have movie nights, hang out, go to parties.

My Very Best Friend is a guy.

My Very Best Friend also believes he is gay.

I say "believes" because I do not think that he is.

I think that he has had some...encounters … in the past that has left him confused. I also think that he doesn't overly feel attracted to girls and therefore automatically comes to the conclusion that he must like guys.

He has started to become a member of the gay community in my town and has been involved with some guys.

It's been so sad to watch him fall into Satan's trap by giving into his desires which has led him to fall away from the Church, experiment with alcohol and try drugs.

He has never done this stuff around me, I have made my standards clear and have threatened that he makes sure never to put me into a position where I would be exposed to any of that.

But that is not my dilemma (even though that is a dilemma all in itself).

My problem is that of course, being a Latter-Day Saint and being raised in the Church, I do not agree with this choice.

Just like politics, I choose not to jump on the whole "gay rights" topic and I have taken a whole "step back stance." Meaning that I just do not want to bother with it all. I don't want to officially pick a side because I do not want to have to get into that whole mess.

I simply do not care.

People can do what they want with their lives.

I do not believe in same sex relationships, but if two girls or two guys want to go for it, hey, I'm not going to push my opinions on them.

This is the whole stance that I have decided to take with My Very Best Friend as well.

He knows I do not agree, but he also knows that I am still his friend and still love him as much as a friend could.

But, sometimes he accuses me of judging him when he tries to tell me about his sexual encounters with other men. He can hear the strain in my voice when he talks about other guys, and gets upset when I tell him that I don't want to hear about it.

Someone's first kiss is fun and exciting, don't get me wrong, but I have a hard time listening to him and thinking about two guys kissing.

Is he right, am I judging him?

I haven't pushed him away in the slightest for what he believes, I don't belittle him, and I steer clear of saying things like "he's gay" or "that's so gay" as not to offend.

But I just am uncomfortable talking about it.

So I guess I'm asking if I am judging him.

Is it judging if I don't want to hear about his relationships with other guys?

Maybe I am judging, I don't know.

Can I judge but still love?

How can I explain to My Very Best Friend that I have a hard time listening to it, but it's not that I think any less of him, or am against gays.

Help!

 - My Best Friend's Gay




Dear Friend,

Gay or not, eventually your guy friend will end up spending less time with you and more time with the person he identifies as the love of his life; only choosing to come back to your friendship and spend more time with you when that relationship sours or is difficult.

It's the nature of romance and friendship.

And you need to also be aware that, gay or not, as long as you spend boy-friend level time with another guy, guys who might otherwise be interested in you will back off.

No guy wants his wife (or girlfriend) spending all of her time with another guy; the other guy's sexual choices don't matter. 

Your letter strikes me more about friendship than homosexuality, so I'm going to focus on that. Okay?

Because, you see, it really doesn't matter what it is that you two are conflicting about. 

Let's break it down.

Your friend has started doing things that bother you. (And they should, by the way.)

He doesn't care that it bothers you, or that you disagree with what he is doing.

That's his agency, but more than that he's belittling you and calling you "judgmental" for not supporting him in his behavior.

It's not enough for him that you have a "live and let live" policy; he is demanding that you hear the gory details.

He expects you to tolerate his behavior and beliefs (I'll get to why at the end), but has no tolerance for yours.

And there-in is the problem.

Set aside, for just a moment, that what he's doing is selfish, sinful, and destructive to himself and others. (It IS all of those things, by the way.)

The problem is his Attitude, and the bottom line is that he cares less about you than he does about himself. No relationship, friendship or otherwise, can be healthy in that atmosphere.

Now I want to say something about this whole "don't judge me" garbage that I see as so prevalent in people my generation and younger. Because "garbage" is exactly what it is.

People have twisted the Doctrine of "God is the Judge" into "I can do whatever I want and you're not entitled to opinions or feelings or thoughts or concerns".

It's wrong.

It's bad.

And it's dangerous.

You're not judging him. You still care for him. You're judging his BEHAVIOR.

He may respond "I'm gay, and you're anti-gay, so you're judging what I am".

But that's wrong, inaccurate, and unfair.

If your friend was, say, a gambler . . . he had an addiction to gambling . . . he's risking his life by going places and associating with people that could hurt him . . . would you say anything?  You would if you were his good friend, right?  If he was boorishly going on and on about his betting and how much fun it was and how much he loved his new gambling lifestyle, would you be within your rights as his friend to tell him that what he is doing is wrong, and you still love him, but you think he needs to stop?  If he refused to stop, would it be okay to tell him you don't want to hear about it anymore?

And what would it mean if after you expressed your concerns and opinions he jumped all over you?  What if he refused to stop insisting that you listen to all the things he's doing that you think are dumb, and you knew the conversation was going to be him bullying you until he got you to make him feel better about his addiction , and thus better about himself, because you agreed with him even if all you did was sit there and take it, saying nothing against him or what he was doing?

This is no different.

Homosexuality is something someone does; it's doing something sexual with someone of the same gender as you.  Someone is "gay" either because of the sexual choices they make or how they choose to identify themselves through words, behavior, and / or lifestyle.  It's not like Race or Color or Background or Ethnicity; those are things you're born with.

It's like religion.  I'm "Mormon" because I do "Mormon" things, it's what I believe, it's how I spend my time, it's how I identify myself through my actions and behavior.  It's my culture.  With my friends I have a mostly unspoken agreement:  if you share your culture, I'll share mine; if we choose not to share each other's cultures within the definition of our friendship or association, that's fine, too.

And the reality is that friends who do not share their cultures, well . . . aren't really good friends.  That doesn't mean they have to live those cultures, or accept everything about those cultures, but how close can you be if you can't share?  How good of friends are you if you can't tell each other about what you did over the weekend?

Heterosexual or homosexual, we get to choose what we do with our sexual parts, we get to choose whom we kiss; to say that someone who's "gay" doesn't have that kind of control, or self-control, is to deny that they're children of God with God-given agency.

Everyone has agency.

There’s a HUGE difference between being attracted to someone (or a particular gender) and doing sexual things. We don’t hear that much in our world . . . but it’s true.

As for your friend, you can love the person, but not love the sin.  Heavenly Father and Christ love us despite our actions and imperfections.  And we're supposed to love others the same way.  We're taught that. That's what being a Good Disciple of Christ is.

I'm not perfect.

You're not perfect, either, right?

As I've said many times:

"If we choose only to associate with those whom we agree 100%, we're doomed to a very lonely existence. We are better off accepting that we're all going to disagree on some stuff, and we're all going to live our lives in ways that not everyone agrees with. If you can love me despite my faults and our differences, I can certainly love you. I accept your right and privilege to disagree with what I say and do, and expect that you'll allow me the same. If we can agree on that, we'll be friends for a very long time"

The thing is friend, I think your “friendship” has become very one-sided.

I think you should continue to love him, care for him, and worry about him, but you still have a right and obligation to your thoughts and feelings.

And on some levels you have a Spiritual Responsibility to share those with him.

If he's not willing or ready to listen, then you should keep quiet for now.

But being a Good Friend and a Good Christian does not mean that you have to sit there and take abuse. 

Nor does it mean that you have to say that whatever someone chooses to do with their life is okay and consequence free.

You may have to very clearly state "I love you, and want to always be your friend, but I don't want to hear about these things"; if he can't accept that or respect your beliefs and feelings the way he's demanding you accept and respect him, then frankly, dear sister, he isn't much of a friend.

Hope that helps,

 - Bro Jo

(PS:  It's not a matter of how I feel about Guys and Girls as Friends . . . it's just me reporting the way things are.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is 19 Too Young for Her to Get Married?

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm 19 and I'm in a relationship with someone incredible.

We've been dating about a year now, since I met him at the university we're attending.

Our relationship is heading quickly towards an engagement. I know this is the person I want to marry and spend eternity with.

The only problem is that everyone (and by everyone, I mean my parents, Church leaders, elders, etc.) keep telling me that 19 is too young to get married; To wait until I'm 21, 22...

Some have gone as far as to say that it's a lot more likely that my marriage will end up in divorce or separation if I get married so young. They've even supported themselves with legit scientific studies and statistics.

I'm really at a cross roads, because I know this is the person I want to marry. But I don't want to wait a year or two. I feel like that's just reckless, because Satan is only trying to keep us from a temple marriage, and it gets harder every day that we spend together and get closer to each other to behave appropriately. Not that we've done anything we shouldn't, but you know- the passion and temptation is definitely there.

Anyway, my point is- is it really that detrimental to my future to get married at 19?

Is it really that big a deal?

I want to do things the right way and I really don't see how a couple years is going to change the nature of our relationship, except to give us more room for error.

Sincerely,

Too Young?




Dear Old Enough,

You don't mention where you're from, or if there are some cultural reasons people are telling you to wait, but in general I say no, 19 is not "too young" for a young woman to marry.

I consider maturity and commitment more important than age.

Now, perhaps that's what the people who love you are trying to tell you, in an albeit too indirect way: that you're too immature to marry. I don't know you, so I have no idea, but a mature woman would certainly give prayerful ponderance to something so many people who do know her are saying.

You may need to just come out and ask these people what's wrong with this guy; if they're seeing something you don't, you better find out soon. (I hope they love you enough to tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it.)

As for the statistics . . . I tend to agree with Mark Twain’s sentiment.

I believe in long courtships and short engagements.

A couple should date long enough to know each other well, ask each other the big questions (see "Bro Jo's List of Stuff You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged"), and feel confident that you've looked for any serious danger signs (see "Bro Jo's Five A's of Why Not to Marry THAT Person" in "Bro Jo's Guide to Relationships").

But you're totally correct; once a couple decides to get married, I say pull the trigger fast before the Temple is no longer an option. You will both definitely change over the next couple years, nothing you can do about that.

 Change is constant. But I agree, if you're truly informed and ready to marry now, 19 is not too young.

 - Bro Jo

Friday, June 7, 2013

When an LDS Girl You Like is Serious Single Dating a Non-Member and You're Pre-Mission

Hey Bro Jo,

There's this girl in my ward and some see her as a bit of a ditz and judge her because of her past.

But recently I have gotten to know her a lot better and I've been able to help her to learn about the gospel more (she didn't know much and didn't have much of a testimony).

I'm a ward missionary and she has just been called too and I have seen her testimony go boom and sky rocket. I like her a lot and want her to be happy in the gospel (with me or someone else I don't mind as I am leaving to serve the Lord at the end of the year)   I'm 20 and she’s 18 - I could see myself dating her when I return home from my mission.  (At the moment I'm group dating following your advice about not pairing off before the mission.)

The problem is . ..  she has a boyfriend.

That in its self is not a problem but  he’s not a member of the Church and isn't interested.

I want to help her and support her . . . but as a member of the Church life is all about progression. Baptism to confirmation to callings to taking out endowments and getting married in the temple. I don't want her to get stuck because of this guy.

No denying  I have feelings for her and I don't know if she likes me as more than a friend but she's been visiting me at work and we've been spending a lot of time together; as ward missionaries, as YSA and as a group of friends.

Any thoughts or guidance would be much appreciated.

Thanks,

Hoping to Help



Dear HH,

I don't want to see her get stuck because of this guy either, but she hasn't asked either you or me for our opinion, so there's not much we can or should say or do.  Unless a person is in imminent danger, it's usually best to just keep our opinions to ourselves . . . unless, of course, they ask . . . or they're very young . . . or their welfare falls under our stewardship.

However, as a pair of Ward Missionaries you two certainly could help this young man on his path towards the Gospel, right?

Be his friend; fellowship the guy.

Suggest to her that she bring him to ward functions.

As she grows stronger in her faith, he'll either follow her, join her, or leave her, but that needs to be his choice.

And hers.

Our job is not to break them up so that 2.5 years from now you can date her; our job is to help them both find Joy in Christ.

Great as she may be, my brother, she's taken, and until either of them decides to change that, since you're not exactly in the market yourself, your options are very specific. And very few.

Now, when you come home from the mission, every girl who's not engaged or married and is worthy and willing to get married in the Temple is fair game.

Let's cross that bridge when we get to it.

 - Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cheesy Wednesdays: What to Say to a Friend That's Hurting

Dear Bro Jo,

Sorry it’s late.

I have a really difficult question. And I had no idea who to ask.

Until I was like "Oh wait I know someone that gives great advice!"

So here's the situation: My best friend from school has a really unstable family. Her biological mother had a drug addiction and was abusive. Her parents finally got divorced 3 years ago. She and her sisters lived with her dad (also somewhat crazy)' he got married to this woman whom everyone loved!

The last few months she has become an alcoholic, and my friend’s dad divorced her.

Last week she, her dad, and her sisters moved out.

Today her dad’s house burnt down. She is having a really hard time with all this.

I have been praying for her, but she doesn't want to hear anything if it is "Church related".

I want to help her but I have no idea what to say to her.

Please give your thoughts.

It’s much appreciated.

- Cheese Herself




Dear Cheese,

When tragedy befalls those we love, often what they need is not for us to say anything, but for us to listen.

Some very good family friends had a son die mysteriously when he was 16.  He came home one afternoon and said "I have a headache" and his mom encouraged him to go lie down.  (Who wouldn't?)

He kissed her on the cheek and went to bed.

A short time later she went in to check on him . . . and he had died.

There was nothing she could have done different.  Nothing that any of us would have done different.

It just happened.

As sometimes things in life do.

Many years after his death I asked her how what advice she had for others.

She said that she still misses him very much, is of course comforted by the knowledge that she and her husband have that they will see him again, but the best piece of advice she would give is not to the people who suffer these kinds of tragedies, but to the people around them.

She said that when it happened she felt like everyone cut her off; everyone seemed so afraid of making her sad that they kind of stopped talking to her.  Now she can look back and realize that they were both scared of having to deal with something similar in their own lives and frankly just not sure what to do or say.  They seemed afraid of making her sadder by bringing up the topic, so they pretended like nothing happened when they were around her.

What people didn't understand, she said, was that she wanted to talk about her son.  She NEEDED that.  She wishes now that people weren't so afraid of her tears, and their own, and that they had given her opportunities to discuss and remember him.

Now, not everyone is the same . . . not everyone wants to talk about these kinds of things . . . and it can be very affronting when people seem pushy to those that just want to close the door and deal with the situation in solitude . . . (Sister Jo is a lot like that, by the way), but I think one over-riding principle is universal:  people need to know that we're there for THEM, not for us.

That's a tricky thing when it comes to being charitable, or more importantly being a Good Friend.

Of course keep praying, but mostly just be there for your friend . . . listening.

Hear what she needs to say, and ask the Spirit to help you know what her needs are.

You're a Good Friend, Cheese.

 - Bro Jo

Monday, June 3, 2013

Should She Not Go On a Mission So Her First Temple Experience is with Her Husband?

Dear Bro Jo,

I am an 18 year old girl considering going on a mission when I turn 19.

I can't make that decision right now because I want to see where I’m in life at that time before making the decision.

Right now I’m torn about it because there are certain things said in my patriarchal blessing that make me believe I’m supposed to serve a mission.

But the one main thing that makes me not want to go is that I’ve always wanted to have my fiancé take me through the temple when I receive my endowments.

If I serve a mission then I won't have that experience that I’ve always wanted.

Is this a silly reason to not want to go on a mission?

Is there much of a difference?

I don't know a lot about endowment sessions but for some reason I’ve always wanted the man I’m marrying to take me through the Temple.

But I would also like to serve a mission.

Am I being irrational?

Thanks in advance for reading this!

Sincerely,

Hopeless Romantic




Dear Romantic,

When you go through the Temple for the first time, even if it’s when you're getting married, your fiancé doesn't really "take you through the Temple"; the part of the endowment of which you may have been told about regarding a husband and wife going through part of the Temple together still happens even if you’re getting sealed after years and years of going through the Temple.

It's sacred, it's special, and it's cool . . . and it can happen any time.

So, yes, if you're supposed to go on a mission, that's a pretty silly reason not to.

But it's a good question, and I'm glad you asked!

- Bro Jo