Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with occasional additional posts, too).

This is column is just one guy's opinion, and while he does his best to keep what he thinks, says and writes in-line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Bro Jo is not a spokesman or authority for the LDS Church. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

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

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Friday, April 29, 2016

What If Only Bad Guys Ask Her Out on Dates?

Dear Bro Jo,

I am currently a sophomore at college. I really like school, but I am having insecurities about dating. 

A little about my dating history.

In high school I dated a nonmember for two years. I've been on single dates with three other boys, two members, one not.

And just a month ago I was in a very short relationship with a boy who had fallen away from the Church.

I ended up breaking things off after he told me about something in his past that was too big to overlook without his repentance, which he has no plans to do.

Even though it was a short relationship and I was the one who broke things off, I still was heartbroken over the situation.

It's been a month and I am doing a lot better, like 99% over it, but I still have hard feelings towards him.

One problem is that we have tried to remain friends since we have the same group of friends, so every time I think I'm over that 1%, he'll do something that keeps me hanging on to it. And he seems to do things to make me upset or get emotional responses from me.

Anyways, the thing I'm most worried about is getting into another relationship, whether it be next week or next year.

The two actual relationships have left me....cautious of another one.

It took me well over half a year to get over the first break up and it's taken me around a month to get over the more recent one, and I'm not sure I'm all the way over it yet. I'm scared of getting into a relationship and having it crash and burn again.

I am a person who feels things very deeply, so the thought of another broken heart terrifies me.

I'm also worried about another nonmember asking me out. I have a general rule to say yes to at least one date to anyone who asks me out (there are exceptions, of course, like if he's giving off major creeper vibes) but I don't want to go out with a nonmember and develop deep feelings for them.

At the same time I don't want to hurt their feelings.

 And there's also the fact that the university I'm attending has a 3:1 ratio of boys to girls, so getting asked out is a rare commodity.

I know this is a lot of information, but it's all been weighing on me for a while. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

- Name Withheld




Dear Little Sister,

You're in luck!

God invented this thing called "agency"; it's really cool!

See, because of agency you don't have to go out with anyone you shouldn't.

That means that as a Serious Single Dater any guy who is not currently in the position to someday marry you in the Temple (all we're talking about is worthiness here) is someone you shouldn't date.

It's a waste of your time.

Other than that, I agree with your "ever guy deserves a shot" dating policy.

It's okay to be afraid of getting your heart broken again, and it's very normal to not like how it feels.

It is not okay to let those fears and feelings control your life or keep you from happiness . . . especially the eternal kind.

Every relationship you get into will result in some kind of hear break for at least one of you until you marry a great eternal companion.

Even then, as Sister Jo can testify, every day is not going to be sunshine and roses.

When we're struggling most in life, whatever the reason (and break ups are a good one), like Sister Jo says, nothing helps us feel better than being of selfless service.

Hang in there!

Despite the pain and frustration, the positives of a great eternal marriage are worth all of the work and struggles you have to go through now.

Best,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Mission or the Boyfriend?

Dear Bro Jo,

First of all - your blog & your wisdom is amazing!

Thank you for making your insight available online - it has been really helpful!

Now I'm not sure if this has been addressed on your blog before, but I feel like I'm in a bit of a pickle and need some extra guidance!

I just submitted my mission papers, and over the last 6 months I've been getting really close to this guy in my ward who was inactive/on the verge of inactivity and has because I pretty much "called him unto repentance" of the way I saw his life was going and I had been at that same place before, and I knew it would end badly!

He really appreciated that I had done that, and said no one had ever cared enough tell him to get back on track before, not even his parents.

Since then, we text every day and we go out for casual lunches once a week & we have been on a few dates. I'm 90% sure he likes me & is attracted to me and I definitely like him.

He hasn't served a mission, but now had a desire too - but some of the things he does show that he still isn't really, deeply committed to the gospel. I have tried to back off, and "lock my heart" because my papers are in - but every time I see him at institute or Church or firesides, he comes and talks to me and I seem to fall for him all over again! I'm not sure what to do - because I feel for him so deeply and just want him to actually feel the saviors love because it'll make him happy!

But I know it's dangerous territory as he has broken the law of chastity with his previous girlfriend and he's not fully back living the gospel even though he comes to church.

How can I support him in coming back to Church but still bridling my feelings & keeping a friendly relationship before on I go on my mission?

Sorry for the long spiel, but thank you!

- Confused Soon to be Missionary




Dear Soon to Be,

First let me say thank you for the kind words.  Not sure I deserve them, but thank you none-the-less.

Unless you're both willing to give up on the missions and stay and become Eternal Companions, I think you need to seriously cool things off.

That means no more dates, no more acting like a potential girlfriend . . . you know what I mean.

Don't just cut him off cold turkey. Have the talk.

Tell him that the time has come for you to focus on your upcoming mission.

Be honest, tell him you like him, but that you know the timing is not right for you and he as far as anything Eternal is concerned.

Tell him that you are excited about the progress that he's making, that you support him and want to be his friend.

And, by all means, share your testimony.

Share your testimony of the Savior, of the Atonement, and of the Love and Joy that we can all feel when we commit ourselves to being Disciples of Christ.

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 25, 2016

She Wants to Dance!

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 me..it 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?

Thanks!

- Wants to Dance!




Dear Wants to Dance,

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.

Why?

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? "

Smile. 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 you'll ask me to dance again".

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




Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much for replying to this email so very quickly.

I see where you are coming from and I am going to try your advice on the next dance that comes up.

I believe that the ones who actually eventually ask me are probably the ones I want to dance with anyway. I'll let you know how the results come after my next dance.

Thanks!

- Wants to Dance

Friday, April 22, 2016

What If He Doesn't Want to Serve a Mission?- Part 3 of 3

Dear Bro Jo,

Some of my expectations might not be fully realistic.

I don't think I really expect to be on fire all the time, but the scriptures do make it sound like I'm supposed to.

I know some people who act like they are.

I think the issue that I'm having is that I was on fire to share the gospel once, and I haven't been since. I'm not disregarding that experience.

I know that it's important.

I don't really know how to explain it.

I don't think I really understand what's going on myself.

There's just some brick wall, and I don't know how to get over, around, or under it.

I want to say that I've served a mission, but I don't think I want to say that I want to serve one.

So I want the results, but I don't want to do the work to get there.

The whole issue just feels rather complicated, and I don't really know how to move forward.

- NW




Dear NW,

I totally disagree with your characterization of the scriptures.

No one, not one person, including Christ, is "on fire" all the time.

Consider this: when we're trying to do something good, really good, Satan works quite hard to make it difficult for us to do that good thing.

True story.

Most couples I speak to fight on their way to the Temple.

It takes many of them years before they figure out why.

Heck, for years Sister Jo and I resolved to not speak at all as we drove to the nearest Temple (three hours away) so that we wouldn't get into petty arguments during the trip.

Even now there are times when we're quite for the first 80 miles . . . just to be safe.

Frankly I don't think the issue is complicated at all.

I think you're making it out to be.

- Bro Jo

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Should She Pursue a Mission or the Return Missionary?

Dear Bro Jo,

First off, I want to thank you for what you are doing.

To be an author of relationship advice is one thing, to do it for LDS kids is another! What blessings must come your way to help inspire the youth's desire to be sealed to their spouse for time and eternity!

Now to put my trouble across less eloquently, I've been having a mind versus heart going on inside that's left me in a sort of rut. I have a friend who has been close to my family since I was little.

He was my brother's friend while I was younger but has gotten closer to me since his return from his mission one year ago. We do things together at least every weekend now; casual things as friends.

We went on dates before but that soon sizzled out and we stayed really close since. The problem is, since what tiny flame there was burned out, I've started to actually feel like I like him.

I'm trying to stay away from the phrase "falling in love", because I know that I'm probably not in love with him as of yet.

However, I also know that he has no interest in me more than being his friend, so I'm stuck not knowing how to move ahead or fall back, so I'm in a rut.

To top things off, I decided a while back to go on a mission.

I'm not wanting to let something so minute hold me back, but I don't want to take these potential feelings for him with me on my mission. I don't want to feel like I'm missing any chance with him every time I read a letter he sends. And I've been feeling like if he were to tell me that he feels the way I do, I would want to stay home and work on that relationship.

So I'd like your advice on a few of things:

1- Do you think it's worth trying to pursue a further relationship with him, even if he probably isn't interested?

2- Is there a way, if things just don't work out, to get over these feelings so I'm not taking them with me on my mission?

3- Are these feelings a sign that I perhaps should not even go on a mission?

And anything else you think may help would be greatly appreciated!

Sincerely,

- Patiently Waiting




Dear PW,

I sense that this may be an Age and Timing issue.

If he's already home from his mission for a year, that means he left pre-age change, which would make him at least 22.

You haven't even put in paperwork yet, so I'm guessing you're at the oldest 18 . . . possibly younger . . . possibly still in High School.

If those things are correct, little sister, at this point you're just Way Too Young for him.

If you were say 19, and IF he hadn't brushed you off with the "just friends" line, I'd say confess some feelings and give it a shot.

But at 17 and 22?

No.

Stay focused on school and a mission (should that be what the Lord has in store for you).

Go on Casual Group Dates with guys your own age until you graduate, then, when you're an adult, branch out to more Serious Single Dating.

If you are mission focused, don't get too serious until you get back.

If a mission is not in your future, and IF you're still interested in this guy when you're 19 and he's 24 and IF he's still single and IF he's interested in you at that time, then I say give it a shot.

For now, there's nothing wrong with having a crush, and I'm sure he's a great guy, but don't let it pull you from the things in your life that are going on right now; don't let this crush keep you from dating in your own age-bracket.

- Bro Jo

Friday, April 15, 2016

What If He Doesn't Want to Serve a Mission? - Part 2 of 3

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey Bro Jo, Thanks for the reply.

I've thought about what you said, and I've tried to dig deep and come up with some real reasons.

I tried putting them in order, but I couldn't quite settle on a perfect ordering, so here we go.

1.  One of the reasons is that I'm shy and I don't like change. I'm not excited about the unknown. I was talking to my institute teacher, and he was thrilled about the idea of me serving and all the unknown associated with it.

I feel that I need a taste of the unknown to see if I like it--to see if I can get excited about it. I don't feel like I can look forward to serving a mission. I don't feel like moving out of my comfort zone into the mission world. I know it's something that will be good for me, but it's a hard thing for me to commit to do.

I think that's partly because I don't really see a mission as something that great. I know there are tons of positives that can come from serving. I just don't see those in the mission itself.


2.  I guess this leads to my next reason, and that's that I don't have that burning desire to serve. I know it's great and important, but I'm not excited about missionary work.

I'm not thrilled to go out and bring my dear brothers and sisters to repentance. I wish I were more like that.

It's a little depressing for me to admit that I don't care about people as much as I should.

Several times people in the scriptures sin, repent, and then have this amazing, burning desire to preach the gospel (I'm thinking of Alma), but I don't.

Did I not repent fully?

Did I mess up somewhere?

Is my testimony not strong enough?

I thought I would try to get a taste of missionary work to see if that would help give me a desire. I've never really done any.

Once I invited a friend to a Boy Scout activity, but that was about the best I ever did.

This year I finally invited a friend to Church, and I've gone out with the missionaries twice.

So it's been a pretty weak attempt, but I've been trying to be a friend to a few new members of the Church. I feel like that's a good thing for me to do that may help them establish strong testimonies and desires to stay active in the Church, but when I went out with the Elders, I didn't really feel anything special there.

I had prayed that I would have good experiences and that the Spirit would be with us, but I didn't feel the Spirit there.

How am I supposed to have a burning desire and a love for my brethren when I don't feel the Spirit?


3.  I don't feel like I have a desire to sacrifice enough to serve a mission. I don't know... maybe I do, but if so, it's buried deep down somewhere.

I already know that a mission will haunt me. It won't leave me alone!

I wish it would just go away until I really have a desire to serve (which probably wouldn't happen if it were to disappear). I am a little bitter towards missions. I think that's just because of the pressure.

I like hearing some of the talks in sacrament meeting after a missionary returns home.

Specifically, I like when they share their experiences.

Sometimes I think, "That was cool. I want that.", but when they say "If you're thinking about a mission, just do it" I get upset.

That turns me off. It seems so impersonal.

I also don't like when they start listing off reasons to serve.



I'm sure there are reasons that I haven't heard yet, but I know most of them. I believe them.

I could defend anyone's choice to go serve.

I just don't feel like I have that desire, and that needs to come from within me, like you said. I'm just not sure how.



I left out a few details in my first email.

I received my mission call, and I sent back my acceptance letter.

I feel like I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do.

I guess I was able to sacrifice back then . . .

I didn't really want to go, but I knew it was what I needed to do.


Eventually the time came for me to be set apart, and I left for the missionary training center.

I was there for six weeks (out of twelve).

During my second to last Sunday-night fireside, the speaker said he was going to speak on one topic, but felt prompted to say a few words about another because one of us must have needed to hear it.

That really stuck me, and he continued to tell us about how we need to talk to our branch presidents if we had any unresolved conduct.

So I did.


I liked the singing at the MTC.

I can't sing, but I really enjoyed sitting there hearing almost two thousand missionaries united singing praises to the Lord.

That was one of the few times when I really felt the Spirit.

I mention this because I didn't really like the MTC.

It felt like a prison, and I wasn't happy there.

I remember being in the gym and running on the track.

There is a window in one corner overlooking the street outside the MTC.

I would look outside as I passed it. I would see the green grass, the street, the houses on the other side, and eventually the mountains and the blue sky.

Then it was gone.

I turned the corner and I was back to the MTC.

I feel like I'm just complaining now, and I know that many of the things I didn't like are simply complaints.

I would hope the mission field would be better, but I don't know how I could go back to the MTC.

I can't imagine thinking anything other than "Why am I here again?" when I go back.

Thank you for reading my emails.

I know this one is a little longer and has a few rant-like parts.

I've realized what my question really is, but unfortunately, I'm asking the impossible.

I'm really looking for someone to give me an answer that somehow I'll think is valid and will make the mission pressure go away.

But I know that can't happen.

But I appreciate your help and thoughts.

Thanks again,

- NW


**** Six Months Later ****


Dear NW,

So . . . NW . . . here we are 6 month later . . . how do you feel?

- Bro Jo




Dear Bro Jo,

Well, I feel a few things. I've been on quite a crazy roller coaster these past few months.

It makes sense to start with an experience I had back in July.

I had learned that the Church has been putting more of the General Conferences online, and I was interested in watching some of the older conferences.

I started watching some of the talks from 1985.

I skimmed through the transcripts to see what they were mostly about, and I saw that service and missionary work were common themes.

I also watched Elder Maxwell's talk about submitting to the Father.

The highlight of my experience was that I truly felt the Spirit, and I truly felt a desire to serve a mission.

I felt like the Lord wants me to serve.

I don't think I've had that personally confirmed to me before.

This experience was one of the most powerful and joyful ones that I've had, and it lasted for about twenty minutes.

I think it was also interesting that it occurred on the twentieth of July, which was exactly a year after I first reported to the MTC.

So I met with my Bishop as soon as I could, and I told him that I wanted to serve.

Immediately after I felt good about it, but I also had a little bit of a "what did I just do" type of feeling.

I tried to focus on the fact that I knew it was the right thing, and that sustained me for the rest of the day.

I told multiple people that week about my experience and decision, and I was actually excited about serving a mission!

But the excitement began to fade away, and I found myself in a situation quite similar to where I was before.

This time it was different, because I had this new experience.

I couldn't deny that I felt that I really needed to do this.

So I decided that I needed to keep pushing myself towards serving a mission, because I knew that I could be excited and enthusiastic about it.

I also realized that I hadn't quite finished resolving all the worthiness issues that I thought I had, and thus told my bishop about that.

We met regularly for about two months, and then I started meeting with the Stake President.

We decided to wait until the middle of December to submit anything to Salt Lake, partially because I won't be out of school until then.

We've been meeting every two to three weeks, and he has been counseling me about deepening my conversion and desire to serve.

I don't think it has really been working though...

The last time we met was a week ago.

I told him that I didn't think I was making any progress, but I then remembered that I've had a few spiritual experiences since the last time we met.

He thought that was a good sign of progress, but I told that my desire hadn't deepened and that I didn't feel prepared to serve.

I was also troubled at the time, because my time to enroll in classes for winter was the next day. I had prayed about whether or not I should enroll, and I felt like the answer was to enroll.

It didn't really make sense to me, as I thought that the answer would simply be to serve a mission as soon as I could. I discussed that with my stake president, and he told me to enroll.

He had previously shown me the Patterns of Light series of Mormon Messages by Elder Bednar, and he said, in reference to it, that I need to follow the light that I receive in order to receive more light to find my way through the fog.

So I'm working on that. It's challenging though.

This weekend we had stake conference, and my stake president had invited the members of the stake to come prepared with a question. I don't think I've quite gotten an answer to my question, which was about personal revelation, but I took notes throughout the meetings and felt impressed that the answer will come through studying and pondering those notes.

I looked over my notes last night, and one thing that stuck out to me was direction to inventory our lives. I realized that that is probably the most important thing I need to be working on at the moment, but I find myself naturally trying to resist it.

I think it's easy for e to say what I know is right and true, but it's much harder making myself consistently do those things. I'm not sure why that is.

Perhaps distractions from the world or temptations from the devil are the cause, but sometimes I feel like I'm bringing some of it on myself. I need to inventory my life, and I need to truly be committed to serving a mission because I don't think I am.

I feel like I'm telling myself I'm going to serve, but I keep switching from preparing and moving backwards. So that's my long, possibly slightly off-topic, answer to how I feel.

Thanks for checking in on me.

I appreciate that, and if you have any comments or insights I would be happy to hear them.

- NW




Dear NW,

Candidly, I think you have expectations that are out of step with reality.

Bosoms don't burn every time we hear or feel the Spirit; every day is not Dancing Trees and Singing Flowers; life isn't one big Celestial Musical.

Having a testimony doesn't mean that you're "on fire" to share the Gospel every moment of every day. I think you're on the right path; continue to heed the counsel of your Good Bishop.

Note the Good Spiritual Feelings and Moments, but just because they don't happen all the time or last forever, that doesn't mean that they weren't real or important.

Keep me posted!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Learning How to Talk to People

Dear Bro Jo,

So you probably hear this all the time but I need help.

Well now that that's been said I have some explaining to do.

Are you ready for this? 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... Ok I'll skip ahead.

So, I am very awkward.

But, not in the full sense of the word.

I live in a family with only brothers and no sisters and when I was young I would play with my older brother and his friends who became like older brothers to me.

But now being a senior in high school I've realized I'm not being seen as little sister material anymore, which stinks because I still get along very well with guys BUT alas, I am very awkward.

Not awkward in the sense that I can't talk to them but awkward like if I figure out a guy kinda likes me or if I kinda like a guy I cannot speak to him because that would be against "The Code of Awkwardidity" (Yes I made up that word and yes it's super cool.)

So I haven't actually gotten to the problem yet though, because believe it or not I've always enjoyed being a little awkward and innocent and never getting into a liking thing with boys, it's so much more fun (I guess I'm mentally still 9... In the coolest way possible ;).

But, now I come to the actual problem.

So there's this boy who I went to prom with last year and we're good friends and we are both VERY awkward in the same way so we get along great. Because we are both very outgoing and friendly and funny but awkward in crush situations.

But now he's either told his friend that he likes me or his friend found out which is awkward, and his friend has tried to help him talk to me but he's really just made if very, very obvious which is awkward, and we go to a small school so now everyone knows about it which is awkward, and now he doesn't talk to me as much because, well, it's awkward.

So I definitely don't want to start dating this guy or anything but I do want to still talk to him because we've been good friends and we get along, but now he hardly talks to me at all.

Basically, how does an awkward me manage to get an awkward him to talk to me at all and have it not be awkward??!

Oh and also we don't have any classes together so we'd only talk in the halls so it's not like I can just sit by him and class and we can chat, the conversations have to be initiated and should I be the one doing it all the time?

Or should I do it at all?

Or should I just be a hermit and go live a peaceful life among herds of llama's? (not a bad option now that I think about it)

So, does this make sense at all?

Probably not, anywho have fun trying to answer this.

Thanks Bro Jo!

Signed,

Nobody (as in Nobody's perfect ;)




Dear Nobody,

So...how do you talk to a guy more than you have so far because you like him and want to get to know him better but don't want to exactly become his girlfriend ... (whew!)... Is that right?

Learning how to talk to people, whether we have crushes on them or not, is a very important life skill. I think a good place to start is by finding those not-walking-through-the-hall moments when you can go up and sit with them.

Lunch. Library. Mutual.

All of those can be possibilities.

Don't become clingy or a stalker, just look for opportunities.

And when they do come up, focus on showing genuine interest in his life and what's going on.

Ask. Listen. Respond.

Valuable skills indeed.

Have fun!

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 11, 2016

When A Friend Tells You They Think About Suicide . . .

Dear Bro Jo,

This probably isn't a question like you usually get, but you're the first person I thought to ask for help.

I'm 17 years old, and I have a really good friend I've known for just over a year, and we used to like each other. I don't like him more than a friend anymore, but he still likes me a lot.

Anyways, he's gone through a lot of trials in his life and was inactive for years.

I moved to this town just over a year ago and befriended this boy, and eventually convinced him to come back out to Church. He's been coming ever since and has come a long way.

Everyone tells me how he has changed so much.

Well let's fast forward to last night.

This boy tells me he is so glad I moved here, and that I've had a big impact on him, etc. (This is all through text by the way).

He got around to telling me that before I moved here he was going to do something. I asked him what that thing was, and he eventually told me that he had been considering suicide.

This scared me, but I wasn't too surprised, as he has had a really tough life so far, and I'm one of his only good friends he has.

He told me he still thinks about doing that sometimes, so I made him promise he would never do that to me, and he said he wouldn’t.

He also made me promise I wouldn't tell anyone about this, and I don't know if I should really tell anyone, because I don't think he would ever go through with something like that.

What I'm wondering is if this is something I should go to my bishop about, or my school counselor, or maybe even my mom?

I feel bad breaking his trust about this with him not wanting anyone to know about it, but I don't want anything to happen and regret not doing anything about it.

Thank you so much for your time, and thank you for all that you do. I've seen the great advice you give, and hope you can give me your input on my situation.

Thanks again,

- B




Dear B,

What's worse: telling someone that you're worried that this boy might be suicidal and being wrong (which he might hold against you), or not telling someone because you don't want to hurt his feelings only to find out that he is indeed feeling suicidal and he doesn't get the help he needs?

Look, if this is just teen drama (perhaps him trying to manupulate you), let it go; but if there's any remote possibility, even the slightest chance that this might be real, I think you have to say something.

To a counselor, your parents, Bishop, YW Leader . . . someone.

Right away.

We should never take this kind of thing lightly.

- Bro Jo

Friday, April 8, 2016

What If He Doesn't Want to Serve a Mission? - Part 1 of 3

Dear Bro Jo,

I have been reading several of the letters on your blog, and I decided that it might be worthwhile to ask for your advice on a few things.

To start, I am 20 years old and I have been dating my girlfriend, who is the same age, for just over a year now.

We met at institute our first year at the university (in California, no BYU here).

At first she was seeing someone else, but their relationship began to fade away and we became better friends. A few months after it ended we started dating.

Of course, that was also around the time of my wonderful 19th birthday.

I had always imagined that I would serve a mission, but I never really wanted to.

As it got closer and closer I realized I really didn't want to go, but I thought it was the right thing. I believed it would make me a better person, a better father, a better husband, a better priesthood holder.

I believed it would be a great experience that would shape me forever.

So I started getting ready to serve.

I submitted my mission application last January.

A few months later the dating started, and a few months later some lines were crossed.

We started touching each other in ways that we shouldn't have.

Eventually I confessed it to the Bishop and started working on repentance.

She spoke to her Branch President as well.

We've made excellent progress, and I am now two weeks away from being restored to full fellowship in the Church.

But that brings back the mission problem. I don't want to go.

I have all the reasons to go, and I believe them.

But I don't have the desire.

I've told my Bishop that, but he hasn't given me anything to help give me that desire.

I don't know what to do.

I can't get it out of my head, but I don't want to go.

My girlfriend was supportive of me serving at first. She was going to wait for me.

Then she became the voice that said "Yes, he's going back" every time I was asked if I was going to serve.

But now she doesn't do that anymore.

She has another idea: marriage.

We've talked about getting married. It's something that we've told each other we both want.

We've both prayed and feel that we're right for each other.

So am I still supposed to serve a mission?

I think the obvious answer is yes, but I'm not really sure.

I don't feel like I get an answer when I pray about serving a mission.

Maybe this is a decision I have to make on my own?

So I guess I just don't know how to act and which course of action to pursue.

Thanks for your help,

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

I think you're struggling because you're looking for answers in the wrong places.

Look, I've got one son on a mission now and another leaving in the next few months, and I'm going to be honest: I'd hate for either of them to have a companion who didn't want to be there.

For me, serving a mission is a little like going to college: if you don't want to go, then don't go; it's a waste of time and money and you'd be a drain on everyone around you.

I'm a college professor and I occasionally tell people "hey, if you don't want it, if you don't see the value, don't want to make the sacrifice or put in the effort, then college isn't for you".

A mission is no different.

That said, I think failing to go may be one of the biggest mistakes you may ever make. 

This is a once-in-a-life-time opportunity that will never come again.

Sure, I know you love this girl, and if you have any touch with reality you'll admit that it's statistically very unlikely that she'll be single when you come home (regardless of what she says), but the truth is, NW, there are lot's of great girls out there that could be a fabulous spouse for you.

You'll have many more opportunities to get married than you will to serve a mission.

Now, all of that said, between you and me Little Brother, I think the "I don't want to go" line is a . . . big crock of . . . poo.

Oh, sure, I believe you when you say that you don't want to go.

And that's fine.

But I think you're lying to me, and to yourself, when you say there's "no reason".

And whether you go or not, you better darn well figure out what that reason is, because mission or no, until you admit it and deal with it, it's going to haunt the rest of your life.

Frankly, I wonder if on some level you didn't do things with your girlfriend because . . . on some level . . . you were hoping it would disqualify you from service . . .

But then you felt (rightfully) so guilty that you put things back on track.

And that IS a very positive thing.

Look, I can tell you all of the reasons to go (my favorite is my sincere belief that someone out there, and we may not know whom anytime soon, needs to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Joy it brings, from you; not anyone else; you).

So can your Bishop.

So can about five million other people.

But the Desire to go is going to have to come from within you, brother.

Christ, through the Spirit, can testify to you of the value of your service, and that may be motivating. 

But the work is too darned hard for you to be successful if you can't dig down deep inside and motivate yourself.

If you truly want to have desire, you will.

It's okay to be scared.

It's okay to have doubts.

And worries.

And concerns.

That's all very real.

But those things need not stop you nor rule your life.

I hope you can find it within yourself, the desire to go and give back to Him who has given you so much.

But that's up to you.

If you want to talk about your honest reasons for "not wanting to go", I'm here any time.

But you'll have to help me help you by being honest and direct with us both.

Dig deep and spill it.

If you want.

God bless you.

And good luck,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What Can a Teen Girl Do When a Guy Wants a Relationship and She's Not Ready?

Dear Bro Jo,

So... I'm 17, I've never had a boyfriend and I don't want to until I'm out of high school.

That's a solid rule for me.

This guy I liked back in June (we'll call him Henry) we used to text and talk all the time.

He wanted a relationship, I didn't.

For a while I just ignored the fact that he wanted more than just talking, when I stopped ignoring it and realized the clash in desires, I got over him, told him that, and stopped talking to him for a couple weeks.

Then Henry started chatting with me at stake youth activities and then over social media, just simple conversations so I assumed he was completely over me and it was alright to go back to being friends.

He got a girlfriend and that's about when he started occasionally saying mildly flirtatious things and chatting more frequently.

I talked to a close friend about Henry and he told me not to worry about it. So I tried to not worry about it and respond less frequently.

Then he showed up to an ice skating activity that my ward's youth (he's in another ward in the stake, should've mentioned that earlier) were going on this last Friday.

I had told him about it earlier in the week, in hindsight it probably seemed like an invitation that's my goof.

He was pretty flirty at the activity while I was just trying to hang out with all of my friends and not be rude.

Yesterday, Henry asked if my friends thought he was my boyfriend and then if they thought we'd make a cute couple.

This freaked me out. I tried to brush him off by saying that my friends thought I looked cuter with a different guy-- I don't think that helped.

Honestly, I'm clueless.

Help?

Thank you!

- 17 and Clueless




Dear 17,

It sounds like you're doing fine to me.

If it gets to the point where he's really bothering you, then tell him clearly - no softening things - that you have no desire to be in a relationship before you're old enough.

 And, if you feel so inspired then you can add "but I am available for Casual Group Dates if you're interested."

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 4, 2016

So I hear you give advice to "Like-struck" teenagers...

Dear Bro Jo,

First off, I'd like to thank you for all of your wonderful and insightful advice you've given.

My sister just showed me your blog today and I decided to email you my story, because I'd like to hear what you have to say and honestly I don't feel like I can really tell anyone else the whole story because of one complication or another.

I have a situation.

I was about to say a problem, but he's not, he's my best friend.

I first met him a little more than a year ago, in my Sophomore year in high school, but already I feel closer to him than almost any of my other friends.

I'm going to call him Bob.

Now in my circle of friends, Bob has always been "off-limits".

First my best friend had a crush on him, then his best friend had a crush on me, and now another of my friends (a cute little red-head) likes him and he likes her back.

So I've been pushing my feelings for him aside, pretending I don't like him, and making sure that nobody else knows I do.

To set the scene, I live in a small city in Utah, and there are a lot of really good guys here, but Bob is one of the best. He's spiritually oriented and treats me, his family, and all of our other friends with respect and kindness. He has ridiculously high standards for himself and has a strong testimony of the gospel.

He doesn't want any serious relationships before his mission and I'm trying not to be one of those "I want a boyfriend in high school" type girls. He views us as friends. That's it.

We're best buds in his eyes and when people ask if there's anything between us he quickly smothers it with a "No, we're just friends".

Nobody really knows I like Bob, but at the same time it seems like everybody can tell.

People always tell me they think he likes me, but I know that he likes my little red-head friend.

He talks about her all the time, about how amazing she is and how beautiful she is, and how it's great because neither one of them wants a high school relationship so they can like each other without being a couple. (It's weird how that works in Utah because they still date lots of people, everyone just knows they like each other)

They will both talk to me about how awesome the other one is and how much they like them, because they're both really good friends of mine it's hard for me to get angry or jealous, but it's still difficult for me to listen to them.

Bob can also be really confusing.

He always sits by me, or asks for me to sit by him during anything (lunch, football games, riding the bus to our cross country meets, ect.) Plus he flirts with me all the time, and even goes out of his "comfort zone" to put his arm around me for a joke. (which is a really big deal because Bob is not a touchy person)

He also does pretty much whatever I ask him to, and listens to me when nobody else does.

Bob asked me to Prom last year, and was my first date.

To me the night seemed perfect, and while he teased me to no end about every little thing I did, I couldn't have asked for a better date.

So as you can tell, I really like Bob, and I don't really want to be his girlfriend or anything like that, I just want something...more, if that makes sense. I guess I want to know what's in his head.

But I never feel like I can show him what I feel towards him because there has always been someone in the way and I don't want to ruin our friendship or make things suddenly awkward between us. I try to like other guys, but it's really hard to forget about Bob.

I socialize with lots of people too, but I usually am hanging out with Bob and our circle of friends. The little red-head girl is in our circle of friends too, so sometimes it's hard to get his attention or feel like he notices me at all.

Other times I feel like I'm steeling him from her (one of my good friends) and I don't want to hurt her in that way.

What can I do?

Sincerely,

- Small Town Utah Girl




Dear Little Sister,

First of all, "Hi!" And thanks to your sister for introducing you to "Dear Breo Jo".

I don't know how much she's told you or what you've picked up on, but my promise to those that write in is that I will give them straight answers, not insulting them by watering it down, and telling them my honest opinion, not because I'm trying to hurt them, but because I care enough about them to not talk down to them.

So let's be honest with each other here: call it a crush, call it whatever, but (at least for now) you love him.

You think you've found the guy you want to marry in the Temple, the future man of your dreams. 

Sure, other things need to happen first, but you've already practiced writing your first name with his last and day dreamed about what it might be like to be married.

But he doesn't feel the same way about you.

He may someday.

Perhaps after his mission.

But not right now.

 And the odds of that, honestly, are slim.

Which is not to say that you're not a great, fun, wonderful, beautiful girl. You're all of those things! 

And he knows that.

We're not sure if he doesn't want a girlfriend right now (which he shouldn't), or doesn't want you to be his girlfriend right now (which you shouldn't worry about being).

He's a Good Guy.

You went on a Fun Date.

 And that's wonderful!

Perhaps you'll go on more fun Casual Group Dates . . . that would be great, too!

If you've read enough of my stuff, you've found that I don't believe that guys can stay "just close friends" with girls.

Boys can.

But men can't.

Look, there are things you could do to encourage a relationship with him . . . but I don't think that's a good thing for either of you right now.

So I'm not going to tell you what they are.

What I will tell you is that how you feel is normal and good and okay.

Enjoy it!

Write about it in your journal.

When he asks you on appropriate and well-planned Casual Group Dates, by all means, go!

And date lots of other Good Guys, too.

You don't have to push anything aside.

But you shouldn't try to make anything happen, either. In fact, particularly as the two of you get older, and closer, you'll need to be even more careful not to have "alone time", lest Satan use those opportunities to tempt you to change the path that the Lord would have you follow.

Even the best people can make unfortunate (or "wrong timing") choices when temptations come.

So . . . I guess what I'm saying is, bottom line, I don't think you should do anything different than you're doing already then perhaps enjoying all of this a little bit more, relax a little bit more, don't let yourself get permanently ensconced in the "friend zone" (instead make sure that you're seen as a girl worth dating, not just a buddy), don't fuel or get too involved in the drama, and be careful that the two of you don't spend time too alone.

Be Happy

- Bro Jo

Friday, April 1, 2016

One Young Man's Story - Part 3

Dear Readers, 

With Easter Sunday at one end of this week, and General Conference at the other, I wanted to share with you this special story. I'll post it in three parts. 

Below is Part 3.

Enjoy.

- Bro Jo 



Dear Bro Jo,

Life continues to be a learning and growing experience. A lot has changed for me with respect to dating. The girl that I've been writing comes home from her mission on Tuesday...

I don't know what will happen, or even what I want to happen there...

I think I want to do some more dating... But that's a topic for another letter, tonight I'm writing about a different issue, something that stands more on its own...

As a preface, one of the things that I found I had to do to get away from my addiction to pornography was to completely give up video games...

It was hard to do, because I enjoy playing them, but I feel like I am easily addicted to them and after I walked away from them I found I had more time to do things that were important to me, and it became easier to resist other temptations as well.

As a result, It had up until recently been about 2 years since I had logged into my account where I keep my video games.


Well... This was all great, but now I have started going to school at (location withheld). I love it here, and I am living here with roommates.

Two of them managed to talk me into playing a game with them and we had fun, but afterwards I looked at it and said, "Look at all that time I wasted!"

I had this I wanted to do, and this, and this...

Instead I didn't get anything done, AND I got to bed way too late!


So this has happened a few more times, and every time I walk away feeling the same way... Asking myself why I wasted my time?


Then I decide that I played Friday night, and that's enough for the weekend so Saturday I will do something else...

Then next thing I know, Saturday night comes and, along comes the question... "Civ?", to which I respond something along the lines of "I don't know about tonight..." to which the response comes back as. "In other words... yes" then he starts up the game and I end up in the game playing...

And if I stated a time that we are stopping at, along comes that time and passes right by with me ignoring it. All because I am having "fun". Then I get done and I'm disgusted that I didn't have the willpower to say no in the first place and ended up wasting another entire evening. I try to say things, and drop hints to help my roommates recognize that I really don't want to, and am uncomfortable with the situation but unless

I have enough confidence and willpower to straight out say, "No, I can't" They ignore it and I get pressured in to it. I want to walk away from it but I don't have the willpower.

Well... It happened again tonight, and I stayed up later than I wanted to, and I didn't get anything done that I wanted to do... It's a vicious cycle...


So I've been thinking about it, and thinking about what I can do to escape. It reminds me wayyyyy too much of an addiction. And honestly I think it is an addiction, I think it feeds my addictive side. It really is just like an addiction to pornography. I get a short term high, and then when it is over it leaves me at a low searching for the next quick high...


The interested mix of this situation is that I feel like I would have the willpower to say NO! if it were just my own desires play, but as soon as that peer pressure element is added to the mix,


I feel like my willpower is gone.

It amazed me to realize how easily influenced I am by my peers, even at age (age withheld). We hear about it so much as youth, but I don't think I've heard much about it with regards to later years. It has given me realization of the importance I need to place on having peers that will look out for what is important to me at my core.

Peers that will look out for those signs that I am uncomfortable in a situation and help me stand stronger. Peers that will stand with me in my beliefs so that it doesn't have to be a decision. That said, I can't blame my roommates. I was the one that made the decision to play with them. While they did make the decision harder, they are only responsible for their own actions, and not my actions/choices.


Which brings me to the question... How can I stand stronger? How can I resist that pressure?

How can I stay true to my beliefs in the face of pressure?



One thing I've heard is "Make the decision before" And I feel like I do that at least to some extent. Earlier today I made the decision that I was going to do something else, but when the time came to put the decision to action that prior decision lost to the moment and peer pressure.

 As a note, tonight I did make the decision to completely uninstall it from my computer. And I did follow through on that while I was writing this email. I figure that will give me an extra buffer to say,

Sorry, can't play.

Since I can't moderate it to appropriate levels of play, I can't play at all... It is what I did before, and I've found that it was the only line that I could actually uphold with video games, which is why I hadn't played them in almost two years up to now.

That said, the line was held mostly against pressure from my own desires, not so much external peer pressure (Ok, my little brother wanted to play them with me, but that was much easier to say no to for some reason.).

Tonight, I felt like I was prompted to not play, to say NO!.

Instead I ignored that voice and listened to the voice of man...


It's easy to see in hindsight, but I don't want to live this way, I want to have the strength to obey every prompting I receive completely!



I think of Nephi when he talks about how easily beset he is... That's how I feel right now.


Which leaves me asking, How can I develop an internal strength?


A surety of self that allows me to stand and hold true to my beliefs, desires and the promptings I receive in the face of external pressures?

How can I remove this weakness from myself?

Uninstalling the game feels like the right step for this specific situation, but I know there will be other situations when the same option will not be available to me, and I want to be able to handle those too...


How can I change?

Thank you Bro Jo!

I appreciate all of the time you spend responding to each and every email you receive.

It has been a huge blessing for me!

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

Our job is to do the best we can honestly do and then to trust in the Savior to make up the difference. 

If you can't stop playing the game, you're right to uninstall it.   (Some of us call those "feelings" "promptings of the Spirit".)



As I've been pondering your questions I've been comparing your situation to athletics. How does an athlete become stronger? 

Faster? Better at their sport?

They continue to master the fundamentals. They workout. They practice. 



Spiritual stuff is like that, too. If we want to improve spiritually we need to continue with the fundamentals (read, ponder, pray, attend meetings, go to the Temple), we workout (live our religion, push ourselves to learn and love more deeply), and we practice (listen to conference, be of service to others, be active and seek missionary opportunities). 



Don't let yourself get overwhelmed with all that you need to do (we ALL have lots of stuff we could do better) - pick one. 

One thing, and work on that. 

Then, as you begin to live that principle better, pick another. Start with small simple achievable goals and be sure to note the blessings that come into your life as you live that principle. 

And, in all things be grateful. 

- Bro Jo 

PS: How have things gone with the Return Sister Missionary?




Dear Readers, 

I never did hear back from this particular writer.  

And that's okay.

Several years have passed.  I don't know if he's playing video games less, though I suspect he is playing a lot less, if at all.

I saw on Facebook that he is now married for Time and All Eternity to a lovely young woman who seems to have a testimony of the Gospel and to care for him very much.

While I don't know all of the specifics about how he got to where he is now, I have a testimony that it was through the love and sacrifice of the Savior that this young man was able to repent, able to become a better person, and able to enjoy the blessings that Heavenly Father has for all of us.

I'm sure, like all of us, he has things to work on . . . and because of the Atonement, he can.

As can we all.

God bless,

- Bro Jo