Samuel Peter Nilson and Loretta Lucinda Miles Nilson

My Grandparents on my father’s side.

Both of these grandparents were born in Smithfield and were children of faithful ancestry from Sweden.  They immigrated to America to be with the early saints here where they were free to worship as they chose without recrimination from the people in their home country.

Before they were married, grandmother was a school teacher.

In the early years of their marriage, grandfather and grandmother Nilson purchased a 1 room log cabin 4 miles up Smithfield canyon. They later added another room to the cabin as the family increased. They were only able to live there during the summer months, farming the ground and herding sheep. They also planted a lot of fruit trees and berries that always needed attention along with chickens, cows and other livestock. Grandmother would churn butter and sell it when they went to town.

During the winter months, they lived in Smithfield and eventually built a home on 4th west between 2nd and 3rd south where grandfather farmed.

My first name, Loretta, was given to me in honor of her. The day I was to start my first day at school in September of 1937 was the day of her funeral so my memories of her are very limited.

During their later years and during my early years, their youngest son, Wesley, was still living at home and was the family barber so we would go to their home for haircuts. It was customary at the time to place a bowl on the top of the head and trim the hair up to the edge of the bowl, making a nice straight line to the bottom of the ears.

In the living room of their home was an organ that we had to pump with our feet to play music, which was a fun thing for the grandchildren to do for entertainment.

Grandfather Nilson lived with my aunt Fern Smith after grandmother died. He was a farmer and would need a ride to the fields to water the crops of hay or grain. Because my father was also a farmer, I learned to drive a truck at a very early age and because grandfather didn’t drive, he would call and ask me to take him to the field and come and get him at a later time. He would pay me often times with a check for 50 cents or sometimes even a dollar.  He was usually longer than he planned to be so I would almost always have to wait for him longer than I really wanted to. He had a very strong testimony of the Restored Church and especially of the Book of Mormon which he will be remembered for by many who heard it or read the address he gave in a Stake Conference, which I am in possession of.  He completed five missions back to Sweden where his ancestors came from. One of them was during the 1st World War and he couldn’t get passage home because of the war and was there for five years preaching the gospel.

He passed away when I was in the 8th grade at Smithfield Jr. High School.


Peter Hansen and Ida Louisa Gamet Hansen

My Grandparents on my mother’s side.

They had both passed away before I was born but in my early years, my mother kept them alive in my memory by telling me faith promoting stories they had experienced in their lives. She also spoke of their flawless personalities and their genuine love for, and faith in, The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. She loved them dearly and spoke often of them and always with respect and high regard. My grandfather was a farmer by trade, and worked as an officiator in the Logan Temple. His history records that in the winter time he would ride his horse to the temple and back and it was so cold his mustache would be frozen to his face by the time he arrived home and in the spring, the roads were so muddy that the horse he was riding would be up to its belly in mud. Nothing deterred him from his duty at the temple.

My grandmother had a very unhappy childhood because of an abusive stepmother. She was turned out of her home at age 10 to find her own way in life. She earned her way by working as a housekeeper for different families that she lived with. She was very good at this and soon the man of the house recognized her value and would want to marry her so she would move on to live with another family.

They were the proud parents of 11 children, 8 boys and 3 girls. My mother was the 3rd born so she always had a large responsibility in helping with the younger children. She had a great capacity to love and was very close to her siblings throughout life.

The memory of my mother’s love for her mother that still stands out in my mind came as a result of my fear of dying as a young child. Because of the love and admiration my mother expressed openly for her mother, she was able to instill that same love for me in my grandmother that I did not know personally in mortality. Through it, I was reassured that if I were to die, my grandmother Hansen would be there at the other side of the veil to greet me and help me find my way.


Samuel Iven Nilson

My father.

He was born in Smithfield and the first born in his family of eight children. His early years were spent living up Smithfield Canyon in the summertime with his family.  He tells of a time when he and some of his friends were out in the hills hunting squirrels and came across a box they were using as a target and when one shot finally hit the box it exploded and was heard for miles. It had contained sticks of dynamite that hat had been left by miners in the area. They were very fortunate to escape injury that day that started out to be very pleasant one.

He married Latisha Reed, they had four children and Latisha died giving birth to their 5th baby boy who also died at birth.

He later married my mother, Nora Estella Hansen Nilson, and they are the parents of three girls, the first one being stillborn. My sister, Lawana, is 2 ½ years older and has always been a wonderful older sister and good example.

My mother was a very shy, reserved individual. My father loved to tease her by trying to kiss her in front of other people. He was a very compassionate man and would often pick up hitch-hikers and give them a ride.  On a number of occasions, he would bring them home for dinner and a place to sleep.

He was widely known in Cache Valley as a trusted cattle trader and always had a good cattle dog to help him. Mother, Lawana and I would go with him all over the valley to look at cattle he was interested in trading. The favorite time to go with him was when he would take a load of cattle to the stock yard in Ogden because we would usually visit the Farr Ice Cream Factory for (in those days) large scoops of creamy ice cream.

In the summer, he spent a lot of time at the ranch in Smithfield canyon farming and always kept a bamboo fishing pole next to a large tree in the campground so he could fish in the near-by stream before going home.

For many years as a child, I loved to go with him on the opening day of fishing season and looked forward to eating the special lunch mother would send with us. I also used to spend the day up there with him occasionally and loved to hear him brag on me telling mother how good I had been just following him around all day and doing little things to help him.

The squirrels and chipmunks used to be very plentiful and very entertaining as they played in the trees at the campground. The snakes that came into the campground while we were there were not welcomed by me.

He was a very personable individual and loved to visit with people. It wasn’t uncommon for people to ask if he was a bishop because of his concern for people.

In his later years when he was physically unable to continue to farm, he still would walk over the fields with his cane and kick rocks or hit them with his cane to get them off of the field. I think I inherited that dislike for rocks in the flower beds and vegetable garden from him.

He served a mission in Toronto Canada and had a strong faith and testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and didn’t hesitate to share his testimony.

He died at age 87.

Nora Estella Hansen Nilson

My mother.

My mother was a very sweet lady. At her viewing prior to her funeral, one gentleman commented to me that he had always considered her as the epitome of womanhood, which I considered a great complement.

She was the 3rd child in her family of 8 brothers and 2 sisters so she learned very early in life to care for others. She had a unique talent for loving and entertaining children.  She loved her siblings and remained very close to all of them, sharing all of their happy times and sorrows.

As a young child, she endured two very serious illnesses. She said she was so close to dying at one time that she witnessed a choir of angels singing in her room and the other one left her without control of her right leg muscles for a long period of time. She really missed being able to go to school and begged to go back; when she did the principal came to her folks and asked that she not come back because her situation distracted the other class mates. This was devastating to her and left her very self-conscious. After a priesthood blessing from her father, she was healed and went on with life.

She loved to reminisce about her growing up years in her large family and telling how all of those  boys sat around the dinner table after dinner, talking about who had the fastest horse. Can you even begin to imagine what wash day was like back then, especially in the winter washing and drying clothes for all those hard working farm boys?

She holds the distinction of being the first lady missionary called from Smithfield. She was scared to death because of her limited education but said if the Lord wanted her to serve she would do her best and she did, affecting the lives of many.  She said when she left Salt Lake by train all by herself it was a terrifying experience and she became very homesick and didn’t know how she was going to survive. Her only option was to get down on her knees and pray like she had never prayed before and the next morning when she got up she was fine and never looked back.  She had a very enjoyable mission with the headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. He favorite companion was from Salina Uriah named Nereece Hunt and that is where my second name, Nereece originated.

My mother’s oldest sister, Luella, died in childbirth so she and her other sister Verna, were very close all their lives and would spend one day a week visiting each other and talking on the phone every day.

She was a very loving, understanding mother and grandmother and always willing to help wherever she was needed. She spent untold hours babysitting for both Lawana and I.

Her faith was very strong and never wavered and one of her strongest talents was to never speak ill of anyone but always finding something good to say about them.

She died of a massive stroke surrounded by her loved ones.

My mother died at age 84.


Loretta Nereece Nilson Herd

I have pondered a great deal about this assignment from Michael to share with you something about me and my ancestors. Through it I believe I have come to know myself much better and I will try to explain to you what I have concluded that has made me who I am today, and what I would like each one of you to know about me.

This will also contain some advice that I hope will one day help you, perhaps even when you didn’t expect it.

By now, you have read about my parents and grandparents so you know that they were all true and faithful Latter Day Saints. Each one has had an impact in my life because of their testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I want to take the liberty to quote a paragraph from my patriarchal blessing, given to me by a patriarch that knew nothing about me personally.

“Thou hast a heritage for which to be grateful. The Lord appointed for thee a noble ancestry faithful and devoted to Him, and it is for thee to follow in their footsteps and emulate their example. By so doing the Lord is pleased. His blessings will attend thee in all thy upright endeavors”.  As a 16-year old, this didn’t have a lot of meaning to me at the time but later in life I can see and know for a certainty that it has helped shape my life and who I am today. Now because of my ancestry, I pass that on to each of you and hope and pray that you too will be faithful and devoted to Heavenly Father and do your best to emulate their example.  I will share just a few of my experiences to help you understand why I feel the way I do.

My mother and father both served missions for the church and enriched my life by their examples of faith and devotion.

I consider myself fortunate to have had a very happy childhood. We shared many overnight experiences with our extended family camping in Smithfield canyon, Logan canyon and Bear Lake along with family reunions with our Idaho Falls, Idaho relatives.

I had two step sisters living in the Los Angeles, California area and a step sister living in Salt Lake that we visited on special occasions. My sister Lawana and I shared many rich experiences together and today are the best of friends.

I hope you will get a little chuckle from two experiences that stand out in my memory from my early childhood.

My parents were like most everyone else in our community and had very little money to spend on things other than necessities and I wanted a pair of roller skates more than anything else in life at the time. On Wednesday nights, we attended the movie that was always a double feature. The movie cost $.10.  Each week between the movies they had local merchants donate goods that would be given away to those holding the lucky numbers on your ticket.

I had never been lucky enough to win anything before but one special night as I was walking to the movie I knew in my heart that I was going to win something that night. As the roller skates were picked up to be the next item to be given away and the lucky number was being drawn out, I was already out of my seat and on my way to the stage to accept my prize. I couldn’t begin to guess how many thousand miles I must have shared with that special prize.

During the summer months, my family spent a lot of time up Smithfield canyon taking care of the farm work. It was my job to lead the horse as they put the hay from the load on the wagon to the stack where it was stored. I hated the job because I was always afraid the big horse would step on me as I lead it along. One day after lunch, I got stung on the big toe by a wasp so my mother took over my job for a while. On my way back to take over, as I crossed the bridge, I saw a snake and called out to my brother Dale, who was on the top of a full load of hay. When he heard my announcement he jumped down off the load and came running. He got there just in time to spot a rattle snake and picked up a stick to try and kill it but by the time he found one the snake was almost hidden in the rocks. He grabbed it by the rattler and it flew over my head and frightened me terrible. It almost got away again in the rocks but he found a shovel standing by a tree and ended its life. It was a very traumatic experience for a young girl. He cut of the rattlers and had them laying on his dresser in his bedroom for a long time. I remember looking at them and was reminded of the incident with gratitude that the story ended the way it did.

I learned a great lesson as I advanced in age that defines who I am today.

We are told in the scriptures that everyone that comes to mortality has at least on gift of the spirit, some have many but all have at least one. I had to search a long time to find that one for me but I am not ashamed to admit that I recognize it. I am extremely proud to say I have been given the gift of “FAITH”.

That lesson first began to form when one lonely night I got out of bed to sit by myself in the living room praying for direction caused by a situation that I did know how to handle. My prayer was in desperation and answered in a way that I never would have expected. The answer came as the title of a Hymn came into my mind…”The Lord is My Light”. I was vaguely familiar with it and got up and found it in our Hymn book and read the message. I knew from that, that everything would work out if I continued to do my part. I learned from that first experience that our Heavenly Father knows each of us personally and knows how to communicate with us when we will but ask him in sincerity.

Another time of crisis came and through prayer it was answered when a scripture that came into my mind that again was familiar, but I had to hunt for it in Doctrine and Covenants 82:10, “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say but if you do not what I say ye have no promise”. I felt the comfort and direction I needed at that time because I was satisfied knowing that I was doing my best to live the way He wanted me to and to this day it is my favorite scripture. Again it was a very different way to answer my prayer. He knew how to reach me personally in a way that I could understand and appreciate.

I will share just one more experience that I will never forget that came as a result of a prayer your father had been seeking an answer to.

It was March 1990 and we were living in Smithfield. Grandpa was still involved with the business at ABC and I rode down to Salt Lake with him for the day. We stopped in Logan to buy a birthday present for Steven whose birthday was on the 4th of March. I wanted to get a commentary on the Book of Mormon as our gift. Grandpa and I had been using one and knew it was very helpful in understanding the doctrine in the Book of Mormon. I was impressed at the time, even though it was early for Michael’s birthday June 11, I decided to get one for him that day also.

We arrived at ABC (Athletic Bag Company) and grandpa went in to conduct some business and Michael came out to the truck and as we chatted I felt impressed to give his to him, even though it was too early for his birthday. I soon learned from him as he sincerely thanked me that he said he had been praying for some kind of help in understanding more of the Book of Mormon. That was very gratifying for me to hear.

Grandpa finished his business and we went on our way but didn’t get very far until, as I sat in the truck, something inside of me burst and the only way I can describe it is to say it was like when you are watching fireworks and this ball of fire bursts and out comes this brilliant white beautiful design in the black night sky. It was so bright it took my breath away and I must have reacted in some way because grandpa looked over at me and said, “What in the world happened to you”.  Ever since that experience I have related it to the Tree of Life story in the Book of Mormon where Lehi was inviting his family to come and partake of the fruit of the tree that was so brilliantly white and the fruit was so sweet and delicious, which represents the Love of God and his offering of eternal life to all that will partake of the fruit of the tree. All of this happened because Heavenly Father found me worthy to act in His behalf in answering Michael’s prayer. We know that most prayers are answered through other people the Lord can inspire. I still thrill as I recount the experience as if it had just occurred, thanks to Heavenly Father.

In my soon to be 82 years of life there have been many other experiences I could share with you but now comes the time I would like to share some advice and hope that someday, even when you might least expect it, it may help you find the happiness in life that you desire because all, every living soul will face challenges in life and be tested, it is inescapable. Grandpa and I can testify to the fact that even our marriage, the most important thing in life, has been tested on a number of occasions so I hope you will know that you need to be prepared.

The number one bit of advice is…COMMUNICATION with each other. Make it a priority! Never let a disagreement go overnight. Be the first one to say I’m sorry even when you don’t feel you were in the wrong, just say it…I’m sorry.

This is a big one…Forgive and Forget.

Always look for the positive and shy away from anything negative that might offend your spouse when you are in the company of others and by putting them down, but do the opposite and build them up every opportunity you have.

We have learned that to always say “please” and “thank you” will go a long way in making your marriage stronger.

Make it a practice to never go to bed without telling each other of your love and gratitude.

Always remember that you cannot give happiness away because it will always come back to you.

Remember that Heavenly Father is there waiting and wanting to help you in times of trial and I know from experience that through your trials, if you ask Him for help, your marriage will be much stronger.

When we were in Kirtland on our mission, we were teaching a very bright intelligent young man, Danny Lute. He shared a saying with us that we have repeated to each other many times and lived by ever since. You probably won’t get the message the first time you read it, try saying it out loud…that helps.

I am not what I think I am

I am not what you think I am

I am what I think you think I am

We have witnessed on many occasions what that really means. Grandpa has told me so many times that it is because of my belief in him and willingness to express it openly to him that he is the man he has become and for me it is because of his helping me feel “self worth” when I have doubted my abilities to do some things that I keep trying to do my best. Thanks to that saying, we have learned through experience that it really is true and recognize that it has been very valuable in helping each other reach our potential that Heavenly Father placed us here to do.

My desire now is to share with you some of the reasons I love your grandfather so much.

First and foremost is the gratitude I feel for his demonstration of his love for me when perhaps I didn’t deserve it at the time.

My gratitude for his love for the Lord and his desire to follow His example is unbounded.

I also appreciate and respect him for the Priesthood of God that he holds near and dear to his heart and his desire to magnify his calling in the priesthood along with his willingness to be of service at a moment’s notice to anyone. He has had such a positive impact in the lives of so many people because he loves the Lord and delights in serving others.

I appreciate the love he demonstrates for our family and the desire he also has for your happiness which come when we live the commandments that Heavenly Father has given us, not to restrict us, but to protect us from the evils of the world.

I recognize that everyone is free to choose the path they will follow in life and some have chosen one that is different than mine, but I love all of you and appreciate the good qualities you possess and demonstrate in your lives. I hope you can accept me and love me in return because of the path my life has taken.

I’m sure that you have noticed that it is so easy for grandpa to demonstrate his love so openly for you and mine is demonstrated in a much more reserved manner, but be assured that my love and concern for you is just as real and I want you to be happy and enjoy life to the fullest.

I don’t have the words or capacity to express to you what real love our Savior has for each of his children and the love you can experience by giving Him the opportunity to be a part of your family each and every day of your lives.

Please be assured that Heavenly Father knows each of you by name and feels your pain and sorrow. He knows what makes you happy and is happy with you. His arms are always open to welcome you back into His presence.

Sharing these experiences is my attempt to have you get to know me better and that faith and trust in Heavenly Father has been the influence that has shaped my life. I am so thankful for my testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ that was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and the sure knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves each of us.

I am also thankful that we can experience mortality together in a happy, loving family environment.


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