Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published several times a month.

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, "Dear Bro Jo" is not an LDS Church website. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

Nothing here is meant to take the place of talking with parents, leaders, or Church authorities. Please, if you need serious help, talk to a trusted adult, leader, and / or professional counselor.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Being Exclusive in High School

Dear Bro Jo,

I've been going out with a girl for several weeks now, and we recently talked about whether or not we were going to call each other boyfriend/girlfriend.

During the conversation, the girl said something I'd never heard of before.

She said that in her family, they don't do exclusive relationships.

I'm quite confused, because I don't understand what it means to be in an official relationship if it isn't exclusive.

Is this advice that's commonly given in some Mormon circles?

Or is she just stringing me along until something better shows up?

Thanks for your time,

- Mike

Dear Mike,

I'm guessing you're under 18.

Lots of young people, some with the encouragement of their families, some regardless, choose to not be in serious or exclusive relationships until they're old enough for it to really mean something (as in "this may lead to marriage . . . SOON").

That's not just something that's confined to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, either. 

While it may be comfortable and common for pre-adults to form exclusive relationships, I never recommend it.

I know you all do it.

My kids have done the boyfriend-girlfriend thing in High School . . . often picking someone I think is really a super person.

But I don't recommend it.

Too much drama.

Too much time.

Too much energy.

And WAY Too Much temptation.

It may very well be, Mike, that she's not stringing you along; she may just be mature enough to realize that neither of you are at a point in your life where you should be making those kind of commitments.

Be a kid.

Loosen up.

Have fun with your friends!

Keep your life as drama free as you can at this age.

Casual Group Dates.

That's what I recommend until someone is old enough to be considering marriage.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Does She Tell Her Family About Her Decision to Leave the Church?

Dear Bro Jo,

Let me preface this with saying that my question does not have anything to do with LDS dating, but rather with a problem (? I’m sure if this is the right word) that I am facing with my LDS family.

I am not sure who else to seek advice from this with, so I figured I might give you a shot.

I am a 20-something female graduate student who was raised outside of the Mormon bubble, but in an extremely devout LDS family.

I am at the tail end of a large family, and because my siblings live in different states and I live in a different region of the country than most of them,

I often only see them (and our parents) only once or twice a year, at the most.

I have left the Mormon Church.

I cannot ever fathom myself returning, and have zero doubts about my decision to leave.

I am the only one in my family (and my extended family, that I know of) to do so.

My family does not know of my decision, because I never felt the need to outright tell this- this was very much a personal decision for me.

I am fairly positive that my family knows that I am not actively attending Church, but they are passing it off as a “phase”.

I do realize that the Mormon religion is very important to my family, and I do not want my actions to cause them anymore distress than is absolutely necessary.

I also want to continue to have at least a civil relationship with my parents/siblings, and I am not sure how some of them will respond.

My religious differences with my family have caused some tension.

On the rare occasion that I am home with all of them, I will occasionally be asked to give a prayer over a meal, or to participate in scripture study.

I agree, because I respect their right to practice their religion within their own homes, but I feel like I am losing a part of my integrity by pretending to worship a deity that I do not believe in.

Should I tell them that I no longer consider myself to be a member, and that I want them to respect my right to non-belief?

Or should I keep my mouth shut, and keep on keeping on?


- Nonbeliever

Dear Friend,

Until you write your local Bishop / Branch President / Stake President and ask that your name be removed from the records of the Church, you're still a member.

Just so you know, that person will typically require that you go meet with them, just to verify that you're really you and that what you're requesting is really what you want to do.

It's a big deal, and not to be taken lightly . . . not that you would . . . or have.

I mean, once your records are removed . . . it's like you were never baptized.

You lose your right to the blessings that come from baptism, and lose your entitlement to the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

If that's where you're at . . . make the call and set the meeting.

Assuming, of course, that you haven't already. (I'm inferring from your email that you may have not done all of that yet. Please forgive me if I'm incorrect.)

I have no idea how your family will react.

And so I have no idea whether or not they'll respect your decision.

It is possible to love someone and not agree with the decisions they make.

You and I are no different than anyone else in that regard, I think.

I mean, you love your family even though you don't agree with their faith. I can tell that's true in what you've said.

If you didn't love them you wouldn't be so sensitive to their feelings.

I respect that.

I can't promise that your revelation isn't going to hurt them.

You may not believe in eternal families anymore, but they still do; and you know how they're going to feel when you tell them what you want to say.

Can I be honest with you?

I'm not sure that you telling them or not is an issue of your integrity; I think on some level you think that "getting this out in the open" will make you feel better, and I think that you're willing to hurt them to do it.

You know, it's like "honesty".

There's telling the truth and then there's being brutally honest.

Hey, if you've read any of my stuff you'll know that I often mess this up, so I'm not one to preach without guilt here.

I'm consistently too brutal for my good or anyone else's.

All I ask is that you consider whether or not you'd be saying something for them, or for you?

What's your goal here?

What do you hope will be the outcome?

What's the best and worst case scenario? And can you live with the worst case?

I suppose one way to test the waters would be to start with the one, closest, most supportive relative you've got.

Preferably one that wouldn't spill the beans before you're ready. That might be a good "test the waters" thing to do . . .

While I don't know how your family will react . . . and I suppose that reaction might be relative to your reasons why . . . I think I can tell you how I'd react.

I think at first I might be angry or argumentative.

I admit that would be the wrong reaction, but I know me, and I'm afraid I'd make that mistake.

Then I think I'd be very sad.

I'd probably spend many hours with Sister Jo trying to come to some kind of understanding. I'd think I'd failed my child and my Heavenly Father.

I'd analyze everything I ever did . . . or didn't do . . . everything I ever said, or didn't say . . . wondering what mistakes had I made . . . I'd morn the difficulties my child was inviting into her life . . . and the blessings she'd be missing out on.

I might take some comfort in my belief that families are eternal and that my wife and I, who are sealed for time and all eternity, have been promised by God that if we do what we're supposed to do . . . what we're asked to do, that are children are ours forever.

(FYI - If you're sealed to your parents that doesn't go away just because you don't believe anymore.)

I would be frustrated and disappointed and . . . again, very sad.

Because I believe in the Church and the Doctrine and I have a testimony of the Joy that comes into the lives of God's children when they do the best they can to be Disciples of Christ.

But I would always love my child.

In fact, it's that love that would be the reason I'd feel all of those things.

If I may leave you with one other thought tonight, it's this: we all have doubts, we all have struggles, and we all have crises of faith.

Everyone questions and wonders and struggles.

I'm not sure what has lead you to where you are now, and I'm happy to talk to you about those things if you wish.

Not to change your mind or convince or "re-convert" you . . . that's not what I do . . . but I might be able to help with some of the things you're struggling with . . . whatever the outcome.

You've lived through some difficult things, I'm sure, but before you make a Big Next Step, I think you should let things marinate for a bit.

As someone who jumps off the cliff way too soon way too often, let me tell you I know there's wisdom in waiting.

It isn't going to kill you to say the occasional prayer when asked . . . and it's not like you see these people very often . . .

And it's not like praying or reading scriptures makes one a bad person.

You're not being a hypocrite in those moments; you’re just doing something nice that makes your family happy.

Where's the harm in that?

Surely you can find something positive in those activities.

I'm not Catholic, but I think the Pope is a pretty cool guy.

I talked to a guy at Church today who's Jewish. He comes to LDS meetings, I think, to honor his wife who is LDS.

He's extremely bright (certainly a lot smarter than yours truly), and clearly doesn't subscribe to LDS Doctrine.

He's respectful, but asks some pretty hard questions in Sunday School.

He and I aren't going to agree on some pretty big stuff . . . but I can still respect him.

And I hope he can respect me.

He's not in Sunday School to be converted, but he IS open minded enough that I think he learns some stuff.

And I learn some stuff from him.

And maybe all we're learning sometimes is how different we are when it comes to some things.

I see you in a similar situation with your parents . . . just because you don't believe in what a particular verse of scripture has to say, that doesn't mean you can't learn something . . . perhaps about your family . . . or even yourself, from reading it. I say let things soak. If and when you do or say something . . . be unselfish.

Do it because it will help them, not just because it will help you. I'm here anytime you need, if I can help in any way.

And I appreciate the email. It gave me a chance to think about some things.


- Bro Jo

Monday, July 27, 2015

Scared and Alone: Part 9 of 15: There's Always Hope

Dear Bro Jo,

I wasn't sure which one you were asking about when you asked "why do you feel bad", so I just guessed sorry.

I feel bad going to her because I can't stand letting out my emotions and my thoughts.

Plus, I feel bad taking her away from her family and making her worry about me.

Her main worry should be about her and her family, not just some crazy teen that has a messed up life.

I am extremely grateful that she has talked to me these past three days because I highly doubt I could have made it without her.

She has been a major help, and I have to admit that it did feel great to be able to sit down and let out how I truly felt for once and just cry about something, instead of holding it in.

I do thank her every time we talk about something or every time she helps, but it's probably not the most sincere "thank you" I could give her.

I mean it to be that way, but it probably doesn't come off that way.

I've thought about sitting down after everything goes away and writing her thank-you card or something that's not just a random "thanks" in a text message or something. 

- Scared

Dear Scared,

You know, Little Sister, I think you're doing everything right, and I'm glad you're talking to some one I have no doubt that you're loved! and I don't think of you as crazy or a messed up teen . . . I think you're someone who's made some mistakes, no different than anyone else, really, and is now working to put things right . . . and all of that is good

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,


Glad to know that I can do something right. I kind of am a crazy teen and my life is pretty messed up, but in the end it's all gonna be okay. I'm trying to make things right, and even though its extremely hard I'm slowly working my way through it.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

As my oldest, who is currently serving a mission in the UK, would say: "Good on ya!"

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Haha thanks for the laugh! I needed that. Hope they are doing well and enjoying it!

- Scared

Dear Bro Jo,

I realize that shouldn't have been funny, but I just liked the way you wrote it. .

- Scared

Dear Scared,

Not a problem!

And thank you.

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting Him to Ask You Out When You're Not Good at Flirting

Dear Bro Jo,

Hi bro Jo :-)

I am a 20 year old gal living in Provo, Utah, attending BYU and a YSA ward.

I have had problems in the past with letting people get close to me.

My parents divorced when I was very young and I believe my fear of getting close to people stems from that.

However, I am getting much, much better about it.

Anyways, I met this fella in my ward and I think he's really great.

However, because he works at the MTC and is going to summer school full-time, I rarely see him around.

About the only time I see him every week is at sacrament meeting.

I want to get to know him better and I want to get him to ask me out, but I hardly see him.

How do I go about this without being awfully forward?

I feel like I'm always either TOO forward or not forward enough, and I can't ever seem to find the right balance.

And I stink at flirting, so that probably doesn't help much.

I appreciate your advice in advance. :)


- An over-thinker

Dear Over,

If you're not willing to be at least a little forward, you're only hope is to have a friend talk to him on your behalf.

Don't dismiss it! It worked in elementary school; it will work now.

Just have a friend go up to him and tell him that she thinks you'd like to go out with him and get to know him better.

If he seems like he's interested then she encourages him to ask you out.



- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What Should She Do If It's Over?

Dear Bro Jo,

Well I haven't emailed in a while, so I thought I would email you now!!!

The thing is, I was dating a guy for about 3 months!

He was perfect, a returned missionary, had callings in the church and gaining himself an education at university!

Everything was going really well, maybe I didn't see him as much as I'd of liked to but with his calling and uni once a week was fine!!

We did spend a lot of time together over the summer before uni though!!

Well he's the problem, out of the blue this weekend he ended it by TEXT, can you believe it?

In text!

He's 23 and thought it was appropriate to do that to me!!

So here's the problem, I feel bad because even though he did that to me I still can't let it go and I miss what we had!

I probably would start dating him again if he wanted to!!

I'm just wondering what I should do?

Shall I just leave him and not speak to him at all, we were really friends before we started dating and getting to know each other so I doubt friends is on the cards!

But I'm not sure if it's right to just not talk anymore!

This all sounds so long winded, sorry!!

Do I just leave it with this guy and forget about him or do I try and rectify what we had?!

Thanks soo much for your help :)!!!

- Name Withheld

Dear NW,

Never tired of hearing from you.

What was the coward’s reason for ending the relationship?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you!

Well he just said he doesn't think it is working and gave me all the usual rubbish about us still being friends and that he does like me but he just doesn't think it's the right time!

At first he suggested we go on a 'break' so he could think about it, but I said surely that it just like ending it and in the end he just went 'I can't do this'!

Thank you so much for replying!

- NW

Dear NW,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news . . . but it's over.

Sure, he may clue in one day that he's made a mistake, but there's no point in you waiting around for it or him.

I'm sorry.

I know it's painful.

I know you'll be replaying the whole relationship over and over again in your mind, trying to figure out if you did something wrong or what might have been had this all turned out differently.

There's a certain amount of healthiness to that, but not enough that you should let those thoughts consume you. 

The bottom line is, for whatever reason, he wasn't smart enough to hang on to you.

That means you'll have to go out and keep dating until you find a guy that is smart enough.

Write all of your feelings and thoughts in your journal; it's therapeutic.

Chin up!

It will get better.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,    

Thank you so much!

I'm glad you said about the journal that's such a good idea I'm going to do that!

It's just learning from experience I guess :)!

Well there's just one last thing, it's Stake conference on Sunday and he'll be there?

Shall I smile at him and be polite or avoid him?!

It sound petty but I'm just going to make sure I look extra nice haha!

Thanks Bro Jo!

- NW

Dear NW,

Looking "extra nice" is always a wise idea.

Go to conference.

Be social with your friends.

If you see him (and don't go out of your way) then be polite, but not overly friendly.

If he comes to you, fine, but don't go to him.

All of the Single Men in the room need to know that you're no longer attached.

If at the sight of you he's changed his mind and wants to get back together, don't be too quick to say yes.

Make him earn it.

That means at least an apology and an explanation and a present (like flowers).

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I thought it would be a good idea too!

Thank you, I'm going to be polite and that's it!

I'll just be reserved if he does want to be with me, although I highly doubt it!

I really appreciate advise :)!

- NW

Dear NW,

Good luck!

Keep us posted

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 20, 2015

Scared and Alone: Part 8 of 15: Where Do Bad Feelings Come From?

Dear Bro Jo,

I would just like to say, thank you so much for all of your help. I hid out most of the time at Church, but I did text her!!

I only told her about the tea situation, because I just couldn't tell her about the guy. I have to say though, it helped a lot! I feel so much better about it!

Thank you!

- Scared

Dear Scared,

Think of how much better you'll feel once you mention the guy.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

You have such perfect timing. I haven't talked to this guy since I told you about him, but I still think about telling her sometimes.

Right now though, she is already helping me through so much these past three days and is continuing to help me, so it probably isn't the best time right now.

Maybe I'm wrong though?

Not sure.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

The thoughts you have to tell her . . . the feelings you have to set things right with God . . . where do you suppose they come from?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I actually haven't thought about tell her in a few weeks now.

The guy and I don't talk and I just don't think about it.

She is helping me with a LOT right now and I don't think I could give her anything else to worry/stress about.

I feel so bad going to her for what I have these past three days. 

- Scared

Dear Scared,

Why do you think you feel bad?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I meant that I felt bad for going to her these past three days.

I have been going through a lot of things this past week and on Monday she was amazing enough to leave her family and meet me at Church to talk for an hour, offering for me to spend the night at her house and much more.

I feel bad that I am venting and telling all my problems to her, because she has her own family to worry about.

Yes, she is the young women's president and things like this happen, but it doesn't make me feel any better.

I didn't want to go to anyone, but my mom feels I am holding too many things in and need to talk to someone I trust. I don't feel as bad about the guy situation, because I have prayed and thought a lot about it, and yes it bothers me a little, but not as much as it did.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

That's what I was asking: "why do you feel bad going to her?"

She wants to help, she receives blessings for helping, and she's offered to help you deserve joy!

And right now that means allowing others to help you. rather than feel guilty because of her help, I think you should feel grateful.

Don't get me wrong; I suspect that you are grateful . . . to an extent.

But part of accepting the atonement of Christ, that power which allows us to repent and make us whole, to feel the love and joy we deserve, is to understand the difference between regretting our actions (which is a good thing) and regretting asking for help and forgiveness (which is always a thing to never feel bad about).

How you feel is normal in that you're not alone; most people feel exactly as you do in the beginning what you're feeling, call it guilt or Godly sorrow . . . it's part of the process.

Let me ask: have you thanked her?

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 17, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Finding a Good Person to Marry

Dear Bro Jo,

I used to write you quite a bit as a teenager, and lately as I've been thinking about my next phase in life I've been wanting to get your advice.

Hello again!

My first year of college, I got engaged to my high school boyfriend (who hadn't served a mission for what I saw as valid reasons) and frankly, it was a disaster.

I thought I knew him after 2 years of dating but after he proposed, things got steadily uglier.

I called off the wedding shortly before the big day because God told me to serve a mission, he was relieved but didn't want me out of his control, and to make a long story short, the police had to get involved in order for me to leave safely for my mission.

So now I'm home, I'm 21, I'm single for the first time in forever, and I'm trying to find the courage to Date To Marry.

I am a little scared, just because I thought I knew my ex well enough to know that he wasn't abusive, but I think I've learned enough on my mission and just by growing up a bit to know that I'll be okay this time.

I have several prospects right now, some more serious than others, and while I'm nowhere close to making an eternal decision, I like to plan ahead.

What I want to know from you is, What are THE most important things (or even THE most important thing) when deciding whether to become eternally tied to a man/woman?

How do you know that you really know him/her, well enough to plan on an eternity together?

The simpler the answer, the better. So don't stress. :)

Thanks for all you do - and I'll follow your advice better than I did when I was a teenager. ;)

- Little Fish in the Big Sea

Dear Fish,

Hmmm . . .good questions.

Here's what I tell my kids is important in an Eternal Companion:


1. That he is a worthy and active priesthood holder

2. That he loves, cherishes, supports, encourages and respects you

3. That he works hard at everything he does and does so with a positive attitude


1. That she's worthy and active in the Gospel

2. That she supports, encourages, appreciates and respects you

3. That she works hard at everything she does and does so with a positive attitude

Attraction is wonderful, love is grand, but without Trust there is no relationship.

I think we need to let go of the notion that we can ever know everything, ever be able to answer all the "what ifs", but what we should know is:

1. What are their hopes, goals and dreams?

2. How do they deal with anger and stress?

3. Can you trust them to tell you things you need to, but don't want to hear? Do you respect them enough to listen?

4. Do they have and show love and respect for their family in a way that you find appropriate?

5 Are you willing to make sacrifices for them? And can you trust (there's that word again) that they will do the same for you?

6. Do the two of you communicate well? Do you communicate in a way that you're both comfortable with?

7. Do you want this person to be a parent to your children?

8. Do you enjoy spending time together?

This kind of list can go on forever (you may want to check out:

Bro Jo's Levels of a Relationship

Bro Jo's Five A's of Why NOT to Marry

(or here)

Bro Jo's List of Things You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged

(or here)

but hopefully you get the basic idea.

Now, as for Serous Single Dating . . . (or as you called it:  "Dating to Marry")

Don't make too big of a deal out of those first few dates with each person.

Just focus on having fun and getting to know the other person better.

And, after a few dates, if you're comfortable and interested, don't be afraid to kiss them.

Happy Dating!

 - Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Is Her Mother's Expectation Unreasonable?

Dear Bro Jo,

When I was 12 or 13 I made a deal with my mom that I wouldn't kiss any boys until my wedding day.

I'm 16, now and she still holds me to that even though I don't really agree with it anymore.

I've never been kissed or kissed anyone, but that doesn't mean I want to wait until my wedding day for my first peck!

Of course, making out is different that'll wait until marriage for good reasons, but a peck???

How do I explain to my mom that I don't agree with her and that a peck on the lips isn't a horrible thing before marriage?

(She kissed boys and got kissed by them in her teens, but it wouldn't do to point that out because she got pregnant with me in her teens and she would definitely point that out.)

I love and respect my mom, I just don't know how to talk to her about this without her freaking out.


- Confused Daughter

Dear CD,

When my oldest daughter was a toddler I taught her this script:

Bro Jo "What's a first date called?”
Her "A honeymoon.”
Bro Jo "And where do husbands come from?”
Her "Papas pick them out!” 

It was cute and we got a lot of laughs.

But while that gag was an expression of my young dad worries, I certainly had no intention of holding fast to those things as a family policy.

I invite you to read "Bro Jo's Guide to Kissing ", and then share it and discuss it with your mom.

Perhaps you can tell her that you have no intention of saving your first kiss for your wedding day (which, frankly, I think is foolish, as both an expectation and a plan).

Assure her that you plan to marry a Good Man for Time and All Eternity in the Temple.

And tell her that you hope that the two of you will have the kind of relationship where rather than lie to her about your kisses, pretending they never happen, that you'll be able to talk to her about them.

Ask her which relationship she prefers.

And then you'll know where you both stand.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 13, 2015

Scared and Alone: Part 7 of 15:Taking that Step

Dear Bro Jo,

This is hard. . but this is what I get for being stupid I guess.

I don't mean to keep her from getting blessings and I know she will eventually find out about it.

Hopefully I will be brave enough to tell her sometime soon.

I really wasn't expecting to go this far and now that it has, I feel terrible.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

You're not stupid!

And remember that feeling terrible is okay if it encourages you to change for the better.

Don't just hope to Be Brave . . . pray for it.

I have faith in you!

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,


At times I do feel stupid though, like why did I left myself start drinking the tea two months ago and why do I continue to talk to the guy?

That's stupid. .

- Scared

Dear Scared,

Well ... they're not the smartest things you've ever done ...

But we're all like that.

The key is to learn from our mistakes, not repeat them, and move forward.

So go do what you know you should do ... even though you're scared. I promise you'll feel better.

And, you know, while it's important that you get help and get this cleared up, it's not like you killed somebody.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I'll try. . .

I'm going to Church tonight and if I get the chance I will talk to her.


You've helped a lot already and I'm not sure there is much else you can do. Now it's up to me to become brave enough and stop being so scared.

Thank you for helping me with all that you have!

- Scared,

Dear Scared,

Good for you.

And you're welcome, though I think you're being too kind.

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why is Life So Hard?

Dear Bro Jo

Hi, my fiancé introduced me to your website when we were discussing the bounds of kissing.

I appreciated your insights and thought I could ask you some questions that are tearing me apart.

And please be really thoughtful in replying, I am looking to you as a mentor because I do not feel like I have anyone else to go to.

If that's ok with you, here I go.

1. Why I life so hard all the time?

I suffer from depression and anxiety and I am on medication for ADHD.

I feel like every time I start trying to do everything right, the world blows apart like glass.

I am always wondering if this is me paying for my past sins, which I have a lot of in regards to immorality, which I have taken care of with the Bishop.

Often times I feel like the exception to the atonement and that God is laughing at me.

Usually I feel this most when I am depressed.

The only thing that keeps me from downing a whole bunch of bleach or putting a bullet in my head is that I know that Jesus Christ lives, I don't feel like he is laughing at me, and so I try to do what’s right because I love Him.

I have been to therapists but they always make me feel like I am such a burden to them.

2. What do I do if I feel a Bishop is really in the wrong?

I have looked up in the Handbook of Instruction #2 anything I could find on this subject.

I feel he is in the wrong because no other priesthood holder has treated me so poorly within the confines of their office.

I felt so terrible and hopeless after meeting with him that I felt there was no redemption for me.

So not only did I return to prior sins, I began to harbor resentment for my priesthood leaders, because of this Bishop I have not confessed recent transgressions because right now I am not sinning and I fear if I go to him I will feel terrible again and become depressed.

(I know I am in charge of how I feel, it is just so hard to change the way I feel when I am depressed because I have a voice in my head whispering and sometimes yelling how utterly worthless I am.)

I have served a mission and I have the endowment, I know that I am never to ridicule or murmur against priesthood leaders or any of the Lord's anointed.

I don't want to be mad at him (the bishop) but I don't want to talk to him because I want so badly to stay away from sexual sin.

Like I said, I am engaged, my fiancé is wonderful, perfect, and just loves me more than anything. I feel like we have a fairly healthy relationship. I know I don't have to be perfect, I do want a clean hand and a pure heart.

3. How do I truly get rid of pornography?

The feelings are still there to view it and to sink into that filth.

I hate it so much.

I want to truly have a change of heart and become clean.

Like I said, I know the Lord Lives, I believe in his atonement, but all too often and since I met with my Bishop, I don't just feel like I am the exception. I know I am the exception.

(Which I also know is false) I am so frustrated and I do just want to be clean. I do.

When I die I want to say, "I really tried, I’m sorry for being weak," and I want Jesus to hug me and say I love you. I know it was hard. Come with me."

I used to feel like that’s exactly what will happen.....but since I have been at BYU-I and since I met with that Bishop, I feel it will go like this. "I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I know I don't deserve to be in your presence" and Jesus will look at me disappointingly and say, "I did everything I could. You just didn’t do your part." then he will leave me.

So those are my three questions.

I feel like a crazy person ... I’m not depressed right now, this is just how I feel normally.

Thank you for listening and I hope you have a nice day.


Sad and Confused at BYU

Dear Sad,

Depression is a very real thing, and you may be suffering more than one Old Guy can help via email . . . but I'll do my best.

While I'm not a therapist, I can certainly be a friend.

Here are my initial thoughts:

1. I think of life, sometimes, like a workout at the gym.

It takes work to improve, and keep improving.

And work is hard.

Sometimes work is fun, too, and sometimes we can enjoy the benefits of our hard work, but much of the time it's just work.

And that's okay.

The sweat and the pain and the struggle, although they may seem unbearable at the time, often are actually making us stronger.

I know that Heavenly Father isn't laughing at you.

That's just not what he does.

There are no exceptions to that.  He loves all of his children too much.

I understand from talking with some folks who've suffered depression that the feeling of being a burden is common for them.

You're not a burden; feeling like you are is a symptom of what troubles you.

2. No one is perfect.

Not even a Bishop. 

Most Bishops are kind and loving and trying their best to do the best they can.

Maybe there's a reason for why he said what he did or the way he said what he did . . .

I'm reminded of a coach I know who often yells at his players. Some guys get really upset about it and even quit the team. While he never shows it in public, it really breaks his heart.

Some guys figure out that the reason he's yelling is that he cares for them, sees their potential, and is trying his best the way that he knows how to motivate them to improve.

For the guys that understand that he yells because he cares, they have a totally different experience than the quitters.

Rather than get upset, they love him for all the effort he puts in helping them to be better.

Is his method perfect?


But it's the attitude of the individual players that make the difference in how the coaching is received.

I'm not saying that's the case with you or this Bishop necessarily . . . but perhaps it will change how you feel and how you feel about him if you give him the same forgiveness you're seeking.

What I mean is: none of us is perfect, and I'm sorry he didn't tell you what you felt you needed or wanted to hear . . . but if you look at it as he was doing the best he could to try and help you, then maybe you'll feel better.

The truth is, Brother, sometimes on the road to repentance we're going to feel a little worse before we feel better.

It's like anything, really. When you get a cold you know that you're going to feel worse than the day you first think you're coming down with something. It gets worse before you feel better.

Now, you also have other avenues than talking to this Bishop. You could move to a different ward (at a Church school that's pretty easy to do), or you could schedule a meeting with your Stake President, telling him what you've told me.

You could also go talk to this Bishop. Not necessarily about your problems, but about how being in his office made you feel. I know, were I in his shoes, I'd want to know that I hadn't helped, and I'd want your advice on how to do better at that which the Lord called me to do.

3. As for pornography . . . you're right: you're not the exception.

It's a struggle for many people.

As I'm sure you've felt and as you know, it's a very powerful addiction.

Unlike other drugs it's more readily accepted by much of society and it's easier to get.

Your stake has an addiction recovery program.

It's free.

And it's anonymous.

I think you should start meeting with them.

Everyone there will be struggling with things in a similar way to what you're struggling with; no one there will judge you; you'll realize that you're not alone; and I promise you'll start to feel better. 

Loneliness, as I'll bet you can attest to, is one of Satan's most powerful tools.

And you, Dear Brother, are not alone.

Here are some other things you can do to help you get the pornography out of your life:

a. Know your triggers, and avoid them. Up too late. Alone at certain times. Watching certain types of media. All of those can be triggers. 
b. Find an activity to replace it. Something physical can be good. Walk. Run. Skate. Lift. Play a sport. Something that gets you doing something else. 
c. Change your location. If the problem is that the computer is in your room, move it into a more public place. If you're tempted most often while you're at home alone, when you feel the temptation coming on, get to another place. Another room. Another location altogether. 
d. Sing a hymn, read a the scriptures. I know it may sound cliché, but it works. Evil loves a vacuum, so when you feel evil creeping in, replace it with something else, something wholesome. 

You mentioned that you're on medication. It sounds like you should meet with your doctor as soon as possible. I don't know everything about ADHD, but I think part of what you're going through could be related to your meds.

Make an appointment. It might help a lot.

One last thing: it's okay if you don't believe this all the time, but I want you to know that I Truly Know that, no matter how things work out, Jesus will hug you and love you and call you "brother".

I know that he will never leave you. That's just not his style.

I know with the Savior's love you can overcome these things that ail you.

Get some help.

Don't give up.

You can do it! Feel free to email anytime.


- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Is It Time to Go Home?

Dear Bro Jo,

I have been contemplating my schooling decisions for a while now.

I currently attend BYU-H.

I love the school but I miss being home and want to go home.

Here's where it gets complicated:  I recently was in a terrible relationship here at school and it did not end very well.

After that ended I was able to go home for a month to get away from the situation.

While at home I ended up talking and hanging out with my ex who I broke up with to attend school.

He is a great Return Missionary who treated me well, he has asked about getting back together and I want to.

I'm just not sure how we could make it work if I stayed in Hawaii.

Now that I'm back at school I have to make the decision to stay or to go home and continue my schooling at home.

I feel that I keep letting my feelings for boys interfere with that decision.

I feel that I want to leave school to be with my Return Missionary and to get away from the abusive ex I have here on campus but at the same time I love going to school here.

I'm torn!

I'm so unsure of what to do and if running away to home and the boy I feel safe with is a good idea. 

Do you have any insight on the issue?


- Confused College Girl

Dear College,

I've been thinking about your email since you sent it.

I think this is only complicated because you're making it complicated.

If you want to go home . . . you miss home . . . you can continue your schooling there . . . AND there's a possible great relationship possibility . . . gosh, I just can't think of any reason for you to stay where you are.

At the very least, other than BYU-H being a good school - which it is - you haven't given me any reasons to stay there.

Look, I typically don't recommend moving somewhere for relationship before it's on solid committed ground, but it's not like you're moving AWAY . . . you're moving HOME.

And I see a difference there.

Going home AND giving a relationship a chance?

To me that's a no-brainer.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 6, 2015

Scared and Alone: Part 6 of 15: Be Not Afraid

Dear Bro Jo,

For some reason I find it easier talking to someone anonymously, than I do someone I’m close to. I'm not as afraid of your reaction. I probably won't be making that call for a while. . . I may text my Young Women’s leader, but maybe not, because I have to see her tonight at Church.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

Seeing her tonight at Church is EXACTLY why you should call her!

What a great opportunity for you to start feeling better today!

(And, you're right; one of the reasons I think "Dear Bro Jo" works is because there's an element of comfort in talking to someone you don't know . . . even someone as ornery as me!)

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Talking to you has actually helped a lot. Seeing her tonight at Church is EXACTLY the reason I shouldn't call her!

If I called her today, there is no way I would go to church tonight.

Also, there is no way I could call her, but I would text her.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

What is it you're afraid of?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

I am afraid of letting out my feelings, my thoughts and i'm afraid of her reaction.

Throughout my life, I've learned to keep everything to myself and it's hard trying to make myself go against that and let it out.

Also, I can't stand hurting those I love and seeing her will be hard.

She's told many people I was her other daughter and I just can't do it.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

How do you think she'll feel when she learns that you were hurting and needed help but didn't come to her?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Don't say that. . . you're going to make me feel guilty for not going to her. I'm not hiding it from her to hurt her, i'm hiding it from her because i'm scared.

Hopefully IF she ever finds out, she will understand.

- Scared

Dear Scared,

If you're old enough to make your own decisions, and I believe you certainly are, then you're old enough for the Truth and Consequences of those actions (be they good or bad).

I can't "make you" feel bad; you feel bad because you're beginning to confess and understand.

No one is an island, little sister. 

What we do, or don't do, say or don't say, effects the lives of others.

The point is not for you to feel guilty, but to realize that other people love and care for you.

If she doesn't find out in this life, she'll certainly know in the next one.

Rather than keep from her the blessings that come from helping someone she cares for (that's you!), let her know those blessings!

Give her the chance to help someone who needs it, someone for whom she cares for so much.

(The Savior's that way, too, you know.)

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 3, 2015

When a Family Member has a Chastity Problem

Dear Bro Jo,

I have a cousin who decided it would be okay to break the law of chastity.

She has done it once before, and repented of it, but I guess she didn't feel bad enough not to do it again with a different guy.

First, you should know her situation.

She lives in a wonderful LDS family in (location withheld) where many of her friends do not share her standards.

Her older brother has decided that the Church isn't for him and that he doesn't need it, and I think this is a big part of her problem.

She has one LDS friend, and this young girl worships the ground my cousin walks on and feels like she couldn't do anything wrong.

The only people who really hold her to her standards are her parents, but as hard as they try their influence cannot be everywhere.

She told me she loves this boy, and because she loves him it was okay to commit the sin she did, but I know that's not right.

Her parents, when they figured out, brought her out here to Utah to stay away from the boy and to be near family.

She has no way of communicating with this boy and feels like her parents are overreacting.

She doesn't feel a need to repent because she doesn't feel like what she did was a mistake.

How can I make her see that there are better things out there for her if she waits?

Now she might end up doing her senior year of high school here with me, which I would be glad to surround her with positive and uplifting people.

What scares me the most is that I think she's leaving God behind, and I don't want her to make that mistake.

How can I help her see that true happiness comes from the gospel and living in a way that makes our Heavenly Father proud?

I want her to meet other nice guys that share her standards, but I think she's so stuck on being "in love" with this one boy that she won't want to meet anyone else. Or even worse end up with a guy who isn't looking out for her.

I've never been in a situation like this before, and really I'm just looking for someway to help my cousin and keep her close to the things that truly matter.

If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them!

Thanks Much,

- Hoping to Help

Dear Hoping,

I feel sad for your cousin.

She's totally wrong, and being . . . well, stupid . . . but there's nothing you, I, or anyone else can "make her" do.

And even if we did, it wouldn't take. 

She's going to have to discover the things you know for herself.

On her own.

And until then all we can do is love her, help her to feel welcome and give her opportunities to learn the Gospel, grow her testimony, and be around good people.

So, without insulting her or getting frustrated or putting down her boyfriend, simply invite her (with no pressure) to do the things you're doing: Mutual, Group Activities, Game Nights, Movie Parties . . . all of that.

At some point she'll feel the weight of her sin, and that little sister, is when she'll need to be loved and understood the most.

Be Kind.

She'll follow.

And don't get frustrated if she turns down your invitations, especially at first.

Be Patient.

- Bro Jo