Spooktacular Book Blog Giveaway Hop

There's nothing like a little haunted or spooky reading to get you ready for halloween and the Spooktacular Book Blog Giveaway Hop promises to deliver tons of halloween themed reads.

We'll be giving away Gross-Out Cakes: The Kitty Litter Cake and Other Classics. Gross-Out Cakes is sure to become a favorite halloween read with cakes that tease kids' (and adults) taste buds and tickle their imagination. With 30 dreadfully, wonderful recipes--Open Wound Cake, Dumpster Jubilee, Toenail Torte, and Severed Arm Cake--these appalling concoctions are perfect for heating a hideously delicious centerpiece all year long.

Giveaway Details:
To enter leave a comment about your favorite halloween memory with a way a to contact you.
You must be a blog follower to enter.
Giveaway ends 11/31/10.
Open to international entries.

For a complete list of all participating blogs, click here.

Free Book Friday Giveaway--Bro Jo's Guide to Casual Group Dating for LDS youth

Congratulation to Taffy, last week's winner of Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries. The best missionary advice Taffy received was "following the mission rules and you'll be blessed.

Today's free book is
Bro Jo's Guide to Casual Group Dating for LDS Youth
by Dave Johnston

Entering is easy, but you must be done by MIDNIGHT MST THURSDAY, October 21st. Winner will be announced October 22nd.

To enter, leave us a comment with the answer to the weekly question.
Make sure to include your email address if it isn't found on your blog profile.

The weekly question is
"What is the best dating advice you've given (or received)?"

Bro Jo helps make dating fun!

So how do you 'casual group date,' and what are the guidelines you should follow? With Bro Jo's Dating Rules for Teens (and Their Parents), and with tips on planning fun and appropriate dates, you're all set!

Bro Jo gives helpful advice about lots of things, including:

How to get the attention of that guy or girl. Asking someone on a date. Getting someone to ask you on a date. Why the guy should plan, pick up, and pay. Kissing, hugging, and holding hands. Why we casual group date in the first place.

You'll also find affordable date ideas, advice on how to keep the conversation going, and much more!

Dave Johnston is the author of an internationally popular dating and advice blog for LDS teens and young single adults (DearBroJo.blogspot.com.)

First Chapter Wednesday--Dear Bro Jo's Guide to Relatioinships for LDS Young Single Adults

Today's first chapter is from

I think people, especially teens, get relationships out of order. What order should things go in, you ask? Well, from, “Hi, my name is” to “I’ll love you forever,” I see it this way.
Bro Jo’s Levels of a Relationship
From “Hi, my name is” to “I’ll love you forever.”

Level 1. The Introduction: Boy meets girl.
I’ve gotten a few letters asking, “What’s wrong with girl meets boy?” Nothing. And everything.

I believe we’ve entered an era where too many guys are too shy, too afraid, for their own good. In the Church I think the blame for that needs to be spread around. Sure, personal responsibility dictates that some blame rest squarely upon the guys themselves, but I’ve watched for decades as leaders and parents have, as one of my former students put it, made young men “so terrified of girls that we’re afraid to talk to them lest we instantly be tempted beyond mission worthiness.”

Yes, girls are more aggressive sexually than when we old people were younger, but not all girls.

Yes, one of the backlashes from the “free love” era has been the devaluation of virtue, particularly as shown and heard in popular media.

And yes, girls have discovered that dressing immodestly— and doing things physically that they ought not to—are effective ways to capture and keep a boyfriend. This is something that too many young women, in and out of the Church, believe will imbue them with security and value. Of course, it doesn’t.

What many women, young and old, fail to understand is that no man will ever love a woman he doesn’t respect, and you can’t respect someone who has no self-respect.

So, call me old-fashioned (most people do), but I think women still want the man to take a leadership role, especially when it comes to relationships. Women CAN take charge, certainly, and in many instances the world is a better place when they do, but that should be no excuse; men need to take the lead. Stop sitting there waiting for some beach-bound beauty queen to cross a crowded room and initiate the conversation. “Cowboy up,” as we say in Montana, get over there, and say hello!

Brethren, if you failed to learn how to be comfortable talking to girls in elementary school, when you turn 14 get to every dance you can and force yourself to go up and ask girls to dance, at least every slow song.

If you didn’t do that in the past, start now. If you’re past the age of school dances, make the commitment to talk to girls at YSA dances, in church, at school, in the grocery store, wherever.
You’ve got to get it into your heads that the first conversation is not a marriage proposal—heck, it shouldn’t even be a date request. And every conversation doesn’t have to be with the most luscious girl in sight!
See that girl, right over there? Put this book down for a second and go up to her and start a conversation.
“Hi, I’m (insert your name here)” is all you need to start. Then ask about the weather, whatever she happens to be doing right now, or anything else you can think of.

I know many of you are reading this and thinking, “But Bro Jo, it’s harder than it sounds!” Sure it is, the first 20 times. But it gets easier with practice. So go practice.

If you’ve yet to go on a mission, trust me, you’re going to need to learn how to approach people you don’t know (or don’t know well) and strike up a conversation so you can get to know them better. If you’ve already been on a mission, shame on you! You already know how to do this stuff, so go do it.

Level 2. Get-to-Know-You-Better Conversation(s): Chatting and flirting to gauge interest.
It takes a lot of courage to go up to someone you’ve never met and ask her for a date, or for a girl to get a guy to ask her out. The risks for rejection when you’re that forward are huge, and the payoffs are very rare. You’ve got to start easy, and that means having a conversation, and perhaps even doing a little flirting.

“How” and “when” are just two of the fears many guys find paralyzing, which in turn leaves many girls sadly wondering why no one ever approaches them. It’s not that most girls are unapproachable, but in a guy’s mind he can quickly make meeting a new girl such an all-or-nothing proposition that he gives up rather than cross the room. His deepest hope is that a mutual friend will introduce him to the girl he likes because he knows the introduction will force her to talk to him; social niceties practically require it.

So most guys talk about a girl long before they’ll ever talk to her. Many guys actually operate under the belief that they should know a girl really well, even to the point of having predetermined that she is someone they can see themselves married to, before asking her out on a simple first date. The result is they become so fearful that when they finally do meet a great girl, their inexperience and shyness keep them from asking her out until it’s too late, because she’s moved on. I call these guys “morbidly single,” because unless they change their thinking they’re going to die alone. For tips on flirting, turn to Chapter 6 (“For Girls”) and Chapter 7 (“For Guys”).

Level 3. The First Date: And so it begins. (Good luck, Chuck!)
Too many people, especially young women, think this is where the boyfriend–girlfriend thing starts. And they’re wrong. Here’s what one young man said on my blog:

I have a few opinions that I want to get out there with regards to this “first date” business. First of all, first dates are not meant to be serious. They are chances, by which I mean going on one date increases your chances of going on two or three. It‘s really not until you’ve gone on a few dates that they start to become special and meaningful. Up until then, don’t be so nervous! If you went on a date and there was no chemistry or connection, chances are you aren’t meant to be. If that’s the case, then you’re not really missing out, are you? — T.Y.

Too true. Sure, there’s some attraction there, or he never would have asked and she never would have said yes, but a date being made does not imply any kind of commitment beyond the end of the date.

As bad as that is, what’s worse is that many young women agree to start a relationship without this step.
I don’t think we date nearly enough. My boyfriend of three months didn’t take me out on a single date (to which he later said there was no excuse for, but all the same). — L.H.

When I was in elementary school we called it “going with”; my parents called it “going steady.” All around the world, young people call it something different, but the result and the meaning is the same now as it’s always been: you’re not really “going” anywhere. You’ve had some conversation to declare your mutual exclusivity, but that’s it. That’s cute or obnoxious (guess which one I pick) for preteens, but sad once we enter the teen years.

Ladies, when you agree to be the girlfriend of a guy who’s not actually taking you on dates, what you’re doing is ensuring that, for however long this thing lasts, you’re not going anywhere. If a guy asks you to be his girlfriend, your response should be, “I’m not really looking for anything exclusive right now, but I’d love to go out with you sometime.”

When a teenage guy asks a girl to be his girlfriend, what he’s doing is securing his social status and, more importantly, setting himself up for some free physical contact. Get it? He’s playing on your emotional need for external validation so he can hold your hand between classes and hopefully work in a few kisses (or more) as the relationship progresses.

Yeah, he likes you and he finds you attractive. That’s great, but how serious is he if he won’t take you anywhere?

So, guys, take the girls out. But don’t make a first date mean everything. It shouldn’t. It’s just a first date!

The problem comes when the brothers lead the sisters on to believing that the date means more than it actually does (i.e., bringing them chocolate/flowers, telling them that they really like them and then never talking to them again, kissing on the first date). This is where dating gets hard. If it’s two friends going out, or even if you don’t know the person, don’t try to shove off the pressure and make the date be something that it isn’t. — J.N.

My advice: drop the expectations of “what does this mean?” and just go on a freaking date already. — B.G.

Level 4. The Second Date: Confirmation that the first date was not a total disaster, and there must be something there.
How bad does a first date have to be for there not to be a second? Well, it can happen. We put pressure on ourselves and each other, but if we can look beyond that, give people the benefit of the doubt, then why not a second date?

That said, ladies, if he doesn’t ask, or, guys, if you ask and she says “no,” then that’s the way it is. I may be shallower than many people, but I bypassed second dates because of:

  • Bad hygiene. (I know, I should have seen it coming, or smelled it coming.)
  • No spark. (I mean none. The conversation was dull, dull, dull.)
  • Too loud. (Every word was like a “look at me” beacon.)
  • Too social. (This girl talked to everyone else there more than she talked to me.)
  • Weird family. (Enough said, right?)
  • Messy house.
  • Incompatible taste in music.

And oh so many other things I’m sure it’s only surpassed by the long list of reasons why girls didn’t go out with me in the first place.

The thing is, we all have our ideas and ideals, and we have no control of the ideas and ideals of others. I believe more people deserve a second chance than get one, and I think we shouldn’t set the bar so high that we couldn’t possibly get over it ourselves. (A classic but common mistake: thinking that your perfect match will be someone you’re nothing like.)

Level 5. The Third Date: You both either have nothing better to do, or things are beginning to develop.
We’re still not at the official boyfriend–girlfriend stage, so just RELAX!

Younger, casual group daters, this is as far as you should go. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Go back to step 1. Often. Yeah, you can go out with the same person more than once, but if you’re following the Dating Rules for Teens that I discuss in my book Bro Jo’s Guide to Casual Group Dating, then you have no need to go any further. You don’t want to get into a serious relationship. Republic credits will do fine . . . these are not the droids you’re looking for. In Chapter 2, I’ll explain more about why the boyfriend–girlfriend thing is a bad idea for you.

As for the rest of you, if you’ve gone on three dates it really is time to ask yourself the question, “Where do I want this to go?” Maybe you need to find out a bit more, maybe you know enough already, but if you have no intention of this becoming something, it will soon be time to consider moving on. By the third date, you’re either interested or you’re not.

Dating, not courting. That’s a great way to look at it! The youth (and young single adults) of our generation need to be taught the differences, and how to correctly move from one to the other. — B.P.

Level 6. Continued Dating: We call this the “falling in love” stage.
How do you know you’re in love? Well, as the saying goes, if you have to ask, you’re not. But love isn’t always a sick-to-your-stomach, head-in-the-clouds, staring-at-the-moon notion. In the same way that you can feel the Spirit without having a burning sensation in your chest (you did know that, right?), you can be in love and be totally rational.

When Sister Jo and I were dating, I felt both. There were definitely moments when I couldn’t stand to be away from her, when I was desperate to see her again and every moment apart was too long. There were also moments when she drove me absolutely crazy, and not in a good way.
Sister Jo and I are volatile, strongly opinionated, and fierce debaters. (I’ll bet you’re not surprised.) We had some big arguments, and I mean big. On more than one occasion I pulled the car over to the side of the road, got out, chucked the keys into the woods, and started walking. (Did I mention we’re volatile?)

But, for me, that was one of the things that helped me realize that I not only loved her, but that I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life (let alone eternity) without her. No matter how angry I got, I still liked her so much. Besides, who else would ever have put up with that?

The falling in love stage typically isn’t fraught with fights. It’s usually more kissing, holding hands, and staring at each other as often as possible. But as you’re falling in love, don’t forget to talk. Talk about stuff that’s more important than “Where are we going to dinner?” Find out the things you don’t have in common. No two people agree on everything. It’s just not statistically likely. But that doesn’t mean you have to get in Bro-Jo-and-Sister-Jo-type arguments, either.
I’ve been asked if a couple needs to have at least one fight before they get married. I don’t think they necessarily do, but I do think you have to have enough conversations and watch each other enough that you get a feel for what it’s like when tempers are lost. It’s definitely important to know how your future spouse handles frustration.

Level 7. The “Serious” Conversation: Now you both confess it’s just the two of you.
This is where you become “boyfriend–girlfriend.” Some youth place this step somewhere between 1 and 4, especially the pre-dating-age kids. Bro Jo does not recommend this. Why would a girl commit to a boy that can’t even take her out?

Dear Bro Jo, When is a relationship officially a relationship? How do people decide that they are officially boyfriend/girlfriend? When do you get to change your Facebook status from “Single“ to “In a relationship”? Do they ask, “Will you be my girlfriend?” Is it official after the first kiss? Or do you just automatically know when the moment is right to call someone your significant other? Personally, I don’t buy the whole girlfriend/boyfriend thing, but I have a lot of friends who do. But whenever I see a relationship status changed, I get curious about how those people officially decided that they were an item. Is there a standard protocol that people follow when they become boyfriend/girlfriend? Could someone give me a run-through on how this whole official relationship stuff works, just so I’m in the know? K.M.

No relationship should be considered a commitment until after you talk about it. If you don’t know where you’re at and you’ve been on several dates, you’re going to have to ask. Take a walk in the park, grab a hand, look into his or her eyes, and just come out with it: “Hey, so are we officially a couple, or what?”

From another blog reader:

If your relationship status says, “It’s complicated,” you should stop kidding yourself and change it to “Single.”—E.H.

Level 8. More Dating: This is where you should actually be talking about hopes, goals, and dreams.
This is where you should actually be talking about hopes, goals, and dreams. How many kids do you want? Where do you want to raise them? How would you like to spend your retirement years, and how are you going to get there? What would you do if one or more of your parents became ill and needed in-home care? What things drive you crazy? What’s your take on politics and the major issues of the day?

You’re probably not going to agree on everything, but on the major things you’d better be on the same page—or at least tolerant enough of the other person’s position that you can live together. Albert Einstein said, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”

People change; that’s a guarantee. And we have very little control over how, why, the timing, or the pace. When you’re talking to a potential spouse about his or her dreams and goals, you’re learning how he or she makes plans and deals with disappointment.

You can still be in love, but it’s time to be practical, too. Find out if you really can endure “sickness and health, better or worse, richer or poorer.”

Level 9. Marriage Becomes a Topic of Conversation: Not just in general, but to each other.
If you’ve come this far and you can’t envision it going any further, perhaps because your relationship has plateaued for so darn long it’s time to get out. And if you can see it going further but it’s not, well, that’s a sign to get out, too.

Most couples find they just naturally fall into a conversation about marriage. But there can be hesitation because each person is trying to see what the other is thinking. The guy wants some assurance that the girl will say yes when he asks, and the girl wants to know if he intends to ask.
It might help if you start talking about what you picture your wedding to be like. The cake, the location, the time of year . . .

nothing that you’re setting in stone, just kind of dreaming out loud together. Note: if this is a one-sided conversation, it may be a strong indication the two of you are not in the same place relationship-wise.

Level 10. Meeting Each Other’s Families: If you haven’t already, once you think this might be it, it’s time.
If at all possible, make sure this step is in order, before the proposal. Your family knows you best, and their insight can be pretty helpful, but I think it’s more important what you think about your future spouse’s family than what your family thinks about your future spouse.

If you don’t click with your future in-laws, that’s not a deal breaker, but remember that when you marry someone you also become related to his or her family. You may be spending a lot of time with these people. Your boyfriend or girlfriend may act differently around his or her family. Meeting the siblings can be much more than an opportunity to hear some great growing-up stories; it can also reveal who your intended really is.

If you’re a formal kind of guy, this might be the time to ask for the blessing of her parents. I did that. I was scared to death. I had actually known Sister Jo’s family for quite a while, and liking them as much as I did was another one of those things that reassured me I was making a good decision. By way of confession, I actually proposed the weekend before I talked to her father. At the time I didn’t see any reason why I should talk to him before I proposed to her. What if she said no? She said yes (and was unable to keep the news from her mother), but she made it very clear I was expected to go to her father and have “the talk.”

My father-in-law is a big guy, but a pretty nice guy. He’s just not too social until he gets to know you. Plus, let’s face it; this is one of those conversations for which there isn’t much prior experience. The future Sister Jo was giddy as I walked down the hall and knocked on the door to his “lair.” I was a nervous wreck.

Now, looking back, I’m sure he knew why I was there and what I wanted to ask, but like any good father he made me sweat it out a little. When I finally squeaked out my request for his blessing, he said, “Are you going to get sealed in the temple?”

“Yes, sir.” I probably used the word “sir” about 200 times in this conversation.

“Okay, then. No deposits, no returns.”

That was his way of saying, “You take her, she’s yours to keep.”

Level 11. The Proposal: One of a girl’s most exciting moments and a guy’s most frightening.
I’m okay with semi-long courtships, as long as the relationship has hope and promise for the future and is going somewhere. But when it comes time for the proposal, pull the trigger, man.
It’s a special time; hopefully you were paying attention when you, in Level 9, were talking about marriage and she mentioned how she’d like to be proposed to. The only advice I can give you here is, whatever your traditions are, be as traditional as you can.

I also think it should be a private moment between the two of you, as opposed to on a giant stadium screen or in front of a crowd. But that’s just me. When the time comes, you’ll know what to do.

Sisters, do the guy a favor and actually say the word “yes.” He’ll be so nervous that anything else might just scare him.

Level 12. The Engagement: Planning like you’ve never planned before.
Generally speaking, I believe in short engagements. Once a couple decides to get married, the pressure to be unworthy to go to the temple increases, as if it wasn’t bad enough before. Long engagements can work, but my recommendation is three months or less. People come up with all kinds of reasons why they should wait: school, a favorite month, money. Mostly they’re not very good reasons. If you’re not ready, don’t propose. If you propose, get it done.

If your goal is the temple, and I pray it is, you may find once you’ve publicly decided to get married the best thing you can do is stay away from each other, or at least be chaperoned.
I often tell people that the big smiles couples have on their faces immediately following the wedding isn’t because they’re anticipating the wedding night. It’s because all the stress that leads up to getting married is finally over.

I love that in the LDS Church weddings can be simple and affordable. It makes me sad when they’re not.

Level 13. The Sealing: Easily the most important day of your life because it’s not just for now, it’s forever.
Before you get here, take a temple preparation class. It will help you have less anxiety about the actual day and remind you of what I consider the most important thing a married couple should keep in mind. That is this: As you make the gospel the center of your lives, you’ll strengthen your marriage; as you each grow in your discipleship of Christ, growing closer to the Savior, you’ll grow closer to each other.

Marriage is about sacrifice and service. If you can keep that in mind, you’ll do great.

Level 14. The Honeymoon: Not just the wedding night, but those first “just-married” weeks.
We aren’t newlyweds forever, and the time we have where it’s just the two of us can quickly fade, so enjoy it. Spend time with each other. (Hang out with your friends and family less.)

Level 15. More Dating: Never stop courting and dating your spouse.
This is essential to keeping a marriage healthy. You’ve got to have regular (I recommend weekly) date nights. Get out of the house. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do need to regularly spend one-on-one time together.

Don’t allow your children to come between you as a couple. Teach your kids how wonderful marriage is by the example you set and the love you show for each other.

The amount of time from Level 1 through Level 11 is going to vary greatly, but be careful you’re not each other’s safety net. If the relationship is progressing towards marriage, 24 to 30 months may be appropriate, but be honest with yourself. If you’re in a relationship for 9 to 12 months, you’re both of a suitable age, and either one of you doesn’t see marriage on the horizon, it’s time to move on.

Get to know you Monday--Dave Johnston

Today we're getting to know
Dave Johnston

author of Bro Jo's Guide to Relationships for LDS Young Single Adults and Bro Jo's Guide to Casual Group Dating for LDS Youth.

1. What is your favorite food? Cheeseburgers, all kinds. It’s very difficult for me to drive by an In-and-Out Burger without stopping. The 8 hour drive from my house to the In-and-Out in Sandy seems a lot shorter than it used to.
2. Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream? Vanilla, but I load it up with stuff like peanut butter, chocolate syrup and crushed pretzels. (Don’t laugh! It’s the pretzels that make it good.)
3. What is one food you despise? As I get older I’m less picky about food but, for reasons psychologically unknown, I can’t eat fish. I can eat tuna (weird, I know), but not fish. In fact, if it’s really fishy smelling, I can’t even be in the room.
4. What was your favorite childhood picture book? Richard Scarry books were my favorite. I also loved Curious George by H.A. Rey.
5. Is there a book that changed your life? Several. I remember very clearly when and where I gained my own personal testimony of the Book of Mormon (4th floor, University of California – Irvine Main Library), but I’ve also gleaned pearls of wisdom from lots of authors. I love to read biographies and management books. Now, Discover Your Strengths was revelatory for me, and I’m adding it to the curriculum at the college where I teach.
6. If you go back in time, where would you go? Not very far. I don’t know that I could survive long without a computer and a microwave! I think I’d be more interested than seeing an event than a location. As a history nut, I think it would be really cool to witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
7. What is your favorite sport? As a coach, and father of athletes, it’s tough to narrow it down. I LOVE to watch football, but I also enjoy wrestling, baseball, basketball, and track. I enjoyed playing ice hockey the most.
8. What is your favorite kind of music? For me it’s the talent of the musician that makes music enjoyable. A typical mixed CD that I burn could have top 40’s hits, heavy metal, rock, old school country and rap (always edited) on it. I sing Christmas songs all year long. You may catch me singing show tunes, but I’ll deny it.
9. Do you like to dance? Yeah, I kind of do. I recommend dancing with careless abandon in non-sacred public places on a regular basis.
10. Do you play a musical instrument? I played trumpet through the 9th grade, and I’ve messed around with the piano and various instruments my kids play, but I’m not good at any of them.
11. What are three adjectives that best describe you? Communicative, Annalytical, and Grateful
12. What is the strangest thing you ever did? Well . . . one of the many strange things I’ve done is that I was a dancer in a Billy Idol video club scene. Look as hard as you want, you’ll never find me.
13. What was a favorite adulthood event? My sealing to Sister Jo and the subsequent trips we’ve been on, as a couple and as a family, are my favorite memories.
14. What was a favorite childhood memory? I lived for Christmas morning!
15. What are your hobbies? I’m a jock-geek; I love sports and computers.
16. Are you a beach, country, or city person? City. I love Boston and Manhattan.
17. What super-power would you most like to have, and why? The ability to heal others; there’s nothing cooler than that.
18. Do you prefer sweet or salty foods? Both together!
19. Are you a collector of anything? Kind of; I’m a trivia junkie, so in a way I’m a collector of information.
20. What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday night? Watch a movie as a family. We rotate so everyone gets a turn to pick.
21. Were you named after anyone? My middle name, William, is my dad’s first name, and because of that all of the Jo kids have family names as middle names.
22. Do you like your handwriting? Cursive, no; my printing is okay. I’m perhaps a little too proud of the fact that I can write upside down.
23. What are you favorite smells? Coconut and Vanilla.
24. What is the best gift anyone has ever given you? Children (and I thank Sister Jo for them often).
25. What was the best decision you’ve ever made? Marrying Sister Jo, hands down.

Age 2, 1972

Dave as Peter Pan, 1990 Disneyland Brochure

Dave and his sister, 1987

Senior year, 1987

Newlyweds, 1991

New house in Montana, 1997

Mount Saint Helen, 2006

Johnston family, 2007
Photo by Love St Photography

Extra on Alien Nation. Dave also appeared on LA Woman and Doogie Howser

As with most good ideas I’ve had, I started the “Dear Bro Jo” blog in response to a comment made by Sister Jo. The goal is to create a place where LDS teens and young single adults can go to ask questions, where they can get gospel-centered advice—anonymously if they want—that’s personal, relevant, straightforward, and given with a little bit of love and humor. The growth of the blog is astounding because our readers aren’t just casual internet surfers; they’re real people with thoughtful, personal questions. The site isn’t browsed, it’s pondered. Yes, the blog takes a great deal of my time, but the relationships I’ve made, the people I hope I’ve helped in some small way, make every moment worth it.

The nickname “Bro Jo” was given to me by a young woman in one of my seminary classes over a decade ago; it just kind of stuck.

Congratulations to our Whitney Nominees

Congratulations to Laurie, Joan, Stephanie, and Donna!

We're thrilled that four of our novels have moved one step closer to becoming a Whitney Finalist (well, we think they should be and we're hoping that the Whitney panel agrees with us).

Awakening Avery by Laurie Lewis

Chocolate Roses by Joan Sowards

Finding Rose by Stephanie Humphreys

Queen in Exile by Donna Hatch

Have you read one of these titles and think it deserves to become a Whitney Nominee? It's easy (hint, hint :)) to nominate your favorite title here.

Free Book Friday Giveaway--Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries

Congratulations to Debbie Davis, winner of Easterfield by Anna Jones Buttimore, who, would make all haste to gather in Zion.

Today's free book is Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries by Garry P. Mitchell

Entering is easy, but you must be done by MIDNIGHT MST THURSDAY, October 14th. Winner will be announced October 15th.

To enter, leave us a comment with the answer to the weekly question.
Make sure to include your email address if it isn't found on your blog profile.

The weekly question is
"What advice would you give to a missionary?"

Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries is a collection of inspiring and motivational thoughts for Latter-day Saint missionaries. Filled with scriptures, quotes from prophets and other Church leaders, and inspirational stories, this book contains some of the best thoughts on successful missionary service.

In this practical little book, missionaries will find encouragement and reminders of the importance of their sacred calling. They will also learn of the spiritual requirements and techniques the Lord has given for missionary work.

First Chapter Wednesday--Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries

Today's first chapter comes from

Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries is a collection of inspiring and motivational thoughts for Latter-day Saint missionaries. Filled with scriptures, quotes from prophets and other Church leaders, and inspirational stories, this book contains some of the best thoughts on successful missionary service.

In this practical little book, missionaries will find encouragement and reminders of the importance of their sacred calling. They will also learn of the spiritual requirements and techniques the Lord has given for missionary work.


In the meridian of time, the Savior told His Apostles, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father” (Matt. 28:19). And in our day, the Lord has declared, “The voice of warning shall be unto all people by the mouths of my disciples” (D&C 1:4).
As you undertake the sacred duty of serving as a full-time missionary, know that no amount of skills, knowledge, or personality alone will make you successful. On the other hand, there is no barrier you cannot overcome if you find and teach with the Spirit.

The Lord has promised His faithful missionaries: “And any man that shall go and preach this gospel of the kingdom, and fail not to continue faithful in all things, shall not be weary in mind, neither darkened, neither in body, limb, nor joint; and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed. And they shall not go hungry, neither athirst. . . . And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:80, 88).

When you serve Him humbly and obediently, the Lord will support and sustain you. After all, as the Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “The greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (Joseph Smith and B. H. Roberts, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1904], 2:478).

Uplifting Thoughts for Missionaries contains motivational thoughts, scriptures, and stories, as well as quotes from prophets and other Church leaders. I hope that these messages will help and inspire you in your missionary service.

Your Testimony Is Your Key Missionary Tool

Testimony is an absolute necessity for a successful missionary. When you sincerely bear testimony, the Holy Ghost testifies to others that what you are saying is true. The Lord Himself declared, “But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things. And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say” (D&C 100:7–8). You are not perfect, but the Lord is, and His Spirit actually does the converting—as you teach and testify of true principles. As you strive to spread the gospel, you must learn to trust the power of your testimony and the power of the Holy Ghost.

Baptism Is the Gate

Baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom. Of its significance, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Baptism is a sign to God, to angels, and to heaven that we do the will of God, and there is no other way beneath the heavens whereby God hath ordained for man to come to Him to be saved, and enter into the kingdom of God, except faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins” (Smith and Roberts, History, 4:555).

Through Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, they who believe not on your words, and are not baptized in water in my name, for the remission of their sins, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, shall be damned, and shall not come into my Father’s kingdom where my Father and I am” (D&C 84:74).

If our Heavenly Father’s children wish to return to the place where God and Jesus Christ dwell, they must be baptized into Christ’s true Church.

You Are Called of God

You are called of God to your area of labor. The Lord has sent you where He knows you can do the most good. The following story by Allan Lee, one of my missionaries in Hong Kong, demonstrates the Lord’s involvement in a mission call:

“As a four-year-old child, I had a dream that my mother took me to China. In my dream, I saw a lovely two-story house with white walls and a nice hedge around it centered in the bottom of a small valley. I went into the house and met the people there and remember how Chinese the house looked to me at that time. There are many other small details about this dream that I could write, but I will just say that it was all very vivid to me, even to the extent that after the dream was over, I went into the kitchen and asked my mother to take me back. She, not knowing what I was talking about, said that someday I would go back.

“Well, the years went by, and as my family became familiar with the dream, they teased me that I would go to China on my mission. It seemed that every time the family got together the subject of ‘Allan’s dream’ would come up. . . .

“About fourteen years later, as our family was all together at Thanksgiving, the subject of my dream came up again. I took all their joking with a smile as usual, but then, out of the blue, my father said, ‘He’s not going to China, he’s going to Hong Kong!’

“I took that with a smile also, until the next day when my father suggested that I find out if the college that I was then attending offered a course in Chinese. Of course, I followed his advice, but unfortunately, my college offered no such class. In the back of my mind, I always thought that he was just teasing me about trying to learn Chinese. . . .

“Finally, the day of my mission call came. My mother, father, and I were together in a small room at the school my father teaches in as I anxiously opened the letter from the prophet. I quickly glanced over the letter until I saw the words ‘Hong Kong.’ Before I opened my mouth to tell them where I would be serving, I glanced up and saw my father crying. That was the first time I had ever seen my father show such emotions. Finally, the words came out, ‘I’m going to Hong Kong!’ This seemed like no surprise to them, but to me it was quite a shock, especially since I had been praying that I would be able to serve an English-speaking mission!

“You might wonder where my dream fits into this story—well, the first time I saw the outside of the mission home, I thought that it really did look familiar, but it wasn’t until about two weeks ago that my seventeen-year-old dream finally made sense. As I was sitting on your sofa with the other elders and sisters who would shortly be returning home, and as I was listening to you speak, I happened to glance over at one of the walls in your home. At first it startled me, because I have seen that wall dozens of times before, but this time I realized that it was the same wall that I had seen in that ‘dream house’ seventeen years ago. At that time, all the years of not understanding that dream finally came together like a jigsaw puzzle. That house that I had seen as a four-year-old boy was indeed the Hong Kong mission home.”

We are called of God, and the assignments we have been given come from God.

You Have Been Set Apart from All Worldly Things

When you were set apart as a missionary, you were set apart from the things of the world so that you could participate full time in the work of the Lord. In order to be an effective tool in the Lord’s hands, you must continually strive to forego the things of the world.

Speaking to missionaries, President Howard W. Hunter declared, “Some of you will be greatly successful and I will tell you why. You have been set apart as a personal representative of the Lord to teach his children in the mission field. I don’t know of a higher calling that could come to any person. You are set apart from all worldly things, worldly influences and thoughts, to a higher plateau—a spiritual plateau where you can live, think, act, and portray the gospel to others. When you can do this and leave all worldly influences behind and live on the new higher plateau, you will be successful” (Howard W. Hunter, “Apostasy and Restoration,” lecture to the missionary class, 17 Apr. 1973, in Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 250).

President Hunter also advised missionaries, “You can’t be a part of worldly things and also carry out your role as a representative of the Lord. The two are not compatible. Your objective has been clearly defined for you. From the day you were set apart, you were charged to not be of the world, meaning that you were transferred then from worldly things into a spiritual climate for the duration of your mission. . . . Satan is always present and will do everything he can to hinder and block and defeat. We encourage you as companionships to help each other in this matter. Two persons dedicated, living in faith, and being prayerful can be an awesome force in the work of the Lord” (Howard W. Hunter, “The Standard of Truth,” Missionary Training Center Satellite Broadcast, Provo, Utah, 13 Sept. 1994; in Hunter, 250).

Get Acquainted with the Spirit

As a missionary, you need to be acquainted with the Spirit. President Wilford Woodruff said, “I have endeavored to get acquainted with that Spirit, and to learn its operations. I have many times had that Spirit manifested to me, and if I had not followed its whisperings to me, I should have been in my grave long ago, with many of my companions” (Wilford Woodruff, in Millennial Star, 53:642 [1891]).

Have you truly acquainted yourself with the operations of the Spirit? Do you listen for the Spirit’s promptings, and do you have sufficient faith to follow the promptings you receive? If you listen carefully and follow the Spirit, you will be guided, protected, and led to people who will accept the gospel.

“Open Thy Mouth, and It Shall Be Filled” (Moses 6:32)

A successful missionary is a missionary of power, and the power source is the Holy Ghost. Nothing can compensate for the absence of the Spirit in the life of a missionary. On the other hand, there is no barrier to one who has the Spirit. If you have the Spirit, you can succeed in spite of weaknesses; as the Spirit compensates, your limitations will become insignificant.
Remember Enoch? Called by the Lord to be a prophet, he said of himself: “I . . . am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech” (Moses 6:31). The Lord answered Enoch, “Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance . . . Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me” (Moses 6:32, 34). So Enoch “cried [to the people] with a loud voice, testifying against their works; and all men were offended because of him” (Moses 6:37). Enoch became so powerful a representative of the Lord that “no man laid hands on him; for fear came on all them that heard him; for he walked with God” (Moses 6:39). In spite of his weaknesses, Enoch was obedient to the call, and the Lord made of him a mighty prophet.

Free Book Friday Giveaway--Easterfield

Congratulations to Arceli, winner of Redemption by Susan Dayley, who, after some reluctance, would go to Ninevah.

Today's free book is Easterfield by Anna Jones Buttimore

Entering is easy, but you must be done by MIDNIGHT MST THURSDAY, October 7th. Winner will be announced October 8th.

To enter, leave us a comment with the answer to the weekly question.
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The weekly question is
"If you had joined the church in England in the 1850's would you have come to Zion?"

In 1850, Catherine Waters of Lancashire, England, meets Mr. Wilson, a Mormon missionary from America. Catherine is receptive of Mr. Wilson's message, but before she can be baptized, she learns that her uncle is in dire financial straits. Catherine accepts an unwanted marriage proposal from the wealthy Mr. Davenport to save her family from poverty, despite the fact that he refuses to allow her baptism to take place. But when Mr. Wilson also proposes to Catherine, she is left with an impossible decision. Will she abandon her family, or the man and gospel she loves?