The Heart of the Matter: A Review

The Heart of the Matter, by President Russell M. Nelson, is a book to live by. It serves as a collection and presentation of his core messages as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and provides guidance for both belief and living as a member of that church.

The book primarily pulls together many of President Nelson’s major general conference addresses into a framework of principles that he has learned to be good to live by during his 99 years of life. The addresses incorporated into Heart of the Matter include “Let God Prevail,” “Hear Him,” “The Correct Name of the Church,” “Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel,” “A Plea to My Sisters,” “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?,” “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” along with others. There did seem to be some new material also woven into the text, including an experience of being taken hostage while in Africa, so it isn’t just a collection of general conference addresses. Rather, it functions as a synthesis of the core messages that Russell M. Nelson has tried to teach throughout his ministry.

The main irony of the book was that the chapter on how important it is to listen to and work with women didn’t include many quotes from women. President Nelson insisted that “our sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition they have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate their unique insights and influence” (88). Yet, only two statements from women are in quotation marks in that chapter, neither of which were from sources that included a citation. Non-scriptural men, on the other hand, were cited ten times in that chapter. It’s a pattern that continues throughout the book, with women only being cited six times while men are cited around sixty six times (not counting the scripture references). I appreciate his message of respecting and listening to women and it felt like a missed opportunity to model that in the text.

One compelling aspect of Nelson’s work is his ability to integrate insights from his expertise in medicine with his faith-based worldview. The book contains several stories from his career as a heart surgeon to illustrate the points that he made. He also shares many insights that he applies to spiritual health that he gained from a scientific understanding of the human body. While he admits that he dose “not find … theories helpful” that science has offered about “the creation of our planet and life upon it” (asking, as he has in the past, “could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?”), his primary point is that God is involved and guiding the creation process and thus we need to honor the human body rather than to dismiss science altogether (135). And, as could be expected, he spends an entire chapter encouraging people to take good care of their bodies and to live a healthy lifestyle.

The Heart of the Matter is a valuable resource and a worthy addition to the bookshelves of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is important to listen to the words of the prophets, and this book is a wonderful synthesis of the core messages that President Russell M. Nelson has shared over the years worth reviewing again and again.

For more posts about Russell M. Nelson and his teachings, visit our new Russell M. Nelson page!

7 comments for “The Heart of the Matter: A Review

  1. I do not understand how Prophets and Apostles think it is appropriate to write and then sell religious books. Is this something Jesus would do or condone doing? Why aren’t these books distributed to the public free of charge? If a U.S. government employee creates a book as part of their job working for the government, the law says it’s in the public domain because we the taxpayers paid for it already (by virtue of paying that person’s salary) so we shouldn’t have to pay the author a royalty to get a copy of that book. Isn’t it the same for these Apostles? And even if it’s not, is it something God/Jesus condones? I’m not saying they shouldn’t write books — they definitely should — they just shouldn’t be profiting from such work. If they showed up for a talk at a stake meeting, should they get paid for that (obviously NO, so why should they get paid for the religious book they write)?

  2. It’s a good question, and I don’t necessarily have a good answer, though it seems relevant to something I brought up in my last book review (

    A couple things to consider, though, are ability to share a message more broadly and permanently and cost of production. As I mentioned, a lot of the ideas are presented previously in general conference talks, which are freely available to anyone to read online, this is just an effort to bring more of that together in one place.

  3. I hope my comment does not highjack your post Chad, but if it does I apologize.

    First, leaders writing books…I think these guys are pressured by others to write these books in some cases. Pres Kimball certainly was. Some of these leaders I am sure write books for the $. If they did not come into the Q15 wealthy, they are certainly going out not wealthy. The apx $130k a year they get does not allow much to take care of a spouse and leave a financial legacy when they pass. I know their living expenses are taken care of such as housing and healthcare but lets just say they are not getting rich. I can see where writing/selling books would be a way for them to provide funds for those they leave behind. Some might just be ego too. Hey, they are human.

    Speaking of that, does anyone here know if/what the church does financially for the widows of the leaders if they outlive their husbands? I certainly hope they do something.

    Second, I have never understood why members think what these leaders write on their own time should be considered doctrine or church approved for that matter. Chad how do you know that Pre Nelson wrote this with his “prophet” hat on and not his “own life views” hat or “Doctor Nelson” hat on? I ask you because of your “listen to the words of the prophets” comment above. Now that could be simply because the book is all taken from talks he gave in conference. Just because a leader writes a book and it is sold in our bookstore does not make the book church approved or doctrine even if the Pres of the church is writing that book. IMO. Think about the book Mormon Doctrine and this is how I look at all the books written by leaders. All these leader books should have a warning label on them saying something like “not official church beliefs or doctrine but the opinion and beliefs of the author” like Bednar does. (at least the one book I have from him does)

    Full discloser, I dont think what they say at GC is all doctrine or prophetic either so those who do are welcome to disregard what I say.

  4. I know of several GAs who take any royalties for their books and donate them to various causes (Kimball, for example, used the profits from “Miracle of Forgiveness” to fund missions for those who couldn’t afford one).

    No one I am aware of is getting rich off of devotional books for the LDS market, least of all the GAs.

  5. REC911, I can see where you’re coming from. My personal approach is that everything written or spoken by a human is filtered through human experience – even canonized scripture. So, no matter what “hat” President Nelson is wearing when he writes/speaks, it should still be a process of pondering and seeking revelation to know what applies to your life specifically and how to apply it to your life (i.e., he’s always wearing the “fallible human” hat whether he’s speaking prophetically or not). What I do believe is that Church leaders do spend a lot of time and effort in trying to understand the will of God, so when I say “listen to the words of the prophets”, my intention is more around saying that they are particularly important to read, understand, and weigh in making decisions about how to orient your life.

  6. Anonymous, I’d be willing to bet (if was a gambling man) that Pres Nelson had little, if anything to do with this book. I would guess that Sheri Dew had a pretty big hand in it, like suggesting that someone put it all together and DB would publish it. And then RMN just signed it off.
    I’d also be willing to be that the royalties will be quite modest and probably donated to charity.
    I doubt that anyone would get rich selling books to such a small market. It’s not going to make the NYT Bestseller list.

  7. Chad, thanks for clarifying.

    I am with Senior Half….if they have access to speech writers for GC, then they have peeps writing books for them if they want.

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