Things to know

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

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

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

Please like our Facebook page, and check it often for Discussions, Notes, Events and just General Good Stuff!

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

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,


- 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.


 - 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


- 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.


- 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