Thursday, February 26, 2015

Finding your way in Goblin Valley

Several weeks ago our family took a short trip to Goblin Valley located in the deserts of central Utah. We knew that the Mars-like landscape and the strange formations would be a fun adventure for our four young children.  They love to hike and climb and this was a perfect place to get out some energy!

When we arrived we looked over the strange valley from the parking lot located above. We could easily see the mountain range on the edge of the valley and the sandstone formations looked like tiny mushrooms. The kids all felt they could reach the furthest point without much trouble, so we headed into the valley of the Goblins. We had fun playing make believe and winding our way around all sorts of sandstone creatures, but as we progressed, our perspective began to change. The small mushrooms turned into giant boulders and we couldn't see our goal as clearly. My husband and I had been to Goblin Valley before, so we tried to direct the kids on the easiest course, but several times they were deterred to some other path that looked more exciting or easier. What they didn't realize was that often times those paths lead to a steep drop off or an area that was much more difficult to hike.

I began to think about my own life, and how I sometimes place my trust in myself or others rather than a loving God who has an infinitely greater perspective than myself. Do I turn to Him for guidance and help when I am facing some sort of trouble or danger? Do I see His hand guiding and directing my life in the day to day tasks as often as I should?

I know that He is there and loves each of us dearly! He wants to be a part of our lives, and if we take the time to look, we will see His hand. We may not clearly understand why we have been given certain challenges or circumstances in our life, but as we follow the commandments, He will keep us safe from those drop offs. Just like my children running between those amazing formations, the path of life is full of challenges and obstacles.  It may seem difficult and at times we'll want to go another way, but our Father in Heaven knows us and knows what is best for us, even if we don't see it clearly from where we are now, and listening to His counsel may save us from a cliff or difficult path ahead.

After my father passed away 5 years ago, my Mom told me that whenever she sees a penny lying on the ground somewhere she picks it up because it reminds her to "Trust in God." I began to do the same and all of the sudden I was finding pennies all over the place! I doubt that a sudden abundance of lost pennies occurred in the world, but I was seeing them because I was paying attention.

I know that if we actively look for God and trust in Him, we will find that He is there looking out for us, guiding us, and showing us the paths to take that will bring us greater happiness than we could possibly imagine.

By: Erin McLerran

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Do you know your ancestors?

I recently learned that my tenth great grandfather Stephen Hopkins, who came to America on the Mayflower, is famous enough to have at least three books published about his life. He was the only passenger who had already been to the New World. His first voyage was interrupted by a ship wreck on an uninhabited island in Bermuda where he was involved in planning a mutiny and was nearly hanged. After ten months the survivors made their way to Jamestown on makeshift boats that they had constructed. Needless to say, his story is fascinating.

Another tenth great grandfather is the Reverend Thomas Hooker who left
Boston because he disagreed with the limited suffrage there and helped found a new colony in the wilderness. He is credited with inspiring the first written constitution in America "The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut" . In his book Faith and Freedom, Benjamin Hart attests: "Thomas Hooker is considered by many to have played the role of John the Baptist for Thomas Jefferson in the sense that he laid the foundation for American republican democracy"

However the ancestor of whom I am the most proud is not famous at all. He is my fourth great grandfather, John Neff, the descendent of devout Swiss Mennonites. When he was forty seven years old Mormon missionaries came to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and he and his family were converted. It is estimated that his holdings would have made him the equivalent of a multi-millionaire today. He sold everything for about a fifth of its value in order to join the Latter-day Saints who were then being driven from their homes and moving west. He donated the money and the millstones and built a flour mill at Winter Quarters, which was a stop over on the Missouri River where approximately 10,000 Latter-day Saints wintered. From the Discourses of Brigham Young, we read: "Do you want to know how many of you survived in Winter Quarters? Well I’ll tell you so you won’t forget. It was the money that John Neff brought from Pennsylvania which saved the lives of thousands of men, women and children." In Salt Lake City the Neff’s were just as generous. At one time flour became a precious commodity and California bound gold-seekers offered John one dollar a pound for all he had. He refused and instead sold his flour to the needy at six cents per pound. A great example for all of his descendants!

With all of the technology available today it is relatively easy to develop your personal family tree. An easy and free place to start is the Mormon (LDS) Church’s site "". If you are a novice and could use a little help the church has 4,600 family history centers staffed with knowledgeable volunteers who are there to assist both members and nonmembers with their research. You can locate the center nearest you by searching for "family history centers" on

By: Nola Smith a Mormon Great Grandma