An Account of the Chilean Years in the Lives of
Richard L. Brimhall & Ivy LaPriel Burnett
1972 - 1975 A.D.
Written in 1991 in Provo, Utah U.S.A.
INTERVIEW BETWEEN DALE LEBARON AND RICHARD LOGAN
AND IVY LAPRIEL BRIMHALL AT THE BRIMHALL HOME, PROVO UTAH
JUNE 11, 1991
DL: This is Dale LeBaron. I am here in the home of Brother and Sister Rick Brimhall in Provo, Utah. Today is Tuesday, June 11, 1991. Rick and his wife LaPriel and their family were among the early pioneers of establishing the seminary and institute program in the country of Chile in South America. This is a most challenging assignment which they did exceedingly well, and had some very unusual and challenging experiences. We would like to have Rick and LaPriel tell the story of their experiences and the events that led up to that assignment. Rick, I appreciate being in your home, and I invite you to go ahead and share your experience.
RB: Very good. We are glad to have you here. I was born in Morenci, Arizona. My father's people were sent in 1877 to colonize what is today the Snowflake/Taylor, Lehi and Mesa Arizona area. I was raised in Winslow, Arizona. I came to BYU on a music scholarship upon high school graduation. During that first year, or the latter part of that year, I met my wife to be, Ivy LaPriel Burnett, now Brimhall. I was called to the Andes Mission the fall of 1961 and sent to Lima, Peru, which was the mission headquarters. It included all of the western coast of South America at that time. After a short time in Lima, I was transferred to Santiago, Chile, under Delbert Palmer, who was the first mission president of the Chilean Mission, and I spent two and a half years there. LaPriel waited for me here while attending BYU and also worked one year for Hughes Aircraft in California, putting two brothers through the mission field during that period of time.
DL: LaPriel, did you financially help them, then?
LB: Yes, I helped one for a while, then the other.
RB: About a year for each of the boys.
RB: I had a very unusual mission in that about two of the two and a half years was dedicated to doing concert work, traveling all over the nation of Chile. We were doing concerts for the Church, in order to make the word "Mormon" known for what it really was, a religion and not a political party as people often thought. The concerts were used primarily as a reference program.
DL: What would you do, Rick, in the concerts?
RB: We would give at least an hour and a half program. We would start with Latin American music that was popular in the country, usually in Spanish. Then we would move into Western music from the United States, things like "Ghostriders in the Sky." This was very popular in Chile at that time. Then we did some of the songs of the 1950's and 1960's, the popular music. Then we would end with some of the hymns and introduce a slide show about Mormonism. One night we obtained 14,000 references.
DL: Now, was it a musical group, a singing group, that you would tour with?
RB: We had three different groups over time. The first one was a quartet, where we did this type of music, the next one was a group where we did more Broadway music, and the last was a classical group, where we did primarily operatic and classical music.
DL: Quartet with each phase?
RB: No, we performed as soloists, duos, trios, and quartets.
DL: I see.
RB: We had four people: in the classical, we had a concert pianist, a concert violinist, and an operatic soprano, and then myselfas a tenor.
DL: Were you the only one that was in all three?
DL: Okay, so you really saw a lot of the country and did a lot of different kinds of missionary work.
RB: Very much so, and on some of the tours, we were sponsored by the U.S. government, and also by the local Chilean government. When we were on those types of tours, we did not do proselyting. We simply represented the United States as goodwill ambassadors. As a result of this experience, when I came home from the mission, I had had a very politically-oriented experience. I had worked with governments, I was fascinated by Latin American politics and by the Latin American people themselves, and I learned to love them as all missionaries do. I always had a goal to go back to Chile before even leaving the mission. I had become very enthralled with the reality of what the gospel can do in people's lives as you see them change through the process of repentance. I had decided before leaving the mission that I wanted to become part of the seminary and institute program, and try to return to establish that program in the country of Chile. I came back, and LaPriel was still here, even though she had had a healthy dating schedule during those years. We were married two months after I returned from my mission in the Salt Lake Temple. She graduated a semester later and taught school for several years while I finished my bachelor's degree. We had two children and one on the way at the time we were hired by the seminaries and institutes in 1968. They sent us, of all places, back to where I was raised, the Navajo Indian Reservation, the last place in the world I wanted to return to. But it was perhaps the greatest experience of my life to go back there. We were assigned to a little branch called Sanders Arizona, near Gallup, New Mexico, and had a wonderful two-year experience there.
LB: We both had six callings in our small branch.
DL: Is that right?
LB: At the same time, during the whole two years.
DL: The same jobs for two years? Goodness.
RB: Our branch had 800 members. I was the branch clerk, and we had 15 active members at the time we arrived.
DL: 800 members and 15 active.
RB: A man named Pat Spurlock, who was the bishop there at that time, and his brother Ted had built a small, released time seminary building next to Sanders High School. They had seven students in seminary. The program at that time was slated to close down. They decided to try one more year, and we were to try to raise the attendance. We put our heart and soul into that assignment, and it paid great dividends in our lives, and in the lives of many of the kids. We had a high school population of about 130-140 kids.
RB: No. We had a potential of about thirty LDS. We had 70 kids in seminary that first year. By the time we got to the second semester, we baptized about 40 kids. We sent about 40 kids on the placement program. The next year, we basically did the same thing again. That's just the way it worked. By the time we finished that two year assignment, we were both pretty much skin and bones. I'll always remember LaPriel driving a 60-passenger school bus while eight months pregnant, barely able to reach the pedals.
LB: The heater wouldn't go off and it was in September, and very, very hot.
RB: We had five Bureau Indian Affairs schools (B.I.A.) that we were in charge of, so we would travel throughout the reservation coordinating those, as well as the released time seminary and junior high seminary, so we got around a great deal. We had two Indian kids and two anglo kids live in our little trailer over those two years with us.
LB: It was a 45' by 8' trailer.
DL: 45' by 8'. And you had three children of your own.
RB: By the time we left there, we were on the verge of physical collapse.
DL: Yes, I'm sure. And emotional.
RB: But it was a great experience!
LB: I remember counting his hours each week. He would work up to 75 hours a week. One experience I would like to tell about happened in early winter. We didn't know why, but our hair was getting brittle, we were starting to vomit, and we were losing weight. One day, Rick noticed in the furnace that there was a little hole in the fire wall. He called his dad and said, "I want your opinion. Do you think it matters if there's a hole in the furnace?" His dad called a doctor to find out what the symptoms were for carbon monoxide poisoning. We had slowly been poisoned for weeks. We don't know how close to death we were, but we were very ill. We immediately called our supervisor, Don Hunsaker, he came the very next day, and they changed the furnace, which saved our lives.
RB: Our experience in Sanders gave us a tremendous love of the Lamanite people. My father had been on three Lamanite stake missions, so I had been raised with Indian people in Winslow. But the Indian people in our town, because our town was a border town, was a place where most came from the reservation to drink. They had a very bad reputation, so our attitudes towards Indians in general was one that was quite negative, which is king of ironic because it was very positive towards the Indian members of the Church. In Sanders, we learned a great tolerance for the situation of the Indian people, but at the same time, a realization came that there would never be a great change among the American Indian people. Our feeling was that the great change, according to prophecy, would come among the Latin American Indian people. Because of the situation of the dole, social services, that have denigrated the American Indians to such a point that they are almost non-functional, change is difficult and slow. There are always quite a few individuals who are an exception to this. I'm speaking collectively in this sense. Over the first four or five years of our marriage, we had over 15 foster children in our home through our own arrangements, most of them American Indians. We came to the conclusion that the only way to really make a significant difference in their lives was through the process of adoption, where we did not have to give them up in the summers or at other times to go back to the reservations. So, of our nine children, we have adopted three children over the years of our marriage. After the assignment in Sanders, Arizona, at the end of the second year, we were asked to come to Provo.
DL: What year was that, Rick?
RB: 1970 is when we were asked to come to Provo. One more comment by LaPriel.
LB: I have one experience that I would like to share that really meant a lot to me in my life. The time change on the reservation is different from where we lived in Sanders.
RB: In other words, we were on Daylight Savings Time off the reservation, and ten feet away, on the reservation, they had stayed on Standard Time.
LB: Rick's assignment was to go to several BIA schools on the reservation, and it was impossible for him to do that and teach his last high school seminary class. So in the fall and in the spring, I was privileged to teach his released time seminary for two months each fall and spring, the fifth class of the day. I would put the children down for their naps at a certain time, and pray every day that they would go to sleep, so that I could go next door into the seminary building and teach that class, which was a marvelous experience.
RB: Our trailer house was right behind the seminary building.
LB: Practically connected on to it.
DL: So, during both those years, you actually taught a released time seminary class while Rick was out doing his work with the Lamanite seminaries.
RB: And the released time seminary was about 85% Lamanite as well. It was the only released time Lamanite seminary in the Church, I believe.
DL: How large a class, LaPriel?
LB: I think about twenty students. Wouldn't you say that I had about twenty students?
RB: You had about twenty students in the last hour of class.
DL: Were there times when you had some crises to deal with because of your children being ill?
LB: Never. It was like a miracle. I never remember one conflict.
DL: For two years, everything went smooth for every hour during that time.
LB: During those four months.
DL: And that was a daily class?
RB: It was a daily class, but she would not teach it daily. She would teach it three times a week. I had to go visit three schools.
DL: Oh, so you would teach it the other two.
DL: I see.
LB: It was just for two months in the fall and in the spring. Maybe it was less than two months, but I can't remember. Also, on those days, the elders would teach the elementary school seminary at the church. They could not drive the school bus because of seminary regulations, so I would take my children and the others in the school bus and drive down a hill. We were up high on a mesa, and I would drive down to the elementary school, pick up the children, and take them to the church building where the Elders would teach the seminary classes. By then, my husband would be home and would be able to take them out on the reservation to their homes. They lived as far as forty miles away in all directions.
DL: And so how long would it take you to deliver those children?
RB: Two to three hours.
DL: What time would you get home?
RB: Way after dark. Eight or nine o'clock at night.
LB: But on mutual nights, we would have thirty young people stay at our home, because if they went home, they wouldn't get back for MIA. We would feed them sandwiches and Kool-Aid and they would play games in the seminary building until it was time for mutual. Then we would all walk down to the church building, and of course, I taught a class. And afterwards we would take them all to their homes. On those nights, we would never get home until midnight, or later if it was muddy.
DL: Is that so? How many nights a week would you have to deliver the children?
RB: Four nights a week.
DL: Four nights a week. Plus run a boarding house one night a week.
LB: On the MIA night and Sundays, we had to pay for our own gas, of course.
DL: Is that so? So it came out of your family budget, plus the money for the sandwiches and the food?
RB: Our salary, our first contract with CES was $4,300 dollars for the first year. Our indebtedness for gasoline was $4,200 when we left after two years.
DL: Is that so? You had that much to pay off?
(End of tape #31, beginning of tape #32)
DL: Continuing with the interview with Rick and LaPriel Brimhall in their home, continuing from tape #31.
RB: When we arrived at our assignment in Sanders, the trailer house was supposed to have been there and it wasn't. So we commuted 180 miles a day from Winslow for two weeks, and then they finally put us in a hotel 12 miles away. When they got the trailer there, we had no water for about a month.
LB: This was with two children in diapers, and I was very pregnant with our third child, who was born that December.
DL: What did you do?
LB: I went down to the gas station to rinse them out. I had to wash them by hand in cold water.
RB: The reason for that was that they couldn't bury the water line. They tried dynamiting to get down in the ground, but couldn't.
LB: It had to be buried or it would freeze if it wasn't underground.
RB: So they finally laid the water line on top of the rock and brought dump trucks in and had three foot mounds of dirt dumped on the water line between the trailer house and the seminary building that we always had to walk over. It would get so cold that you could go out and take the diapers off the line and break them in half, and of course, in the windstorms, the sand would sift through the trailer so there was an eighth of an inch on everything at the end of the storm. I was used to this type of thing, because where I was raised in Winslow, it was very typical. My wife was not; she was raised in Oregon. I'll never forget the first time I showed her the little Colorado River. She laughed and said, "Where's the water?" She was used to the Snake River up in Idaho.
LB: It flows full year round.
RB: But she adjusted very well. I was quite surprised by how well she did adjust.
DL: This sounds like something out of the 1800's in terms of pioneering and colonizing.
LB: We had a dryer. With three children in diapers, you needed a washer and dryer, which we had. But we couldn't hook the dryer up because the 220 line would have to go across the elementary schoolyard which was just below us, and it would cost too much to put it around.
RB: Putting a 220 line over a school playground was against the law.
LB: And so we went two years without a dryer.
DL: So you never did use the dryer.
RB: Many times you would have to wash all the clothes over again because they would be red from the blowing dirt. That's the way the people lived there. We were not the exception. Everybody lived that way.
DL: There's no way you could have set that dryer up in the seminary building or in the church somewhere?
RB: No, there was no 220 anywhere in our area.
DL: Oh, anywhere? I see.
LB: The school probably had it, but we couldn't get into the school and the church building was too far away.
RB: Ken and Pam Crosby were very dear friends. They were from St. Johns and were teaching at Sanders Valley High School. Kenny was called as the branch president. We had two very wonderful, difficult years together with each other. Then in 1970, we were asked to come to the Central Office of Seminaries and Institutes, which was located at BYU at that time. I was asked to direct a new department called Lamanite In-service Training which was part of the curriculum department of seminaries and institutes, directed at that time by Wayne Lynn. My job was to take the curriculum developed for what we call "minority areas," (in those days we called them Lamanite areas of the Church), and to in-service train the teachers in seminaries, institutes, and Church schools on how to use that curriculum properly, and teaching techniques. The official name used for this department was "the Department of Lamanite In-Service Training for North and South America and the Isles of the Sea." I had some very good exposure to the Church school system, because we wrote curriculum for not only seminaries and institutes, but also for all religious education in the Church schools. At that time, all Church schools had elementary, junior high, and high school religious education classes, as well as in the normal schools, which were the teacher training schools in Mexico City and the islands. I worked two years in that area, travelling a great deal.
DL: Where did you travel to, Rick?
RB: Into Latin America primarily. I never did get into the Pacific. I worked mainly in creating in-service training materials and overseeing their translation into the Spanish language. Anticipating the rumors that were circulating at that time that we were going to open Latin America to seminaries and institutes, I also worked on a master's degree in Latin American affairs and Hispanic literature to be better prepared if a Latin American assignment became available. I also taught the religious education teacher training classes 321 and 471 at BYU to prepare young men at that time to come into the seminary program.
LB: You taught Book of Mormon also.
DL: At BYU, in the religion faculty?
RB: That's correct.
DL: So, now, your teacher training with the seminary training program would not have specific Lamanite focus, then, would it? It would be just general training?
RB: It was specific Lamanite at all levels, institute down through grade school religious education. Then in approximately the fall of 1971, Weldon Thacker, who was at that time in charge of personnel for CES, called us in and indicated that Elder Maxwell, who at that time was the Commissioner of Education for the Church, and Joe Christensen, who was the administrator of Seminaries and Institutes at that time, had just finished a tour of Latin America. They had come back and reported to the Quorum of the Twelve that they felt very strongly that Chile should be opened immediately. It had not been targeted for opening until several years down the line from that point. But because of the Marxist government that had been elected into power, Salvador Allende was the president's name. He was the first freely elected Marxist president in world history.
DL: Yes. The only.
RB: The only. At this point in time, it doesn't look like we'll have any more. But as a result of the Marxists coming to power, the country was in chaos in many senses. Many, many of our LDS youth, especially at the institute level, were being pulled into leftist, Marxist groups. And there was really nothing there for them to tie to when they got to the university level. So, we were asked to go to Chile. The assignment was to open seminaries and institutes. However, the assignment was rather unusual compared to the way other countries were opened, as we were to open institutes immediately--not to evolve from seminaries into institutes, but to open them simultaneously.
LB: The only philosophy taught in the universities in Chile at that time was Marxism.
RB: Yes, and the high schools were rapidly being taken over that way as well. By the time we had been there a year, other curriculum went out the window and the standard philosophy taught in all social sciences was Marxism. For us, being asked to go to Chile was a dream come true. Of several thousand people who could have gone, we ended up with the opportunity to do so. We were elated by that opportunity. Other people thought we were absolutely out of our minds.
DL: Were you elated, LaPriel?
LB: Yes, and every single person that we talked to said, "Why would you want to go to that country now with five little children?" When we received our assignment, I was pregnant with our fifth child, and things weren't going well at all. I threatened to lose him several times, and had to lie in bed without moving for three months. In fact, we had to put off going until he came. He was born two months early, and we arrived in Chile on his due date.
RB: The day he should have been born.
LB: He weighed five pounds.
RB: At that time. He was three pounds and a few ounces.
LB: And the question I got most was, "Do they have baby formula now in Chile?" Since he was in the hospital for a month, he had to have a formula. So we just bought several cases of Similac powdered formula and took it with us, and we had no problem.
DL: So you had five children to take with you, one of them just barely born.
RB: Our oldest was almost six years old, and our youngest was two months old the day we arrived in Chile, which was during the first week of February, 1972.
RB: We were permitted to take our clothing, our baby formula, and a suitcase full of my in service training files. That was basically the CES policy at that time.
DL: Now, did you prepare a shipment of other things to go down?
DL: That was everything you had?
LB: Yes, everything we had.
RB: We took it all with us.
DL: In suitcases?
RB: In suitcases.
DL: How did you feel about leaving your families? Did you know how long it would be, Rick?
LB: Three years.
DL: You were told three years. How did you feel about leaving everything behind you?
LB: Absolutely enthused and excited.
LB: It was the same spirit that tells you that you have a testimony of the gospel that told us to go. And we had a wonderful feeling.
DL: That's great.
RB: I had a secondary motive as well. I had been doing my master's degree in two areas, a double master's degree in Hispanic Literature, and in Latin American Affairs, with an emphasis in Political Science. My focal point for the thesis that I still had to do was the rise and fall of Marxism in Chile. I had made that decision long before we were asked to go there. So this was the chance to actually live the thesis work as well.
DL: Certainly you were experiencing the rise as it had just occurred. At least a major step had just occurred.
RB: It had been in the country since 1912. In fact, Chile had the oldest communist party in the world. The Russians were the second.
DL: Is that so? Now, is the dominant religion there Catholicism?
RB & LB: That is correct.
DL: Do you have any feeling in terms of why there would be the mix of Catholicism with Marxism?
RB: Yes. I made the statement when I returned from my mission in 1964 in a freshman English class that if I had been born and raised a Chilean, I would have voted for a Marxist president. What had happened is the right had been so corrupt and so exploitive of the general population over the years, that it appeared that Marxism was the only thing left for the people to try. Because of where I grew up, I believed that it would be a total failure, even worse than what they had tried before. And it was. But I would have tried it had I not known that, having grown up in the United States instead of there. Over so many years, Chile, Argentina, and these southernmost countries of South America became much more European than Indian in nature. Most of the Indians were slaughtered during the conquest. Chile only has about 250,000 Indians left in the country. You have a lot of intermarriage that took place, but at least half of the population looked very, very European with blonde hair and blue eyes. Redheads are quite rare. But as a result of the mix of the population, they have a little different orientation than most nations in Latin America do. The Europeans had come in and exploited the natural resources of the country, and the Americans, our people, were right on their heels. I remember this quartet I sang in during the first year of my mission going up to the Kennecott copper mine in Sul, which was a mine high in the Andes Mountains. The only way you got there was on a series of cable cars. We went in to give a concert, and I remember getting out of the cable car and going to the home of the superintendent, who was an American, a very palatial-type home on a steep hillside. Then in the afternoon, I remember going to visit the Chileans in their concrete bunkers, where families were divided about every 10 feet by a hanging sheet and no heat, up at about 13,000 feet. They earned 3 or 4 dollars a day. That is the type of exploitation that has taken place for over a century in Chile by the so-called right. And so the Chilean populace was ready to try anything else.
DL: Did the dominant church there allow or support the problems economically?
RB: Catholicism came full circle. For many, many decades, it supported the right wing, the so called exploitation era, you might say, because that was where the money was. However, there were always a certain contingent of priests and religious people within the community who worked against that type of support, which was based upon who has the most money to donate to the Church. As the Marxists came into power, the Church was very quiet about the change, knowing, of course, that Marxism would lead to atheism if it was practiced in its truest form, which it eventually did. Atheism was promoted very strongly in the country. And finally the Catholic Church came out in direct opposition to the only surviving, independent T.V. channel in the country, which was the Catholic channel. This was in 1973 when they finally came out against the government of Salvador Allende. Kind of an ironical thing about that channel 13, the Catholic University channel, is that our quartet, the Mormons Four, from my missionary days in Chile, performed the featured dedicatory musical number at the inauguration of that channel in 1962. We were singing "We Were Blessed With Holy Water by the Cardinal." The Catholic church, if anything, helped get rid of the Marxists, and helped moderate the country back to a logical stance between the left and the right, which is pretty much where they are now. They also literally preparedthe field for Mormonism.
DL: In what way?
RB: In every way. The people in Chile are primarily good Christians. They have good morals, perhaps better morality at one time than we had in our country when major changes started to happen here in the 70's regarding morality. They have very strong family units. The Catholic Church on occasion would attack the Mormon Church, and every time they did so, it would simply increase the baptisms in the Mormon Church. The Catholic Church in Chile today, and even in the 60's when I was first there, has a very high activity rate among the female population, with basic activity among the majority of the males at the time of christening, baptism, and Christmas Mass only. It is very social in nature rather than religious.
DL: So the men of Chile pay little regard to their formal religion.
RB: That is correct.
DL: I appreciate that, Rick. Let's go back, now, to the time when you were asked to go. LaPriel was as excited as you were about the assignment. How did you feel in terms of going to this part of the world that you had never been to, although you had heard much from your husband? You were taking five little ones into the political unrest. You felt at peace about it, from what you said, but did you have any ambivalent feelings about this?
DL: None at all.
LB: My husband had prepared us well. In fact, when we were first married, Rick had shared a desire to go back to Chile in ten years and adopt a child, because when he was a missionary in Chile, there was no provision in the country for orphans. They were living in the streets like dogs.
RB: Thousands of children.
LB: He would see eight and nine-year-olds with two year olds on their backs, and they would sleep in the alley with dogs.
RB: To keep from freezing to death.
LB: He had decided he wanted to go. So when we were going back two years earlier from our ten year goal, it was exciting to think that maybe we could adopt a child. That, however, was not possible, because there was a law, under Allende, that no Chilean person could leave the country. In fact, that is one reason we were able to go. The man who had been selected before us to go set up the program was Chilean-born. Because he had been born in Chile, he was not able to go as he may not have been able to leave Chile.
RB: This was John Harris, and he was assigned to Peru. And so we were assigned to Chile.
LB: So we were glad that he had been born in Chile.
DL: Now, was John Harris in America at that time?
RB: Yes, John had just graduated from BYU with his bachelor's and he was working, translating the material that I was writing for in-service training.
DL: So was he initially asked to go back to Chile?
RB: That's right, and could not do it, and then they asked us. We didn't know that until later, however.
DL: That's interesting.
RB: He went to Peru at the same time we went to Chile.
DL: . . .to establish the program.
RB: That is correct.
DL: Now, is he here?
RB: John works for a company in Denver, Colorado, and he commutes from Salt Lake to Denver. Last Friday night, I got on a plane in Denver, Colorado, and sat next to him. It was the first time we had seen each other in about fifteen years.
DL: Oh, for goodness' sake. Go ahead, Rick.
RB: We had something rather unusual. I don't know if it happened to all of the men who went abroad. I know it did not happen on any other assignment I ever had in the twelve years I was in seminaries and institutes, but shortly before we left, about two weeks before we left, we got a call from the First Presidency's office and were asked to come to Salt Lake and to go to Brother Loren Dunn's office. He gave both of us, as man and wife, a special blessing before we left to go to Chile and made some promises that were very much fulfilled during the three years that we were there.
DL: That must have been a wonderful experience.
RB: It was.
LB: Yes, very wonderful.
RB: Then we were on our way. And I will never forget getting to Chicago with those five little kids from five years to two months old. And we couldn't get from one plane to the other fast enough to make it, so the pilot of the aircraft we had come in on from Salt Lake . . .
LB: And the stewardess . . .
RB: Each hauled a kid or two in their arms and we ran to make the next plane to Florida.
LB: We barely made it.
DL: Chicago is only the busiest and biggest airport in the world.
LB: We had no idea which direction to go and even with them helping, we had to run the whole the way.
DL: And they ran with you.
DL: What a picture that would have made.
RB: And the pilot who carried Timo was in his beautiful dark blue uniform and Timo wet all the way down his uniform.
LB: There just wasn't time to change him.
RB: From the top to the bottom of his pant's leg.
DL: For goodness' sake. What a thing.
RB: They were very good sports. We made the plane and then we had to stay overnight in Miami, Florida, and go to the Chilean consulate and get all of our visas before we flew to Chile the next day. We were met by the head of Church schools in Chile at that time and were taken to the home where he was living. His name was Lyle Loosely. He was leaving on a sabbatical leave to come up here to BYU at that time, and about a week later then, he and his family left. This former mission home had three floors with about two thousand square feet on each floor. So there was plenty of room.
LB: The children loved that house. It had seven bathrooms.
DL: Seven bathrooms.
RB: More than one family could live there.
DL: So you lived there then?
RB: We lived there for several months. We did not want to live in a house of that size. After we had been there about a month, Jorge and Chela Rojas came from Mexico City from the Church schools with their newborn baby, Jorge junior, George, as we call him now. He was to replace Brother Loosely, who came up here to get his Ph.D. Brother and Sister Rojas moved into one of the floors of the house. We both have a child now named after each other's wife, and we have been friends for many, many years. Brother Rojas was just ordained a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventies this last April Conference.
DL: That must have been thrilling for you to participate in that.
LB: Oh, yes.
RB: It was. We have exchanged children for over fifteen years now to try to maintain the bilingual ability of our children. They're our best friends, very close friends. We lived together for two or three months in that house and became very close, and then almost at the same time, we both found other homes to rent and moved out.
LB: And then the Church schools used that home as an office building, and right now it is used as the mission home of the Santiago North Mission.
DL: I see.
RB: And the ironic thing about it is that it was my mission home in 1961 with Delbert Palmer.
LB: So when our daughter Alicia went on her mission to the Santiago North Mission, that was her mission home also, and she was able to sleep in the same bedroom where she had slept as a little girl.
RB: I picked her up at that mission home in December of 1990 and brought her home, which was kind of fun for me.
DL: Boy, I'll say.
RB: To go back for a third time to that mission home was a great experience.
DL: Now, LaPriel, how did you feel as you arrived in this country? Were there any culture shock adjustments?
LB: A little. The biggest thing I can think of was that we had been there one week when my husband called me from the Church school, Colegio Chilenos, where his office was located. He said that a young girl from Viña del Mar had come to live with a member's family in Santiago and attend the Church school there in high school, but the family couldn't take her now, and wanted to know if we could take her. I said, "Sure." And he said, "Okay, get in the car and come get her." I said, "But dear, you know I can't read Spanish, or speak it. I can't do it now." He said, "You can make it just a few blocks." I could do that. So I got in the car and drove to the Church school. When I got there, several girls were there and I had someone translate, "Sister Brimhall, could you take these girls to their home? It's not very far." I just didn't want to do it, but they talked me into it. And I did. It was clear across Santiago.
DL: Oh, no.
RB: A city of four million people.
LB: Clear to the other side, and they were yelling at me to go "izquierda," "derecha," and "derecho."
RB: "Izquierda" means to the left, "derecha" means to the right, and "derecho" means straight ahead.
LB: I couldn't understand between "derecha" and "derecho." They are two different directions. And I went a thousand directions across that city, and people there drive like they are absolutely mad maniacs. No one stays in a lane. But I made a mistake and stopped. They stop at street lights, but they never do stop at a stop sign. They do not. And I made the mistake of stopping at a stop sign, and someone crashed right into the back end of my car. Of course, they went around me and just kept going.
DL: They don't stop?
RB: Sometimes they did. I was hit from the rear three times during the first year. This was a very problematic time in the country, and people did not act normal. Chileans are extremely gracious people, but this time in its history, it was very different.
LB: So by the time I got home, it was time to change and go to the church party where Rick and I were singing, and I was so nervous and so upset that it took quite a while to calm down.
DL: You weren't injured?
DL: Much damage to the car?
LB: No, not much.
RB: That happened three times. At stop signs. She finally stopped stopping at stop signs.
LB: Once, I was hit by a bus.
RB: You slow down, look both ways and go.
LB: You can't be a careful, conscientious driver in Santiago, Chile. You have to be right with them or you get smashed.
DL: That's interesting.
RB: When we got off the plane, we had made an agreement that we would leave the English language behind so that LaPriel could learn Spanish as rapidly as possible. And she kept that agreement except in some moments of real frustration where she just had to communicate fluently.
LB: Well, I spoke English to the children almost the whole three years, and they answered me in Spanish.
DL: Is that so? So they picked it up very quickly.
RB: The children were totally bilingual in two months. And LaPriel was bilingual at six months. After six months, she was called as the Young Women's president for the mission for the entire country of Chile. So for the next three years, we traveled everywhere together and had a second honeymoon. My role was to open seminaries and institutes the length and breadth of the country, and her calling was to supervise and teach and help in the Young Women's organization in the same territory.
LB: And at that time, it would only be about three dollars to travel round trip, as far as from Los Angeles to New York City.
DL: Three dollars for that distance.
LB: Right, so we could afford for me to travel. And in my calling, when we had district conferences that I was required to attend, we could fly instead of go on the bus. Rick could arrange his meetings at the same time, so it worked out very, very nicely.
DL: Well, that's wonderful.
RB: What happened was the Marxist government artificially distorted the exchange rate. For example, they would require you to exchange American dollars at seventy local monetary units to one, when on the international market, it would be three thousand to one. The Church, seeing what the Marxist government was doing, began changing on the international market, and it would simply wire its money into the banks in local currency, which is what it does primarily all over the world today whenyou have a disparity of that nature. What you have is a government falsifying the value of their currency, and hiding the real value from the people. That's gross inflation, in other words. Prices were artificially subsidized in the country by the Marxist government so that the people would not know how bad they really were, economically speaking. So what that meant for us was that several hundred dollars went five or ten times or a hundred times its normal length in spending power.
LB: We know a lot of Americans who took advantage of that situation for personal gain, but we never did do that.
DL: How did they do that?
RB: They would buy and sell currency at different exchange rates. They would go abroad, oftentimes into Argentina, speculating on currency like people speculate on the stock market.
DL: I see.
RB: The Marxist government was doing the same thing, by the way.
DL: Would they use what is referred to as the Black Market?
DL: LaPriel, do you remember anything else that was a shock to you or the children?
LB: Yes. It was very difficult for me to handle having maids. Because we had decided that I would travel a lot (I was also mission mutual president for two years), we needed to have maids, which we could very well afford because of the false economy.
RB: Everybody did. Even the maids had maids.
DL: Is that so?
LB: That is really incredible. But I did not know how to handle the situation, and I would treat them like a good friend, and then they would treat me like a good friend, and before long, I was washing their toilets for them, and mine also. And so, I would complain and cry to my husband. Help me! And he would just say, "I have a seminary program to run. You have the house. You learn how to handle it." That was very difficult, and involved a lot of tears. In the beginning, the maids would always pretend they didn't understand me because I was learning the language. It was very difficult. Sometimes I knew they understood me, but they would pretend they hadn't. So I was at a great disadvantage at first. But I soon learned, and having the young girl, Cynthia Ramos, come to live with us really helped a lot. She was on my side.
DL: Did you have to have a turnover in maids to some degree?
LB: At first, yes.
RB: We found a very good member of the Church who just did a wonderful job. She was very trustworthy, and we had a marvelous relationship.
LB: We have lost contact with her and would love to find her. Her name is Raquel Lagos. She lived in Maipu. Our daughter Alicia was on a mission in Maipu, but wasn't able to find her.
DL: Anything else?
RB: Just an anecdote that took place.
RB: After we had been there about two to three months, one day we came in the house, and LaPriel and I were speaking in Spanish. One of the children came up to us and said in Spanish, "Mommy and daddy, why do you have such a funny accent when you speak Spanish?"
LB: They said, "You sound like you're still speaking English."
DL: Is that so?
RB: Our children had no accent in Spanish whatsoever by this time. In fact, when we came home, the majority of our children could not speak English anymore. They understood it perfectly, but they did not speak it.
DL: Is that so?
LB: They understood it because I had spoken English to them, but they had always answered in Spanish, and could not speak English. We hadn't realized that was the case, and it was very difficult for them for about three months after we got back.
RB: We had some real experiences when we returned to the U.S. in reverse-prejudice type situations. Our little red-headed daughter came home from the beach one day in California, just weeping. We asked, "What's wrong?" And with a Spanish accent, she said, "The children make fun of me." I said, "Why?" And she said, "Because I speak funny." I said, "Well, what happened?" And she said, "I said, 'Throw me the ball yellow.' And they all laughed at me." And of course, you say the yellow ball in English instead of the ball yellow, which you would say in Spanish.
LB: Also, in Chile, having red hair was an absolutely wonderful thing. Everyone came to touch it, and to love her, and to hold her. When we came to the United States, red hair wasn't the most wonderful thing in the whole world to have. And that was a shock to her, but she has never lost her wonderful self-esteem for having red hair and freckles.
RB: We had three of the five children who had red hair, and it got so bad with people wanting to touch their hair when we would go to church that they would run, pull LaPriel's skirt up and stick their head under her skirt to hide.
LB: All three redheads were trying to climb under my skirt at the same time. It was horrible. It was very, very frustrating. They didn't care for the attention after a while. It was too much. It was like being in a zoo.
RB: When we arrived in Chile, the mission president was J. Donald Earle, who just had a few months left, and after he finished his three years, he was replaced by Royden Glade of Salt Lake City and his wife Rebecca.
Upon arrival, we began working immediately. My assignment was three-fold in nature: first, to establish seminaries and institutes; and second, to supervise and improve religious education in the nationwide Church school system, with approximately 5000 students in that system.
DL: Were you giving supervisory responsibility over Church schools?
LB: Yes, but only in religious education.
RB: I had helped create the curriculum for them in years previous to our arrival in Chile. And then the third assignment was to continue translating and disseminate an in-service training program for men in the different Latin American nations as they came in and started the program regarding the curriculum in-service training material. This was for South America, Central America and Mexico. This would usually be coordinated on our annual April conference coordinator's meeting that we had in conjunction with general conference. I was housed in the Church high school, which was about 5 blocks from the home we ended up staying in for the majority of the time we were there. We stayed in the old mission home for the first two months, then we rented a home for a short period of time until we finally moved to the home where we stayed for two and a half years at 1 Ricardo Lyon. The Church schools were in shambles.
DL: Physically, or curriculum-wise?
RB: No, physically, they were by far the best in the nation. But all schools were in shambles regarding curriculum, morale, and a tremendous conflict going on among the faculty between Marxists and non-Marxists, even at the student level. I'll never forget the day that my 7 year-old son came home saying, "I'm a Marxist," and my 5-year-old daughter saying, "I'm a Democrat," and fighting and yelling at each other over this type of thing.
LB: It was amazing that small school children were very politically oriented in Chile.
RB: Politics permeated everything. Everybody was politicized and polarized to the right or the left.
DL: No neutrals.
RB: Total conflict going on all the time. The Church school system had also made some very gross errors in judgement, in my opinion, in that they wanted to have the best school academically speaking, and the best school system in the country of Chile, so they had hired many, many non-members. Those non-members, most of them had become members of the Church because it gave them political and salary advantage and security within their employment by being members of the Church. But they were members in name only. If anything, many of them were anti-Church, and most of them were Marxists. There was a tremendous conflict going on, and many of these people were in administrative positions that controlled and set policy.
LB: Including the assistant director of Church schools.
DL: For Chile? Is that so?
RB: So when Brother Jorge Rojas came in the Church school at Benemerito in Mexico City about 2 months after we were there, he inherited a very, very chaotic situation. When I went in as the person in charge of religious education in the schools, I found that one of the people that we baptized when I was a missionary in the early 1960's and knew very well as a young boy was now in charge of the department of Philosophy at the largest school complex that the Church owned. He was an avid and avowed Marxist, opposed to the teaching of religion. He was in favor of the teaching of atheism. That kind of schism was going on throughout the entire system. And it was not atypical. That was typical of all education at that time in the country, from the university level all the way down to grade school.
DL: Because of the choices, it had now crept into the Church school.
RB: That is correct, and it was much more severe in the Church system because educators in our system had ulterior motives for becoming members of the Church. Plus, we had hundreds of people throughout the country who were good solid members of the Church, whose livelihood depended on working for the Church. The Church had established a policy, since it was the "best school" as adjudicated by the government several years in a row, that it could pay more salary for its people, which had a corrupting effect.
LB: But see, when these non-members were hired, it was in a political time when it didn't make as much difference as it did later. It became a time bomb.
DL: The crisis surfaced after their hiring.
LB: Years after.
RB: Yes, and unfortunately, they were supervised at that time through the Educational Administration Ph.D program here at BYU. The supervisors did not understand what had happened, or how it had happened. Quite frankly, they refused to accept the reality of what had happened.
DL: Is that so?
RB: When Brother Rojas came on the scene, after he had been in the saddle about a week, he came home one night, and as we were eating around the table, we started discussing the situation. He and I spent till four o'clock in the morning talking about his first week. His conclusion was that the Church schools should be closed immediately. I told him that I had arrived at that conclusion a month before. The situation was corrupting the very nature of the purpose of the Church, and its presence in the nation.
LB: And when things would go wrong, no one would want to tell because they might lose their job. It became a real problem.
RB: And you had many, many of the school's people, of course, who were in the top ecclesiastical positions. Eventually, they became stake presidents, bishops, mission presidents, and counselors. There, it would be a tremendous blow if those schools were closed. Our stance was a very unpopular one, to say the least. We did not voice this openly, but I told Brother Rojas that if he expressed that opinion to Salt Lake, that it was highly probable that he could be sent home. And he said, "I realize that, but it needs to be done. Will you back me?" And I said, "Yes, I will," so I went up my line with a report on the situation. He went up his line, and indeed, he was sent home about two months later.
DL: And what was the consequence?
RB: The message was, "Don't muddy the water. We know what we're doing up here."
DL: Now, "up here," who was sending the signals?
RB: Good question. People within BYU, and the former director of Church schools had a part in that as well.
DL: Is that so? So it was not on the level of the Board of Education among the General Authorities, but it was the CES administrative level.
RB: I'm not sure. Jorge called me one night and said, "It's here. I'm being sent home, just like you said I would be." And he said, "Can you come over?" And so LaPriel and I went over and spent another night anguishing over what to do. We basically had two options. One was to resist, which would mean that we would have to go very public with everything that was going on publicly within the country of Chile.
LB: And at that time, it would have greatly damaged the Church.
RB: It would have tremendously damaged the Church to do so. The second choice was to be quiet and go home. I used my line. I went all the way to the Quorum of the Twelve, finally. And Elder Rojas went home. I have a tape recording he made on the way to the airport which was basically a farewell to the Chilean people, indicating that some day he would return. That will be as a General Authority some day in one of his assignments. As he left, he left with great anxiety. I guess the word "framed" is the best term as to what happened to him. I sent a letter to the directors of seminaries and institutes and then eventually to the Quorum of the Twelve. A member of the Twelve came down, and a Seventy was sent to Mexico to interview Brother Rojas.
DL: Who was the member of the Twelve?
RB: Brother Packer. And then later, an announcement was made that the Church schools would be phased out in Chile. It took three years to accomplish that. I don't know all of the history that took place behind that. This is one event in that history, and I'm sure it was part of the motivation for the closing of Church schools there.
DL: Rick, wasn't this about the time when the administration of Church schools was brought under the same umbrella, under the commissioner? For instance, you have the zone administrators who then had authority over Church schools as well.
RB: No. That was about nine months to a year later. No, it was much later. It was after I was gone. That did not happen until 1976 or 77. It was four or five years after this.
DL: So while you were there, then, there was separate administration for Church schools and for seminaries and institutes?
RB: That is right. Totally separate lines.
DL: And so, when you gave your report, were the administrators over you saying, "I can do nothing for you?" Is that basically what they were saying?
LB: They never said anything.
RB: Basically, they said, "We understand the situation, and we will do what we can," but nothing was ever done that I knew of.
DL: I see.
LB: And no one ever talked to us about anything, to this day.
RB: So after Brother Rojas left, I separated completely from Church schools, and indicated to seminaries and institutes that I did not want to continue working within that system or to affiliate with them. It was detrimental to establishing seminaries and institutes. So they gave me a green light to move out of the Church school office, to establish my own office and make the separation complete. I was to work no more with religious education within the Church schools. That was after the first year. During that first year, we opened seminaries, and seminaries and institutes throughout the city of Santiago, in the outlying suburbs of Santiago; in the city of Viña del Mar; and in the second-largest city in Chile, which is Concepcion. We also established an institute of religion that first year in Santiago, one in Viña del Mar, and one in Concepcion as well. Our goal for the three years was to reach 1500 students in the program. We had 1200 by the end of the first year. The people were absolutely starving for this type of program, especially the youth. The mission president at that time asked if we could sponsor a program for adult education, part of the reason being that at the time the only things that existed in the Spanish language were the Standard Works and The Articles of Faith. There were no other doctrinal materials available for the members.
LB: And they were hungry to know more about the history of the Church and also the gospel.
RB: We set up adult institute classes as well, which ran concurrently with seminaries and institutes. These were all home-study programs, which turned out to be extremely inspired by the Brethren that home-study should be the program to use because of the chaotic nature of strikes, mobs, all types of chaos, economic, political and civil strife going on. The regular type seminary or institute program would have not survived at that time.
DL: How did you get that established, Rick? Maybe you could just outline the process in introducing these programs?
RB: I first met with the mission presidency because there were no stakes, and everything belonged to the mission at that time. We sat down and outlined how far they felt we could go in the first year. He gave me the names of the district presidents and branch presidents with whom I met individually. Each branch president would then call a teacher, and that teacher would then come in twice a week for a two-hour training session at the Church, or local Church school. I would basically teach them the two training classes that I had taught at BYU on how to be good teachers.
DL: You did that before the program started?
RB: That is right. That happened basically the first semester. Then the second semester we initiated I don't know how many classes at once, but it incorporated 1200 students.
DL: What month and year was this happening?
RB: We arrived in February, and the school year started in March.
RB: That is correct. The school year started in March. About five months later, we started the program in those areas. We started in August, and it ran through December. Their school year runs from March to December.
DL: Were they able to complete most of that first year's course in that time, or did they just do what they could do?
RB: They did what they could do. They did half of the work, which is what we asked them to do.
LB: But many of them did the whole thing. They were so enthusiastic about having it.
RB: The enthusiasm was absolutely unbelievable, especially for the competition of the scripture chase. The kids absolutely went crazy for scripture chase.
LB: You would just sit and cry to watch them.
RB: We had nationwide championships for scripture chase all three years. We had nationwide music composition contests. And then we would have a scripture chase and music competition nationwide, bring in the winning teams into Santiago, take them down to the local recording studios and make an album of the original music and songs that they had created having to do with the gospel. That's an example of the last one that we did.
DL: You're actually giving me a record here.
RB: Yes, it has four songs on it from four different seminary and institute classes. "Go, My Son" was a translation that some of the kids did of the original "Go, My Son" by Arlene Noftchissey Williams and Carns Bernston.
DL: Prior to your going out there, that was a very popular Lamanite seminary song.
RB: Correct. We had a very enthusiastic program. We could not move fast enough, and fortunately the budget we had was 10 to 100 times (depending on the date) of what it had originally been because of the problems with inflation that took place there. Because of this, we were able to do things well and do them right.
DL: Did you have monthly meetings?
RB: We had Super Saturdays for seminary. However, in the institute program, we ran it similar to the way it's run in the States, but at the same time, quite different. The institute students would come in to a two hour class, such as on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The institute did not open until four o'clock in the afternoon, and it ran until ten o'clock at night. It was one entire floor of a skyscraper in downtown Santiago, right next to the main center hub bus terminal where all of the university students had to come and change buses to go to different parts of town. So it worked out very well.
DL: Would you teach those classes?
RB: I did in the beginning, and then I trained men, and they began to be the teachers. We later hired one as a director.
DL: How many Super Saturdays did you have in that first year?
RB: We had six. We started out with a Super Saturday and ended with a Super Saturday.
DL: How many areas did you have going with Super Saturdays?
DL: Where you had 25 Super Saturdays going in a given month?
RB: Yes. That's right.
DL: Now, there just don't happen to be that many Saturdays in a month, so what did you do?
RB: No, what I'm saying is that we would have them going on simultaneously. The people I had trained gave the Super Saturdays in many different geographic locations. I was only in one of them.
DL: So you were training people right from the beginning as supervisors?
RB: The first four months, I did nothing but training and groundwork.
RB: Then the fifth month, we launched the entire program simultaneously in three major areas of the country.
DL: Now, in these three major areas, were there districts?
RB: They were districts, that's correct.
DL: And there might be three or four districts within a given city area.
RB: That is correct. Santiago, however, had many more than that.
DL: So, then, right from the beginning, you had things organized and moving, where you were then supervising the large program, and you had supervisors under you taking the Super Saturdays.
RB: And teachers. But what you must realize is that much of the Spanish material was not available at the time they sent us down, so we did much of the translating of the material, and all of the printing of the material in Chile for home-study. The reasons we waited four months to launch the program were to finish translating the materials, get them off the press, get our staff set up, our supervisors trained, and our teachers trained.
DL: How did you do that? Did you hire some translators?
RB: I hired two full-time secretaries who translated. Both were returned sister missionaries.
DL: You had it printed locally?
RB: That is correct. We contracted with the press there to print it. Eda Ordenez was the first secretary, a fantastic woman, unbelievable. She had just come home from a mission. And then the second was another returned missionary, Ana Maria Diaz, another incredible woman. She is married and lives in Salt Lake now. Eda married a returned missionary and lives in Venezuela and has a family there. Both came to BYU and got their degrees.
LB: One LDS girl who came to our home to live and attend the Church high school in Santiago was Cynthia Ramos. She was from Viña del Mar. She lived with us for two years and then her sister lived with us for one year. Cynthia now lives in Orem and is married with three children.
RB: Then we had two other Chilean children live with us. The Church school in Santiago drew many of the members of the Church who lived out in the countryside to come and go to school there, but they had no place to live. So there was kind of an informal placement program. We had four Chilean teenagers live with us over those three years.
DL: While they went to the Church school.
RB: That is correct. About two or three months into our time there, President Earl, the mission president, was released, after his three years had finished. When he went home, Royden Glade came in as mission president. At that time, there was a shift in ecclesiastical opinion about the adult seminaries, so we did away with those, and continued to put our effort into the youth, which I felt better about, because that was my primary purpose, especially the institute students.
LB: But the adults still wanted it.
RB: Yes, it was very conflictive because the adults wanted it. So I was caught between the adults, the ecclesiastical people, and my own feelings on the subject. I basically had to remain quiet and do what I was asked to do. The program continued to expand in that second year, and the entire environment in Chile became very, very conflictive--confrontational, civilly, and politically. LaPriel and I would get on an airplane and fly to the north of Chile and be stranded there for a week because the aircraft maintenance people would go out on strike, or the pilots, or the government would call a strike, or the worker's union would call a strike. One timewe were in Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan, on the extreme southern tip of Chile, and a group of tank corp people of the army attacked the presidential palace in Santiago. We were trapped in Punta Arenas, where it was dark 24 hours a day that time of year, right across from Tierra del Fuego.
DL: What is that?
RB: Land of fire. It's just above Antarctica.
LB: Part of it belongs to Argentina, part to Chile.
DL: Part to Chile, I see.
RB: This is where Magellan passed between Antarctica and the tip of South America to get into the Pacific. Thus, it bears his name. It is the southernmost city in the world. We were stranded there for over a week, not being able to communicate with our children, our home, and not knowing if a revolution had taken place in Santiago. It was a very, very interesting experience.
DL: Did you just have to sit in a hotel, or what did you do?
RB: We taught seminary, we went lobster fishing with the branch president, and we always carried a lot of reading material with us.
LB: We also toured historical sites.
RB: This area was settled by the people from Scotland and Wales. It had been a bounty hunter area, where most of the Indian population had been wiped out by North American bounty hunters who had been hired by these immigrants to come down and slaughter the Indians. There was a sordid and fascinating history in this area. It was settled by English-speaking Europeans, primarily. And so it was very different from the rest of Chile, in that sense. Valparaiso and Viña del Mar had also been settled by British people, and probably 40% of the population in Chile is Germanic in origin.
LB: Especially in the south.
RB: Hundreds of thousands of Germans fled after World War I and after World War II to Chile, and of course, that's the area where several Nazi war criminals were extradited from over the years.
In that second year, we opened seminaries and institutes further north. We had been going through the same training process of preparing people to be ready for those callings, and oftentimes we would have to hire private aircraft to even be able to fly there. To do so, we could hire a private aircraft for $15 to do something that would cost you and I $1000 to do today. And so, oftentimes we would fly in four or six-seater aircraft 1000 miles north or 1000 miles south, and train, and get ready, and start. We oftentimes distributed material through air force aircraft, because members of the Church were pilots in the Chilean Air Force. When we could ship none of our home-study materials in the country, nothing was moving, and everything was frozen solid because of strikes, we would have air force pilots who would carry materials for us. This is how we kept the programs going. In fact, in those three years, there was only one Super Saturday that was ever canceled, and that was canceled on the day that Salvador Allende was overthrown.
LB: Yes, during that time, everyone had to stay in their homes for about two weeks.
DL: Two weeks at that time?
LB: You couldn't even go out your front door for the first few days, and it was dangerous to even look out the window because the army and police would shoot at any movement because of the fear of snipers.
RB: The day that happened was September 11, 1973. The evening before, September 10th, in downtown Santiago, we had just finished making the master of this album. We had kids from Arica, which is the northernmost city on the Peruvian border, and also people from the south. We had how many people in our home?
LB: Over 17 for two full weeks.
RB: Yes, I think it was 19--17 kids and 2 bishops staying in our home. We came home that night and put the kids to bed, and the next morning at eight o'clock in the morning, the military overthrow of Allende came. We were in that house for two weeks together.
LB: We had five children and the four teenaged Chileans, and the children couldn't even move the curtains.
RB: What had happened is the Marxists had said, "If there is ever an overthrow, we want all of the cellblocks that we have organized and armed, to come out on the streets, and kill anybody they can find up in certain areas of the city," where the wealthy people lived.
LB: And being North American, we were on the top of the list to be killed.
RB: We lived in that area. We also lived next to a large home that had been turned into a United Nations office. And so many of the leftist people who had committed criminal acts under Allende, who were being sought by the new military government, were trying to get over the fence into that compound to seek political asylum through the U.N. So at night we would hear people running down the street, we would hear screaming, we would hear dogs and shooting. Helicopter gunships were flying over every 15-20 minutes all night long, picking off snipers that were trying to get up into our neighborhood, or people who were trying to get into the compound to seek political asylum. It was very, very hectic, and that's why we couldn't go to the windows, because in many places, there were snipers who were shooting the military as they patrolled the streets at night.
LB: If they saw a curtain move, they might shoot them.
RB: They could return fire.
LB: It was legal for the junta to shoot if they had any feeling of being in danger of sniper fire.
DL: So you were in a very precarious situation for how long?
RB: We were able to go out into the backyard for the first time on the seventh day. It was very interesting. The military started broadcasting, saying, "Most of the pockets of resistance have now been done away with. We will allow you to go out of your homes for one hour today."
LB: To buy food. I think that was after the third day. They'd give us one hour.
RB: To go buy food. We had a two year supply. And so we were just fine. It's lucky we did, because we had all those people there. We needed it.
DL: Your length of supply would diminish in a hurry, wouldn't it?
RB: We had a German Shepherd guard dog at our home that we kept inside the fence. He was killed during that time.
LB: Somehow he wasn't put in the evening before.
RB: He got out of the fence, and we think he tried to attack a policeman. I would have shot him too as he was a very large, aggressive dog to strangers.
LB: But we were so sad.
RB: He was very protective of our children, and that's why we had him. He was very good with the family.
LB: Then we got another dog, a very similar dog, and we named him "Toque." At that time, "Toque de Queda" meant the curfew which we lived under for so long.
RB: For months, we would have to be back at our home, for example, by 6:00 p.m. in the evening, by 8:00 p.m., finally by 10:00 p.m., finally by midnight, and finally after about a year, there was no curfew, or "toque de queda." Now, during this time, we suspended seminary activity, but only for about two weeks. The military government did a one hundred-and eighty-degree turn from where the Marxists were going. The second Sunday that came around, I guess it was about the tenth day, or so, they asked the people to go to church if they wanted to. More specifically, they encouraged them to. They said, "We are Christians. We come from Catholic/Protestant values in this country. We urge our population to turn from the atheism that we've been subjected to, and to go back and fill our churches on this Sunday."
LB: Wasn't it almost the second day after the curfew ended that they ordered all businesses and all private residences to burn pornography?
RB: "Throw the pornography into the street," was the word given.
LB: Because that had been a key tool in the Marxist campaign.
DL: Had they been distributing pornography?
LB: Oh yes. It was everywhere.
DL: In what form?
RB: In big posters plastered all over the wall.
LB: Nudity in every newspaper. We would not walk downtown at one point with our children because there was pornography on the front pages of most newspapers and magazines and on the walls of most businesses.
RB: A certain amount of nudity in a limited form has always been part of the Latin American press. More sensationalism. But when the Marxists came in, it became very prevalent, and they moved into more of what would be termed hard-core pornography and not just simply nudity.
DL: That wasn't part of the Russian Marxist movement, was it?
RB: No, I think it basically had to do with a program of moving towards atheism and making an amoral society in this regard.
LB: One way to do it quickly.
RB: This was more the Fidel Castro brand of Marxism than Russian. What was very interesting was when we got to Chile, there were over 15,000 Cubans in the country. There were also many Russians. I used to go down when the Church started printing material in Mexico and sending it to us. I would go down and sit with a Russian from the embassy and have lunch with him while we waited for our papers to be processed. He was assigned to process through customs all the films we were seeing that were so blatantly "Hate American/Anti-American" that were being shown in the movies. The primary subject was the slaughter of the Vietnamese people by the North American troops. There was a tremendous, tremendous psychological campaign going on against the people of Chile to move them away from their traditional Christian values, to move them toward atheism, and to disassociate them with their love of North Americans, which they had had for many years. It was sort of a love-hate relationship. They hated the exploitation American business brought, which was the case previous to the Marxists coming to power. One good thing about the military was that they outlawed pornography, asked people to throw it in the streets. I'll never forget the fires burning in the streets as the soldiers burned this material.
DL: For how long?
RB: One or two days.
DL: Open bonfires?
LB: Right in the street. And piled high. Very high.
RB: The new government urged everyone that wanted to go to church. And there was a massive turnout at all churches, all kinds of churches. (The next item the new government announced was that the Marxists had absolutely sacked the country's treasury and economically, they were bankrupt. They told the people of Chile what the real value of their currency was on the international level, which we already knew). At that time, the artificially Marxist controlled exchange rate was a hundred to one in the banks, but it was five thousand to one on the real international market. And it just absolutely destroyed the people.
LB: It got up to seven thousand to one.
RB: It got up to seven thousand at one time. But they knew that they were bankrupt and then the military asked, "Will you help us start the treasury? Bring your jewels and your wedding rings to donate."
LB: "And your gold and your silver."
RB: "Tomorrow morning at eight o'clock all the banks throughout Chile will be begin receiving them." So we stood in line with a thousand people at one bank, at least a thousand people.
LB: For several hours.
RB: There were blocks and blocks of lines, four or five lines, going into the bank. We gave our wedding rings. We talked with the Chileans all around us who had their jewelry, and their wedding rings they were donating to the reconstruction of their nation. It was a festive atmosphere. As you turned in your wedding rings, specifically, they gave you a new wedding ring, which was a copper band, that had September 11, 1973 inscribed on the inside. And there was a reawakening in Chile that day.
LB: What are our values?
RB: What are our values? By then they had come to realize that Marxism was a farce. It had totally failed. But the military, everyone was afraid that the military would return to the status quo which they did not. They told the Americans and the Europeans, "You can come back in with your companies, but we own fifty-one percent of the company. So we have the majority vote. You will also put so many million dollars into the new foundation called the Chilean Foundation. This foundation will send our best young minds abroad to get their Ph.D.'s and set up business and scientific research here in our country." Today, the Chilean Foundation is funded in hundreds of millions of dollars, most having been generated by the young Chilean men and women who today run the foundation. This is the reason Chile is so economically strong as a nation today. There were many rumors at that time, of course, that the military was slaughtering people. Many people died resisting the overthrow. Other people were tried and some were shot. But living there, eating, living and breathing it, knowing people both who were avid Marxists and who were right wing, we feel that what took place with the military was the best of three bad alternatives. It was the worst alternative to being a military dictatorship, which was to have been established seven days after the overthrow took place, as we found out. The more radical faction of the Marxist government was planning a coup d'etat to install a dictatorship similar to what happened in Czechoslovakia. The last alternative was that the military could bring back the old status quo, and the other alternative was an internal civil war, a bloody, long civil war. What happened, of course, is the military took over, imposing more of a rightist orientation than a leftist one in nature. However, they limited capitalism from exploiting the people as it had done previously. They opened this foundation, which allowed them to develop their people. No doubt, over the years there were some abuses in the military before they turned it over to civilian government last year, but it has developed Chile to be the most economically viable nation in all of Latin America right now.
LB: And the men who were in the junta were good men.
RB: Junta means the military group that overthrew the country, including the navy, the army, the air force, and the national police force. They were very good men, comparatively speaking.
LB: I would just like to add one thing about Allende. He was a very eloquent speaker. And if you sat and listened to his speeches, you would just be enthralled, and say, "How wonderful! That is just fabulous!" But then he never ever did what he said he would do. He would do just the opposite. He was very, very charismatic, and it took the people of Chile quite some time to figure out what he was doing.
RB: We listened to Salvador Allende and to Fidel Castro on many occasions. When the military overthrew the government, they found over 15,000 Cubans who were paramilitary, who were in the country without proper visas or passports. Most of them had been in key positions in the Marxist government. Now let's return to seminaries and institutes.
LB: Just two more things. They also found gigantic warehouses of food. They were trying to break the economy of the country by hoarding all the food and blaming the right wing for hoarding food, which they weren't doing.
RB: It got to the point where you could not easily buy food unless you signed up as a member of the communist party.
DL: So they were starving people.
LB: Also, they found gigantic warehouses full of military arms from Russia and from China.
RB: Russia, Czechoslovakia, and the Eastern bloc. Now, after this was over, the Church blossomed. We went from something like 1000 baptisms a month to 2 or 3 thousand baptisms almost over night. And now from the various missions in Chile, they baptize a stake a month. But the seminary and institute program moved forward very quickly, very rapidly, very well.
LB: I was called to be a seminary teacher, in Spanish, in a calling from our ward to be a home study seminary teacher, which was a wonderful experience for me.
RB: The young men had been taught in Chile, through either inference or through actual teaching, that they couldn't go on a mission.
LB: I had a lesson where the prophet said, "Every young man will prepare for a mission." I prayed about that lesson all week before I gave it because I knew that because of the problems in their country, they were economically without anything. But when I gave the lesson, I said to the young men and the young women that the Lord and the Prophet do not give commandments to North American members only. It's a worldwide church, and all of the commandments are given to every single member of the Church. And the boys said, "But Sister Brimhall, you know that we'll never have the money to go on a mission." I said, "I don't know that. All I know is that you are commanded to prepare yourself for a mission." I felt very strongly about that.
RB: I had lunch with that boy this past December. He's head of accounting for the Church in the Presiding Bishop's office in Santiago, Chile, and a returned missionary, as all the other boys are.
LB: Anyway, three years after I gave that lesson, I got a letter from one of the young men whose name is Fernando Vallejo, and he said, "Sister Brimhall, today, I entered the mission home with 300 Chilean missionaries." I was overcome with emotion.
RB: That was the largest impact made by seminaries and institutes.
DL: The missionaries.
RB: Yes. It revolutionized a way of thinking from "We're too poor to go on missions" to "We can do anything the Lord commands us to do." And they began to go by the hundreds.
DL: Do you recall any other human interest experiences that you had with young people?
RB: Many times before the overthrow of the government I would have young men come in and say, "I've read the scriptures thoroughly, and I believe that what the Marxist government is doing is very much in line with the United Order and the gospel." As a foreigner, I was forbidden by the Church from teaching against the Marxist government and with good reason. So I would take him to Section 134 in the Doctrine and Covenants and have him read that. And then say to them, "As long as any government guarantees those things, you should support that government. And they would look at some of those things, and they would say, "This government is not guaranteeing some of these things." And I said, "You need to take your cues from the scriptures. You must decide on this." As a foreigner and guest of the Chilean government, I could not meddle in their political affairs. So there was great conflict among the youth, and often times among ecclesiastical leaders because of different political viewpoints. We had to maintain a very neutral territory in that sense.
I'll never forget the three separate occasions when I went to a new town to open the program. And I only had the name of the branch president and I didn't have an address for any of these three men, and these were three different occasions. On two of those occasions, I stopped a man in the Central Plaza, riding a bicycle. Both times the man said, "I am the branch president." I asked him, "Do you know this man?" And he said, "Yes. I'm that man." And the other time was very similar in nature. I was basically led to the man's business. I walked into his business and asked if they knew where this man lived or worked, and they said, "Yes, this is his business. Let me get him for you." We had many, many spiritual experiences. We were able to send fourteen young people who would have never had the chance to go to college on a Commissioner's Scholarship Program here to BYU. Many of those people are now back in Latin America. They have served as mission presidents, Regional Reps., and so on. A few of them live here in the United States as well.
LB: A very interesting thing that happened was that Rick was asked not to hire the bishops or stake presidents into the program because they were so busy, so he didn't. But it's very interesting how the people he did hire became that, and even General Authorities.
RB: Eduardo Ayala! Elder Ayala, was one of the first men that was hired. Today he's a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
LB: He was a fun person to know. He wrecked about every car the institute owned.
DL: He must have been driving like the people, or unlike the people.
RB: Some of the other men who became the mainstays of the program there, and women, including Nene Lopez, who was the best teacher I have ever met in my life. She was a teacher at the Church school in religious education. Pedro Piaggio, a man whom I had known as a thirteen year-old Boy Scout when I was a missionary, Lito Magnere, Claudio Signorelli, Pedro Pardo, Luis Ulloa, and Carlos Zuniga, and Pedro Blanco were the men that we left in place when we departed Chile in April of 1975.
DL: Now, were they supervisors, then?
RB: These were supervisors of the entire country.
DL: And you divided it up geographically, did you?
RB: Geographically, demographically, and topographically as well.
DL: Were they full-time employees of the Church?
RB: They were full-time employees of seminaries and institutes and supervised different areas of the country. Now, in the three years, we went from zero students to approximately 5000 students in the system when we left. And they eventually went to ten thousand, which is about where I think it is now.
Another one of our major challenges as we were going to leave was leaving these men securely in place. Our Regional Representative, who had been a mission president in Argentina, had a very negative experience when the CES system hired an untrained stake president's counselor to become the director of an institute in Buenos Aires. I'm not sure it was Buenos Aires, Argentina. A building where LDS kids could come and be housed was purchased as well. Things went very wrong there. The newly hired director was not properly supervised or instructed in my opinion. This was quite a few years prior to our opening all of these countries, by the way. The result of all this was that our Regional Representative to Chile had a very negative experience in which he assumed that seminary and institute personnel helped to corrupt people because of their inability to do things correctly. When he came to Chile, he interviewed each one of our employees, and he told them to leave the system, that they were paid ecclesiastical leaders. By then, every one of our men, almost to the man, had been called as a bishop or a stake president.
DL: Was this an American Regional Representative?
RB: Yes, an American.
DL: He should have know better.
RB: Yes, he should have. And then he voiced the same opinion to me at the end of his tour, and I told him that he was totally incorrect, that just because a man was a CES employee and a bishop, that had nothing to do with being a paid ecclesiastical authority. He returned to the United States. My men started calling me. I was two months away from leaving the country. Everything that we had worked so hard for three years was at the brink of disaster because these men were caught in a tremendous conflict over their ecclesiastical leader coming from Salt Lake telling them that they should renounce seminaries and institutes, and find other employment. So I wrote to our people, and eventually Elder Packer came.
LB: We never did communicate with Elder Packer about the problem. He just knew it.
RB: No, I wrote a letter to him, dear.
LB: Oh, you did?
RB: I wrote a letter to seminaries and institutes and did not get any resolution. The man who was supervising me had been called on a mission to San Diego at that time, and it "fell through the cracks" as they said. And so I went directly to Elder Packer. He flew to Chile, called this man and the mission president, (who seemed supportive of this philosophy of the Regional Representative), myself, the director of Church schools at that time, and all of our supervisory employees in both Church schools and seminaries and institutes. The first words out of Elder Packer's mouth were, "There is no such thing as a paid ecclesiastical authority in the Mormon Church." He then proceeded to talk for about an hour and a half on that subject.
DL: Was the Regional Representative there?
LB: Three months later, Elder Packer gave his famous "Equally Yolked" speech.
RB: That treats that subject. And so we went home with our people in place, and some degree of tranquility took place after that. But we still had conflict with this individual, with the mission president, and even with the Central Office, after having gone over their heads to resolve it. We were assigned to work at UCLA, where I was the director. I had a very good experience there. We took that program from forty students to four hundred. Financially, we could not live on the seminary and institute salary in Los Angeles and commute 60 miles a day to UCLA. Housing was too expensive any closer to UCLA.
LB: We had five children, and we were starting over as if we were newly married. No debts, but no money.
DL: No equity in any home.
LB: Nothing. It was very, very difficult.
RB: And the policy at the current time could not compensate in any way for differential pay, so at the end of that year, we decided to move to Arizona, where we could build our own home. I would have preferred to have stayed at UCLA, and they wanted me to stay there very badly. The policy changed the next year, and the California men got a cost of living increase.
After being in Arizona for three years, I was offered a position here at BYU as associate director of School Relations and working with international student admissions, which eventually evolved into representing the presidency of the university to the Latin American universities that we work with. In 1984, I was asked to go over to the Benson Institute as the associate director of that organization, and did so. I have worked there since that time until now. I love the work and I love the job. Over many years I worked with many educational systems in these countries, and in most of them with the ministry of education. The program that we are teaching at the BYU Benson Institute is a program that teaches small, farmer families how to be self-sufficient on a small plot of land. There are one billion people who live in these circumstances in the world, and half of their kids die before they're five. The reason that happens is that they don't know how to work the land properly. So we teach them how to do that, but there is no way in the world we can teach a billion people from BYU and there never will be. So we decided that since we were educators, we needed to teach our fellow educators in each nation how to teach their own people. My background and experience over the years is very focused now in what I do at the institute because I basically work with ministries of education nation by nation. They adopt this program, make it an integral part of their curriculum, and have requirements for bachelor's and master's degrees in all fields related to agriculture.
(End of tape #32, beginning of tape #33)
RB: In the majority of third-world countries, agricultural students are required to give a six month to one year internship before graduation like we do with medical students in public county clinics here. The program of the Benson Institute is now being used to teach families through that internship with 100,000 students in Mexico, and also with the system in Guatemala. We're just beginning it in Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. So the seminary and institute background has had a tremendous consequence for me in what I feel I was being prepared for. Not only are we transferring the program, but we have to write the curriculum for this and transfer that written curriculum into the college setting for these students to be able to go out and teach the families. And so I'm very much involved in my current work in that, and all of the friends and people I have known over the years in Latin America are of great service and help to this new program that we are now doing through BYU.
DL: Do you travel quite a bit internationally to set up those programs?
RB: I'm on the road about a third of my life.
DL: What countries have you gone to?
RB: Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, and we are now in the initial phases in the Congo, in Africa. We also work in research in Israel in drip irrigation with several Israeli universities there. We have had requests from the Orient and from Russia, but will not be going there until we have better proven the results of our program in Latin America and are economically stronger as an institution.
Our children have had a great love for the country of Chile and for the people. Our son, VonLogan, was six years old when we went there, and we'll always remember VonLogan as a very prolific artist. At the age of eight, he would draw entire comic books and sell them to the institute students. In those comic books, he would always have the Chilean army or air force beating the United States.
LB: So he sold them very fast.
DL: They were popular.
RB: His allegiance was to Chile. His loyalty and fealty was with the Chilean government, and not the United States of America. By the time we completed the third year, we thought, "Maybe it's time he goes back to the United States for a little while."
LB: He decided when he was twelve that in three more years, he wanted to go to the academy.
RB: The Chilean Military Academy and become an officer in the Chilean army. That was one of his primary goals.
LB: When they do that, they go and live there.
RB: Then, years later when it became time for him to go on a mission, I had the opportunity to interview him as his bishop. I did that for my first five children, as a matter of fact, for their temple recommends. One of the places we hoped he could go was Chile. His call came for Switzerland, but it was a call to a bilingual mission in German and Spanish. He worked the first half of his mission in German in Austria, and the last half of his mission in Spanish, in the Spanish-speaking neighborhoods of Zurich, Switzerland. He and his companion knocked on a door one morning and a boy answered the door his age, looked at him, and yelled, "VonLogan Brimhall!" and gave him a big hug.
LB: He brought out his first-grade picture.
RB: VonLogan said, "How do you know me? My name is Elder Brimhall." And he said, "You and I were in first grade together. Come in."
LB: In Colegios Chilenos. The Church schools in Chile.
RB: This family came into the Church through the teaching of these two missionaries. I, as his bishop and father, was just a little bit hurt that he had not gone back to Chile, especially since he spoke Spanish as fluently as he did English. But I knew very clearly why the Lord sent him to Switzerland after that. And he did a great work among the Spanish-speaking people from many different nations of Latin America, and it greatly internationalized his scope. Since his mission, we have had a daughter, Alicia, go to Chile on her mission and another son, Timoteo, to Spain. Our fifth son, Jaime, the one who was two months old and only weighed five pounds when we were sent to Chile as a family is currently five months into his mission in Viña del Mar, Chile. His experience, like Alicia's, has been one of returning home. His native language was Spanish. English was his second language. None of our first five children spoke English when we came home from Chile in 1975, so Spanish is his native language. We had a marvelous experience with our first five children there. They became very integrated into the Latin culture, and two of them served their missions in the country of Chile itself, which has been a great experience for us over these years. As I travel to Chile now. . .
DL: How many times have you been back, by the way, Rick?
RB: Six or seven. Quite a few. I usually go twice a year. Everywhere that I go, we meet people whose lives were touched because of the seminaries and institutes and because of the gospel. It's a very satisfying thing to see how many people took a seed that was planted and made it blossom as a rose. Literally. Personally, we are very excited as a family about Mexico and the growth of the Church that has taken place there in the last year. Because of what is happening with President Bush and with Congress, the trade barrier is going to be brought down so that the United States, Canada, and Mexico can become one economic power. I sat with the Minister of Education two weeks ago in Mexico City. He was so excited about what was happening. This was the day before Congress gave President Bush the power to negotiate it without them. The minister said, "Do you realize on the morrow, that if President Bush is given this power, this country will blossom?" He didn't say as a rose, but I was thinking it.
LB: And he's not a member.
RB: No, but he said it will blossom. He said, "Our people, "la raza," the race, which means a mix between Indian and Spanish, will blossom. And we will be able to fulfill dreams that our forefathers have had, as your forefathers have had." We truly see the day of the Lamanite in Latin America. We see its initiation, and the experience to launch it, having taken place in the United States. It has been a marvelous thing to be a part of that.
Our adopted children that we have adopted since we came home from Chile, our Lamanite children, have been just a marvelous, marvelous contribution to our family.
DL: LaPriel, do you recall any family experience or other experience that you would like to share that would be important to this history?
LB: While we were living in Chile, I became quite ill, and we didn't know what was wrong with me. So I came back with Rick on one of his trips to see if we could find out what it was.
DL: In April?
LB: Yes. And before we left, several people had given us cash money in dollars to buy things for them. So I had over $500 dollars cash in my purse. One morning, I got a phone call from our daughter Christina's kindergarten teacher at the Colegios Chilenos, the Church school. She told me that I should come right away, that Christina had brought something to school that she shouldn't have. So I went, wondering what it was, and it was the 500 dollars in cash, which was a tremendous amount of money for that teacher, three or four months salary. She could have taken it, and no one would have ever known. I thought, "What a wonderful, wonderful example she was to the teachers there." Christina had taken the money because she didn't want me to go with her father to the United States and leave them alone.
DL: Was she frightened?
LB: I think she must have been. She just had this fear that we might not ever come back, and so she didn't want me to go. So that was quite an interesting experience that we had.
DL: Do you want to comment further about your health problems? Were they serious?
LB: Well, we never did find out what was wrong with me until about a year after we had returned from Chile. I had been fainting a lot, just passed right out very often, and we had no idea why. It was kind of scary. But then I found that I had hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. While living in Chile, we would get up at five in the morning many times, rush to the airport without eating, and the only thing to eat there was the breakfast that they served of hot chocolate and donuts with lots of sugar on them or candy bars. I would eat that, and I would faint every time.
RB: She would pass out on the tarmac on the way to the airplane much of the time.
DL: Is that so?
LB: And so Rick would just say, "She'll be alright in just a minute." And I was. I always felt better afterwards. But it just took a long time to find out what it was.
RB: One of our students at UCLA who was a medical doctor was the one who diagnosed it.
LB: He gave me a glucose tolerance test and found out what I had, and I was so happy to know what it was. People were beginning to think it was a psychological problem.
DL: As you look back over that experience, do you see any particular sacrifice this required of you in order to do what you needed to do?
RB: Our sacrifice in Sanders, Arizona, was much greater physically and mentally than it was in Chile.
LB: Much, much greater.
RB: This was, in some ways, a great relief. Yet at the same time, it had its hard things. We never considered going to Chile a sacrifice. We had great hopes that someday that might become a reality in our lives. When it did, it was a fulfillment of a dream and had nothing to do with sacrifice.
DL: Even the pressures that you felt with the political instability and unrest, did you ever feel that you were really in danger or that you were very vulnerable?
RB: Never. The Chilean people have always had an innate ability as they still seem to demonstrate in the bombing of church chapels, which is currently the practice going on in that country, of separating individuals from governments or organizations. We always felt secure in Chile. We were never persecuted openly because we were Americans. The entire situation was insecure, but everybody was insecure, because there was conflict going on between two politically motivated sides that were diametrically opposed to each other.
LB: We were aware that our whole family could be killed, but it was as if we knew that wasn't going to happen.
RB: We felt that our going there was inspired of the Lord, and that we were in his hands. And that was the end of it. We simply went forward.
DL: Was this simply the context of the blessing you received from Elder Dunn?
RB: I don't remember the blessing.
DL: You just remember that there were promises.
RB: That is correct. I do not remember the specific blessings, but the blessing gave us great comfort and peace.
DL: I notice in some of the accounts the bombings of chapels down there now. I just thought as you mentioned this, that often, if there's a custodian there, they ask him to leave.
RB: They take him at gunpoint out on the street and then blow the chapel.
DL: Do the people there relate the Church to America politically, like these terrorists seem to do?
RB: Yes, very much so. It's more of a political capitalist exploitation type of connotation to what they're doing than it is that they're anti-Mormons.
LB: They also have a misunderstanding of what the Church really is.
RB: Mormons are strongly, strongly identified with North America, and they always have been. One of the problems in this is that many of our returned missionaries over the years have come back with very well-honed language and cross-cultural skills, so they have been very valuable employees of the U.S. Government in operations such as CIA, the Foreign Service, FBI and so on. And often times, I personally had counselors and mission presidents who were CIA, former Spanish speaking missionaries. So there is some justification to mistakenly associating us with U.S. government.
DL: Any other experiences that would be important to share at this point?
LB: I remember on the day of the overthrow, Rick took our children to the balcony of our home and watched the Moneda, which is the Chilean White House, get bombed.
RB: Bombed by Air Force jets with guided missiles. We laid on the roof and watched them come in and shoot the missiles into the White House.
LB: And then we followed everything on television, and recorded it. We have that recording.
RB: Perhaps the summary and result of our experience has been that our family is changed forever in the sense that we see the United States of America as the bastion of the gospel of Jesus Christ to go forward to the world. But we do not see it being more important than any other group or people or nation on the face of the earth other than in that sense. We're a very internationally, multi-racially oriented family, we have been for many, many years, and we will continue to be.
DL: LaPriel, Rick, you mentioned that the one significant thing that you had noted in terms of change was the number ofmissionaries beginning to come. How quickly did that begin to happen?
RB: Within a year.
DL: How drastic was the change?
RB: It took five years to really escalate to large proportions. It really started to move about two or three years after we were home. The proliferation was incredible. Most of our daughter Alicia's companions were Chilean missionaries.
DL: Has there ever been a time when temple marriage has been realistic as a possibility for those people given their poverty?
RB: Yes, but now, they have their own temple in Santiago. Most people could not go to the temple before. The first temple they were able to go to in any group of any size was the Brazilian Temple in Sao Paulo. They would go over the Andes Mountains by bus into Argentina, and then down into Brazil. So it was a very long trip.
DL: That was after you came home. . .
RB: The temple wasn't built until long after we came home, even after the Sao Paulo Temple.
DL: In fact, it was 1978 when the Sao Paulo was dedicated, so it was years later. You saw the immediate effect, though, of things changing in those types of sacrifices and values.
RB: Very much so. Perhaps I could end with one story that a man named Sergio Bravo told me as I was about to board the airplane in 1964 to come home from my mission in Chile. My companion and I had had the opportunity to teach his family up in the highland area around Viña del Mar. They were very poor, and basically lived in a little one room hut or shack made of cardboard and wood with a dirt floor. We had taught him the gospel, and as soon as he heard of the Book of Mormon, he just caught on fire, and consumed it in 48 hours by the time we came back for the next visit. He wanted to be baptized, and was so. This was one of the two or three month periods on two different occasions when I got to do proselyting instead of singing. Brother Bravo came to the airport in Santiago, which for him was a big sacrifice in and of itself to get there financially. He is a short, barrel-chested man. He came up and gave me a great big abrazo, which is a hug, and said, "I want to tell you something, Elder Brimhall." I said, "What?" And he said, "Once there was an American Eagle who flew south and finally came over the Andes, and as he was flying, he noticed a sparrow's nest, Chilean sparrow, on a cliff overlooking the ocean. And that, of course, is where Viña is, where he lived. He came down and lit at the nest, and began to talk with the sparrow and his family about things that he had never dreamed of. He gave the sparrow a challenge. And he said to the sparrow, 'You can become anything you want to be. You have the potential, the Lord gave you the potential that all men have.' The little sparrow really didn't know whether to believe him or not, but he took what he said and embraced it, and he moved forward in his life." I thanked him, I gave him a hug and I left. Then eight years later I came back. We met each other again when I opened Viña del Mar Seminary and Institute. This time he was the district president. He was a high priest and I was an elder. He came back and he hugged me again and he said, "I want to finish that story." I said, "I remember it." And he said, "That eagle left and went back to America, and years later, he found himself perched on one of the highest peaks in the Andes, on Aconcagua. And as he was sitting there, he realized that the challenge that he had given to the sparrow of being able to climb this peak, the highest peak in the Americas, may have been too much. And he thought to himself, `I wonder if that could ever be?' The eagle waited and he waited and he wondered, and the sparrow never came. Finally, he was ready to give up and spread his wings and glide down and find the Chilean sparrow. As he sat there, all of a sudden he heard a scratching sound. He looked down, and the little sparrow plopped into the nest. His feathers were all flustered, he was exhausted, and the eagle was just shocked that he had made it to the top. And the American eagle said to the Chilean sparrow, `How did you get here?' And the little sparrow said, `I clawed my way to the top.'" And then I said to Brother Bravo, "You know, that really wasn't a Chilean sparrow, don't you, Brother Bravo? That was a baby condor, and they grow a lot bigger than American eagles." And he had. And that's what has happened in Chile with the gospel, the Church, and its people.
LB: He's a patriarch now.
RB: Yes, he's a stake patriarch.
DL: Rick, in the time that you were there, were you visited very often by zone administrators or supervisors?
RB: Usually twice a year, by a zone administrator. It was Frank Bradshaw the first half and Bruce Lake the last half. We were also visited by Brother Packer and by Elder Hinckley, separately on different occasions.
DL: How did these brethren respond to what they saw happening there in the work you were doing?
RB: Most of my interaction with both of those brethren was based upon conflict having nothing to do with seminaries and institutes.
DL: Both of which brethren?
RB: Both Elder Packer and Elder Hinckley. To Elder Hinckley, my report was basically what was happening in the Church schools, which he asked me for. He asked me to come to an interview. It was a terribly conflictive time in the entire country, in the Church and in the schools. And then there is the other occasion which I mentioned with Elder Packer. Dean Larsen was one of the two Regional Representatives that was assigned over those years, and he came into our home, and was very involved and aware of what we were doing. He was very supportive of seminary work. Of course, that is his background. He comes from the same background.
DL: Were Frank Bradshaw and Bruce Lake supportive?
RB: Very supportive. Very fine men.
DL: Did you find the administration generally supportive and helpful?
RB: Generally very supportive.
LB: Frank and Bruce didn't speak Spanish, though. It was to their disadvantage.
RB: I feel a mistake was made, and so does every Latin American coordinator sent from the United States at that time. We have had a lot of very negative consequences of that error, the fact that the zone administrators from Salt Lake City continued to be men in charge after locals were put in charge. They had no cross-cultural skills regarding Latin America. Some of them had cross-cultural European skills and linguistic skills. In Latin America they were always held hostage to whatever the translator was telling them. And we had very conflictive situations in many countries during this period. CES men excommunicated, people with their hand in the till. Lots of real problems could have been avoided had we had enough wisdom as an administration of seminaries and institutes and Church schools to appoint bilingual, bicultural people as zone administrators to Latin America. As each of us originally sent from the U.S. to establish the programs came home after those three years, six or seven of us made the recommendation that one of the men of our group, or somebody else who was fluent in the language and the culture, should be assigned to supervise Latin America. That was not heeded until very recently. We finally have bilingual people supervising Latin America now.
DL: Who is that?
RB: We have Gary Moore and Tom Tyler.
DL: Now, Tom has been down there on his mission.
RB: Tom handles Mexico and Central America and Gary handles South America.
DL: Had they both had mission experiences in those areas?
RB: I don't know their backgrounds. I just know that they both have the linguistic capability to communicate with people.
DL: Who selected the people or the individual to replace you as area director, Rick?
RB: Each man selected his own replacement.
DL: You did that?
RB: Yes, through a process of taking names to the Lord.
DL: And of those that were chosen, did you feel a strong confirmation that they were prepared, that the Lord had raised them up?
RB: There were two men that it came down to. Either one of them could have done the program very well as the coordinator of the country. One was Pedro Piaggio, whom I had known as a young missionary, when he was a thirteen year old boy scout. Later when I went back to Arica, Chile, on the border of Peru, I found that he was the person that the branch president had selected as the seminary teacher. We recognized each other. He had completed a master's degree, which was something very unusual in those days in Chile, for a person to be at a master's level. He was very articulate, very well educated. He had a very strong, good family. After the first year as a volunteer teacher, we hired him as a full-time institute director, and brought him to Santiago. The other man was Pedro Blanco. Pedro was a very spiritually oriented man, a convert as everybody was in Chile, but much more recently than Pedro. He lived in Viña del Mar, and we had him direct the institute after one year of experience as a called seminary teacher in Viña del Mar. He also supervised seminary for that area as well. Six months prior to leaving, I had to start the decision process, so I started taking these brethren's names individually to the Lord, and I received a very, very strong confirmation that Pedro Piaggio should be the individual. Pedro Blanco had been in the system about eight months longer. I knew this had the potential to cause tremendous conflict and hurt feelings, which it did. Pedro Blanco resigned and left the system when I indicated to him that I felt Pedro Piaggio should be the person. He has remained faithful in the Church as far as I know. In fact, I ran into him in New York City about four years ago in a hotel; we both happened to be staying in the same hotel. He opened an international trading company, as I recall. Pedro Piaggio stayed on, did a wonderful job for the first two years, and then had personal problems and was eventually excommunicated from the Church and has not yet returned to the Church. They brought in other men who had been hired just after I left, who were at that time called or part-time seminary and institute teachers. They have done marvelous work, a very good job. The man who directs the program right now was one of our high school seminary students back in those days.
DL: It almost seems like the adversary had some of these people as special targets.
RB: We had at least three men that I'm aware of who were excommunicated, who headed the programs in different nations.
DL: Were those primarily through transgressions of moral areas?
RB: All moral and in one case, financial as well.
DL: LaPriel, as we conclude, could we turn to the coming back, the returning home? How was that for you and the children? Rick had been back a number of times. How was that for you?
LB: Very difficult to leave Chile.
DL: To leave those people.
RB: We are a very cold-blooded people compared to Chileans.
LB: I had my greatest cultural shock coming back, not going.
DL: Can you talk about that?
LB: There was little difficulty in going to Chile.
DL: No, but in leaving Chile?
LB: It was exciting to meet friends and relatives and to come back home, and it was a beautiful experience to realize the freedoms, the wealth, and the magnificence of our great country America. But at the same time, it was very difficult to leave. My first impression in coming back as I got off the plane in a huge airport was all I could see were these white, pale, fat people. Everywhere. It was ugly. I was given a glimpse of the negative side of America, wealthy people with so much. And I hadn't realized that it was, but I didn't know there was a great problem here until I had been away from it for three years, and then all of a sudden come back. That was my biggest shock. The next shock was that I wanted to speak Spanish to everyone. Changing languages was very difficult. Going to church, I knew what my culture was like. I knew that everyone didn't hug, but afterthree years of hugs and kisses. . .In fact, in Chile, if you came to a classroom late, and the teacher was giving the lesson, he would stop. And everyone in the room kissed and hugged the person who came in. And they not only did it when you came in, but when anyone would leave, you would do it all again. If you forgot to give hugs and kisses, it was very, very bad. I was accustomed to this, and then coming home, I kept getting this empty feeling that no one really liked me, that I wasn't fitting in, that I wasn't loved. That was quite difficult. I just had to live through it and know that I was loved. What was so funny is your emotions would go on by themselves without the intellectual part. Even if the intellectual part is saying, "That's not a correct emotion," it was still there.
DL: Tell about the departure. How did you handle that and how did it occur?
RB: Several hundred friends were at the airport, including students and adults, and our foster children that we were leaving behind. We had left four foster children behind in Provo, Indian children who were living with us. Then we left four Chilean foster children behind.
LB: So emotionally, leaving was very hard.
RB: We came to Provo and lived here for three months while I wrote my thesis.
DL: Oh, I see. When you just returned.
RB: I defended my thesis, passed my orals, received a double masters, and then we went to UCLA.
DL: What adjustments did your children struggle with the most?
LB: The language and prejudice.
RB: They experienced prejudice in reverse. They saw people sniping and making negative remarks to them because they had a funny accent when they tried to speak English. They got a real education.
DL: That was quite difficult.
RB: It was good for them.
LB: And then they had red hair, which wasn't as great and as glorious a thing to have here in the United States as it was in Chile.
RB: They were no longer special in that sense.
LB: And their freckles weren't wonderful.
DL: So it was much more difficult to re-establish here than it ever was to go in that direction.
LB: In fact, the diarrhea and everything never happened going down to physically adapt to different flora and fauna in the ingestive tract.
RB: I wasn't used to American food, and was quite ill at first like others in the family.
DL: That is quite interesting.
LB: When we lived in Chile, we lived in a beautiful home. We had beautiful furniture because it came with the rented home. We lived well because of the severe inflation, so we could travel, and we had maids to take care of the children when we were gone. It didn't cost us very much. Then when we came back, we lived in a tiny apartment. In California we could not find a place to rent that would take five children. They would take five dogs, and in fact, the home we finally did rent had three teeny-tiny bedrooms. It was a little cracker-box house.
RB: It was 1000 square feet. The previous renters had dogs in it.
LB: They had five dogs in it, and it was absolutely nauseous.
RB: We hunted for about a month, and finally found a foreigner who would rent to somebody with five children. He had nine. He was an Iranian. We found no one else who would let you in with children.
LB: We were starting over. We had 1000 dollars when we came back, so we got a car, but not a very good one. It had problems. We didn't have a washer, or a dryer. I washed clothes in the bathtub. It was just like starting over again, just very, very slowly. We had a very difficult financial struggle until we built our home in Arizona with our own hands. We did everything except the wiring and the plumbing.
DL: So you actually built the home?
LB: Rick and I built the home ourselves.
RB: I'm the son of a building contractor, so I have some background in it.
LB: Then when we moved here to Provo, we were able to sell that home and had money to put down on this home.
RB: We were married fifteen years before we purchased a home, and we moved 28 times in those fifteen years.
DL: 28 times in 15 years. And it wasn't until then that you bought a home.
RB: That's right. We paid ten dollars down.
LB: So you might say that it was a sacrifice. It wasn't a sacrifice to live in Chile and be there, but it was a sacrifice to come home.
RB: Temporally? No, in the long haul.
LB: When you stay put and live in one or two places, you have a chance to collect things and build a financial base in your life. We weren't able to do that.
RB: When we came to Arizona and built that home, I became so ill I couldn't get up out of bed. I almost died.
DL: From what?
RB: It was from insecticide poisoning.
LB: The defoliant sprayed on the cotton plants in Mesa.
RB: It made the duodenal valve in the stomach go into spasms inhibiting the proper digestion of food. I would throw up almost all of the food that I ate. I went to the doctor, and he said, "Where have you been. What is your background?" I gave it to him, and he said, "What are you doing?" I told him, and he said, "You're having a psychological reaction to coming back to being a seminary teacher."
LB: After being an institute director and an area coordinator, he was now a seminary teacher at the level where he had started in 1968.
RB: I didn't believe what the doctor said, but I started to finally believe it after three years of symptoms. The symptoms would go away about late November and start in September just as school started. Finally in the third year, I woke up about three a.m. in the morning, which was the longest I could ever sleep going to bed about 11:00 at night. My hair was falling out in huge handfuls and things like that. I heard the biplanes. About 11:00 the night before, I watched a special broadcast on Agent Orange and what was happening with Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to this defoliant. And as I heard that biplane, I knew that they were out there spraying defoliant which followed the insecticide that had been spraying on the cotton.
LB: For some reason, he was highly allergic to it, because it wasn't affecting the rest of us, at least that we could tell.
RB: Most people sluff it off in the natural body wastes, but my body was accumulating it. So I got up the next morning and told LaPriel to take me to the doctor, and they did a blood analysis.
The doctor called us a couple of days later and said, "You have to leave this valley today. If you don't, there's a risk that you will die." I had nowhere to go. I had no employment other than what I did, so I met with Joe Christensen, and a type of a paid sabbatical was arranged. A few months later, I started laying bricks and working as a mason with my father's company.
LB: You then had eight months unpaid sabbatical, from October to June.
RB: Yes, but I didn't need to take it all because I got work before then. I went to work for my dad about two months into the sabbatical, and then didn't have to take the rest of it. I would travel up to our family homestead, a ranch that we've had since 1877 when my great-great grandfather was sent by Brigham Young to colonize that area. And I would live there five days a week and work as a brick mason, and then come down from the mountains to Mesa and stay about 36 hours with my family and then go back up. We lived that way for about seven months. As the next school year approached, the seminaries and institutes said they would like to assign me as the institute director at Las Cruces, New Mexico, which would have been a good location free of chemical spraying, and it would have been a bilingual assignment. However, at the same time I had a job offer here from BYU. I knew that it was highly doubtful that I would go back into international work in the seminary and institute program anytime in the immediate future, and that's what I wanted to do with my life--international work. I felt the greatest opportunity for that to happen was through BYU, so I took this. I came here and it worked out exactly as I hoped it would. But I had no idea it would be in agriculture. I am no t an agronomist or a farmer. When they asked me to come over to the Benson Institute, that's exactly what I told them, and they said, "We need a man who knows Latin American governments and ministries of education, who is bilingual, and who knows about setting up educational institutions in Latin America." That's what I had done for a living, so it worked out beautifully.
DL: Oh that's wonderful.
RB: Now I am going back to our CES assignment in Chile in the establishment of seminaries and institutes in Latin America in general. Without the excellent support of the Brethren in Salt Lake, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve, and the people in CES, much of what each of us did individually and in every country never could have happened. They really put themselves on the line with us. They had to say, "There it is. What budget do you need? Here is the budget." And there were very poor control factors in place regarding auditing and that type of thing in those days. We were just creating a new system, a totally new kind of thing in the Church. There was little or no standardization that had taken place yet, and they had tremendous faith, confidence and trust in us. I often look back and wonder "How could they do that?" But they did, and for the most part, it worked out marvelously well. Their support was greatly appreciated.
LB: How old were you?
RB: I was 33 years old.
DL: And not only given the responsibility and authority to set up a program in an entire nation, but the budget, and I had the full power of the Church resources to accomplish what you needed to do. Tremendous trust. And really, in terms of that single chapter in the Church and Church Education, it's really a miracle. It's a miracle it happened at all, it's a miracle it happened as quickly as it did, and it's a miracle that it happened with so few disasters.
RB: Currently I'm in a very similar situation to what they were in there. I have men that we work with directly. We are creating a transfer system. As we train and hire men in each nation for the Benson Institute, we must place a great deal of confidence and trust in them. So I know what the Brethren went through by having the experience myself now.
DL: Rick and LaPriel, I really appreciate the time that you have given, the thoughts, the feelings, the experiences that you have shared. You are both just incredible pioneers, along with your children, doing something that had never been done before that had a very limited time frame in order to do it, and required very unique qualities and personalities who were going to do the job. That has certainly had eternal impact on you and your family, but it will certainly have eternal impact upon Church Education and the Church itself. Well, thank you very, very much.
LB: It's interesting how we worked for three years to eliminate our job.
DL: Is that so?
RB: That's as it should have been.
DL: You would almost prefer to have a limb removed than to leave. You just hated to leave because you loved the people and loved the work, and yet that was part of the price as well, to prepare your replacement.
RB: It was the key to long term sustainability and success.
DL: Thank you very, very much and God bless you.
DL: Just as a P.S. to this interview, LaPriel and Rick and I were just visiting as we finished this, and I think there are some feelings that need to be articulated in regard to the kind of opposition that they felt from the adversary.
RB: The adversary was ever present, especially in the first year and a half, in the sense that he permeated the environment in which we lived, except in our home. There was a time in the first year we were there that we would be running, having family home evening seven days a week for several months. We had family home evening every night for five months in a row.
DL: What was the reason for that?
RB: The conflict that was going on politically invaded our family at every level. We had our children calling each other names related to political parties.
DL: Your own children were polarized.
RB: Our own children were polarized within our own family. And that was as prevalent if not more so throughout the entire Chilean society. We would have a son call a daughter a dirty communist, and she would say, "You're a lousy capitalist Momio," which is a derogatory word for somebody who has money. But where it was more pervasive was when you would go to church. People oftentimes would not confide in the bishop as they needed to because they did not trust the bishop if he was of a different political opinion and orientation than they were, and hate became so prevalent. LaPriel and I often described it as being able to cut it with a knife. It was everywhere. Then we had great opposition oftentimes from within our own camp later after the Marxist government was gone. By sticking with it, and by playing every card we had in our deck, oftentimes to our own detriment, at least perceived by us for long term within our professional status, within our own institution, things turned out the way they should have turned out.
DL: LaPriel, you were mentioning that you just felt like there was some wall the adversary put there in front of the seminary and institute program.
LB: At every turn, there were major problems to overcome. And we talked about it very often. We would lay in bed at night and stare at the ceiling and talk about the problems and how Satan did not want this program in this country, especially at this time when it was needed most.
RB: We would teach a lesson on a district level at a Super Saturday about boys preparing to go on a mission just to have the district president stand up the next Sunday in conference and tell them they couldn't. The process, as it took place over time, was very interesting.
LB: A constant fight and struggle against Satan because of the political situation in the country and because he just didn't want the program there. Even if the political situation had been perfectly wonderful, we would have still run into very significant problems. After the overthrow of Allende, that tangible hatred all around you disappeared, and it was the most wonderful, glorious joy that I can ever express. And almost every Chilean felt it.
DL: Did you feel it immediately within your own family?
LB: Oh yes. The next day, just like night and day.
DL: Is that why I sensed a very deep emotion as you were relating the incident about going down to giving your wedding rings? Was that feeling generally among the people? Was that kind of act of giving an expression of what you were feeling? Is that what you're saying?
LB: Yes, an expression of joy to have this darkness over with.
RB: For me, it was an act of love of country. And I must confess that I had a bit of the VonLogan syndrome happening inside of me as well. I hold a great love and respect for Chile and its people.
DL: I noticed that neither one of you is wearing wedding rings.
RB: The copper ones wore out very rapidly.
LB: No, the copper one is now black.
RB: They turned black and wore through very quickly. We have one of them still. It is very precious to us.
LB: Rick bought that one for me in Peru for five dollars. His dad gave me this one that he found. I didn't have one at all when I got that one, but it's too big, so I put these smaller ones on to keep the big one on.
RB: She has never had a diamond. The rings that we gave to the Chilean government were Peruvian gold bands that I had purchased on my way home from my mission in 1964.
DL: Well, thank you both so very much. I deeply appreciate what you have shared.
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