Best Books: The Heavens Are Open, by Wendy W. Nelson

Concise and uplifting insights from the person closest to our prophet.

As part of a continuing series based on Doctrine & Covenants 88:118, I recommend the following book for your spiritual edification.

Available at Deseret Book.

Lately my work has kept me on the road with my eyes glued to a windshield, so I’ve been able to listen to a lot more audiobooks, as we truckers are wont to do. Larin recommended this new release from Sister Wendy Nelson, wife of President Russell M. Nelson, so I plugged in and found myself pleasantly uplifted by her insights.

Sister Nelson spent decades as a marriage and family therapist before marrying for the first time in her fifties, to then-Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Her uncommon life path has given her experiences most people will never have, both temporal and spiritual.

My own path has been rather by-the-numbers (raised in the faith, served a mission, sealed in the temple, now raising children with my wife), but I have something in common with Sister Wendy: the biggest decisions I’ve ever had to make were matters of revelation.

Granted, I didn’t call off an engagement in my twenties, at a time when that was less frequent than it is now. I did break up with a girl after a strong prompting from the Spirit, so I have a small taste of how difficult that can be. Nevertheless, I’m extremely glad that I did. Sister Nelson’s experience is worth the read, as you can see how the Lord took care of her in His own time.

One can imagine some of the difficulties of marrying into a large family with established traditions; Sister Nelson married a widower with ten children, all of whom were married and had children (or grandchildren) of their own. She shares how she learned early on that her husband was very sensitive to conflict and contention, and didn’t even indulge in forms of entertainment that presented it casually.

In fact, this is the subject that she uses to open the book, showing how contention is the most direct and immediate roadblock to revelation. You can imagine how that would be important to a man whose calling is literally “revelator.”

What we as members often overlook is that we need revelation as well. We can’t reach our greatest spiritual potential without it. And yet, we often torpedo our ability to receive revelation by generating contention with others or excusing behavior that inhibits our ability to keep the Spirit with us. As I listened to Sister Nelson narrate, I found myself cataloging my own behaviors and thinking of ways I could change so I don’t contend with people like I usually do.

Sister Nelson also shared great insight on the subject of guilt, and how we often mistake it for the end result of what the Lord is telling us. The point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to find happiness, to have joy, not to be miserable; guilt is the message, not the messenger, that we are doing something that keeps us from God’s joy. She even teaches how we can recognize guilt and steer back to the covenant path on a regular basis.

I found this book to be concise (176 pages in print, 3 hours in audio), motivating, and uplifting, which can sometimes be a tricky combination with Gospel books. I’ve read a handful of titles on this subject which are much lengthier, even unnecessarily so, so if you’ve been looking for an accessible book on how to receive and act on revelation, this one is a great starting point. Check it out.

Supplemental Reading:

Graham Bradley is a truckernovelist, and illustrator. He served a mission in Barcelona, Spain, from 2003-2005.

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