Melissa's Reviews > Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy

Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson
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Jun 05, 12

Read from May 15 to 17, 2012

I am half-way through this book. I am familiar with Nielson's story and somewhat fascinated with the culture of "Mormon Mommy Bloggers" because their experience is so different from mine. My life is good and great, but I struggle with parenting, I'm on a pretty tight budget, I have one child. The first third of the book left me with a lot of cultural questions. Is every LDS household in Utah well to do? There's a lot of consumerist name-dropping- her mom's convertible Audi, Banana Republic this or that, buying a house as a college student- that made me uncomfortable. Flying lessons? Those are super-expensive. 9-11 kids? How does one afford college tuition for all of those kids (much less groceries!) on one income? This is so far afield of my own experience that I'm somewhat awe-struck by the financial implications of having so many kids, regardless of cultural/theological emphasis on large families.

There were other questions, too, like how did the plane crash? How did Stephanie and Christian rebuild their marriage? To be sure, her recovery (their recovery) is inspiring and uplifting, but I have many more questions after reading than I did before reading.

In the end, I felt that the book was uplifting and inspiring. Not a great piece of literature, but not every book aspires to be literature. I am happy for the Nielsons that they've been able to put their lives back together after such a horrific accident and that they've had so much familial and community support. I'm chalking my discomfort up to cultural differences and leaving my questions unanswered, because mercy, people would certainly have questions about my life and decisions if they were open to the world.
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Christensen Well said, Melissa. I had some of the same questions. I would like to know what caused the plane crash. It is crazy to think that a plane could crash in your own neighborhood. I happen to be a member of the LDS faith and have the privilege of being a stay at home Mom. I love it. My husband is a dentist and has been practicing for about 14 years and we still can't afford flying lessons! I'm not sure how they did it, but it was neat that Stephanie was able to sacrifice so that her husband could live that dream. There does seem to be a culture in the LDS community of name-brand stuff, but you have to realize that we don't drink alcohol so that saves a lot of money! So I guess that's where they put the extra money!

message 2: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Melissa, No, not all Mormons in Utah are well to do. I am LDS--born and raised (and live now) in Texas, but I know a lot of Mormons in Utah. Some are wealthy and some are not--just like the rest of the American population. They don't all have that many kids either (though a lot of my LDS friends do have 4-6 kids). I know non-LDS families who have a lot of kids--I don't know how they budget for it either, but more power to them for doing it. Utah Mormons do kind of have their own culture, but I don't think that this book is entirely representative of it.

message 3: by Afton (new) - added it

Afton Most of my LDS friends and I shop at budget stores, thrift stores, deals, cheap stuff, because we know with all the kids stuff things don't last long anyway. It probably depends on where we all live though. Where I grew up in rural Ohio, members of our church certainly weren't affluent, but I have seen areas where there are lots of well off people too. For what it's worth :)

message 4: by Lacy (new) - added it

Lacy I'm not sure how the plane crashed either. I'm also Mormon and very much NOT well to do, hee hee :) I am not into brand name anything. We're on a very tight budget as well and although I love nienie, I don't read her blog as much just for that me, it's become completely over-saturated with consumerism. But best wishes to her and her family, she is a fighter and I'm so happy for her recovery. :)

Andrea I had many of same questions you had. I am LDS, and very much not wealthy. That part of her book was hard to relate to. And, I definitely wanted more details about why the plane crashed.

Melissa Hi, thanks for the comments and clarifications, LDSers. I hope that my own comments and questions were respectful, because I meant them to be. All of the members of the Church of the LDS that I know and have known are very hard working, non-affluent, middle-class folks, and none have more than 3 kids, They also all live in the South, where there seem to be fewer LDS communities. Again, thanks for the clarification.

Ann, regarding alcohol, My husband and I do enjoy having wine and beer with our meals, but my monthly receipts for such are far under $100 a month- generally half that, unless we buy a special/celebratory bottle of wine. In Memphis, where I live, that wouldn't even pay a cable bill, or help pay tuition at a private school. It's all relative, isn't it?
Thanks ladies.

Bonnie I haven't read this book yet, but I really appreciate your review! I have followed nienie's blog and wondered at the financial side of things as well. I am one of 8 children and the way my parents solved the financial obligations problem was to teach us to save our money and we all paid for college ourselves. My parents were only able to help by purchasing our textbooks for the first semester. My husband paid his way through as well, and we learned a lot about money management and living frugally through our "poor struggling college student" days :) Just another way of doing things, not necessarily better, just different.

message 8: by Diana (new)

Diana Active Mormons pay 10% of their income to the Church as tithing. Studies have shown that no matter what the faith, people who make a regular charitable donation are financially aware and thrive.

Melissa Hi, Diana, I do too, faithfully, and we give over and above that 10% to other charitable institutions. Still, my point is that there's a different set of dynamics at work here that most middle-class Americans (people of faith or no) will have difficulty relating to.

message 10: by Diana (new)

Diana I think the dynamics of which you speak is rich vs. normal rather than church membership.

Mormon women have a Church group called Relief Society that gives them support. We have a lesson each Sunday. Each woman has two other women who visit her monthly to check on her welfare. The purposes of Relief Society are to increase faith and personal righteousness, to strengthen families and homes, and to seek out and help those in need. Come join us.

Melissa thank you, but I am an Episcopalian.

message 12: by Diana (new)

Diana So was I.

Becky Melissa, I liked your comments. Good points. I got the feeling she mentioned those things probably to emphasize just how nice her life was. She pretty much called it perfect - she also talks after the crash about feeling silly about blogging about her "perfect" life - but then not wanting any attention at all now that she was hospitalized, dependent, and looked so different (horrifying in her own opinion) - so far from perfect. Realizing what makes life worth living was really beautiful though - family. It made me want to enjoy my own children more.

Kristin Just thought id answer a few of your questions: tuition for BYU is dirt cheap and most couples qualify for a FAFSA grant, so tuition ends up being free. Homes in Ut are cheap, but I was amazed, too, that the Nielsens were able to buy a home as college students, too. We lived in Provo for a number of years, while my husband attended the Y and we never purchased a home. Hope that clarifies things a little bit for you :)

Melissa Kristin wrote: "Just thought id answer a few of your questions: tuition for BYU is dirt cheap and most couples qualify for a FAFSA grant, so tuition ends up being free. Homes in Ut are cheap, but I was amazed, too..."
Thanks, Kristin. Tuition where I live (and have lived) is quite high, even for state schools. That would make a difference.

message 16: by Angela (new)

Angela I still have to read this book but I have read the blog for many years. I wonder if a lot of the items come from thrift stores? I know many people who get brand name clothing from second hand stores.

Karen These questions took me by surprise. As members of the "Mormon" church we are encouraged to be self sufficient (take care of ourselves) and to stay out of debt. I would say that the ratio of the "haves" and "have-nots" are about the same as anywhere else...except that the "have-nots" may be a little MORE just based on the amount of money that it takes to raise large families! (I am one of 8 girls and we never went without, but I can assure you an Audi was never in the budget!) After 16 years I am now living in Utah again...with my own 6 children, and I can tell you that homes are not "cheap"! We are still looking for a home we can afford, after six months of searching. My experience in Oklahoma was that many students buy homes to show residency and make tuition cheaper. That is not uncommon in all parts of the US, I would guess.

There are plenty of rich folks in Utah, but my father was a school teacher and we struggled as much as the next guy. The is a personal story. I have a feeling that you are reading more into "Mormon culture" than should really be attributed to her religion. Hope that answers some of your questions.

message 18: by Lacy (new) - added it

Lacy Angela wrote: "I still have to read this book but I have read the blog for many years. I wonder if a lot of the items come from thrift stores? I know many people who get brand name clothing from second hand stores."

NieNie doesn't seem like a thrift store kind of girl to me... I've never seen any Williams-Sonoma anything at the DI (our thrift store). No.

Nikki As a member of the same church as Stephanie, I can say, personally I am not well off and agree with Karen that it is probably the same ratio as anywhere else, some have most don't. I can also say that I struggle to keep my house clean and put dinner on the table, to be that cheerful happy mom (of my three) so please know that this is her story not all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints story.

The main thing that resonated with me was the faith in God and His Plan for each of us, and the forgiving and service-filled nature of the Nielsons and all those who helped. No matter where I have lived in the world I find this as a constant with most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).

Holly I was wondering this myself. I'm only halfway through and it seems like they must both come from well off families.

message 21: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah For anyone wondering about details of the plane crash, an extensive article can be found here:
I think she didn't give the details perhaps for legal reasons. This could be heresay, but I heard they were suing maybe the town? Maybe some people involved? Also, I'm LDS (Mormon) and grew up poorer than poor. I'm pretty sure both her family and her husbands family are extremely well to do which is not a common situation. And she definitely doesn't shop at thrift stores. I'm pretty sure no thrift store would have enough Anthropology stuff to outfit her, her kids, and her house.

message 22: by Sylvie-anne (new) - added it

Sylvie-anne Thanks for your questions and giving us, other lds moms and opportunity to tell you our circumstances. Most of my lds friends are like me, lower middle class, not left wanting or needing, but not with a budget that allow frequent shopping trips to anthropology or the likes of it. That said, I also know many very wealthy Mormons, but most of them would give an arm an a leg to help others in need. As much as I respect and admire Stephanie and her husband, I do not relate to her lifestyle at all. But she does sound like a lot like people, I know who,live in "happy valley", aka Provo. I have two kids, and struggle with keeping my house in order on a daily basis, so a lot of things she says make me want to throw up,in my mouth a little. Add to that the fact that I'm not a Romney fan, I really have nothing in common with her, but our faith in The Lord and a love for our religion. I have to admit that her story has made me want to rededicate my life to god, as well as strengthen my marriage and relationship with my kids. So I owe her that. I don't know know that I'm really answering your questions, but I liked th e thread you started :)

Marylee Schoenfeld I just got through the first part of the book and as an LDS woman (from Utah all my life, even raised near Provo), I felt like I could not relate well to Stephanie. My beliefs are the same as hers, but I did finish my college education, I waited 4 years after marriage before having children, and my life is NOT perfect. With that said, I am happy, love my children and I love being a mom, but the way she describes her life before the crash seemed way too sugar-coated for me and I could hardly get through it. My life is good and great, but I too struggle with parenting, I am on an extremely tight budget and I have three children.

I am looking forward to reading the account of the crash/recovery because the first part bugged me.

message 24: by Lacy (new) - added it

Lacy Sylvie-anne wrote: "Thanks for your questions and giving us, other lds moms and opportunity to tell you our circumstances. Most of my lds friends are like me, lower middle class, not left wanting or needing, but not w..." I like your comment and I agree :)

message 25: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa Even without FAFSA, BYU tuition is dirt cheap! Tuition for 1 year is less than $5000! You have to have very high grades and SAT's to get into BYU and many students receive scholarships based on those 2 factors.
Most LDS people are industrious and many are successful in their careers. I have found that LDS people treat others well regardless of whether they are rich or poor. Being well off isn't so much a matter of how much you earn, but how much you spend. The LDS Church preaches the doctrine of live within your means.

Marci Just to clarify on the wealth thing- Stephanie's sister Courtney also has a popular blog, and she has insinuated that the kids all had trust funds. I think the grandparents or parents were quite successful, and they passed on their wealth to the younger generations.

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