When the Brimhalls Got Organized

By William O. Nelson

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    Have you as a parent had any of these concerns?

    • How to afford missions and college educations for your children.

    • How to store enough food, clothing, and fuel for your entire family for one year.

    • How to accomplish the genealogical research that needs to be done.

    • How to foster family togetherness after children have left the home.

    • How to keep your children close to you amid their peer group pressures.

    One family found their answers in this counsel from the Lord: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing.” (D&C 88:119.) The result is a remarkable family organization.

    When the Brimhall family organization invited our family to participate in some workshop presentations at their annual family reunion, we came away with a deep appreciation and love for them. Their example of cooperation and genuine concern for one another left an unforgettable impression on us. At their invitation we joined with them again the following year.

    What Makes This Family Reunion So Unusual?

    The Brimhall family reunion is an annual affair that involves all of Logan Brimhall’s descendants—forty-three families, seventy-eight grandchildren, and thirty-eight great-grandchildren. In 1975 there were 180 present. It’s rare that a family misses the reunion. In fact, Logan Brimhall, whom the family calls “the Patriarch,” says: “It’s the big attraction of the year for all. Some of the little boys don’t want to go to bed at night for the entire previous week for fear that Morn and Dad will forget to wake them up on time to get aboard for the ranch.”

    Another family member recalls, “When I was a Boy Scout, our troop planned a deep-sea fishing trip the same time as the family reunion. My parents asked me which I was going to attend. I replied, ‘The reunion—the family only gets together once a year!’”

    How does a family reunion capture such an interest from growing boys? When public parks and river and lake camping sites became too small to accommodate the large Brimhall clan, the family organization decided to purchase their own site. With contributions from each family, they purchased an old homestead and incorporated it under the name “B-13”—“B” for Brimhall, “13” for the 13 children of Logan and Mary Brimhall. It is a seventy-two acre ranch near Pinedale, Arizona, in the world’s largest Ponderosa Pine forest.

    The reunion is a well-planned, three-day activity, usually held in mid-August. “This,” says the eighty-four-year-old patriarch, “enables the kids to get in the rain, feel the green grass, smell the wild flowers, and play football in the mud where it takes a lot of soap and hot water to get clean again.”

    The reunion starts with a Friday night talent show where second generation family members perform for the others. Then the children hear the grandpas (there are ten of them) tell stories. Later all of the families join in a songfest.

    One of the big reunion attractions is the annual parade of floats, costumed animals, clowns, bicycles and tricycles, and a frontier section of “Cowboys and Indians,” all led by a twenty-piece children’s band. There is lively competition for prizes for the best floats. Mother Brimhall, wife of Logan, always had the position of honor in the parade as Queen Mary until she passed away in 1973.

    Another great attraction is the family rodeo, where riders five years old and up ride livestock from calves to full-grown bulls. Each child who stays aboard a few seconds wins twenty-five cents, and those who ride the longest receive special prizes. A film rerun of the previous year’s rodeo is a reunion favorite.

    Other activities include seminars on gospel principles, workshops, music festivals, sports (soft ball, football, ping-pong, boxing matches, tumbling, horseback riding), and nature hunts (bugs, plants, rocks, and pottery).

    Saturday night there is traditionally a dance—square, polka, waltz, and jitterbug. Dads dance with daughters, moms with sons, and cousins with cousins. “In this family,” one says, “we all know one another—cousins, uncles, and aunts.” The dance takes place in the Family Center.

    The Family Center is a 3,000-square-foot cultural hall equipped with rest rooms, showers, electric and gas cook stoves, chairs and tables for over 200, and a piano. It was built entirely by family labor, from the pouring of the concrete to the plumbing, wiring, cabinet work, and wrought-iron chandeliers. The huge fireplace, also a product of family labor, accommodates a six-foot log.

    In the spirit of family unity, the reunion is also a time when the family patriarch conducts progress interviews with the family heads. Financial or other problems may also be discussed. “Grandpa” Brimhall may give special instruction to the entire family or to an individual member. Such counsel is not resented, but sought. As with the Prophet Joseph Smith, the family members esteem “it one of the greatest earthly blessings to be blessed with … parents, whose mature years and experience render them capable of administering the most wholesome advice.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:289.)

    “Compassionate service,” says Logan Brimhall, “begins at home.” To him this means priesthood blessings when needed, family prayers to support and sustain one another, financial assistance, and demonstrating concern for each other. We were witnesses to the following experience.

    One year a family was experiencing difficulty with a teenage boy who did not come to the reunion. Grandfather Brimhall explained the situation to the rest of the family, and then said: “I don’t want to hear any gossip or recriminations to the family. What they need now is our faith and prayers.” He then asked the family to kneel together. Picture a family, almost 200 strong, kneeling in behalf of one of their own. Hearts were softened, tears were shed, and much concern was shown. The following year the boy, the object of the prayers and concern, was in attendance at the reunion and has since served an honorable mission.

    Another time, a fire destroyed the home and possessions of one of the families. With the assistance of the family organization and other agencies, they were completely taken care of.

    The ranch is a living food-storage program that, it is estimated, could sustain over 300 people for a full year. There the family grows its own wheat and fresh vegetables and keeps bees for honey. Perishables are stored in cellars, steel bins, and barrels. Fresh water comes from two surface springs and a 400-foot-deep well. A modern plumbing system is connected to a 20,000-gallon steel tank.

    The ranch also serves as a family sanctuary, a retreat from everyday society. “We wanted the ranch as a haven for any of the clan who might experience temporary economic reverses or illnesses, and who might need a rest.”

    “The ranch,” says Logan, “is not for sophisticated society. It is for those who want to rough it for a few hours or a few days. It’s a place of refuge from overwork, worry, a hideaway from the telephone, a place to work in the garden or to lie in the sun till the shadows from the pines bid you move. It’s a place to eat jerky as loudly as you please and to listen to children laugh a mile down the vale. This is a little of what you can do when you get organized.”

    How The Family Organization Began

    This story of the Brimhall Family Organization really began November 1, 1916, when Logan Brimhall and Mary Hatch, both from Taylor, Arizona, were married in the Salt Lake Temple. Succeeding months and years were a financial struggle, but were also happy years. Following graduation from Brigham Young University, Logan went into schoolteaching.

    Thirteen children blessed their union. Their attitude toward a large family is epitomized in these expressions: Mary would frequently say, “We were blessed with only thirteen children.” And Logan says, “Children are gifts from God, and happy is he who has a flivver (an inexpensive car) full.” (See Ps. 127:3–5.)

    It is not just coincidence that the descendants of Logan and Mary Brimhall fill honorable missions and marry in the temple. It comes as a result of living the commandments, setting goals for the family, demonstrating by example the art of continuous courtship, and teaching the children to understand the gospel in both principle and practice. Logan and Mary’s long-range goals for their children included missions, education, and temple marriages. But the parents wisely recognized that to reach the long-range goals, the children needed to be kept close to the family and to develop a love stronger than the pull from outside influences.

    So Logan and Mary had family home evenings. In fact, almost every night around the dinner table was something of a home evening. They had family prayers and frequently went on family trips together to zoos, fishing streams, deserts, and swimming holes. “Children ever remember a campfire-cooked meal and sleeping out under a star-studded sky,” Logan says. “Here they get acquainted with the man in the moon, the north star, the Milky Way, and other constellations. Someone hums a tune, and soon all are harmonizing. Then the night comes on, and there’s the yak-yak of the coyote. You can get pretty close to your children in the great outdoors.”

    Following encouragement from the Church that families should organize, Logan and Mary organized their family in 1925 under the name of the Logan and Mary Hatch Brimhall Family. The family organization functioned under this name until 1965, when they incorporated under the new name, “Brimhall’s 13, Incorporated.”

    What Is The Purpose of Their Family Organization?

    The corporation bylaws state this purpose: “The corporation will promote the social and spiritual welfare of the members … and their descendants through socials, reunions, genealogical research, temple ordinances, missionary work, and similar interests.” The “heartbeat” to that purpose, however, is better appreciated when the words from the dedicatory prayer of the “B-13” ranch are read:

    “Help us, Father, to refrain from desecrating this hallowed spot. May we be slow in anger, criticism, complaint, or fault-finding, but give us abundantly of tolerance, understanding, forgiveness, and desire to know and abide the rules that will be made to govern this family project. We thank thee for inclining our hearts to this area and for the generous support of the family members in securing this blessing unto ourselves. … Inspire our minds, our Father, to make this a sacred place—a place of social, cultural, spiritual and financial development, and let this valley be happy with the laughter of delighted children, and wilt thou keep us safe from harm in our incoming, sojourn, and outgoing. Let this lovely valley be a refuge from tiresome burdens, perplexing cares and distress incident to evil, designing men. May it be a refuge from fear, want, and sorrow, and may thy peace rest our souls as we sleep under thy star-studded canopy and enjoy the song of the forest borne to us on the gentle breezes among the sighing pines.”

    The corporation also created the offices of genealogist, historian, and family patriarch, and named committees for reunions, landscaping and beautification, building and sanitation, operations, recreation and education, children’s interests, and finance:

    How Does the Organization Function?

    Logan Brimhall’s eight sons and four sons-in-law form a board of directors for the ranch corporation, with the patriarch serving as chairman of the board and social director.

    Family problems and future planning for the family organization are considered by the board. An annually appointed committee, for example, plans the family reunion. A proposed program is submitted to the board. When approved, the program is sent out to all families, including specific assignments. The theme for the 1976 reunion was “Patriotism.”

    Committee assignments are rotated annually, and each reports to the board. Funds have been provided by projects such as the family acquiring a number of building lots where they have constructed homes for public resale. Profits from these projects are used to defray ranch costs, development, and special funds for missionary work and emergency loans.

    How to Make a Family Organization Work

    A conviction of the truth of the principle of patriarchal leadership, expressed by Elder Parley P. Pratt, is a significant factor in the success of the Brimhall family organization:

    “The order of God’s government, both in time and in eternity, is patriarchal; that is, it is a fatherly government. … We talk in this ignorant age, of children becoming of age … and we consider when they are of age they are free from the authority of their father. But no such rule is known in celestial law and organization, either here or hereafter. By that law a son is subject to his father forever and ever, worlds without end.” (Millennial Star 5:189.)

    When this principle of righteous fatherly jurisdiction is voluntarily consented to by family members, a family government imitative of the order of heaven becomes possible. That consent cannot be demanded. It comes by the practice of those oft-stated attributes of persuasion, patience, gentleness, kindness, and love. (See D&C 121:41–44.) There is among the Logan Brimhall descendants a feeling of almost holy veneration for their father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, demonstrating that such fidelity comes “without compulsory means.”

    The Brimhall family has found that there are some additional essentials needed to make a family organization properly function. Some of these essentials are:

    1. Realize the importance of objectives. “Any successful organization,” says one family member, “must have one or more primary objectives, such as a ranch, a homestead, vacations together, genealogy, or a business enterprise. The more human needs and interests which can be met by the family organization, the more successful it will be.”

    One of the challenges to a family organization is to be careful not to concentrate so much on the organization that individual needs are not met.

    2. Teaching is a key to family unity and purpose. One of Logan’s sons said, “Dad is always teaching. He is a master at it.” That teaching emphasized honesty, missions, education, temple marriage, and love of God, his prophets, and America. When asked how he instilled honesty in his children, Logan replied, “It began when they were very small. One time one of our little boys stole twenty-five cents from one of his sisters. We knew he took it, but he wouldn’t admit it. Every night I went to his bedside and told him a story that emphasized honesty. After each story I would ask, “Do you know what happened to the twenty-five cents?” After three weeks he finally admitted to me that he took the money. Instead of spanking him, I told him how to repent. We then knelt down together, and I prayed to Heavenly Father and explained our problem, and then he prayed. To my knowledge, he never took anything that didn’t belong to him again.”

    3. Solve problems within the family organization. As family members learn to do this, they will not be dependent on the Church or the government, and consequently will better serve the Church and their government. “Dad and Mother,” says one of the eight sons, “have always expected each of their children to carry his own weight, plus a little more for someone else.”

    4. Practice sound business principles if the family enters into any business activity besides service projects. This means strict accountability for the family money, good financial records and bookkeeping, adequate work production of family members, and periodic reports on investments or money-making ventures. A family enterprise established for the purpose of helping the family financially must be profitable.

    5. Strengthen one another in times of crisis. Recently one of the family members had cancer. The entire family organization fasted, prayed, and assisted that family. As a result, a great bond of love increased among family members. Adversity to one became a blessing to all.

    These are a few of the blessings of an organized family. And there are important by-products: “My grandpa,” a grandson wrote, “is the luckiest person I know ’cause he has lots of grandchildren to come to family reunion. My grandpa knows how to teach kids to be happy.”

    Photography by Kent Perry

    On Friday the Brimhalls hold “activity night.” Here the children gather to hear old favorite songs like “Don’t Let Them Burn That Little House Down.” The wrought iron drapery hangings were handmade by family members.

    The garbage crew—grandchildren and great-grandchildren—prepare to haul garbage away from the outdoor eating area.

    Logan Brimhall relaxes under the trees.

    The Brimhall family center at the edge of a forest of ponderosa pine.

    Grandchildren and great-grandchildren prepare for the family talent show.

    Show References

    • William O. Nelson, assistant executive secretary to the Council of the Twelve, serves as a counselor in the Orem Utah East Stake presidency.