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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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dating Like an Adult - Part 2

Dear Bro Jo,

I have often heard the President Kimball quote that you shared. I think there was a point in my life where I believed that to be true, that two worthy members of the church who loved God could have a happy marriage, but it seems to be much more complicated than that now. You see, as I sit and think about it, I reflect on my past relationships with good men, men who were worthy priesthood holders and I realize that you can still be a worthy member and be all of the following things:

You can resort to yelling in an argument; you can tell racist jokes; you can talk down to people who don't share your beliefs; you cannot like children; you cannot care about education; you cannot be good at managing money and planning for the future; you can be unhappy and rude, you can feel entitled, you can be disrespectful and hurtful; you can mock things that are important to me. You can be any of these things and more, and still be Temple worthy.

Everyone has faults, believe me, I understand that. But I just don't believe that just because someone is a worthy member of the church I could marry them and be happy. I don't think we can discount
personalities and the importance they play in finding a compatible companion. To say that all I need to do is look for a single, worthy member, who works hard, seems to cheapen the idea of eternal marriage.

This is someone I'm going to spend eternity with! Eternity! Shouldn't there be more of a connection than just "Hey! You're a hard working, single, member? So am I! High Fives! Let's get married!"?

I am okay with my single status, in the sense that I am happy with my life. I walked out on the meeting because I am not okay sitting an listening to a 45 minute talk that makes me feel like less of a person because I am not married.

Every covenant I've made in the church has been about me and my relationship with the Lord. Marriage includes another person, and their agency. The doctrine that if you aren't married you can't make it to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom becomes harder and harder to swallow as you get older and are still single.

You responded in the same way many have to this question. Quit being whinny, picky and scared, find anyone who is worthy and get on board, and dating is the same at 30 as it is at 18. If this is how the single adults are viewed, it's no wonder that we feel alienated and misunderstood.

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

I'm sorry, I thought you said that you had been in relationships with GOOD men; the kind of guys you just described don't, in my opinion, qualify.

Except for yelling.  I have no problem with yelling.  Not all the time, but sometimes it's just a fact of life.

As for everything else you wrote . . . gosh, where do I start?

First of all, I very clearly pointed out that dating at 39 and 18 are different.

Secondly, I think you need to go READ THE TALK.  You're missing stuff.

Third, I think our dialog is going to go much better when you can take that chip off your shoulder and open up a little.  I can help you, but you're going to have to stop twisting what I say.  I know it's tough in an email, but I think we can do it.  It seems to me like you're extremi-fying everything.  And, frankly, I think a lot of your bitterness is self-inflicted.

If you really want to find the kind of love you're talking about, it's going to take some work, some risk, some trust, some patience, some opening up, and some understanding.

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dating Like an Adult - Part 1

Dear Bro Jo,

First let me introduce myself, I feel that I am different than the normal demographic that reads your blog. I am a 29 year old, single, educated, working professional who teaches in the inner-city. I am a returned missionary who is active in the church and in my calling. I consider myself to be well put together, mentally and physically healthy, and overall a very happy person. I do not mind my single status, and feel no pressure to give up or settle. I have spiritual and secular goals and a job that give my life great meaning. I wake up every day with a smile on my face ready to face the challenges of life.

But I struggle with dating. I'm going to be very honest; being "older" and single in the church is confusing at best. I feel that this is an area where the guidance of the church has failed to give direction. The rules of dating change dramatically between the ages of 16 and 18, but very little (if at all) between 18 and up. I understand that some things just don't change, the standards of the church don't magically bend after a certain age, but there must be some difference in the way we date as we age, right? I am certainty not the same person I was 11 years ago. To be clear, I'm not looking for new rules or a new set of commandments, just guidance or perhaps just your thoughts and advice on dating as a single adult. More than anything, I feel as though I'm in a state of perpetual adolescence. Most of the time I feel like I still date like a 16 year old girl.

Months ago I was at Stake Conference, and a talk was being given about the sanctity of marriage. The speaker was discussing the special bond between husband and wife, and the sexual relationship between them. I understood what he was saying, but I was filled with sadness and bitterness to the point where I left the room. I looked around the room and saw these young couples, girls who looked not a day over 19, married with their husbands’ arms around them. They take for granted the basic human interaction of sex, something that I am deprived of simply because I did not find a man to marry at a young age. They talk about sex and relationships like it's entirely sacred, used for procreation and to create bonds with your spouse, and I do believe that, but I also believe that they use it to satisfy base urges. I will keep my covenants, I have no desire to sin, but I am so tired of hearing people talk about this. I understand why I am waiting until marriage to have sex, but sometimes I feel like people ignore the single adults, and the struggle that we feel and the things that we are deprived of because we have not found someone who we want to be with for eternity. I often feel that I am set aside as a single woman in the church. I attend a family ward, primarily because I felt the singles ward was becoming a "practice ward" for young members of the church who were figuring it out, and I wanted something more. My family ward has been great, aside from a few exceptions. For example, my visiting teacher partner regularly sets appointments and visits women without me, when asked, she tells me that she assumes that I am too busy to go with her because of my single life. It's the little things.

I fear that paragraph will paint me as a bitter, ranting, crazy lady, which is not my intent. I simply want to voice my concerns and feelings about playing the part of the adult adolescent.

I have been in several significant relationships, with good men, but not men that I would choose to spend eternity with. So here I sit, a righteous church member with a desire to date like an adult, find a spouse, and have the life experiences that seem so basic to so many people. Unfortunately I have no idea what any of those should or do look like.

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

It's true that "Dear Bro Jo" has a large teen and YSA following, for which I'm certainly grateful, but you're not the only Single Over 27 that I’ve heard from.

I think the reasons for that are right along with what you've stated:  many Latter-day Saints get married fairly young, at least by worldly standards, and for those that are still single as they cross into their mid-late 20's, Celestial Marriage options seem to dwindle dramatically.  It's one of the Ironic Axioms of the Church, and I hear it all the time:  "if you're not married by 25 it's tough to find anyone good because all the Good Ones are gone".  Sure, it rings true on some level, but the irony is that the Church is full of Great People who will make Wonderful Spouses that just happen to be over 25 but aren't yet married.

I hear complaints about the YSA "meat market" that is prevalent in many University Wards, and that "all the guys over 25 in my Singles Ward are creeps and losers", which is of course matched by the number of "all the single women over 25 at Church are bitter and unpleasant" claims.  I've met so many great people in your demographic that I refuse to believe either rant, but do you know what does ring true?

All of you are single because you're some combination of whinny, scared, and too picky.  Old people like me often walk into a conference full of you guys and proclaim that we have no idea what your problem is; in the same room that you all see dozens of losers you'd never marry we see a bunch of great people that, were we younger and single, we'd feel lucky to get to date.  Do you know why there's that difference?  It's because we've been married long enough to realize that the things you are filtering out aren't really that important.

If you want to date like an adult, then the first thing you need to commit to is dating everyone that asks (of course meeting a limited criteria that I'll mention in a moment) and keeping an open mind.  Look around your family ward; there's no such thing as a "hot 70-year old", and yet I'll bet that most all of the retirees in your ward have been married.  Were they all knock-outs at 20?  Nope.  Are they all perfect?  Heck no.  Is it possible that they were all flawless spiritually, mentally and physically at 24?  Not a chance!

Marriage is work.  The key is not finding someone worth working for, but becoming someone who's willing to do the work that's required.

I ain't gonna lie:  sex is great.  But you're absolutely right that it should be saved for marriage.  It's not enough of a reason to get married (though I agree that it should be at least a little motivational).

So what are the criteria that a young woman needs to keep in mind?

The same things at 30 that she should have been looking for at 19:

1.  He's single.
2.  He's a worthy and active priesthood holder.
3.  He works hard at whatever he does.

That's it.

How about guys?

1.  She's single.
2.  She's worthy to take to the temple.
3.  She'll be appreciative and supportive.

Nothing more is necessary.

It's like President Kimball said:

"If two people love the Lord more than their own lives and then love each other more than their own lives, working together in total harmony with the gospel program as their basic structure they are sure to have this great happiness."


(You can read the whole talk here -> http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6136 - and you should.  Note that it was given 46 years ago, but still rings true as if spoken today)


You mentioned that you have been in "significant relationships with good men" but that you wouldn't chose to spend eternity with them.  Unless they weren't as good as you say, I fail to see what the problem was.  You chose them for a relationship, so clearly there was something there, and you said they were "good", so what was the problem?

You seem like a wonderful and thoughtful person, but with love I submit to you that if the above was true, the problem, dear sister, was you.

It's time for a self assessment; do a little grading fellow teacher.  Instead of eliminating potential spouses from your life because of eternally unimportant reasons, look inward and ask "what would I need to do to be a Good Companion for that Good Person".  The thing is you're NOT 16 anymore; this is not about whether or not the hunky popular guy is going to ask you to the Prom  And you're not 19 anymore; the 37 year old divorced with three kids guy is no longer a creepy stalker.


Hey, if you were really "okay with your single status" you wouldn't have walked out of the room and you wouldn't have written me.  I understand that finding a Good Person to marry over 30 is going to be a challenge, but it's not impossible.

Let me give you one more point to back up my argument:  couples in the Church who have been married for some time and then suddenly find themselves single, because of divorce or death, when motivated to remarry seem to have much less trouble than you never-been-married people, and they come back into the dating world with way more baggage (kids, mortgages, hang-ups) than you do.

Figure out why that is, and you'll be much further along your path towards Dating Like an Adult.

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 11, 2017

Is This Love? - Part 3

Dear Bro Jo,

     Hey I just wanted to let you know, that the girl that I was dating, is now my fiance!

Yup. We got engaged a couple of days ago. I love her so much and I'm super excited for our future together.

     I was wondering if you had any advice for a newly engaged couple?

     Is there anything that we should do that's really important before we get married?

     We already have begun to understand how hard it is to keep ourselves under control with each other until we're married, so we've set up boundaries to help keep us temple worthy.

     If there's anything that you can think of that would help, in any regard, then let me know.

Thanks!

- Love Seeker




Dear Seeker,

Good for you!

Like so much of what's true in the Gospel being those things that seem obvious, the same can be said for the things we should do before we get married:

1.  Stay worthy (which you clearly know)

2.  Meet each other's families (marriage, after all, is about joining families together)

3.  Talk and plan (you can't know everything there is to know about each other, but you should be discussing the important things and making plans and comparing hopes and dreams and worries and stuff)

Congratulations!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Is This Love? - Part 2

Dear Bro Jo,

    Thank you so much for answering this. I'm realizing more and more that I really do love her.

    What you said about infatuation has really struck out to me because all I really have to compare this relationship to is an experience that I had before this relationship started.

     I went on 3 dates with another girl and whenever I was around her, I had that butterfly feeling in my stomach. It was so strong that it was difficult to eat around her or even trying to fall asleep was hard because I was always thinking about her. I wanted us to have a relationship, but she didn't, so it ended.

     What you've said, and a lot of thinking, has made it clear in my mind that I was infatuated with her. But because of my lack of experience, I've been expecting that feeling in my current relationship.

    However, I'm beginning to discern that what I had previously for this other girl and what I have now for the amazing girl that I'm dating, are two different things. I did not love the girl that I dated 3 times. It was powerful, but short lived.

    I do love the girl that I am dating now. I feel that I would do anything for her if she needed me to. I know that what I have now is much longer lasting and I can't wait to see where our relationship goes :D

Sincerely,

- Love Seeker




Dear Seeker,

Brilliant.

Good luck, God bless, and keep us posted!

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 7, 2017

Is This Love? - Part 1

Dear Bro Jo,

    I've recently returned from my mission about 3 months ago and have begun dating since I've gotten back.

About a month ago, I recently entered into my first ever relationship with an amazing girl.

I've grown to like her a lot over time, and I'd say that I even have grown to love her. I can see myself getting married to her quite easily. We've talked a lot about marriage and getting married and what it might be like if we got married.

The idea of being there to help her through anything she might be going through comes easily to me as well. Like, if she ever got sick, I'd be more than happy to help nurse her back to health. If she got fired from her job or something happened to her family, I wouldn't hesitate to be there for her. She's very kind, sweet, really funny, attractive, and I especially think that she'd make a good mother and wife. I actually feel like I trust her more than I've ever trusted anybody. We've shared a lot about ourselves with each other and every time I'm around her I feel very calm and peaceful.

    However, I feel like something is missing still...

    Maybe that's because it's only been a month, but even though I love her to this extent, I still feel like something just isn't there yet. I don't feel like I'm head over heels for her. In my mind, being head over heels for her would mean that whenever I'm around her, I'd get like butterflies in my stomach and I'd be nervous around her, but super excited and I would have really strong feelings towards her.

    True, I do get excited when I think of being with her, but not every time and it doesn't feel like it's to a huge degree. As I mentioned, I just feel calm and peaceful around her, like super comfortable, not the butterfly feeling I'm expecting. I don't have much dating experience, so I don't really know how I'm supposed to feel around her, but I guess in my mind I'm supposed to feel stronger feelings towards her.

    It's possible that it may be that I just don't love her enough yet. I suppose in my mind, I imagined that love kinda just happens right away. Like, I feel like I should have fallen in love with her head over heels by now.

     Is it possible that I'll fall deeper in love with her until I am crazy in love with her?

     Does it take time to establish that special connection that I'm searching for and to fall in love?

     Or is that something that happens right away and I've missed it?

     I really like her and I don't want our relationship to end. I want to keep trying to find that special connection that I feel like I'm missing. I'm just scared that I won't find it and that our relationship will end. But I like her so much!

     How can I find this true love (or that special connection I'm looking to feel)?

Sincerely,

- Love Seeker




Dear Seeker,

We'll cut you some slack because you're fresh off the boat and have been raised in our modern culture where love has been twisted and confused.

The feelings you are describing that you have for her ARE love.

The things you "think" you're supposed to have and don't at this point in time ARE NOT love.

Infatuation, maybe, but not love.

You've fallen into the trap that is all too common, especially among today's Latter-day Saint Young Single Adults.  The "exciting / sexy / butterflies" feelings are what Hollywood has sold as romance.  Nice, yes, but unrealistic and unreasonable.

(Think for a moment:  how is the track record of the rich and famous when it comes to marrying one person and being with them for Time and All Eternity?  I'm telling you, my brother, they just don't get it at all.)  And even when it does happen in a relationship not only is it not enough to build upon, it doesn't last.  (Again, this is why Hollywood types divorce so quickly.  Once the "excitement" is gone there's no relationship there.  Their relationships lack substance and commitment, so after they've done the things couples are supposed to save for marriage they become bored and begin looking for the next infatuation, never realizing it isn't love that they're seeking.  Sad.  Really.)

First of all, your're right:  your relationship is very new.  However, perhaps because of the Spirit (which you may be so in-tune with because you're recently back), perhaps because you've matured into a clear-thinking adult (that's a good thing, btw), and perhaps because she is such an amazing woman . . . it seems to me that you've "skipped over" (also a very good thing) the immaturity that is so prevalent in young relationships.

There's no such thing as "love at first sight" . . . horny-ness, yes . . . a confirmation of the Spirit, sure . . . sometimes . . .

But love starts as a seed that grows stronger and more deeply over time.

And no amount of "so pretty and exciting that I can't breathe" is ever worth giving up the Trust and Selflessness and Sacrifice and Security and Eternal Together Forever Joy that grows out of the Love you feel now.

(Many a man - and woman, I suppose - has been lured away from something True by the Illusion of Something Exciting - read those words carefully, please - don't make that mistake.)

For now I think you should give yourself more time in the relationship.  See how you feel after three months.  And then, if necessary, after six.  If you're still unsure then, let's talk again.

(We can of course talk anytime you like.  Just making a point.)

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What If This Relationship Turns Into Something?

Dear Bro Jo,

I figured I may as well give this a try and save myself worrying all week (or longer)!

I am 21 years old and in YSA. Although I live in a university town there is not a strong base of YSA in my area. Mainly due to lots of inactivity and the Church is still growing here.

Basically I want to date, and I have.

I've been on several dates in the past few months, most with members, but a few not. I've found it really fun and enjoyable and great way to get out of my shell and grow.

I think all of the guys have felt the same way.

But I have met this one guy, who just came home from his mission, and I have to admit I am rather smitten (more like just a puppy crush). But we went out last weekend with a group.

It was super confusing because I didn't know if I was really on a date with him or the other guy who came. But I just didn't stress it and had fun with the group. Then we didn't talk for days until he asked me out for dinner and to a dance this Friday.

Then on Saturday we went to another city together to hang out with other YSA in our Stake. Conversation seems to flow, and I really enjoy getting to know him. But.. (yes there is always a but) I'm not worried if he likes me or not, I figure that will happen and be figured out when it does. But I am concerned about how I feel. I've never been in a serious relationship (ever) or anything like that.

And that is because every time I start getting close I just kind of freak out.

It is scary.

I mean, what if it actually turns in to something? And the what - if's continue. Plus I've always felt so strongly about schooling and the importance of that in my life, and I feel awful that spending all this time with this guy has taken a toll on my grades and my focus. But I know that shouldn't be my main concern. I mean the temple should be my goal, and it is. But why do I feel the need to avoid it as long as possible. Like it actually just grips me with fear and all this anxiety. I guess I'm rambling, but I'm just not sure how to shift my priorities. OR make sure that I can handle both.

I have had many friends recently married and that just adds to pressure and then I look at their lives and realize they are so happy and feel guilty that that isn't what I want for years... It just doesn't seem like the right attitude, but I'm not sure what to do..

Help?

- Torn




Dear Torn,

I don't think you need to "do" anything.

Enjoy the moments.  Write about them in your journal.  Pray often that the Spirit will guide you and that you'll be able to understand what the Lord's will is.

And live life.

In other words:  get over it.

Look, life is about change and adaptation.  Regardless of what anyone's plans are, things change.

Very few people, at any age, would have been able to guess five years ago what their life would be like today, and no one can predict all of the things that will happen in the next five years.  Think about it.  Where were you five years ago?  Could you have known all that you know now?

Well, guess what?  The next five years are going to be just as eventful.

You'll be fine.

Trust in God.

Obey the commandments.

Repent.

Go to Church.

Read your scriptures.

And breathe.

Like Ferris says:  "life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while . . . you could miss it".

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 31, 2017

When It's Tough to Get Along with Family

Dear Bro Jo -

You're probably thinking "how can this girl have ANYTHING more to ask me about"... but yet I am back again. I guess I am just comfortable spilling my guts to you :) Lucky you!

Any who. SO things have been going great :) literally everything is falling into place and I know it's because I did the right thing and I am back on track. however... it seems that lately all the little things are bothering me more and more... which I know is just Satan’s way of picking at me with the small stuff to get me fail on the big stuff... but it also seems like serious small stuff.... mostly to do with my family.

All growing up we have always been a sarcastic teasing family. That’s just how we show our love for each other, wrong or right, it’s just what we do. We are highly sarcastic and have insult battles. It’s ridiculous. And adds a lot of contention in our home (as you can imagine). I have a very hard time feeling the spirit within the walls of my own home and that just depresses me. I always looked at my family as a strong and spiritual family, people who valued their relationship with heavenly father and worked hard in their callings. And I'm sure they do... just not to the extent I would expect them too, especially for how harshly they judge others.

My step sister, whom I will be moving in with in the fall, is very.... quick to correct. She always has to point out when someone is wrong or not doing something right, and is just very judgmental (I know I am sounding like a total hypocrite... I am sure there is a huge beam in my eye, but I am so flustered by the mote in my family's eyes) She is also not so strong spiritually, and is very judgmental of "Utah Mormons" or "molly Mormons and peter priesthoods". People who actually dedicate every aspect of their lives to the lord, as they are supposed to, instead of just sliding by. How in the world am I supposed to prepare for a mission if I am just going to be judged and ridiculed for it by my own family? (I also know that there are much worse situations and much stronger missionaries who have families that disown them for going on a mission so I know it won't be as big a deal but this is just one small contributing factor to the dysfunction of my family)

Everyone has something nasty to say about everyone else. And it is driving me INSANE!!!!!

Tonight at family dinner everyone spent a good ten minutes just bashing on my biological sister (whom I love dearly and I give credit to for raising me with two absentee mothers) because she is choosing to raise her children differently than she was raised. CAN YOU BLAME HER??????? DO THEY NOT REALIZE THE CHILDHOOD WE HAD???? GAH! Sorry...... I am a little worked up right now. Which I think is why I am writing. I just need to vent. And as much as I try to talk to my friends, they either don't listen, because I am always the listener, or they really don't understand, because none of them have a divorced or majorly dysfunctional family.

I just.... I don't understand how my own parents can expect me to choose to be sealed to that for eternity.... They can't even get over the fact that my sister only wants her baby eating certain things (my family is not very healthy, hence the reason my sister wants to do this right) how in the world are we supposed to last forever?

I don't mean that, I do completely understand the importance and magnitude of temple sealings, and I value them and cherish them. I just don't see how anyone can think that the behavior of our family is ok....

Sorry. I know there is much advice to give. but. I just needed an ear... or technically and eye. Thanks :)


- The Middle Child




Dear Bro Jo,

I woke up this morning with the thought that I was being totally over dramatic and really shouldn't have emailed you about my family drama.... and then I re-read my email and realized that I really do want some advice on how to make my home happier and more peaceful. I need to be in an uplifting and spiritual environment in order to keep myself strong, and that has never been my home.

How can I change that?

Can I?

I want to talk to my parents about it but I feel like they would be offended, like I am judging their parenting.... which...

I guess I am, but I don't mean to. I just want a happy home, ya know?

What kid doesn't!?

Anyways.... Hope to hear from you soon. thanks!

- The Middle Child




Dear Middle,

You’re always welcome to vent.  I think putting our frustrations on "paper " can be very therapeutic, especially if we're smart enough to not send them to those that frustrate us.

I have Piles of emails I've written and never sent.  And more than a few that I wish I never sent.  . .
I think this falls under the category of "true doctrine, taught lovingly, is more likely to change behavior than teaching about behavior".

Change starts from within.

If we want to change the way people talk to us, we need to change the way we talk to them.  And we need to develop a thick skin.  It may take a very long time of you not being sarcastic and enduring the sarcasm of others before they chose to follow your example.  But I assure you it will be worth the effort.

Sister Jo would have me add that loving and being of sincere service to others . . . CONSISTENTLY . . . not only makes us feel better but it helps them see and treat us differently.

Finally, in all of this, the most important thing for you to do is to choose to be the better person.  Not to gloat, or toot your own horn, but to realize "this is not how I want my family life to be when I'm the parent".  As we strive to be more Christ like, it's essential that we don't fall into an "I'm better than them" way of thinking.

Perhaps start with something simple, such as "this week I'm not going to say anything negative to or about the people I live with".  Then make it a month.

Keep a journal, writing notes about how all of this is going, and any changes or progress you see.

And then, when it's working and you've developed a new good pattern for yourself, add something.

- Bro Jo




Dear Middle,

I think this email may have crossed paths with one I just sent you . . .

No matter.

Instead of focusing on how to change the behavior of others, focus inward.  Let them see the Light of Christ through you instead of shining it in their eyes.

Daily personal prayer and scripture study (which can be brief, you know) will help you.  If you're not starting and ending each day praying together as a family, as your father or mother (privately) if you could please add one of those to your daily family routine.  Be prepared to lead out.  Don't suggest it as a "you people need to be doing this" kind of thing, but in a sweet way (perhaps after having cleaned the kitchen for your mom and garage for your dad) ask if they'd be willing.

If they're not ready for that, be understanding, don't argue your point, and try again in a month or so.

- Bro Jo




Dear Bro Jo

Haha guess they must have crossed over each other, sorry about that! :)

Thank you so much for the advice. I will definitely start with the journal, I love journaling and I know it really does help.

I also know that I am definitely a contributing factor to the sarcasm... it's second nature... and that is a bad nature to have within the family.

I do feel it necessary to defend my father a bit, (I guess I am defending him to myself haha) as he is an amazing example of scripture study and prayer and hard work and love. So hopefully we can team up together and lead our family to a better life style.

Wish me luck against my current goliath!!!!

As always, thank you so much for your advice. It is much needed and very much appreciated.

-The Middle Child




Dear Middle,

Anytime!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Is It Wrong for a 20-year Old Man to Like a 17-year Old Girl in High School?

Dear Bro Jo,

I have a bit of a dilemma. I have come to you for advice before and it worked out very well for me. So I will thank you for that!

Okay, so here is the story. I met this LDS girl when at an athletic competition when I was 17. She was from another school that was just a few miles down the road and she was a member of my stake. I think she recognized me from a stake dance because she knew my name (although I had no idea who she was) and she came up to me after the competition had finished and introduced herself and congratulated me on my performance. We talked for a minute or two and she asked for my cell number and of course I gave it to her.

So I came to find out that she was only 14. And I was 17 (turning 18 in a few months), but she was turning 15 soon I tried to talk to her on a minimal and friendly basis because of the age difference. By the way, I was a Junior in high school at the time because I went to school a year later than I was supposed to.

Sorry my story seems to ramble so much, I am not good at focusing my thoughts.

So anyway, she would text me occasionally or chat with me on Facebook and I was always just kind of nice and just asked her about school and everyday stuff. I didn't want her to get the wrong idea and at this time, especially since I was going to be, by the law's view, an adult and she was only 15. And I didn't really have any feelings for her or anything like that.

Now I know you will protest this and say I did, but I honestly didn't.

About a year later, I saw her at a dance and she looked beautiful and something just kind of kicked in me. So I asked her to dance. And I kind of developed a crush on her. I was a Senior in high school and an 18 year old (about to be 19) and she was now 16. I know a three year difference isn't great, but I thought since we were both still in High School, that is might still be okay to have an attraction to her.

So here is my first question: Is that okay?

I know if I was out of high school it would be totally unacceptable. But still being in high school, does that change things?

Here is the second part. Since I developed my attraction to her, I started texting more and flirting a little, and after while we were texting pretty regularly. Then, I graduated and moved away from home to work and I thought that it might not be a good idea to keep flirting and having a pseudo-relationship with a girl who was still in high school, especially since I was planning on a mission.

Although, I did ask her if she wanted to write me.

I started working on my mission papers while I was working. Since I turned 19 during high school, I was little behind the schedule on going. But I was excited to finally get started with my papers. While doing the physical exam, some health issues came up and it was determined it wouldn't be a good idea for me to serve a mission. I don't feel the need to share the details because it is personal and I don't think everyone needs to know.

Anyway, I was devastated.

And needless to say I am not going on a mission, but I am a worthy Melchizedek priesthood holder and I am a very active in my Elders Quorum and in my inability to go on a real mission, my Bishop called me to be a Ward Missionary.

So here is the last the last part. I am almost 20. She will be 17.

At this point, I have backed off the texting. She suggested that we email in each other twice a month and we just talk about daily happenings and casual stuff. I try not to flirt, although it happens occasional. I am still attracted to her, but I know that a 20 year old and a 17 year old is creepy. And I don't want to be that. I am a good guy.

But next year, she will be 18 and graduating. If we just keep it friendly in our emails until then, do you think it is okay for us to keep talking until I can take her on a date.

Do you think it is okay for me to continue talking to her?

What do you think about the whole situation in general?

I know you will be straight with me and I really appreciate because the other people I have tried to talk to haven't been.

Sincerely,

 - Age Dilemma




Dear Age Dilemma,

Yes, you're too old to be dating a 17-year old girl in High School.  Yes, it's creepy.

And, yes, you can keep talking to her.

Keep being a Good Guy, and that means dating girls your own age and encouraging her to go on Casual Group Dates.

Don't offer to take her to Prom or any other date-like situation.  Too weird.

When she's 18 AND graduated, if you're not seeing anyone, then by all means ask her out.

Nothing wrong with 18 and 21.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 24, 2017

Should They Put Off the Wedding Until Summer?

Dear Bro Jo,

I have been dating my RM boyfriend for over a year.

We both were in previous relationships that were  long and not very healthy so we were on the same page when it came to taking things slow. It took us 9 months to say the L word. It took us a year to talk about marriage -- that was in the summer.

We aren't engaged but we're trying to figure out a wedding date.

My boyfriend wants to wait until the end of the school year (end of April) because it's less stress with exams and homework and more time to save money.

I'm having a hard time waiting and the end of April seems so far away.

I know this something that we both need to pray about and is our decision in the end, but I really could use some expert advice. In your opinion do you think it's a good idea to wait until the summer or should we just get married on a random weekend?

- Marriage Hungry




Dear Hungry,

IN GENERAL ... I think a year is long enough to know whether or not a relationship is going somewhere. .. and IN GENERAL. .. I believe in short engagements, meaning 3 months or less ...

But two things about your relationship are clear:

1.  It IS going somewhere very positive.

2.  You are NOT YET engaged.


Six months is not too long to wait for an Eternal Marriage.

IF you both agree, and feel strongly, and neither is forcing the other to move a little too fast because one of you is being impatient. .. then getting married "on a random weekend" between now and the end of the semester is fine ...

BUT, (and that's a BIG BUT ), it sounds to me like you're being both irrational and impatient.
Yes, as the semester ticks on you may both need to work at fighting the temptations that keep us out of the Temple (no late nights, no alone time on the sofa or in the car, and stuff like that can help) but you'll be glad you waited and stayed worthy.

Lastly, in modern times one must be considerate of those they intend to invite to their wedding, especially their immediate family.

As you two settle on wedding locations (it's a personal pet peeve of mine when couples pass by several perfectly good Temples because they mistakenly treat the sealing like a Destination Wedding, totally missing the point) and sealing dates, remember that those that should attend have jobs and lives and responsibilities.

For example, we've told the Jo Kids that it would be wrong for their families to drive past a dozen great Temples simply because someone "has always dreamed of getting sealed at Manti" and that scheduling a sealing for the same weekend a younger sibling has their high school graduation, mission farewell, or state championship competition is a great way to drive a wall between them and that sibling.

Some things are set on dates that we have little or no control over, and I think that should be considered when scheduling something that one has LOTS of control over.

So Be Patient.

And Be Considerate.

And, above all, enjoy!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

25-year Old Future Sister Missionary is Expecting Her Boyfriend to Wait

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm a 25 year old woman who recently has decided to serve a mission. I have always had a burning desire too and I know I am ready. I spoke with my stake president and he said it will one of the best decisions I have ever made, he said everything will fall into place when I'm done with my mission, etc.

Yet I have an issue.. After two years of waiting and dating, yes I was a missionary gf. It didn't work out. I recently met this wonderful man, he's 25, we started dating about two months ago. He wants to marry me ASAP and plan a wonderful future together

Yet two weeks ago,  I recently informed him of my decision to serve and figurative speaking it's been 'Hell' ever since. we have practically argued everyday of my decision and he claims I'm being selfish and not thinking of him. which is deeply hurting me, ever so much. I have a strong testimony and I wish to share it and I know I'm ready to serve.

I have told him to I'm blue in the face that I love him, etc and when I'm finished with my mission we can marry.

Why can't he see that serving a mission is for the greater good?

Am I being selfish?

What should I do?

I need your advice

Regards,

- Future Sis Mis




Dear Future,

It's hard for me to say that a Mission is selfish ... but I think you serving one at this time may be a huge mistake.

If this guy is the Good Guy you say he is, it's unrealistic, unreasonable and unfair for you to expect that he will be available when you come home.

And, frankly, I hope he's not.

A mission is a break up, regardless of your age.  Should you choose to go you need to understand that.  While you're gone he will likely date,  and kiss, other girls.

And he should.

He will likely pick one of those girls to marry for Time and All Eternity.

And he should.

Because as you well know, Waiting doesn't work most of the time.

Your focus right now should be marriage and family.  That's been made very clear over and over and over again.

Your boyfriend can't agree to your "greater good" argument because ... well ... it's not true.

General Counsel is that even if you had a mission call the right decision would be to cancel that call and get sealed.


Do you understand why?


The Hell you're going through is one you stepped in, so getting out of it will be up to you.

The questions you need to answer are:

1.  Are you okay choosing a Mission now if it not only means not marrying this guy, but not marrying ever?  (Ask some 27-28 year old single sisters how difficult it is to find a good and worthy man to marry.)

2.  If you stay, can you love and marry this man without holding it against him that you didn't serve a mission right now?

3.  Would serving a Mission later in life, as a married couple, with this wonderful man as your companion, be a compromise that would satisfy you?

4.  If it's such a burning desire, why didn't you leave four years ago?  (We often think we REALLY want to do things, but if that were true ... we'd have done them.  Perhaps there's an additional reason, one you haven't shared with me here . . . maybe one you haven't even confessed to yourself . . . that is part of why you feel "mission ready" at 25?)

5.  Can you be happy for the next few years being a Member Missionary?  Sharing the Gospel at home?  Raising your children to be good members of the Church?


Please understand:  I am not saying that there's necessarily something wrong with you wanting to serve a mission.  My goal here is for you to know why you want to serve, to make sure it's for the right reasons, and to help you be at peace with your choice, whatever that might be.

As you consider all of these options, the path that brings you the most peace is the one you should take.


Remember Little Sister, in all things, it's about the Lord's timing, not ours.

Pray.  Fast.

And talk to your boyfriend one more time.


- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How to Date a Return Missionary (and Anyone Else, Really . . . )

Dear Bro Jo,

     So this is probably going to sound like a really stupid question...but I've looked on your blog and I haven't seen anything about how to date a return missionary.

     I'm almost 20 and my best friend (21) came home from his mission a little over two months ago. We dated a little before his mission, not too seriously because I was still in high school. I wrote him, emailed, and sent him packages his whole mission but wasn't exactly "waiting for him." I went on dates with other people and had fun. Oh, and I also moved about 45 minutes away from the town we are both from.

     Now that he's home though we are kind of back to dating. And I make the little drive back home a lot more than I did when he was gone. We aren't officially boyfriend/girlfriend but We go on dates and hang out a lot. For a while it was weird because it was almost as though nothing had changed, but then again it was also like we were totally starting over. But it's getting a lot more comfortable. We hold hands and he puts his arm around me and he's kissed me once. (Since he's been home. He had kissed me a few times before his mission)

     Rumors are flying around our home ward about the two of us. I get asked almost daily by different people "How are things with so-and-so" "Is he your boyfriend yet?" "Why don't you two just make it official already?"

     And sometimes I ask myself the same question... and because I don't know how to respond, these questions drive me crazy.

     I've done a lot of praying about this, asking my Father in Heaven if pursuing this relationship is a good idea, and to me it just feels right. He is also the only guy I’ve ever dated that I can see a future with. Is it ridiculous to be impatient because he's taking things so slow? I would love to just be his girlfriend already, but at the same time I also understand that he's only been home just over two months. Am I going to scare him off if the next time we hang out I ask him where he stands? And if not, how exactly should I go about doing this? Is it bad for mw to want to know this early on? Maybe I just need confirmation that I'm not wasting my time. I don't know. And if the answer you're going to give me is to just be patient and let things play out, how to I respond to these questions I get all the time from our mutual friends and church leaders?

     I know, I'm probably totally over thinking this. And I'm still young, I know. But I just need some advice on how to date an RM. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I don't know what info you'll need. Thanks in advance for any advice.

- Potential RM Girlfriend




Dear Girlfriend,

Yes, as I've said often, "Communication is the Key", but sometimes I don't understand why we feel the need to talk about everything instead of just observing what's going on around us.

Is he dating anyone else?

Do you go out at least once a week?  (Remember those dates can be simple and money need not be spent.  What qualifies it as a date is that you a) go out, b) have scheduled the going out, and c) it's just the two of you paired off.  In other words:  Plan, Pickup, and Pay.

Depending on how long this has been going on it may indeed be ridiculous to be impatient.

For your convenience and consideration:

Bro Jo's Guide to Where Your Relationship Probably Is
Phase 1 -  Under 3 months?  You should just relax and enjoy.
Phase 2 - 3 - 6 months and you still have no clue and have not talked about your relationship at all?  You should step back and see if he's being exclusive.
Phase 3 - Over 6 months?  Okay, now you probably should have the "where do we stand and where is this going" talk . . . assuming you don’t already know . . . and you probably should.
(You may also want to check out Bro Jo's Levels of a Relationship.)

As for the questions from your well-meaning friends, family and ward members (parents are the exception, btw - they have a right to know! - in my admittedly very biased opinion), I often repeat what Sister Jo says:  tell them, politely, "our relationship is private, and right now so many people are asking that I just feel like we're being unfairly pressured; I promise that, should anything become official, you'll know shortly after"; smile and leave it at that.

Understand that when we old people ask about your plans and relationships we're usually (the occasional ward busybody being the exception) just trying to show genuine interest and concern in your life.  We have a testimony of the joy that comes from Eternal Companionship and Eternal Families and we're hoping that you'll have that in your life, too.  We ask because we love you, not because we want you to feel bad.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 10, 2017

Should She Date the Boy Who Self-harms?

Dear Bro Jo,

I recently discovered your blog, and I'm very appreciative of all the advice you give. I know you're busy, but I feel like at least putting my thoughts in words will help me understand them.
I'm a freshman at BYU. Last semester, I met a boy in one of my classes, with whom I got along decently. After a few weeks, he came to class wearing short sleeves, and I noticed that both of his arms were covered in self harm scars, many of which seemed fresh.

As time went on his arms seemed to heal, and we became better friends. I saw him after class at the end of October though, and he was MUCH worse. So I confronted him about it. We talked a lot after that, and I became another therapist to him. His depression was many, many years in the making, as was his harm, but I managed to help him curb it a little.

After a week or so of this, our relationship had become very emotionally attached. As such, we began flirting a little. I was terrified, because I didn't want to date. But I couldn't tell him no, and by mid-November I believed I was very OK with dating too. The weekend after our first date, he called to tell me that he needed to be hospitalized for his safety. His bishop and I took him to the ER. He stayed in a hospital for over a week. It was not his first time. After his release, he did much better, mostly because he knew any more hospitalization would only delay a mission. And he stopped harming for over a month.

During that time period, our relationship escalated. We kissed—I asked my bishop about it, and remained within his guidelines of what was safe, but I admit that kissing made me very uncomfortable, to the point that I would have panic attacks. He helped me deal with it and respected me when I asked that we not do it again. When Christmas break started, he talked to me often of how he missed me. He began to harm again during break, to an extent that he hid from me. I didn't find out until we got back to school, and even then he didn't want me to know. I became very worried. I had been from the beginning, I guess, but it began to culminate. As such, I broke it off.

He began to harm himself more and more, in multiple sessions daily. And after a week, he even admitted that he was closer to a suicidal plan than he had been since the last hospitalization. He didn't mean to, but he alluded to the fact that dying had made him better. I felt (and still do feel) terribly guilty—I think I pushed him to hurt himself. But I also had felt peace and support at the idea of ending our relationship, and so I couldn't bring myself start it again. I tried to help as a friend, but wasn't nearly as effective.

Before you worry too much, he's on a new medication now and is doing much better. He has also continued to express feelings for me, and while I feel less guilty, I know that my actions in turning him away have been less than Christ-like. I recognize that when I sing a Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief these days, I am being dishonest.

I guess after all of that, I just wish to ask: when is it ok to give up? Within marriage, I assume one ought to be supportive forever (that's kind of a big part of marriage), but in dating, and friendship, is it selfish and wrong to want to back out? I don't really know. I want to help, and I ought to help, but I also want to be happy too.

Sincerely,

- Long-Winded




Dear Winded,

Not only is it NOT selfish to stay out of a relationship with this man, I insist on it.

Self-harm is many things, not the least of which is addictive.  Until he conquers that addiction it would be foolish of you to have any kind of romantic relationship with him.

Love him as a friend.  Pray for his recovery.

But don't allow yourself to get sucked into his depression.

His symptoms are real and very serious.  He needs (and it sounds like he's getting) qualified regular therapy.  That's good.

Love and support does not require that you give more than you're able, that you put yourself or your future in jeopardy, or that you must carry his anchor with you all the time.  Jesus IS the Christ; let Him do His job, you do yours.

Yes, care, help, offer concern, but your first spiritual concern is and must always be you.

One of the first rules in lifesaving is that you never put yourself in a situation where there are two victims.

Please understand this:  however he chooses to exercise his demons, it is not your fault nor your responsibility.


And, if I may, even in marriage there's a line where it's better to cut bait than to hang on.


If you haven't yet, take a good look at this post:  The A's of Why NOT to Marry.


It may help.


God bless,

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 7, 2017

Can He Overcome His Addiction? - Part 3

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 Utah State University. 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 27. 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 Brother 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.

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,

It's been several years since this last correspondence.  I thought you might like to know that the original letter writer of the emails from the last few days is now married for time and all eternity to a wonderful woman.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Can He Overcome His Addiction - Part 2

Dear Bro Jo,

Disclaimer: This came out way longer and way more rambling than I ever intended... But it is what it is! :)

I reached out to you towards the end of last year. I was struggling with a pornography addiction...

Well... Good news there!

The 1st of the month marked 100 days in the clear! :)

There is still a lot of work ahead, but it is a good step!

I've been seeing a counselor about it and that has been a huge help!

Anyways... I have a few other things on my mind... I'll start out setting the background...

Last year in February or March I started dating a girl. She really is a great girl and I get along really well with her family. I've been friends with them for years, and her older brother is one of my best friends.

Well... She left on a mission last year in April and she will be back this coming October or November (She'll probably be going back to BYU-I after that, and I'll be transferring to USU in August.).

She was one of the 19 year old missionaries. I admit we didn't date all that long, but it went really well and It was a really positive experience. We had gone on a number of dates within a few weeks (They were some of the best dates I have ever gone on too!)

Well... I was driving out to Utah to visit family for a few days and last minute(Literally minutes before I was going to leave, lol) she asked if she could ride with me so she could see some of her family before she left on her mission.

During the drive out, we got talking and made the determination we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I admit, it was a bit silly with her leaving in a few weeks. But we did it...

I was planning on staying at my relatives, but because she came with me, she stayed with her sister and I stayed with her brother (The one that is one of my best friends). It was a great trip, and it worked out well. I introduced her to some of my relatives and I met some of hers. We spent a lot of the time together, and I altogether really had a wonderful time.

So fast forward a few weeks... We spent a lot of time together leading up to her mission, and I had decided that I could see myself marrying her... Well I ended up being the over-emotional one.

Thankfully I didn't do anything too rash and she was a lot more emotionally stable than me!

I did ask her questions like, "Could you see yourself dating me when you come back?" to which she intelligently replied, "If you are still single."

At some other point I also mentioned that I could see starting a family with her, and she responded with something along the lines of, "If it is right, it will work out" Honestly, at the time I would have quite happily said I would wait, I think I said I would date, more because I felt that was what she wanted than what I wanted. But I do look back and I am very grateful that she was wiser than I and left me that freedom to date. After she left I kept spending time with her family. I would go over almost every Friday night and spend time with them. I get along really well with them. Even before we were dating, I was practically considered an adopted member of the family. :)

Well, she left on her mission, to serve in (Location Withheld), I started out writing letters to her via pouch. I was trying to follow the rules of email being only for family. I did find out that pouch is a VERY SLOW process...

It would take about 4 weeks for letters to get there, then it would take a bunch of time for her to have time to respond. Then there was a mail strike in (Location Withheld), which delayed about 3 months’ worth of mail!

And by this time they had expanded the rules correspondence via allow email. So I switched over to writing emails. It was a lot easier and I didn't feel like I was leaving her hanging... But I still tried to avoid writing too much.

I mentioned that to her in one of my letters and she was like, "Don't worry about writing too much!" And I next thing I know I've been writing almost every week. I find it easier since I already write my sister every week, then I can sit down and write them both at the same time, and in some cases copy parts of the letters. Just to be clear, I work to keep it clean and uplifting, no sappy stuff, and I try to focus on what is happening in my life, especially spiritual experiences, or gospel principles I learned that week. I'm pretty sure everything I've ever sent her I would have zero problem sending to my own sister.

Well... when she left, I went on a few dates with other girls. I really wasn't interested in dating, but it was what I was "supposed" to do, so I did it...

I admit my heart wasn't in it from a relationship standpoint, but I tried to keep it simple, have fun, and get to know other girls. Since then I moved out of my parents, and the whole pornography struggle came back into my life. And that was around when I wrote you last. It has been a long battle getting back to a stable point, but I've been making progress, and I am working towards my endowments (As it is I have been doing baptisms every week in preparation.)

Well, I've been meeting other girls, and I've gone on a few dates since I moved out here (I'll admit not enough). I think I have come to a point where my heart is open enough that I can much more easily consider dating other girls, In fact there are a few sisters I know that I could see pursuing a relationship with, and I'm working on improving my dating consistency to see what happens...

My question I guess is... How do you decide?

I've gone on a lot of dates with a lot of different girls in the past... This relationship was the first time that I had been "officially" in a relationship, and the first time that I felt really comfortable with the idea of marriage.

But now I've started getting to know some other girls and I find myself saying. "Wow! She is an awfully swell girl! I could get to know her better" And I see that they have a lot of great traits! And in some ways are "better"(Mostly things that are better in my eyes, but are relatively superficial and don't necessarily matter in the eternities. Things like she plays piano, etc.)

With these thoughts there are a couple of things that start happening for me...
1. I start feeling a little bit guilty, I feel almost as though I'm being disloyal in some way to the girl I have been writing.
2. I also wonder whether it's just a matter of the here and now vs the distant and in the future? In other words is this just a physical craving for the connection that comes with a relationship? Am I trying to fulfill that desire whatever way I can?
3. I also start asking myself... If they are all great girls with the essential traits that are important to me, How do I ever decide who to pursue a relationship with? I can sit here and go back and forth comparing other traits all day long(I do recognize that in all of these cases it is not solely my decision as the girl has just as much say in the matter.)
4. I then start asking, Why give up a great relationship with a great girl that has gone really well before?

I guess really I feel torn...

Part of me would feel guilty if I ended up falling in love with another girl and had to pull a Dear Jane. I would feel like a bit of a jerk even though she has tried to give me space. I feel like as is, I've kind of hidden the dating side of things, I kind of figure she really wouldn't want to hear about the dates I've been on, though she did ask me if I'd been dating in one of my letters... I didn't give much detail.

Should I have been more open about my dating life in my letters?

I guess part of me is afraid of losing the relationship we have had... She really is an amazing girl, with an amazing spirit and testimony, and I really have no question that whatever happens, she left me better than she found me. I only hope that I've been able to do the same for her.

At the same time, It is not like I'm about to ask anyone to marry me right now, but there are a few other girls that I could see a relationship happening with...

And then I start asking myself, If I were to pursue a relationship with one of them, which one would I? How would I decide that?

One thought I had, Usually when there is fear it gives me a hint of what I need to do... Face that fear... I think of 2 Timothy. God hath not given the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind... Faith dispels fear... I need to have more faith!!! Why do I always feel so lacking in the faith department! I feel like every time I turn around I'm at another leap of faith! It is hard! I guess this might be one of those times... I'll have to think about this one...

And I would invite any thoughts you have on the matter as well!

As a note, now being 27 years old I've gone on a fair number of dates, but I haven't really done any serious dating other than this one relationship. I haven't kissed yet(I did try the night before she left... I was pretty stupid... Though to be fair I did ask before I tried... :p )

Thank you for everything Brother Jo,

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

First and foremost I am so proud of you brother for getting help!

Fighting addiction is a not-always-easy never-ending battle, but it's worth every effort and struggle.
I have no doubt you've noticed a difference in the level of Spirituality in your life.

Keep it up!

As for your questions . . .

You know whom to pursue a relationship with because you'd rather spend time with her than anyone else, and you are perfectly happy giving up dating "other possibilities" rather than lose her because she's free to do the same.

You are no longer in the relationship you were in before.  She left and there was no commitment.  (Wisely on her part, I might add.)

So there's no reason to feel guilty.

IF you are still single when she comes back (and I don't think you should wait around) and IF she is still interested in dating you, and if you still like her, I think it would be foolish to not pursue that.

But if you're married before she comes back . . . well . . . that's fine, too.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Can He Overcome His Addiction? - Part 1

Dear Brother Jo,

I started out writing this huge rambling letter about everything and anything happening in my life when I realized that I could drop out most of what I wrote and get to the point across. There are still a lot of other things going on in my life that I would love to talk about, and lots of side stories I can tell you, but for now I think this gets to the core of one of my questions…

I am 26 and I am addicted to pornography. This addiction has plagued my life for as long as I can remember. It feels like it has taken control of my life. Right now I feel so trapped. I have been a member of the church all my life and active for most of it. I try to live the gospel, I work to fulfill my callings and I want to serve a full-time mission but this addiction has held me back. Now I am too old to serve a traditional mission. I have managed to abstain for periods of time here and there, sometimes enough to have been able send in my mission papers and get a temple recommend to go do baptisms for the dead (I love it there and have started going every week even if it means I have to sit outside) but it seems that no matter what I do, I eventually fall back into the same trap. I have been attending the church's addiction recovery program (I highly recommend it BTW) for quite some time and am trying to be better at working through the steps.  I am in desperate need of help and am in the process of trying to find a sponsor to help me through the steps. One minute I declare how much I want to be rid of it, but then hours later I find myself doubling back and acting upon my carnal desires. I hate it! This addiction has been a central part of my life for far too long!

Between addiction recovery books and addiction recovery meetings I have heard many stories of spouses who have been had immense emotional pains inflicted upon them by their husband's through acting out in their addictions. I hear these stories and I think about my future. I want to be a good husband and father, I don’t want to inflict that kind of pain upon another whether they are my family or not. And I also want to be worthy to take whomever I marry to be sealed in the temple.

Now I have dated, and I want to continue dating, but the thought of causing harm to one of Heavenly Father’s daughters terrifies me. I know that you consider Addiction to be a reason not to marry, and I have made the decision that if/when I am in a relationship that is definitely heading towards marriage I will be up front about my addiction. I believe that if I’m not comfortable enough with her to be completely honest about it before marriage then I’m not ready to marry her.

I’m scared… I want to progress, I want to date, I want to start a family, but how can I even consider it when I currently face this addiction so regularly? Yet at the same time, what alternative do I have? Remain in a state of no dating until I am free of this? I feel like I have tried that before. I put a lot of things on hold, waiting until I could serve a mission. Instead I ended up as a 26 year old non-RM, who just barely moved out of his parent’s house and is just now starting to gain a lot of valuable life experiences. I guess what I’m really afraid of is becoming a 40 year old still struggling with an addiction that has not gone on a date since he was 26…

Any advice?

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

I guess the question is:  are you scared enough to get clean?

Look, I'm going to be really candid with you.  Everything you've said is true, but unless you're willing to act it’s just talk.

Now I don't know you, and I agree that you need to keep getting counseling from priesthood leadership and the Recovery Program (thank you for your endorsement of that by the way), but it sounds to me like you're hiding behind your addiction; like you don't want to get clean because then you'll lose the excuse you've been using all this time.

It's like you've lived with it so long that you're scared to be free.

No doubt you've been taught at this point to recognize your triggers.  Loneliness.  Depression.  Up too late.  Using your computer in private places late at night and in the dark...

Now you need to remove those from your life.

That may mean no more computer for you.  Ever.  Hard as that may be, isn't it better than the alternative?

Perhaps that's extreme.  Perhaps you haven't moved your computer into the kitchen or had someone install passwords and limits on it that block websites and shut off the internet access from 8pm to 6am...

Perhaps you're not turning to the alternate activities that have been suggested you do when tempted (like reading scriptures, getting out among others, or my personal favorite: going for a run).

But the bottom line is, NW, it's worth making the change.

Don't give up.

And don't punish yourself by not dating at all, either.

Yes, addictions never go all the way away, but an addict can bring their cravings under control and live a very good life.

Including you.

Don't give up.

You deserve the blessings and happiness that Heavenly Father has in-store for you!

You are a good and valuable guy.

Now make the commitments you need to get clean.

No more talk.

Go and do.

Always here if you need.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Girl - Part 4

Dear Bro Jo,

Hi, it's me, New Girl.

It's been a few months since I've emailed you, so I'm not quite as “new" here anymore. I've really enjoyed being here and finding opportunities to meet new people.

For a little while I was feeling like I was doing a good job in meeting guys, but I still wasn't really getting asked out on dates. Then suddenly I go to a party, and 2 different guys asked me for my number and ask me on dates.

Well, that was almost 2 months ago, and I'm happy to say that I really like one of those guys and things have been progressing very well!

Here is where my question comes. So this guy and I live 30 minutes away from each other, so we don't really see each other as often as I want to, but we have been seeing each other 2-3 times a week for a little over a month.  We talk every single day, and we've already held hands and kissed. The problem is that we haven't really defined our relationship.

Neither of us is going on dates with other people, and we've told each other how much we like each other and how much we enjoy spending time together. I guess I'm just confused why he hasn't brought up "the talk" to make things more official. In my mind, when I kiss someone, it means something to me and I feel like kissing is more of a commitment of being in a relationship.

When I kissed him, I assumed we would have the talk shortly after. I know there are guys out there that kiss out of lust, but I don't feel like he is that way. Because of conversations we've had, I know that's not the case.

So my question is, do you think I should just continue to let things happen how they are and let him bring up the talk when he is ready, or should I say something?

My family thinks that since things are going well, and we are still enjoying being together, that I should just wait and let him bring it up. I think I just feel confused because kissing to me means commitment, and I want to call him my boyfriend.

And I've had another guy ask me on a date, and I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to say.

I feel like not being official is keeping me from getting to know him on a more personal level and finding out what kind of guy he is.

Do my concerns make any sense?

Do I just need to listen to my family, and continue to be patient?

I've been good about being patient so far, but I don't know how long to let it go on like this before something should happen.

Can you please shed some light on my situation??

Thank you so much!

Sincerely,

- New Girl




Dear New Girl,

It's not like you've brought up "the talk" either, right?  (FYI - Sister Jo and I were discussing this - the obsession some YSAs seem to have with the "NEED" for a DTR conversation - and we realized that we, she and I, have never had that conversation.)

If you have questions, ask him.

IMHO, two months and a little kissing does not make the DTR an urgent requirement.  Further, it seems like you're both spending all of your dating time together and really getting along, so in a lot of ways I think "why bother?  it seems like you already have your answer".

See, DTRs are for when you have No Clue what's going on; or, perhaps more accurately, when you sense that things are not progressing or there is a problem.

Sometimes I think we wreck things by pushing too soon or being to formal too early.  Relax.  Enjoy.  Talk.

Now I think the occasion of being asked out by another guy is a great opportunity for you to communicate with the guy you're seeing.  You could tell him that someone asked you out and see how he feels about that... how would he have liked you to respond?

But I think the more important question is to you:  did you want to go out with that other guy or not?

How you answer will tell you how You feel about this relationship, and That's probably what You need to be communicating to your boyfriend.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Girl - Part 3

Dear Bro Jo,

I think you're right about me trying too hard. And I don't think it's really related to where I am or being new here. I think I have always had this problem and I'm not completely sure why. I think there are a few reasons that may add to it. I don't know if you are familiar with the color code at all but I might be able to explain my personality that way. I talked to you about how I'm shy. You are probably thinking that I don't seem very shy from what I've told you. But it's true, I have a very white personality, so I tend to be laid back and keep to myself and it's easier not to talk to people because it is scary. I know that is a bad thing, especially in a new place, so I really try to push myself so I don't fall back into white mode. Then the other part of my personality is very blue. I guess you could say the hopeless romantic type. I come from a family of blues and I kind of saw my older brother have a lot of the same problems with dating that I am having. Desperate to be in love, and then we try too hard. My brother ended up finding someone that was also blue, so finally it worked out for him. Haha it sounds like I have multiple personality disorder or something. I know when it comes to dating I probably try too hard, but I can't seem to help it. When I try to control myself, I sink back into white mode. I really need to find a healthy medium!

I think another factor in my behavior is that I see all these other cute girls that are the super flirty type, and they can get any guy they want. Sometimes I feel like I have to be in competition or be
more like them to get guys to be interested in me. The end result is me trying too hard. I know that sounds awful, but too often I feel like dating is too much of a game, and I really don't like it.

What do I do? I know I have a problem, but I am not really sure how to fix it. I feel like I am lacking faith in knowing that Heavenly Father will help me find the right one eventually. That's probably why I tried so hard to keep my last relationship going when things were going bad.

It really has been great having a cousin of the opposite sex to go to things with. For some reason he doesn't really like the people in our ward. He thinks a lot of them are clickish and stuck up. So I have
been alone in trying to meet people in the ward for myself and I have been trying to help him meet them too. But he does have a lot of friends in other wards in our stake that I've been able to meet
through him. How exactly would he go about getting other guys to ask me on dates?

It feels like I have been in this "new place" for a really long time, but it's only been 3 weeks! Therefore I need to calm down a little. I just need to be reminded sometimes :)

- New Girl




Dear New Girl,

So hopefully now that a little more time has passed you've settled in a bit.

Going on the occasional group date may be okay, but make it rare.  Find that balance between Dating with a Purpose and taking Dating Too Seriously.

Yes, when a guy asks a girl out it's 95% likely that it's because he's attracted to her, but there's a HUGE gap between "I like you and would like to take you on a date to get to know you better" and "please be the mother of my eternal children".

HUGE gap.

Best,

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New Girl - Part 2

Dear Bro Jo,

Okay so yeah I know it's good to talk to guys, not just flirt.

I've actually been doing that.

Let me explain some scenarios.


Scenario 1

One guy that I'm interested in getting to know better, I met at institute. The first time I met him, he ended up asking for my number as I was leaving, and he said "I'll have to show you around Bountiful sometime." Then it never happened. So I saw him at institute the next week and we talked for a long time. I felt like the conversation was dying down and I was there for too long and he was getting bored. I was about to ask him when he was going to show me around Bountiful, but then another girl came over and started flirting with him. That get's to be super frustrating, especially because that particular girl is leaving to go to school out of state in a couple weeks. So then a couple days later I was having a texting conversation with him and he was telling me that he got a new car. I tried to hint that I wanted to see the car sometime, but he obviously didn't really get the hint. He just said he was sure I would see it sometime. So I responded with, "Well, you can show me your new car when you show me around Bountiful." Then he said, "Oh yeah, we can do that sometime! (with a smiley face- you know that's important haha.) Then after that he changed the subject. I answered his question, and then haven't heard back from him since.

Should I bring it up again when I see him at institute this week?

I already feel like I've been forward enough and he needs to take some initiative!


Scenario 2

Okay, here is the story for guy number 2.

I met him at a ward service opportunity on a Saturday. I went over to him and introduced myself. I did some flirting, but he asked me a lot of questions about me and I asked some questions about him. Then the next day at Church he was sitting behind me in Sacrament meeting, so afterwards I turned around and said hi and invited him to come to the Sunday School class that my cousin was teaching because my cousin was really worried that people wouldn't answer his questions and make comments during the lesson.

So this guy came to the class and ended up sitting by me. Before class started, I asked him a lot of questions about what he likes to do, and asked follow up questions and showed my interest in what he had to say. Oh yeah I even took something he said and shared a story about how that was relative in my life. Then our conversation ended because the class was starting. After class, I asked him if he was going to fhe and he said no because he had a softball tournament. I kinda froze after that cuz I was really hoping to see him again during the week, but I didn't know how to respond. So I told him I hope he enjoyed priesthood, and then I left. I think I missed multiple opportunities during that conversation. After a week went by, I saw him at church again. I talked to him and asked how his softball tournament went and then I asked him more about his softball team and how often they play, etc. Then he was super nice and asked me questions about if I went to fhe and how my first week of work was. Then I asked him if he liked game nights, because I was planning one for that night. He said he loves game nights, so I asked him for his number so I could send him an invite. Well he came to the game night, and he was actually the first one to show up. (Just a little side note, I am living with relatives here.) So when he got to my house, he talked to all my cousins and Aunt and was very friendly. Then a couple other people came so we started a game.

I didn't sit by him and didn't really have much of a chance for interaction. He ended up having to leave the game night early because he had stuff planned with his family. Tonight we had a stake FHE and we bumped into each other. I said something, and he said something in response, and then quickly walked away to where his friends were. The game night and my experience at FHE have kind of left me feeling discouraged. I don't know if I'm doing the right things to show I'm interested, or maybe I'm doing too much and it's freaking him out (I've had that happen before).

Where do I go from here?


Scenario 3

Guy number 3 is still very much in the works. I haven't had much opportunity to talk to him, but I am working on it!

My Aunt that I am living with is strongly encouraging my cousin and I to do double dates. I'm not a super big fan of double/group dates (depending on the activity) because you don't really get to know your date. However, if my cousin is the one planning the date, he can get certain guys to ask me on a date. Do you think that is a good idea? My worry is that guys might be freaked out and feel like I put my cousin up to it. (If you haven't noticed, I worry a lot because I have had a lot of experiences with guys being freaked out and thinking I'm too forward. I don't really know what I'm doing wrong. I have definitely seen people who are way more forward than I am!)

Sorry I have given you an overload of information and questions in this email! Haha I hope you're okay with that!

I just started working at Deseret Book last week, so I was doing some research on our website, trying to familiarize myself with the things we sell. I have a tendency to be drawn to books about dating, so I was reading about your book and on the page it talks about your blog. So I went and checked out your blog. I will probably end up reading your book because I like your opinions on Dating. Thanks for sharing that with us!

Sincerely,

- New Girl




Dear New Girl,

I think Boy #1 has had his chance.  Move on.  If he comes around, be open to an invitation, but for now I just think he's testing the waters, so I wouldn't put too much stock or importance into that one.  (Be careful not to get trapped into Too Much texting, it's impersonal, does little to advance a relationship, and you really loose so much of the nuances of a conversation; talk to real people, in person.)

As for Boy #2, I think you're doing the right things.  Don't be too aggressive; you don't want to come across as desperate . . . even if you are, because you have no reason to be.  Relax!  The phrase "when you stop looking for love, it will come to you" is, IMHO, absolutely true.

Forward doesn't work for everyone; I have no idea why, but I know it has little to do with attractiveness or lack thereof.

I respectfully disagree with your Aunt.  You're both Too Old to be dating like High School students.

Sounds to me like your Aunt is hoping your cousin will do more dating, and hoping you'll be his excuse and trainer.

Yeah, he needs to date more, but not with you tagging along.

Instead I think you two need to conspire to set each other up on Serious Single Dates.  You each have the ultimate advantage!  An opposite sex person in your ward with whom there is truly no possibility of dating who can tell you exactly what the other side is thinking of you, the information you need to know to attract those you like, and who will set you up on dates so you can hang back and play it cool; doesn't get better than that.

I think it's great that you''re outgoing and flirting and all of that . . . but I just keep feeling like you're . . . trying too hard.  For reasons I only partially understand, Good Guys get pushed away when girls are too aggressive.  I know that sounds contradictory from a guy who's often telling girls to go out and get guys to ask them out . . . maybe it's because you're so new in the Ward . . . maybe it's because of the demographic of where you're at . . . but I just get the sense that you need to back it off a bit.  Keep talking, keep meeting, keep being a little flirty, but give some of these guys a little space to clue in on their own.

Not forever.  Just give it a try for the next few weeks and let's see what happens.  Settle in.  Give these guys a chance to get to know you.  Let them see how fun and smart you are.

- Bro Jo