In 1969 I traveled to Mexico with three business associates. All three were outstanding businessmen, and each had amassed a considerable fortune; in fact, one was widely reported to be one of the richest men in the entire world. The four of us sat together in the lavish executive compartment of a private jet—a billionaire, two millionaires.
As we flew to Mexico these three wealthy executives discussed multimillion dollar business deals like other people discuss last night's ball game or recent movies they've seen. To tell you the truth, I was intimidated—especially when the billionaire turned to me and asked, "So tell me, Ballard, what exactly is it that you do?"
"After listening to the three of you talk," I said, "I guess I don't do very much at all."
They chuckled at my comment. But none of them seemed to disagree with my assessment of the situation.
As our conversation continued, however, it became clear that, although these were men of good will who had done many good things in the world with their wealth, the most important thing in life to the billionaire was to accumulate more and more money, which appeared to be the source of his power and prestige. Wealth seemed to be what made him happy and proud. As far as I could tell, it was his passion, his obsession, his very reason for being. As he discussed his international financial empire and impressive array of worldly possessions, I sensed that beneath that collection of materialism was a foundation of unhappiness that comes from spiritual deprivation. The billionaire did not speak joyfully of family or friends. He seemed not to know much of real peace or contentment. The gospel of Jesus Christ was not part of his life. In a contemplative moment he said to me, "I'm not sure there is such a thing as life after one dies. But if there is, I wonder if any of this will matter much."
Obviously, neither option—death as the ultimate end of existence or life beyond the grave without worldly acclaim or accumulation—gave him much comfort.
When I returned home a couple of days later my wife, Barbara, met me at the airport and we returned to our comfortable home in Salt Lake City. When she asked me how I had enjoyed my sampling of life in the fastest of all financial fast lanes, I could only sigh and respond, "Honey, we may not have much money or the other things that some people think are so important. But I have a feeling that of the four men on that plane, I was the happiest and, in a way, the richest. I have blessings that money simply cannot buy. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that the things that are most important to me—you, our family, and my love of God—can endure forever."
I couldn't help but think of the Savior's words to His disciples when He said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21.)