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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Everything here is copyrighted. If you're going to quote any part of anything here, please get Bro Jo's written permission. You can reach him at dearbrojo@gmail.com.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What Do Ups and Downs in the Beginning of a Relationship Mean?

Dear Bro Jo,

Hi Bro Jo, I need some advice... And you are a neutral 3rd party which is helpful.

Hopefully this will make sense... I am 25, I date a lot, which I am grateful for, but even though I go on a lot of dates I don't really do the relationship thing very often...

There always seems to be something holding me back...

And I've never really been in a "serious" relationship.

I have had my heart broken a couple of times, and I think I have broken a few as well.

I am currently dating a really good guy, we have been going on dates for about a month and a half, but we are still just kinda getting to know each other, nothing "official" has been established, but things are going pretty well....

The problem is that my feelings always just seem to go up and down, one day I think yeah this guy is great I can't wait to see where this goes, and then the next I just feel really unsure about the whole thing. I think part of the problem is that I don't know exactly where he wants this to go, and I don't know where I want it to go.

I guess I am just frustrated because I can't figure out if it is really him that I am questioning, or if I am just scared or what.

He is a little younger (about 3-ish years) which is a little difficult for me.

We have kissed, and things are pretty good in that area.

The other thing that I have been noticing is that we haven't really talked much about the important life stuff like kids, family, lifestyle etc...

Obviously I know we are definitely not ready for that kind of talk in our relationship, but I just mean in general..

I am not sure if he even wants the same things in life that I do.  I assume he does because we a both very strong members of the church and want to live the best we can, but we just haven't really talked about it, and it seems like it would be awkward to try and force that type of conversation.

I guess I just need some help in knowing if this is what it is supposed to be like, it always seems that when people meet the person they want to marry that they kind of know from the beginning, and each time I meet and start dating a good guy like this the same thing happens, either he or I seem to just feel like there is something missing,

I don't know what, and I'm not even sure if I feel like that with this guy, but I just feel like I should know if I like him haha. I don't know if I am letting fear of the unknown, or of heartbreak get in my way of letting something good happen, and if I am then how do I stop myself from doing that?

I'm just confused and curious about weather it should really be this difficult to fall in love or if I am getting in my own way, and how to stop myself.

-Confused




Dear Confused,

Well . . . it seems like you've asked the same question over and over, although in a couple different ways. 

First of all, I think you do the relationship thing more than you realize. 

For example, you're in one now. (Surprise!)

You know, I asked Sister Jo and she and I never had an "official" conversation that formally started the relationship.

True story.

Yes, I think you're getting in your own way, and I think the way to get past that is to R-E-L-A-X and enjoy the moments.

Stop putting so much pressure on yourself, and stop putting so much pressure on him.

And, for the record, I don't see any difference between uncertainty and curiosity about where the relationship is going to go.

That's not "ups and downs", little sister, that's life.

Some people know right away (or rather, they think they do or did - a BIG difference) and some grow into love (that's more likely, btw).

If it helps, check out "Bro Jo's LEVELS of a RELATIONSHIP"  And stop inventing reasons for why you shouldn't be enjoying life.

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 27, 2014

Are Movies Good Dates?

Dear Bro Jo,

I had the most ridiculous date of my life yesterday.

It was a girl’s choice date, and by the end of the date we'd watched no less than four movies and it was around ten hours long.

That got me wondering:  what is your view on movies as a date activity, and in what case would a movie be appropriate?

Thanks much! 

- Name Withheld



Dear NW,

FOUR MOVIES?!?!?

That's ridiculous.

And I have to ask, was it four movies, or four videos?

Were you at the theater or at someone's house?

Did she communicate the Date Plan in advance, or were you surprised?

Was this a girl you'd dated before, or was this your first time going out with her?

To your question, I used to love the movie date. I loved going to movies (still do), and I liked that after the movie my date and I had something in common to talk about.

I have too many friends who have married someone they can't enjoy movies with because they just don't have that in common, and I think that's sad.

I'm grateful that my companion loves to see comic book movies on the big screen and historical pictures on blue ray at home.

However, there is a time in our lives when the movie theater date becomes counterproductive.

For Serious Single Daters, I recommend choosing a date where you can talk and get to know each other better, like dinner, dancing, going for a walk, or playing mini golf.

Hope that helps,

- Bro Jo 




Dear Bro Jo,

It was both.

We saw a movie at a theater and ended up at someone's house after.

Originally she'd said we were going to see Avengers but that that'd fallen through and they would surprise us.

It was my first time going on a date with her.

Thanks for the answers!

Cheers,

NW




Dear NW,

Well . . . maybe she'll go on some good dates, learn the difference and do better next time.

At the very least this experience will help you to plan better dates yourself.

Cheers,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Will Homosexuality Keep Him from God and the Church? - Part 3

Dear Bro Jo,

I understand the problem with insincere letters. I am not sure if even I did this whole-heartedly. One part of me curses me for engaging in these kinds of talks... I suppose that's just evil thoughts.

The links are really helpful. I've known about them before, but on my way to search for a meeting house there, I paused my searches when finding video clips from the General Conference.

Happy things.

So I found a meeting house.

It's actually not that far away as I first thought. Only 25 kilometers from here. That's... uh... fifteen English miles perhaps?

Should be doable, I hope.

Not near enough for going by bike though! haha

That said, I will contact them.

Whew, this cheered me up!

I'll keep you informed on how it all goes :)

Thanks

- Suede


Dear Bro Jo,

Hello again, It's been a few months since I last wrote to you, but I promised you (and myself) to let you know how I was getting on.

I have been in contact with members of the Church and am now doing my final bits before a possible baptism.

It feels really scary, but at the same time I feel happy.

It's strange, yeah, but we'll see how it goes.

I need to study more, study more, study more. :)

Take care!

- Suede




Dear Suede,

Good for you!

The studying never stops for any of us.

And congratulations on your Baptism!

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 23, 2014

Will Homosexuality Keep Him from God and the Church? - Part 2

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you for your speedy answer!

I suppose I have deceived you in this and only this: my name. My first name is the same, but on this gmail account I seem to have used my mother's maiden name, (withheld).

No, I'm not the [person] on Facebook you found nor do I have a relationship with (woman's name withheld).

Sorry if it confused you! :-)

Looking back on what you wrote in your last paragraph, I believe that I should agree.

I know no members of the Church here.

In fact, I don't even know if I could say that I knew the people in church in my former university town either, except for a few of the missionaries.

I believe I should make contact with the Church, but I am unsure of how.

Should I just be so bold as I was at the library, as in go there and ask someone (the Bishop? a missionary?) to speak with me?

The problem is I can't just go there.  I have a feeling the nearest Church is far from here. I have no car and I believe no way of getting there.

Hm... maybe there are trains...

Definitely something to look into!

I do read, I do!

But there's no one here I can't vent my thoughts, feelings and despairs on this issue.

Everyone here is generally accepting, and if not that, tolerating of sexual behaviour and romantic feelings between men. It's not really a helping climate, either.

When I wrote my letter to you, the first one, I had one of Paul's writings on my mind: the eighth chapter of the letter to the Romans. Been reading that over and over. It speaks right to me.

And you're right. Whenever I am away from what is God's, I feel worse.

I feel very alone here.

My parents follow Christ according to their own and their Church's way, the Methodist one.

At home their system of belief would be considered conservative, but in the scope of Christianity as seen outside of home, it'd probably be very liberal (provided you actually can define religious beliefs by 'liberal' and 'conservative').

I don't know what I can say to them on this either.

When I first saw missionaries and went to the LDS Church, they were very afraid for me. My parents thought I was becoming brainwashed into a cult.

I even spoke to them about the Book of Mormon today, and they cautioned me, saying it's not Christian.

When I paraphrased portions of it, it just got even worse.

The gospel taught by the Church pulls me in very strange directions, but I feel alone.

There was, in my uni town, a sense of belonging and community among the gay rights association I frequented.

But when I met the missionaries, came to the Church, the whole thing was just very different.

I was seen not for 'what' I am, 'how' I am or so, but for just being.

Again, many thanks.

- Suede




Dear Suede,

Everyone is entitled to their anonymity; I hope you'll forgive my investigation. You have a unique name and I get a few . . . let's just say "not sincere" letters, so when your name matched a young man who's in a relationship with a woman I thought that perhaps there was more to the story.

I think that its right for you to investigate the good feelings you have about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I think going up to a Bishop or some missionaries is an excellent idea.

If you go to the Church website (http://www.lds.org) and click "tools" and then "maps" you will be taken to a page that will allow you to put in your address and find the nearest meeting house and times.

You can also find some great information and request to have missionaries sent to you!

You may also want to check out mormon.org, a great website that can answer lots of questions.

My friend, I believe that loneliness is one of Satan's most powerful tools.

When we feel alone we feel vulnerable, and he plays on those feelings, bringing us down.

As far as your same-sex attraction, let me just say this: simply finding the same sex attractive neither means that you are a homosexual nor does it mean that you must live a homosexual life.

What we chose to do with our bodies is a choice, and its that ability to choose that makes us human. 

Something for you to ponder.

I'll also tell you that I have many friends who happen to identify themselves as "gay", and choose to have homosexual sex (those two things are not always mutually dependent, by the way); we may not agree on that aspect of our lives, but we're still friends.

Lastly, one need not have a perfect knowledge, belief or understanding of God to pray.

As you walk down this path, I invite you to make prayer a regular part of your day. A lot of good can come from just talking to God, even if you're not sure what to say or exactly whom it is that's listening.

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 20, 2014

Will Homosexuality Keep Him from God and the Church? - Part 1

Dear Bro Jo,

I have a lot on mind right now and I was hoping you could help me out with some of the issues.

I grew up in a non-LDS Christian setting. In fact there are less than 10 000 members of the LDS Church here, so you really don't get the opportunity very often to hear the message.

Today I'm nearing my mid-twenties and living alone.

At 13 or so, I reached puberty. As with all guys (and girls) this makes life a lot more complicated. You're no longer so innocent as before, as I really got to know. It started off with daydreams. I have always been a daydreamer, but the daydreams when 13 were a little bit different.

They would focus on friendships, adventures and exotic places (think jungles, deserts, the Arctic) at first, but the people in these daydreams would later take on a more "sinister" (for lack of words) role.

As time progressed, the daydreams had more complicated plots, bordering the sexual. The thing is, the sexual bits of them would never be with any girl or woman or so, but with the made-up friends. Guys. Good-looking ones too.

As time progressed, these daydreams became fantasies. I touched myself despite having an innate aversion for it. Although I've always learned that correlation does not equal causation, I can't help but think that this was at least part of why I lost my faith.

At 15, it was almost entirely gone.

Heartbroken, I decided to fill this void, the void from not having God, with continuing my daydream escapades, fantasies and physical simulations. My mental health went really low.

Desperate, I went seeing guys. Not friends nor relatives, but the kind of guys that shared my affliction if you will. I enjoyed their company, but felt bad about seeing them.

I even so to say fell in love with one.

Nothing really happened with that guy, but... At this point my family decided, for other reasons, to move abroad.

We stayed in our new land for two years before going back home.

Half a year later I started university.

I moved away from home, rather far away, and ended up in a city where I absolutely knew no one. I tried to study well, but the stress and my own issues grew steadily.

Just after two months, things were so bad that I saw no other way than to kill myself resulting in an act that left me unconscious for half a week.

That was four years ago and things went really bad.

Although I didn't do anything active to hurt myself, I was in regular contact with the hospital. I had to be admitted several times too over the course of the years. I still saw guys even though I knew that my attraction to them was in part guilty to my state of health.

In 2009 something really strange happened.

I was in the public library (probably to borrow some books, but I can't really remember why) and saw two missionaries from the LDS Church sitting by computers. Something within me told me to approach them. I did, and stuttered "You guys from the Mormon Church?"

Surprised, they said yes.

Next day we met in the lawn of their church. It was a beautiful summer's day.

We spoke a lot over the next few months and they lectured me in the gospel. I shared my concerns, and when my state of health got another setback, these two wonderful young men visited me in hospital.

They would soon leave town for another, and a new pair got in contact with me.

That Christmas I went to a meeting of the local congregation (not sure that's the real word in English, heh).

That special day carried a message from the prophet. I don't remember at all what he said, and that's beside the point.

There was also a sacrament.

I was offered to take part in it, but I didn't want to. It just felt wrong to do so at that stage.

My local friends seemed to get worried about me now. They tried to educate me that Mormonism was a crazy cult, and I began to believe them. All I now read, instead of the Scriptures, were things aiming to crack my new-found "craze".

I stopped seeing the missionaries and stopped going to Church.

My mind was getting darker and darker, seeing little hope for me. I was doomed. I stopped thinking about God, believing religion was evil.

Following the maxim of the three Japanese monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, know no evil), I turned away.

Yet, I wasn't happier.

I was more lost than ever.

My family got really worried, believing that the hospital people didn't do enough for me and my health. They arranged for me to get an apartment in my parents' town, where I moved just a few weeks ago.

I've gone to Church (the one I grew up in) with my mother. The sermon made me very upset. Not because it wasn't Biblical or so, but because it provoked me personally.

After that I began thinking of God and my, I think, need for him.

Flashbacks of my experiences with the missionaries and the LDS Church back in uni town and what their (your? my?) gospel taught made it inevitable for me not to seek out new information. I began reading again.

The Scriptures, LDS literature, joined internet discussion boards with LDS interest.

And today I'm writing to you.

I can't say that I believe in the gospel.

I can't say I can make any testimony on the whole thing even.

But what I do feel is that I'm drawn to it.

I feel pulled to it.

Either it's something calling my name or there's me being insanely masochistic.

The gospel and I seem to disagree on many things. Most theological issues I will be able to read myself out of, study on my own by reading and reading.

I hope one day that I'll be able to believe in God so that I will be able to pray.

One issue, though, is the fact of sexuality. I've had sex with other guys (and myself if that's a definition of the word 'sex').

I've cursed my religious background believing it made me feel so bad (Christianity and homosexuality generally doesn't go well together).

I am still attracted to guys and never ever have I looked upon a girl in any other way that "oh she's pretty, but so are kittens". Guys on the other hand give me so many responses, both mental and physical. Just being near a guy is difficult. Not because it makes me think of sex with him, but because it makes me look at him in a not-so-Christian way.

I think I need to contact someone.

I've been thinking of contacting that first missionary I came across at the library in 2009. I doubt it'd be considered good form doing so, though, and then I came across your site.

Please, what should I do?

What can I do?

Even if I come to believe and get baptized, how can I ever enter the celestial kingdom with my continuing fights with homosexuality and doubts of God and gospel?

There's no-one here I can talk to!

Sorry if this letter's long, but thanks for reading it.

- Suede Shoes




Dear Suede,

First things first: to help me I often look up those that write in on the internet; are you the (name withheld) that is in a "relationship" (as noted on Facebook) with (woman's name withheld)?

I ask, because that might make a difference.

Secondly, I think it best if we take one step at a time. I believe that God is loving and just and understanding, and that his love leaves room for all of us. Whatever our differences, trials, challenges and struggles, each of us deserves his love and blessings.

Third, I invite you to go back and read your own letter. In it you make it pretty clear that whenever you grow closer to God, talking about His Gospel, attending His Church, that you feel better, and whenever you push those things from your life you feel worse . . . I think that's very telling.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The 1000th Post!

Dear Readers,

Well . . . here is is: the 1000th post.

To be honest, I haven't been quite sure what to say at this milestone.

I started writing this column over fiver years ago, and have been overwhelmed by love and encouragement shown by our readers . . . all of you, from around the world.  I've been honored to meet some of you in person, saddened at missed opportunities to meet some of the rest of you, and grateful that you've allowed me to be a small part of your lives.

In the winter of 2008-2009 the idea of an on-line column specifically answering the dating and relationship questions of LDS Teens and Young Single Adults grew out of my experiences talking to young people, a love for writing, and having recently seen "Dan in Real Life" (and relating perhaps Way Too Much to the main character and his family).

Back then Sister Jo and I regularly hosted Family Home Evenings for students in our local University Ward.  Sister Jo remarked more than once about how often, after FHE had concluded, that our guests would linger and we talked about their dating lives . . .or lack thereof.

Our oldest boy had recently turned 16 and I was worried about the lack of dating knowledge that LDS Teens and YSAs seem to have as they enter that phase of their life.  I asked one of my former Seminary Students about that and he said "the thing is, Bro Jo" (a nickname his younger sister had given me just a few years before) "that all of you" (we adults in the Church) "pound the fear of immorality into us so often that we're afraid to even talk to each other".

He said that he understood that parents and leaders did that out of fear, or rather a hope that they would "stay on the straight and narrow", but rightly (I thought) pointed out that what we were ending up with was kids on the "straight, narrow, and alone" path.

Surely there had to be middle ground; a way for kids to get those social experiences . . . experiences that help them not just find Good Eternal Companions, but also be better Missionaries of the Gospel.

So Sister Jo and I came up with the Dating Rules for Teens.

And not just for our four older boys, but with the idea that if we could shift LDS culture to an understanding that Casual Group Dating is a good thing, that when our oldest daughter (now 15) is old enough she'd be more likely to get asked out on Good Dates by Good Guys.

And maybe, just maybe, it would be a little easier for our children to find Good Eternal Companions.

And if we were going to go to all of that effort to help our own children, well perhaps we could help some others as well.

Out of that has grown things like:


  • Casual Group Dating
  • Serious Single Dating
  • Getting a Date
  • How to Break Up
  • Things You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged
  • Why Not to Marry That Person

and all kinds of notes you can find on the Facebook page.


Since then I've received well over 1000 emails; many more than I could ever publish here.

Some funny.  Some frustrating.  Some heartbreaking.  Some inspiring.

All have been a blessing in my life.

Even the ones that make me cry.


There's no way anyone reads this column and agrees with everything in it.

You're too smart and individualistic for that.

But everything in it is my honest opinion, given in love, hopefully in tune with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the hope that I can in some small way help you (and not always just with Dating and Relationships it seems . . .), the readers; young people and their parents, whom I've grown to love and be thankful for.

May the Lord bless you in all that you do.

Remember, nothing is more valuable or more worth the effort (and it takes A LOT of effort) than creating your own Eternal Family.

Thank you for allowing me to do what I do.

Now . . .

Get out there and get dating!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Break Up

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm not LDS, but I've read your blog and you seem to have amazing relationship advice.

Here's my problem.

I'm a sophomore in high school and in a pretty serious relationship. I've been dating my boyfriend since the seventh grade, and lately, I feel restless and irritable because of it.

I feel like we'll be together in the future - we've always been able to talk about the future, like getting married and having kids and everything, but I just want time to see what's out there. I'm on a different maturity level than he is right now, and as of right now, it just isn't working.

The thing is, I know it will hurt him, even if i explain all of this and I don't want to lose him as a friend - we act like friends half the time anyway. And all of our friends are just that - OUR friends.

I don't want to make it so they have to choose. I still want to be his friend, even during our 'break'. It's just a really tricky situation. Do you have any advice for me?

Yours truly,

- Stuck




Dear Stuck,

Seventh grade is pretty young to pick the one and only person you're going to spend the rest of your life with . . . sure, it can happen, but as you've noticed we change so much during those years that a "serious relationship" can become a stifling trap.

I'm not gonna lie, this is very likely to get messy, but I agree that it’s time to take a break. (Passed time, really.)

You may indeed lose him as a "friend" (but, if you've read the blog much, you know that unless you end up happily married, that was bound to happen anyway), and many of your mutual friends will take sides.

You may have to deal with one of your best girlfriends becoming his new kissing buddy, and you may find that a few of the guys in your circle have been waiting for this moment to ask you out . . .

Like I said: it could get messy.

The mess and heartache are part of the reasons why I recommend NOT getting in serious relationships until after high school. A young person's life is already filled with enough drama, right?

Look, I know relationships happen (heck, all of the Jo Kids have had teen relationships, as did Sister Jo and yours truly), but that doesn't mean I recommend them.

The best thing to do is to talk to him. In person.

Soon.

And preferably during the day in a relatively public place (that will keep the temptations and begging down a bit).

Be Gentle.

Tell him you still care about him (you're trying not to burn a bridge here), and tell him that you're both still very young and you feel that you need some space.

Tell him that during this time you'd like him to date other people so that, when you're both older, if you do end up together, you'll never have to worry about either of you being uncertain about the relationship.

It’s going to be a painful situation, but the longer you wait the harder it will be.

He may beg.

He may cry.

He may be angry.

But your job is to be as calm as possible. When you've said what you have to say, don't say too much.

Don't apologize and don't say things you don't mean to try and make it all better.

When you've said what you have to say just be quiet.

Give him a chance to react.

And when it’s all over, no goodbye kisses. The physical stuff will just make all of this more confusing.

Trust me.

Who knows; it may all go better than you think.

Until you get older and have marriage and kid stuff to deal with, this may be the most difficult thing you have to do. I feel for you, and wish you luck. And I can promise you that both of you will be better for the experience, though it won't necessarily feel that way at first.

The only other thing I can tell you is to tell a couple very close girlfriends what you're about to do (if you haven't already). They need to be girls you can trust to say nothing to no one. Not to gossip, but it will help to have friends in the know to go to when its all over.

(Don't put much time between telling them and talking to him.)

Thanks for reading and writing in!

And, if you feel so inclined, let me know how it goes.

And, again, good luck.

- Bro Jo

PS: I'd love to hear sometime how you heard about "Dear Bro Jo".




Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much. That's really the best advice I could have hoped for, and it makes me feel a lot better about doing what I have to do.

If there's one major thing I agree with LDS on, it's super serious teen relationships. They have their upsides, but they definitely have their downsides, as I've unfortunately learned.

I'll definitely take your advice - the sooner I do this, the better.

And I stumbled upon your blog because of a mix of web searches. I was actually looking online for some advice on this situation and your blog popped up.

One of my best friends is Mormon and he and his family definitely have a lot of good policies so I decided to give your site a shot.

I'm really glad I did - you give everyone who writes in really good advice.

Once again, thanks a lot for your advice! I think it'll be really helpful.

- Stuck 




Dear Stuck,

Anytime!

Thank you.

And you're welcome.

Cheers,

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Marriage Compatibility Questions

Dear Bro Jo,

A while back you posted a questionnaire for couples that wanted to get married, it was sort of a compatibility test.

It asked some great/hard questions that couples should think about before they get married.

I have an 18 year old daughter that thinks she's met "the one" and I'm a bit concerned because she hasn't dated very much and has never been in a relationship before.

He seems to be a good guy, but she is just SO young.

If you still have that questionnaire, will you re-post it?

Thanks!

- Mom




Dear Mom,

You bet!

You can also find it in the Notes section on the Dear Bro Jo Facebook page HERE, and there are some other notes she may also want to see, like Bro Jo's "Five A's of Why NOT to Marry That Person".

Here's the list.  Remember, it's not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather a minimal list to get coupes to think and to talk.  A good marriage is about Communication and Trust, and a good place to gauge where a couple is with those things is this list.


Bro Jo’s "LIST of STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BEFORE YOU GET ENGAGED"

 Economics

- Who will provide the money needed for the family and how?
- What is your current debt load?
- How do you feel about credit and debt?
- How many hours a week do you expect to work?
- How many hours do you expect me to work?
- How do you feel about work that requires a person to be gone from home?
- What’s more important: a home, a car, leisure time, food, or entertainment?


 Family

- How many children do you want to have?
- How soon would you like to have children?
- What would you do if my parents needed to come live with us for a very long time?
- How do you feel about your siblings?
- How would your siblings describe you?
- How do you feel about moving in with my parents? Your parents?
- What are some favorite family traditions that you hope to continue in our family?


 Goals, Hopes and Dreams

- What do you envision you’re life to be like in 5, 10, 20 and 50 years?
- If you could live anywhere, where would you pick and why?
- What’s your dream job? Do you intend to get it? Why?
- Do you see yourself serving a mission when you’re older?
- When would you like to retire?
- How important is money to you?
- What amount of money do you think we’ll need as a family?
- What do you envision your funeral to be like? What do you hope people will say about you?


Health

- Do you have any chronic health problems or concerns?
- Have you ever had a blood test? What were the results?
- What are the health histories of your family?
- What is your biggest health fear?


Love

- What things that I do let you know that I love you?
- What do you do to tell me that you love me?


Pet Peeves

- What are some things that people in your life have done that have driven you crazy or seem totally illogical or unreasonable?
- What do you do that people have said the same about you?


Philosophy & Politics

- Is it better to be smart or attractive?
- Would you steal bread to feed your children?
- How do you like to handle political disagreements?
- How do you feel children should be disciplined?
- Do you believe a woman should keep house or go to work?
- What habits, possessions or activities would be the most difficult for you to give up if I asked?
- How do you describe yourself politically?
- What do you list as your top five priorities, in order?
- What do you think about Tattoos?  Do you have any?  Do you see yourselff getting a Tattoo in the future?
- How do you feel about other body and facial art, like piercings, carvings and brandings?


Religion

- Describe your relationship with God.
- What do you have a testimony of? And how did you gain that testimony?
- How do you think a person can best grow their testimony?
- Do you think its okay to take “vacations from Church”?
- What are the things in life that you think its okay to miss Church for?
- Where do you draw the line between faith and personal revelation?


Sex and Morality

- What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone? With whom, how often, and how recently?
- Have you ever had sex? If so, with whom, why and how often?
- Have you ever looked at pornography? If so, when was the last time?
- What do you think should be done to protect children from pornography?
- Have you ever done anything that made you unworthy to enter the temple? If so, what did you do and what have you done about it?
- How would you feel if we couldn’t have sex for the first five years of our marriage (or longer) because of injury or some other problem?
- What are your sexual expectations? How often? How adventurous? How soon?
- What does sex mean to you? Is it an expression of love? Strictly for fun? Do you see it as an obligation?



- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is the Church's Position on Birth Control?

[Readers,

The following is a comment, and my response to it, on a post from September 2, 2009.  You can read the original HERE.

- Bro Jo]



Dear Bro Jo,

So I realize that you might not get this, seeing as the post is close to 5 years old, but I have a question about birth control that I didn't feel got adequately answered in this post.

As has been mentioned, the purpose of sex is to bring children into the world. So, if you do not want/are not ready for/etc. children, and solely want to participate in this sacred act for the enjoyment or whatnot, does the Church say it's okay to use things like birth control and contraceptives?

Or is that like making a mockery of procreation?

I'm just curious about this, as I grew up under the impression that sex was something solely for the use of bringing children into the world, but as I've gotten older, I'm not sure this is the correct impression, and I haven't really seen anything put out by the Church on this topic.

Thanks.

- Anon




Dear Anon,

Well, as I said in the original post, it’s not my place to speak for the Church.

That said, I think I did answer your question in that post.

None-the-less, if you want the Church’s Official Position on any topic, it’s always best to go to the source. 

CLICK HERE.


My personal opinion is that:

1.  No one should have children (or more children) if they're not capable of raising those children well

2.  "Capable" is not necessarily for the rest of us to decide (although I think we're entitled to our opinions, and too many people frankly aren't capable), and has little to do with money or possessions

3.  Putting of children for worldly things is selfish, and while I don't think people should choose to have children for selfish reasons, I think realizing that they're being selfish should be a great motivation for people to change

4.  Two consenting adults can do whatever they want with and to each other so long as no one gets hurt, including others that might have to deal with the consequences of those actions

5.  Sex is best when it's between a man and a woman who are Sealed to each other for Time and All Eternity

6.  More people need to realize that Children are often the result of sex, even if birth control is used

7.  Pregnancy changes the lives of everyone involved, regardless of the result

8.  The instances where terminating a pregnancy is justifiable are very, very rare

9.  "Good Sex" requires selflessness

10.  Married couples should regularly have sex, and not limit it to just "making babies".

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 9, 2014

Swimwear

Hi Bro Jo,

I just had an uncomfortable confrontation with my mom over my younger sister's swim wear.

Perhaps I really do have a problem and am far too conservative?

Please tell it to me straight if that's so.

My mom was really snotty about it and I can't take it from her.

My sister's swim suit bottoms - I'll be blunt here - the angle that the legs and genitals meet and the line that is formed from that is wider than the line that the swim suit bottoms go. She HAS to be shaving in order to wear that.

Her boyfriend was over swimming tonight, and my boyfriend and his family are coming to be swimming soon as well. The suit made me uncomfortable, and I do not really want her wearing that suit while he's here.

I talked to him about it and he said he'll just make sure he only looks at her face and avoids looking her direction when her face isn't as visible.... but goodness the contention I just placed in the house... I don't like it.

My mom said to me "I am okay with my daughters wearing that, it's no different from the racing suits they wear in swim team" and I said "well, it goes against MY standards, but I'll respect yours because I live here" and she replied "yep, you'll just have to get over it!"

I feel like my parents' allowance of what their children can wear is decreasing as we all get older.

The length of shorts my sister wears and my mom allows her to wear... when my older sister and I were her age, we were scolded for wearing tank tops around the house (which we only did a handful of times).

My younger sisters lounge around the house in this daily.

It really bothers me, honestly.

But I'm not mom.

And I would never allow my daughters to wear these things. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me if I'm being ridiculous so that I can fix myself. I'd rather it be me with the problem.

This makes me uncomfortable though, and I don't know where to turn, since obviously my mom strongly disagrees with me and I'm only going to get a biased opinion there.

Thank you.

- Concerned Sister



Dear Sister,

In general I'd rather see people control excess body hair than not control it ... but I also recognize that as a personal and cultural choice.

I don't think people should be mocked for how they naturally look (it seems like "excessive body hair" is a constant low-brow joke in TV, movies, and commercials) and I'm uncomfortable with people having . . . someone else (like at a salon) remove, shape or shave their pubic hair.

I don't think one can be "too conservative" when it comes to modesty, but I think those opinions are best kept to one's self and one's family.

What I mean by that is, Sister Jo will point out to our daughters when someone is dressed immodestly (we just spent a Saturday at a popular water park . . . lot's of discussion to be had there!) but she'll never go up to someone and lecture them about what they're wearing . . . or not wearing.

But I think there's more than just modesty at play here in your situation.

One is the concept of parents seeming "less strict" with younger siblings; the other is what sisters do around another sister's boyfriend (or husband).

I'm going to take the latter one first.

Sisters, especially younger ones, often try desperately to get the attention of another sister's guy. 

I think it's a sibling-rivalry / competition thing.  Brothers try to best each other with things like "who can lift the most" and sisters do things like "I'll bet I can get your boyfriend to check me out".

Not all the time.  But a lot.

Why?

Why do they do that?

I think part of it is a validation thing. As if to say "if I can get this guy to think I'm . . . pretty / sexy / whatever . . . then I am" and a guy that's not available (because he's with your sister) is a safe bet.

Hey, I know some guys who've misinterpreted what's going on and thought "I'm switching sisters!" only to be stunned that the flirty / immodest sister has no interest whatsoever.

Okay, not all the time is there no interest (eewwww), but I think it's more common that these girls are going for some kind of validation than that they're actually trying to pick up on the guy.

(Tangent: I don't believe that girls are clueless about what they're wearing or how immodest it might be; I do think many have no idea how prurient the male reaction might be, instead only sensing that they're getting attention, not realizing that guys' reaction isn't "she's pretty", but rather "I'd like to see her naked and do stuff"; that's the "natural man" reaction, the one we're reminded we need to keep in check.)

So your little sister may try to gain some validation by getting your boyfriend's attention.

Conscious or unconscious, I don't know.

But it is natural (which isn't to say that it's good).

And common. Any guy who's dated a girl with younger sisters for a while has experienced it.  I dated a lot, remember, and I experienced everything from innocent attention to beginner flirting to serious flirting to outright nudity.  (Nothing quite like having the girl you're dating catch you noticing her sister who is flashing you before your common-sense-look-away reaction overrides your instincts . . .)

The best part of that is that you're dating a Good Guy who, ultimately, is neither impressed nor does he care.
He prefers you!

As for your parents, specifically your mom (in this instance) . . . I don't think you're wrong in your assessment of the immodesty of your sister's swimsuit. (Sister Jo, who was a swimmer, always says "yeah, right, like anyone could swim in that".) But it does sound like your reaction may have put her on the defensive . . . and you know how that works out.

Do parents relax their standards as the younger kids come along?

I think sometimes we do.

Sometimes it's because we lighten up.

Sometimes it's because we're, as you older kids claim (both Sister Jo and I are the oldest in our sibling groups, by the way, so we know Exactly where you're coming from) being too easy on the younger ones. 

Sometimes it's because our parenting skills have improved. Being a parent requires discovering and navigating personality nuances to a degree that you can't know it until you live it; and I think the more you live it the better you are at it.

Sometimes we just mess up.

And sometimes, little sister, things are not as they are perceived. Heck, for all we know your parents are already all over your sister's case about something, perhaps more important, and they've chosen not to fight this battle because they're aware that it would be counter-productive to the bigger thing they're trying to do. 

Sister Jo and I don't always discipline the Jo Kids in front of each other, you know.

And, as painful as this truth is to hear (I know), y'all are different, and we parents can't all discipline you exactly the same.

Sure would be easier if we could!

So what can you take away from this?
1. Your guy isn't going to be . . . lured . . . away by your little sister, and that's not likely her intent anyway. He's a Good Guy. 
2. A sister is a girl, and girls often have this need for outside validation, and that makes them do dumb stuff. (Guys do dumb stuff, too.) 
3. Parents are people, and when they're put on the defensive they're less likely to respond positively to our arguments, no matter how correct we may be. 
4. Your hope as a parent is to create a standard of modesty for your children that exceeds that of your parents. (My advice here is: start young, never give in, and have all clothes modeled -including the "stretching and bending tests" in front of the parents; girls AND guys.) 

Now go mend things with your family.

That means apologize.

Even though you're right.

Once you rebuild that bridge, and communication is back open, people will be more likely to come around to your point of view.

Just don't push them.

Best,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Should She Do When a Guy She Dated Tells Her That He Has a Porn Problem?

Dear Bro Jo,

ActuaI have another, more serious question for you. So I'll give you some background to provide some context:

My best friend, (Name Withheld #1) whom I've practically been in love with since I was 16, reported to the MTC about 3 weeks ago. It was very exciting, and I'm very proud of him!

He has feelings for me, too, but throughout our friendship we've had the attitude of, "let's follow the prophets' counsel and not steady date," which has proved to be the best decision we could have made. We still developed feelings for each other, but we've also gone on dates with other people.

Well he went into the MTC, and the next day, this guy from my ward, NW2 (I'm using names to avoid confusion) asked me to come over to his house to make dinner. I was excited about it!

He's also in one of my classes.

Well, we started talking and hanging out. A LOT. (Don't worry, this isn't going to be one of those "but I have a missionary!" stories.) He started to like me, and I started feeling confused because I didn't know which direction I should go in. I prayed about it, and literally got NO response for a few days.

Finally, I got a strong feeling that I should break things off with NW2. I was really confused. He's really nice, sweet, creative, and funny--and an RM! It wasn't that I preferred him. I mean, I was only praying because he seemed really nice, and I wanted to make sure I was doing what Heavenly Father wants me to do, not committing myself to NW1 without any guarantee that there will be anything when he gets back in 2 years.

The answer just didn't make sense to me.

Anyways, I decided to go ahead with my prompting.

I'm glad I did.

I was straightforward and told him that I got the feeling that we shouldn't continue in the direction we were going, that I wanted to still be friends if he was ok with it, but a relationship was out of the question for the time being.

I also told him that the only plausible reason that I could think of was that I wasn't ready for a relationship because my feelings for NW1 weren't just going to go away in a week (that's how quickly things progressed for him).

He told me he understood.

And the next day, we were back in class (on Monday), and things were completely fine!!

However, on Tuesday we were texting each other. I was telling him about my religion class, and that we discussed pornography, and I was telling him how angry pornography makes me. I've watched it ruin lives of my friends and my family, and I have no tolerance for it. I really hate it.

He then proceeded to tell me via text that he's had a problem with pornography.

First, here are the questions I have:

1. Obviously the timing was bad--he should have waited. But how do you think a girl should respond when a young man confesses that he has a pornography problem? 
2. When is the appropriate time to discuss such things? 
The reason why I ask this is because previously I thought it was one of those things you discussed when you were thinking about getting engaged. But now that I know, I have no interest in dating him--at the moment. 
Even if I hadn't gotten the prompting to end things with NW2, he's not ready to be married in the temple, so I feel like if I were to continue things, and he were not able to repent fully, then I'd have to end the relationship anyways, because it wasn't going to lead me to temple marriage. 

Does that make sense?

I feel like that sounds harsh, and I might be unfair.

What are your thoughts?


So here's how I went about this: I asked him if he'd seen the Bishop.

He said that he had.

I asked when the last time he'd looked at it was, and he didn't tell me.

Instead, he told me that he'd been tempted over that weekend, but he didn't give in.

I feel like he was downplaying it a little bit, and that he was looking for acceptance.

I felt so grateful that I'd listened to the Spirit. I would hate to be the object of his... fantasies I guess.

I felt like the whole situation was a bad one.

He told me when we weren't even in a committed relationship, right after I told him that I wasn't going to move forward with him.

He seemed to be trying to manipulate me, though I don't think he realized it.

I think that subconsciously, he just wanted to make sure I stayed so I could help him (though it's near impossible for a woman to help a man with that problem), and to feel like he could be loved even though he had such a difficult weakness.

I wrote him a letter explaining that the timing was off, and reminding him that I don't want to pursue a relationship with him, and then we discussed how he needs to work on himself.

He seemed to think it was best to put off dating for another couple years until he was ready, and I suggested to him that he just make sure he's ready when the right girl comes along.

I talked to my Bishop because I felt like NW2 was losing faith in himself, and perhaps the Bishop could help him a little bit where I can't.

The whole situation was so frustrating because I've heard countless times that pornography is the "deadliest of plagues," but I've never been taught how to handle a young man telling you about his addiction, or even finding out.

I feel like what I did was right, and maybe it's a case-by-case thing.

Do you have any suggestions?

I don't anticipate having this issue come up again (I might be dreaming), but I'm sure you've gotten tons of letters on the subject, and having the perspective you do, I'd appreciate your insights.

Thanks Bro Jo!!

I appreciate your time and commitment to us readers!

You're the best!!

- Sister at the Y of I



Dear Sister,

I think you're absolutely right. I think it's a Big Red Flag when a guy mentions a porn problem to a girl.

(So does Sister Jo, by the way. In fact she, wisely in my opinion, says that pornography and it's pervasiveness is behind everything from misogyny to wage disparity.)

I guess I would be okay with it if there was, as you said, already a relationship (at least a close friendship) there.

Perhaps then he'd be trying to make a point, like saying that he struggled with that but with the Lord's help has overcome it, or that having had similar struggles he could sympathize with others, or even if he was making a comment about how pervasive all of this garbage is . . . But to just toss it out there . . . either he's looking to you for comfort (as if you're going to say "that's okay, you're okay") or (as Sister Jo worries) that he's looking for . . . (sorry) someone to be pornographic with.

More than just making a girl the object of his self-gratification, I'm learning that guys, yes even (and perhaps especially) in the Church, will "confess" immorality to a girl as a way of trying to talk her into being immoral.  It's repugnant, but all too common . . . and, frankly, effective.


SISTERS WAKE UP!

Some guys out there have figured out that they can play on your "help him recover" sensibilities and will let you think that he's your "project" because it's a way to get into your pants - or get you into his - no joke.


If you have the Spirit with you then you'll be able to discern when someone is truly crying for help from when someone is crying and from when someone is . . . trying something else.  Trust your instincts (which, IMHO, is another way to think of the Light of Christ) and ALWAYS go no further than encouraging them to get their act together, first by talking candidly to their Bishop, and secondly be getting whatever recovery help they need.

Never start a relationship with someone with a pornography addiction.

And if you're in a relationship, a serious one, with someone who develops that addiction, get help for them . . . and for you.

Hope that helps,

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 2, 2014

PDA . . . At the Temple?

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey there Bro Jo!

Here's a back-story for my question: I'm at BYU-I, and I went to the Rexburg temple last week, and there was an engaged couple there doing baptisms. The line was really long (I had to wait in the foyer for a while :), so I was sitting by this couple for a very long time.

Anyways, the guy did not seem able to keep his hands off of his fiancé.

I don't think they were crossing any lines but . .  I felt awkward because they were being a little distracting.

The girl didn't seem to mind the attention, but she didn't really reciprocate.

However, the guy always had his arm around her, play with the bottom of her skirt, put his hand on her knee (even wedged his hand through her legs when they were crossed).

It seemed a bit extreme to me, especially since the temple is a place of worship, not flirting, you know?

Not saying that you can't flirt, but I feel like the focus should be more on the ordinances, you know? 

Anyways, I was just wondering what you thought about Temple PDA?

Thanks!!

- Wondering




Dear Wondering,

The hands between her knees thing crosses a PDA line for me whether a couple is at the Temple or not.

I think anything beyond hand holding and peck kisses (closed mouths, no spit) is too much in public, even for married people.

If I'd have seen this couple in the Temple I'd have said something (probably something gentle like "I know you kids have the hots for each other but, brother, you need to show her a little more respect, especially here"), but then we old people can get away with saying stuff like that.

(Okay. Truth be told, I might have ignored them, but if Sister Jo was with me she'd certainly would have encouraged me to say something.)

As I've said before, unless a couple is married, I don't think the Temple is an appropriate date.

Glad you went to the Temple, though!

- Bro Jo