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Monday, August 31, 2015

Scared and Alone - Part 14 of 15: What Do You Believe?


These last two posts in this series are more conversational.  They have been edited and colors added to make them easier to read.


- Bro Jo]

Dear Bro Jo,

There's just so many things going on in my family, with friends and with myself that's its very discouraging and I'm to the point where I almost don't care anymore. I don't know that things would be better without the church, but I do know that people wouldn't be so judgmental and I wouldn't be worrying about every little thing I do. Life used to be so much easier when I was inactive and didn't care. Obviously that wasn't the best part of my life though. 

- Scared 

Dear Scared, 

I had a discussion with a very good friend once. I said "man, it's hard to be a member of the Church; all of the rules and commandments and everyone expects so much from you". He rebuked me. Said I was dead wrong. What do you think was his reason? 

- Bro Jo 

That's a tough one. I know I'm wrong on his reasons, but I guess because the commandments aren't here to make our life harder and the church isn't trying to make it harder, they're trying to bring us closer to heavenly father and in the end the commandments give us more freedom. I have no idea though.

Well . . . you're essentially saying what he said. So, let me ask you: how can living the commandments make my life easier? What about the Word of Wisdom?

That's the part I have no idea about. I only knew the last part because my seminary teacher just taught us that. Didn't think it would be right.

Is my life easier because I don't kill people?

That's probably a pretty obvious answer of yes?

For some people it's not obvious. But it is for you and I. 

Be specific with this one: how would committing adultery make my life more difficult?

Well. . . since you're married then it will probably screw up your marriage. 

It not only causes problems for you, but also for the person you did it with and the ones you were committed to before you did it.

Including any children that may exist. 

Divorce is very difficult on the entire family. And have you ever noticed how young people with divorced parents seem to have extra struggles? Especially in relationships?

I have noticed that. My parents themselves are not divorced, but it has been brought up many times. 

With my parents it's either my dad attempting suicide or threatening divorce and walking out. I know it's not the same as them actually being divorced, but many times it has been similar with them not speaking for weeks on end and sleeping in separate places. Anyways. . . that's not what you were asking for, so back to your questions.

Sorry to hear that about your parents. That makes life hard. 

Wouldn't your life be easier if they were always nice to each other? Wouldn't there lives be easier?

Yeah, all of our lives would be, but no one said life would be easy. I'm really making myself into an idiot aren't I?

I don't think you're an idiot. And I wish you'd stop saying it. 

Life is not easy. 

For anyone. 

But there are two kinds of things that make our lives difficult: 

1. the things that just happen over which we have no control 

2. the things which we have control over, but choose to make our lives more difficult 

Like cancer. Some people just get cancer. It sucks. 

Some people get cancer because they smoke. 

That sucks, too. 

And yet, even though I could get cancer just because, isn't my life better because I don't smoke and give myself cancer?

Sorry. . . I'll stop calling myself that around you. 

Yeah, you are making your life better because you don't smoke and give yourself cancer

If someone were to ask me to define the word "commandments" I would say: They are the rules and guidelines that God gives us to help us lead better lives and be good people so that we can return to live with Him again. 

We don't have to follow them, but we're better off if we do. 

What do you think of that definition?

PS:  Not just stop saying it to me, but stop saying it. I don't like it when people say negative things about people I care about.

I have problems with making negative comments about myself. . sorry. 

I would agree with your definition.

Do you believe in God?

I do believe in God, yes.

Me too! Who is God? To you?

I feel like if I answer this, I'm going to do it in the wrong way and sound like I have no idea what I'm talking about. 

I think he's our creator and gave up his son for us to be able to have this life. (not exactly sure what to say. . )

Say whatever you believe to be true. I won't judge. 

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Do Mixed Faith Marriages Work?

Dear Bro Jo,

So right now I am dating an incredible man, who is sweet and kind and treats me wonderfully. The only problem is he is Catholic (which is fine) but he wants to raise his children Catholic and I want to raise my children LDS... but I love him.

And he loves me.

And he is the only person in my life that has always treated me well and has not abused and used me in any way.

I can't imagine my life without him... we are getting quite serious and I am the one out of the two of us who is least willing to compromise... and I am unsure what to do.

On an awkward side note my best friend whom I once cared about greatly comes home from his mission soon and at one point wanted to date and see what happened. But that was before I met my boyfriend.

People are telling me to wait for the missionary to come home, but with my feelings for my boyfriend I cannot imagine dating anyone else.

I don’t know what to do... for someone who used to not believe in love, and questions her faith in marriage it is hard to accept any affection, I know I’m in love and I cannot help but think that God would want this for me, because I am happy and actually believing in love and thinking I could be happy and that I won’t be abused again..

I don't know what I should do.

Or how I should handle it.

If I should compromise which honestly I am inclined to do so, or if I... it would hurt so much to end things, I love him.

Please help,

- Conflicted

Dear Conflicted,

I have no doubt that the man you're currently dating is a wonderful man.

To say that he's the only man that you could ever love, the only man who could ever love you, the only man who would never abuse you . . . while I understand your background and perspective, the thing is that's just not true.

Mixed faith marriage can be very, very difficult.

Each person must go in expecting that the other will never compromise and never change their beliefs, and each has to understand that there will be extra difficulty, extra pressure, and that children will compound everything.

Further, you both need to understand that your children will likely be confused, may choose one of your faiths over the other one, that you'll need to support them in that choice, and that they may choose neither.

For your part you'll need to accept that you'll have no priesthood in the home, and you may never get Sealed for Time and All Eternity; not to your husband OR your children.

And from his perspective he'll have to make some sacrifices, too. 

You two have A LOT to resolve.

Things like: how will we handle Church attendance?

Will we go to Saturday Night Mass and the LDS Block on Sunday?

Will you each go to each other's services? (I think you should, btw)

Will the kids be baptized as infants in the Catholic Church, and then baptized at 8 in the LDS Faith? 

Will you explain to them that the reason you think they need to do that is because you believe that the priest that baptized them as infants didn't really hold the priesthood and therefore wasn't authorized to baptize?

Will they be confirmed members of the LDS Faith at 8 and then go through confirmation classes as 16-year old Catholics?

Will your children go to Catechism classes or YM/YW?

What about scouts?

Will your sons be both alter boys and LDS deacons?  (Can that even be done?)

Will you be married by your Bishop or his Priest?

Or are you going to agree to disagree and do the Justice of the Peace thing?

I guess what I'm saying is, love is great, but there's so much more to being married and raising a family than that. I think you two need to have a very long talk.

And, if you haven't already, you need to be attending all of the meetings that come along with each other's faith - for at least a couple months (One weekend does not an understanding make.)

You both need to get pretty educated on what the other half thinks.

And I think all of that needs to happen before anybody agrees to marry anybody else.

It can be done.

But it's not done often very successfully.

And it takes, as I said, A LOT of extra work.

That's why I tell people that once they're marrying age they should only date within their own faith, regardless of what that faith is.

So, yeah, you may want to consider dating the RM, at least a few times (if you're both still interested) when he comes home.

And, depending on your commitment to your current boyfriend, that may mean that you need to break up for a while.

Unless, I guess, he's okay with you dating some other guy while you're both still a couple . . .

That would be weird.

So . . . talk.

Be Mature enough to set aside your emotions for one long conversation and talk about the practicality of what you're both considering.

And pray.

I sincerely wish you both the best. And I'd love to know how things work out.


- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dating and "The Bro Code"

Dear Bro Jo,

Sorry if you've posted about this before...I'm new to your blog.

I am just looking for an outsider opinion here.

I'm 19 and a freshman in college.

I have a guy (let's call him A) in my very small YSA ward who seems to like me.

He has two best friends (B and C), and the three of them are inseparable.

They are all recent RM's and good guys.

I have been on a date with A, and we had a nice time. I plan to give him a fair chance (one or two more dates), but I am not really seeing a relationship happening.

My problem: I would like B or C to ask me on a date, and I am open to directly saying "you should take me on a date sometime" or your other comparably scary Tips for Getting Guys to Ask.

I think it could work--B, in particular, is friendly and responsive to my (somewhat inept) flirting. 

However, I doubt either B or C would ever ask me out while A had an obvious interest.

They hang out continually together, and I would guess that they have talked about me.

It is decidedly against the "Bro Code" to date the girl your best friend has staked a claim on.

But I don't want to be A's claim!


I would like to take measures quickly here so I don't find myself a true love interest for A and permanently in the friend zone with B and C.

I also don't really want to put their friendship in an awkward place (do guys think about that stuff so much?) and become the jerk in the situation.

Also, it's incredibly hard to talk to B alone because A (who talks continually) and sometimes C are always there. So even if I wanted to show more obvious interest in B, I'd have trouble finding the chance. We are Facebook friends and I could probably procure his number if I needed to, but I don't really care for that kind of communication in this case.


- College Girl

Dear CG,


Maybe the key is, in one of those rare moments you do get him alone (they have to exist!) you tell B (or B & C if they're together) that you like A, but not as a boyfriend, and you don't want him to "claim" you and keep you from going out with other guys.

They'll tell him (unless you mess it up by asking them not to).

You could also work at setting A up with one of your girlfriends that needs a date, or even better, would be a better match for him than you are.  (He moves on, she gets a date, what could be more perfect!)

Also, you'll need to not do anything with any of these guys that would have the others putting you in the "off limits" zone.

That means kissing.

In case you were wondering.

If you've made out with A, then unless B or C just want to use you as a kissing buddy, they'll be a little put off by that.

They might get over it, but only after an unknown amount of time has passed since the kissing happened.

IF they ever get over it.

And they might not.

Fortunately for you, CG, these aren't the only guys in the universe. Heck, you're not even sure which of these two guys you'd rather date!

Remember, right or wrong, people talk.

Especially in a small ward.

Best to take things slow, romantically, and keep your dates more on the fun side and less on the romantic side.

That is, until you make a decision.

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 24, 2015

Scared and Alone - Part 13 of 15: Is It All Really Worth It?

Dear Bro Jo,

 I didn't say that tea was my only problem and I'm not trying to make excuses for anything.

I have quit drinking the tea and I'm not having problems with that.

Did I go to the Bishop for it?


Did I go to the Bishop for talking with the guy?


But that wasn't exactly what I was trying to figure out right now.

I was hoping to figure out how I can stop doubting so many things and how I can get to where I don't want to give up on the Church.

I'm glad you gave up drinking soda, but what's not hard for one person could be hard for another.

I've been to Bishops for a few times, it may not have been serious, but I have talked to them. And in general with things that have gone on in my family, they've came to me about certain things and comments they've made and the things they've done just haven't helped me feel comfortable around them.

Also, I wasn't saying it was hard to focus on the saviors love, I was trying to say that it's hard not caring about other peoples judgments.

If you want to think that I'm making excuses, then that's fine.

I don't know how to explain myself any better.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

I'm sorry that I misunderstood.

Let's try again.

What are you having doubts about?

- Bro Jo 

Dear Bro Jo,

I obviously didn't explain myself very well, and I'm sorry for that. I'm just doubting everything in general right now.

Mostly, I'm just doubting about whether or not I want to keep going to Church and if it's the right thing for me.

There's so much going on (outside of just my individual problems) that I've just wanted to give up and don't know what to believe in anymore.

I know we go through these things to learn and grow, but with so much going on all at once, I'm losing the battle.

I just don't have the drive and the want to go to church and stay active anymore.

I feel like I'm just complaining now and I should really just stop.

There's probably nothing anyone can do to help. .


- Scared

Dear Scared,

I'd like to try to help.

What's going on outside?

What makes you think that life might be easier or better if you stopped going to Church?

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 21, 2015

How to Pursue a Sister Missionary - Part 3 of 3

Dear Bro Jo,

I would appreciate any advice on how to proceed.

More specifically, on how to contact her (or vice versa) after her mission.

- Friend

Dear Friend,

If a job would make a difference, get one.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I would gladly accept any kind of serious job offer. (Also, without an employer willing to sponsor me, I couldn't get a visa)

- Friend

Dear Friend,

If Utah is too far or expensive, try the UK.

Or Las Vegas.

Or San Diego

Or Australia or New Zealand.

How did the people who live in your branch that are married meet?

Do what they did!

The bottom line is this:  as long as you focus on the obstacles you will have a tough time achieving your goal.

Instead of making excuses, make plans.

If you really want to contact this sister after her mission is completed, tell her.

Ask for her home address.

It's that simple.

If she asks why, tell her that, too.

See the net, not the goalie.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

If You Want to Dance More . . .

Dear Bro Jo,

So, I've read a bunch of your inputs on dancing.

I love Church dances. I go to all the regular ones that the church puts on, and then I have a friend who puts on monthly Church dances. 

Its really great, lots of slow dances, line dances, themed dances etc.

My first three dances I went without getting asked to dance by a guy.. ever.

Then I went to EFY and got asked twice only. And it made me super super sad.

So I decided to just go and have fun and ask people at dances from then on or I wouldn't be able to have fun.

Are you saying that its better to go there and just NOT be asked?

Because to seems like its more worth it to get rid of my pride and just ask boys.

Because any dance that I don't just ask people is really terrible and sad.

What do you think?


- Wanna Dance

Dear Dancer,

Dances prepare us for dating.

If you don't teach the boys at these dances that they need to ask you to dance, then they won't learn that they need to ask you out on dates.

And you won't learn why getting boys to ask you out, or ask you to dance, is a good thing.

And it is a good thing.


Because, right or wrong, guys see girls that expect to be pursued as more valuable.

Now I know that you're valuable. And you should know that, too.

I understand that it can be very hard to know that when boys aren't giving you the attention you deserve, when they're not asking you like they should.

What can I say?

Boys are dumb.

And you DO have value!

And you DESERVE to be asked!

So let's start by making a subtle change.

Rather than asking the boys to dance, go up to them and say "which one of you boys is (smart, sweet, cute...) enough to ask me to dance? "


Touch an arm.

During the dance laugh and smile; ask him about him and listen with interest while he's speaking.

And when the song is over, say thank you and "I hope next time you'll ask me on your own ".

And then Never Ask That Boy Again.

If his friends don't clue in, sit out a couple songs, and then try it on another group of guys.

In fact, take a girlfriend or two with you and approach these guys as a group.

I think you'll see a wonderful difference.

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 17, 2015

Scared and Alone - Part 12:of 15 Overcoming Weakness

Dear Bro Jo,

There honestly isn't anything worse going on.

If you're thinking that because I'm so scared, it's because I have never went to anyone for anything.

That and I've had bad history with almost all of the Bishops I've had.

The only one I really trusted was the one from my first ward and he's no longer a Bishop anymore.

I know we all deserve help, but at times I feel unworthy of it.

Like why should anyone want to help me when I'm the one making stupid mistakes and doing things

I KNOW I shouldn't.

It's easier said than done on not caring about Man's judgments and focusing on The Savior's love.

Not really having the courage to do anything right now, but we'll see.


- Scared

Dear Scared,

How can you have "had a bad history" with previous Bishops if you never had to talk to them about anything serious??? 

I disagree with your assertion about focusing on the Savior's love. 

It's like the commandments: it's easier to live them than to not. 

Honestly, if your only problem is drinking tea, then it sounds like you're making excuses to me. 

It's not that big of a deal. 

Just stop drinking it. 


I understand it's hard to do. 

I gave up soda. 

As we overcome our weaknesses we become stronger.

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 14, 2015

How to Pursue a Sister Missionary - Part 2 of 3

Dear Bro Jo,

Girls usually do, but in this case the difference is we are talking about a missionary, who is not supposed to be chased at all.

I also have to add she loves her missionary work and, in my opinion, she is probably the best full-time missionary in her ward, including the Elders.

We are not in the same ward and we first met at a baptism.

Baptisms are rare in this mission area, which is why members and missionaries from several wards/branches are encouraged to attend.

Curiously, /she/ made the first move (in a very subtle way).

I asked her where she was serving and, since then, I have traveled 150 kilometers (93 miles) each week just to see her (she is always with other sisters/elders/investigators).

Incidentally, I don't have a car, and I have to use public transport. It is very difficult for me.

To a certain extent, I am already "chasing" her, and I can't think of anything else I can do. 

- Friend

Dear Friend,

If there's that much of an uphill battle in your area, you bet I'd move if I were you!

Can there be a better reason for relocating than to find someone to be sealed to for Time and All Eternity?

I would never characterize that as a waste of money.

Rather an investment that will pay dividends well beyond what we can imagine.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

A dear friend of mine, 28-year-old high priest, is going to Utah in July for the same reason. He will be staying for a month, so he can just use his passport without a specific visa.

It will cost him about 5000 euros (almost 7000 dollars). He doesn't even speak English.

I don't have that money (otherwise, I would leave with him).

I would never characterize that as a waste of money.

The reality is, it is an expensive lottery.

Can you really find and get to know a person, in a foreign country, in less than a month?

I don't doubt it, but, in my case, the problem is: money.

As I said, I would be willing to go abroad if I had a job there, so I could support myself.

- Friend,

Dear Friend,

Please pay attention: if you're interested in this girl, you need to chase her AFTER she goes home.

I understand that the situation seems complicated and difficult, but I think you'll fair better if you stop seeing the obstacles and start looking for options.

Wayne Gretzky said that the difference between a 50 goal a year scorer and an 150 goal a year scorer is that the 50 goal guys could tell you the logo on every pad on every goalie in the league; the 150 goal scorer doesn't see the goalie; he only sees the open net.

I think a non-English speaker spending $7000 to go to Utah for a month with no prospects, no job, and no clue, in hopes that he can find, woo, and win a wife in that time is . . . candidly . . . an optimistic idiot.

Maybe he's wealthy. 

Maybe he's got a strong possibility or firm plan that you haven't mentioned . . . If not . . . I hope it works out for him, I really do . . . but I wouldn't bet on it!

Utah isn't the only place in the world with lots of LDS women, and when I say "move" I don't mean "go blindly and with no plan".

If a job would make a difference, get one.

If going back to school would provide the opportunity, do that.

If Utah is too far or expensive, try the UK.

Or Las Vegas.

Or San Diego.

Or Australia or New Zealand.

How did the people who live in your branch that are married meet?

Do what they did!

Or work harder at making the baptisms in your area less infrequent.

There's no rule that says that YSA and SA activities have to be limited to members.

Throw some parties, make some friends!

How do the non-LDS people meet spouses in your area? 

Be the guy that comes up with the LDS-appropriate version of that.

Be a Pioneer!

Join the military and travel to new places that way.

Become a travel agent, work for an airline or hotel so pilgrimages are less expensive.

Or become a tour guide!

You haven't specifically mentioned where you're from, but when I worked for a couple different hotel chains in Utah there were always tours from European countries coming through.

The guide was usually a younger person (about your age) from wherever those folks were from. The tour would go through the US National Parks, and in their off duty time these guys would get out and meet new people.

Hey, nothing in life worth while is easy . . . but it IS worth it. I understand being frustrated . . . but understand this: the only difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is effort. 

Sure, you've put in effort up to this point (right?), but it's like when you lose your keys: you'll never find them if you stop looking, and you always find them in the last place you looked.

Stop seeing the goalie, my brother; start looking for the open net.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Family Issues: Part 2 of 2

Dear Bro Jo,

Thought I'd give you a quick update.

A lot has happened in the month since I first wrote. Everything seems to be confirming what I've been thinking about and what you have said. However, I'm sorry to say that I've been procrastinating. If I'm being honest, I have to admit that I'm scared. The youth in our area recently had the opportunity to go to a fireside with Elder Bednar.

My brother's family was there, and it was nice to talk and catch up again.

What worries me is losing what little I have left of that side of my family.

Any tips for gathering up the courage to get this done?


- Brother

Dear Brother,

It's like anything really . . . like President Kimball said, you just "Do It".

I think that when we regret not taking action that's the Spirit telling us to Go and Do.

That and, well . . . as always, prayer helps.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Hi Bro Jo.

Since my last email, I've spoken with my brother and one of my sisters.

Things were awkward at first, but that's not too unusual for my family.

My sister and I probably made the most progress.

Part of that had to do with letting her know that I just wanted to understand, or at least try to understand, how she felt.

At this point, I'd say we're friends at least, and we're back to greeting each other at Church and such now.

My brother was a little more standoffish.

The two of us both have a tendency to show negative emotions more so than positive emotions, so I was worried that we'd both end up angry and hurt.

That didn't happen, but we're more or less where we were before.

While I don't like that, I can accept it.

We haven't even been around each other for the better part of nine years.

I don't know how he felt, but it did feel weird to be sitting across from him and actually speaking to each other.

I don't know how much progress was made, but if nothing else, I think we both got to say some things that couldn't be said when I was eight and he was thirty-five.

Thanks for your advice and motivation.

My concerns were more for these two siblings than my other two.

Now I know where they stand, and I feel like two decades worth of resentment on both sides may slowly be starting to fade.

My biggest worry now is that I may be a little too optimistic, but I'll try to stay realistic.

Thanks again,

- Brother

Dear Brother,

Proud of you, Bro!

Nice work!

And thanks for the update.

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 10, 2015

Scared and Alone - Part 11 of 15: We All Deserve Help

Dear Bro Jo,

I have to be honest, I changed e-mails hoping that it wouldn't be so obvious it was the same person.

I just feel like such a failure because I keep screwing up everything.

I'm sure that making things right would be much easier, but I still haven't gotten myself to talk to anyone lately. I'm sure I've heard the spirit and maybe had a testimony at one point, but I know I haven't recently. But, that's all because of the choices I've made and I can't blame it on anything else. Last night our Bishop was out of town and I don't know when he will be returning. I'm sure I could e-mail his secretary and ask, but I just can't get myself to do it.

Besides. . . What if he tells my parents everything?

They know I drink tea and even though my mom's a member she doesn't have a problem with it, but she doesn't know about the guy. (Anything we ever had was over though, so I don't have to worry about him anymore.) I don't need everyone finding out about everything. Thanks for being such amazing help, even if I probably don't deserve it right now.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

We all deserve help.


As often as we need it.

You need to stop worrying about the Judgments of Man and focus on the Love of the Savior.

It doesn't matter what the Bishop thinks or your parents find out; it only matters that you feel good again. Good about life and good about yourself. All you've told me about so far are very minor things; you have me thinking that there's something more going on.

 It doesn't matter.

 Do this FOR YOU.

Call the secretary.

Or email. Right now.

Make the appointment.

Be of Good Courage!

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 7, 2015

How to Pursue a Sister Missionary - Part 1 of 3

Dear Bro Jo,

I am 32 years old and live in a European country where the Church has very few active members.

I am single.

Not only am I the only member in my family, but I am also the only member in my town.

My branch is made up of about 70 towns, but has 30 people in all (including non-baptized kids).

A couple of months ago I met a 24-year-old sister missionary from Utah who is serving in this area.

Since then I managed to see her once a week, usually while she is talking to investigators together with other sister missionaries and elders.

She will probably be transferred, sooner or later.

I don't think she was dating anyone before leaving on her mission, and I would like to get to know her better when the mission is over (she has a few months left).

Do you think it is doable?

If you were me, what would you do right now?

- Name Withheld

Dear Friend,

I think it's doable . . . but difficult.

You shouldn't really write until after she goes home . . . and then there's the issue of distance . . . and eventually one or both of you will need to locate to where the other one is . . .

That doesn't mean that it's not worth an effort, though! 

I just don't know if I'd wait around that long.

As I see it you have two (better) options:

1.  Become an excellent Member Missionary and get every single girl you can in your area to join the Church (though it only takes one, mi amigo), or . . .

2.  Move.

Move to a place where the odds are a little more in your favor.

If I were you, I'd pick one of those two options.


Which would be more successful?

That's the one to pick.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I am impressed. I didn't even sign my name, and you replied so quickly.

Thank you.

OK I won't write, or do anything else, until her mission is done.

If she is still interested, she will write first, from home. I don't see any other options.

I will be sure to leave her my contact info, somehow.

Also, I have decided to stop seeing her for the time being, in case things get complicated.

Had she not been a missionary, I would already have asked her out.

I don't rule them out, but I would like to get to know /that/ sister missionary.

Yes, it is difficult, but, as you said, it doesn't mean it is not worth an effort...

- Friend

Dear Friend,

I don't know that I'd leave everything to fate...

A short letter from you sent to her at her home might be a good idea.

Girls do like to be chased after all.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Family Issues - Part 1 of 2

Dear Bro Jo, 

I've looked through your blog, but I can't seem to find a situation similar to my own.

Maybe I've overlooked something, and in that case, I'm sorry for taking up your time.

Like many other youth, I come from a crazy family.

My dad's first marriage ended badly. He met my mom not long after. I have four half-siblings, though up until the last few years I've never really made a distinction between siblings and half-siblings, from his first marriage.

I came along a few years after my mom and dad were married (temple marriage, everything was great, etc.).

Then, when I was eight, my dad passed away.

Up until that time, I'd been relatively close with all of my siblings except one. My oldest sister quite literally hates me, but that's not so much the point of this letter.

After my dad died, I hardly ever saw that part of my family again.

Considering that my brother's family had lived just down the road for most of my life up to that point, this was a big change in a time when my world had already been tossed upside down.

Presently, my brother's family lives around forty minutes away.

We never call.

We hardly ever see each other (once in the past six years).

I haven't seen his kids, my two nephews and two nieces, in a year (and that was only because of a mutual friend's funeral).

They were my best friends growing up.

It's been weird.

Of course, the two half-sisters who aren't openly hostile toward me and my mom are a part of this as well. My middle sister attends the same ward, so we see each other on at least a weekly basis. She sits right behind us in church, but she never speaks to us... at all...

My youngest sister and I have the best relationship out of the bunch, but she lives a few hours away. 

She's around seventeen years older than I am (I'm seventeen, by the way; just to give you an idea of the overall age gap). We do keep up with each other fairly well on social media, but that's about it. 

My main concerns are with my brother and my middle sister.

For a while now, I've been trying to figure out why things are the way they are. I shouldn't feel this way, but there is a jealousy factor involved.

I look at other families, families that have been through almost the same trials as mine, that are super close and happy.

I'm not going to lie; I don't understand why it's so hard for my family to accept that what happened really happened, but I can understand that maybe they aren't fully comfortable with acting as a family, and I could live with that.

I'd just like to be friendly; to speak when we see each other; to be comfortable around each other instead of walking on egg shells.

I'd like to know why my sister practically sits with us in sacrament meeting when she doesn't even speak to us. I'd like to know why my brother waited to walk up and say hi at that funeral last year until he realized that I knew he was there.. 

I want to know what they think I, or my mom, did wrong.

Even if it meant agreeing to avoid each other whenever possible, I'd like to have some answers: closure, I guess.

The bottom line in all of this is that I know my dad wouldn't like what his family has come to.

During the last months of his life, he was losing his short term memory. Consequently, he relived those parts of his life around the divorce over and over again.

As young as I was, I didn't notice. Now that I'm older, and I've learned more about my dad and his past, I can see how things have ended up the way they are, and I'll admit to holding some animosity of my own.

However, I'm trying to let that go.

I've prayed about this. I've read my scriptures over and over. I feel the spirit as I do so, but recently, I've come to the conclusion that this will never cease to trouble me until I do something about it.

The Lord has told us to study things out in our minds and, after we've done so, to ask if the conclusion we've come to is right.

My main problem is that I can't figure out what to do about this. I know it's probably a long shot, but I'd really appreciate some additional insight or advice.


- Alienated Brother

Dear Brother,

"Closure" is kind of like getting answers to our prayers . . . we get answers, but it's not always what we want to hear.

If you can accept that, it sounds to me like you're ready to have some adult conversations.

The key, I think, will be to keep your composure and do your best to be as open and understanding as you can. That's how you'll help the people you're talking to feel more relaxed and less confronted, and that will provide you with more information.

And more valuable information.

No one likes to be confronted. And when they deep down know that they're being . . . weenies . . . they like it even less.

So go into these conversations as if you're seeking advice or help, not as if you're accusing them of something.

And a key to keep in mind is to not use the word "you"; that's the Instantly Make People Put Up a Wall and Get Defensive Word.

(If you click on "communication" on the blog page, you'll see several posts where I've talked about that.)

You might want to start with your step sister. Make the moment happen. Rather than turn on her in Church, go over to her house.

(Technology or not, Communication happens best when in person; don't even think about IM or Texting this stuff.)

Start by apologizing for dropping by.

(If she's anything like Sister Jo, she's very busy and drop-bys through off her busy schedule, and you want to be on a positive note as much as possible.)

Then ask for her help.

Tell her the truth, but put it back on yourself.

Rather than say "how come you ignore me at Church", say "I feel bad that there's a distance between us; I'd like to apologize for whatever I've done wrong; what can I do to fix this?"

Be Sincere.

And then Be Quiet.

We don't know how she'll react.

She may be hostile; she may be open; she may tell you to take a hike.

Whichever she chooses, you will have given it your best shot.

Anything less than the two of you making up or coming to some kind of understanding, and that will be all you can do.

But even if things don't work out the way you hope, at least you'll know.

And work your way through the rest of your siblings in the same manner.

One on one, and one at a time.

Always humble, always kind, always doing your best to be understanding.

If they ask why you're making the effort, again tell them the truth: you're hoping to mend whatever is wrong because you'd like them to be in your life.

However this goes, I think you're about to learn some very important things.

Good luck, God bless, and let me know how it all goes, will ya?

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 3, 2015

Scared and Alone: Part 10 of 15: When You Feel Like Giving Up

Readers, This email came two months after the last one. - Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Do you ever feel like just giving up on everything and not caring about anything anymore?

I've been having doubts lately about what's right in life and just over everything in Church.

I just recently turned 18, but i'm staying with the young women's program until I graduate.

Most of my leaders all seem to think I have an amazing/strong testimony, but what they don't realize is that I really don't.

They always say they can "see it in my actions and choices," but deep down personally I feel as I know nothing and I haven't ever really had a testimony of my own.

Sadly, I've gotten to the point where I want to give up on the Church and I don't follow all of it's teachings as best I should. It's even gotten to the point where I don't want to go to church and when I do, I always come home feeling worse than I did before.

I've corresponded with you once before on another e-mail account, and really appreciated the advice you gave me, so I was hoping for a little bit of help again. I'm feeling like a failure with everything in life.

Thanks for taking the time to read this,

- Scared

Dear Scared,

I remember our previous correspondence.

When what we want to give up on is a bad thing (like drinking tea or hanging out with guys that constantly pressure girls for sex and inappropriate pictures) then it's good to give that up.

When what we are thinking about giving up are good things (like learning about the Atonement and Christ, being around Good People, Caring Leaders, and Good Friends) then that's not a good idea. 

Everyone has doubts, Little Sister.

Even me.

And, trust me, your not the only person to struggle with their testimony or not recognize what it feels like to the feel the Spirit in their life.

I know that you've felt the Spirit because, well, frankly, everyone has.

It's called "the Light of Christ" and we all have it.

Sometimes it just feels like things are good. Like we've made a good decision or doing something good for someone. I know you've done those things.

Sometimes it's that "still small voice" that tells us "that person needs to talk to me right now" or "hey! if you don't slow down you're going to get a ticket!" or "I know I forgot something,

I better go back and get whatever it is".

Sometimes it's a voice of warning, like how you felt when that guy was bothering you or when you knew that you weren't supposed to be drinking tea even though others around you were.

And sometimes it just comes in the form of assurance that, even though things are difficult now, it's all going to be okay.

I submit to you that the reason you don't want to go to Church is the same reason you don't feel good when you come home. You're carrying a black cloud with you. You have things you need to confess to priesthood authority so you can begin the healing process and mend things with your Savior.

He loves you, and you're not letting him love you because you feel guilty.

And, you need to know that, guilty or not, you are absolutely still loved! You're not a failure. You're human just like the rest of us.

I promise you, little sister, that you will not feel better leaving.

Have courage!

Put your worries, fears, and pride aside.

Mend things with God. It's easier than you've allowed Satan, and yourself, to tell you that it is.

I'm here for you every step of the way.

Don't give up!

Fight back!

Go call your sweet Bishop right now and set a time to go and talk to him.

You deserve to give yourself a chance to be happy.

- Bro Jo