A Story of a Rich Man

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Shared by President Spencer W. Kimball

I have related before my experience with a friend who took me to his ranch. He unlocked the door of a large new automobile, slid behind the wheel, and said proudly, "How do you like my new car?" We rode in luxurious comfort into the rural areas to a beautiful new landscaped home, and he said with no little pride, "This is my home."

He drove to a grassy knoll. The sun was setting behind the distant hills. He surveyed his vast domain. Pointing to the north, he asked, "Do you see that clump of trees yonder?" I could plainly discern them in the fading day.

He pointed to the east. "Do you see the lake shimmering in the sunset?" It too was visible.

"Now, the bluff that's on the south." We turned about to scan the distance. He identified barns, silos, the ranch house to the west. With a wide sweeping gesture, he boasted, "From the clump of trees, to the lake, to the bluff, and to the ranch buildings and all between—all this is mine. And the dark specks in the meadow—those cattle also are mine."

And then I asked from whom he obtained it. The chain of title of his abstract went back to land grants from governments. His attorney had assured him he had an unencumbered title.

"From whom did the government get it?" I asked. "What was paid for it?" There came into my mind the declaration of the Psalmist, boldly restated by Paul: "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (1 Cor. 10:26).

And then I asked, "Did the title come from God, Creator of the earth and the owner thereof? Did he get paid? Was it sold or leased or given to you? If a gift, from whom? If a sale, with what exchange or currency? If a lease, do you make proper accounting?"

And then I asked, "What was the price? With what treasures did you buy this farm?"


"Where did you get the money?"

"From my toil, my sweat, my labor, and my strength."

And then I asked, "Where did you get your strength to toil, your power to labor, your glands to sweat?"

He spoke of food.

"Where did the food originate?"

"From sun and atmosphere and soil and water."

"And who brought those elements here?"

I quoted the Psalmist: "Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary" (Ps. 68:9).

"If the land is not yours, then what accounting do you make to your landlord for his bounties? The scripture says: 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' (Mark 12:17). What percentage of your increase do you pay Caesar? And what percent to God?

"Do you believe the Bible? Do you accept the command of the Lord through the prophet Malachi? Do you believe Moses' words to Pharaoh that 'the earth is the Lord's'?" (Ex. 9:29).

I said again: "I seem to find no place in holy writ where God has said, 'I give you title to this land unconditionally.'

"I cannot find such scripture, but I do find this from Psalms: 'Those that wait upon the Lord, … shall inherit the earth' (Ps. 37:9).

"And I remember that our Creator covenanted in the council in heaven with us all: '[And] we will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell' (Abr. 3:24).

"It seems more of a lease on which a rental is exacted than of a simple title.

"This does not seem to convey the earth but only the use and contents which are given to men on condition that they live all of the commandments of God."

But my friend continued to mumble, "Mine—mine," as if to convince himself against the surer knowledge that he was at best a recreant renter.

That was long years ago. I later saw him lying in his death among luxurious furnishings in a palatial home. His had been a vast estate. And I folded his arms upon his breast, and drew down the little curtains over his eyes. I spoke at his funeral, and I followed the cortege from the good piece of earth he had claimed to his grave, a tiny, oblong area the length of a tall man, the width of a heavy one.

Later I saw that same estate, yellow in grain, green in lucerne, white in cotton, seemingly unmindful of him who had claimed it.

President Kimball shared this story in April 1968 General Conference and in the March 1981 Ensign (First Presidency Message)