How hearing loss has taught this general authority’s wife to better ‘hear Him’

For many years during her marriage to Elder Brent H. Nielson, who serves in the Presidency of the Seventy, Sister Marcia Nielson believed she had normal hearing and he just had supersonic hearing. 

After years of asking him to turn up the volume of the television, she eventually consulted an audiologist, who kindly revealed to her that she needed hearing aids. Devastated, she went and sat in her car in the parking lot and burst into tears. As she tried to calm down, the Spirit instructed: “Marcia, I have provided the technology necessary for you to hear everything around you. Why would you not take advantage of this blessing?”

She dried her tears, ordered a pair of hearing aids and was soon astounded at how much better she could hear.

Sister Nielson related the above experience with hearing loss and use of hearing aids during an Ensign College devotional on Tuesday, Nov. 2, as a way to illustrate some of her thoughts regarding the need to improve the ability to hear the voice of the Lord. Sister Nielson — who is the ministering companion to Sister Alynda Kusch, the first lady of Ensign College — echoed the invitation of President Russell M. Nelson to do whatever necessary to better “hear Him.”

“Brothers and sisters, may I testify to you that hearing the voice of the Lord is worth every effort you could give,” she declared.

Sister Marcia Nielson, wife of Elder Brent H. Nielson, shares a photo of her hearing aid during a devotional address to Ensign College students on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.
Sister Marcia Nielson, wife of Elder Brent H. Nielson, shares a photo of her hearing aid during a devotional address to Ensign College students on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Credit: Screenshot, ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Spiritual hearing device

Delivering her address from the podium of the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, Sister Nielson invited listeners to ponder several questions. First: “Is it possible that I am somehow lacking in my ability to hear my Heavenly Father’s voice? Does He have things He wants me to know, but I’m just not hearing Him?”

Sister Nielson said the answer to that question is undoubtedly yes. 

“Like my dismissal of my own diminished ability to hear, we often dismiss the importance of truly hearing what our Heavenly Father wants us to know. Perhaps we feel that we hear Him well enough. Yet, we have a Prophet of God consistently and kindly urging us to test our spiritual hearing.”

The Holy Ghost is a powerful personalized spiritual hearing device, Sister Nielson explained. 

Just as her hearing aids are specifically fine-tuned for her ears, the Lord has instructions for each of His children that He tailors just for them.

“Our Heavenly Father knows who you are, how you hear and what the very best method of communication is for you. It is imperative that you use the simple methods of desire, church attendance, prayer, scripture study and commandment keeping, to increase your understanding of this tool,” she said.

Tuning out the tumult

Hearing the voice of the Lord is a spiritual skill that can take practice and perseverance to develop. In a similar way, Sister Nielson said she has had to learn to use her hearing aids effectively. 

During a basketball game, for example, her hearing aids will try to amplify the dominant noise of the game and she can find it difficult to hear the voice of her husband. A helpful button on her left hearing aid, however, can help decrease the louder surrounding noise and focus the range of hearing in a specific direction.

With that in mind, Sister Nielson invited students to ponder her next question: “Am I experiencing so much commotion in my life that I can’t actually hear a quiet voice?”

In April 2021 general conference, President Nelson explained that the voice of the Lord is not tumultuous but of perfect mildness. As individuals quiet the world, the sounds of Heavenly Father increase, Sister Nielson said. “Work to become skilled at quieting the louder voices around you and focusing on what the Spirit is trying to help you hear.”

Screenshot of President Russell M. Nelson from a series of #HearHim videos done in 2020 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Screenshot of President Russell M. Nelson from a series of #HearHim videos done in 2020 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Intentional persistence

To introduce her final question, Sister Nielson shared an experience she had hiking with her sister and a friend several years ago. As the trio left the hiking trail and bushwhacked their way up the mountain, Sister Nielson felt a tree limb grab her hearing aid and fling it onto the overgrown forest floor. “I knew I was in big trouble,” she recalled.

After several sincere pleas for divine help and much searching, Sister Nielson’s sister spotted the tiny wire of the hearing aid sticking up out of the leaves at the base of a tree. 

Sister Nielson then invited students to ask themselves: “Does the Lord expect me to be intentional about my ability to hear Him?”

Her experience in the forest taught her that intentional persistence, asking sincerely in prayer and doing everything in her power increased her ability to hear. “The more intentional you are, the greater will be your ability to hear Him.”

Sister Marcia Nielson and Elder Brent H. Nielson have made their family, the Church and education the focus of their lives.
Sister Marcia Nielson and Elder Brent H. Nielson have made their family, the Church and education the focus of their lives. Credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News

One of Sister Nielson’s biggest life lessons in learning to hear the voice of the Lord came when she was a young student at BYU and Brent Nielson asked her to marry him. She felt unprepared to make such an important decision. After months of seeking inspiration, she was expecting a great, earthshaking witness to help her be sure.

One day in desperation, she had a long phone conversation with her father, who was then serving as president of the mission in Santiago, Chile. He taught her about the gift of the Holy Ghost, which she had received at baptism. The Spirit was in her like breathing, quietly sustaining her spiritual life, he said. She needed to turn inward, focus and listen. “Trust that Spirit inside of you,” he told her.

She was then able to calm down and focus her attention on the beautiful feelings she felt when with Elder Nielson, move forward with the marriage and then receive a quiet, peaceful reassurance that she was making the right decision.

The gift of the Holy Ghost “is in you like breathing,” Sister Nielson reiterated, “this magnificent spiritual hearing mechanism that has been given to you to hear the voice of the Lord.”

Just like the hearing aids that help her hear mortal sounds, “there is a God-given gift implanted inside of you, speaking quiet words of truth to your very soul. It can direct you in all you do if you will acknowledge it, focus on it and be intentional about your ability to hear it.”