Our whole family—more than 20 of us—rented a lovely home on the California beach to celebrate Nancy’s and my 50th wedding anniversary. The cost was steep. But the comfortable accommodations, the glorious view, and the chance to experience it together—it was worth it! We collected remarkable rocks along the beach. We watched dolphins. We played ping pong and board games. We ate luscious meals. We laughed and chatted. And we made enduring memories.

Recently, I have been thinking about the cost of a different outing. What did it cost the Father and the Son to prepare and equip this earth for our experience of mortality?

When we read the scriptural accounts about the creation, it may seem that the addition of humans to the glorious and beautiful land, water, plants, animals was merely incidental. God made a lovely garden and let us visit.

But that is mistaken. “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [souls] may dwell” (Abraham 3:24). God made this earth specifically for us, for our growth and experience.

God might have made a simple earth with just the basics—maybe a little water along with some texturized vegetable protein to eat and a few rocks to sit on. Just enough to sustain life. He did far more than that! He made armadillos, ficus trees, oranges, koalas, waterfalls, butterflies, moose, honeybees, blue skies, lights in the heavens, dragonflies, laughter, 239 species of woodpeckers . . .. He really threw Himself into creation!

God directs us to have glad hearts and cheerful countenances, and then He says:

Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion. (Doctrine & Covenants 59:16-20)

Wow! God is not a minimalist! When He decides to create a classroom experience for His children, He goes all out. Never was a classroom outfitted so magnificently! Truly, this world is glorious and beautiful!

His investment in physical facilities alone is staggering! Then God provides angels who look after us, His able assistant, the Holy Spirit to inspire and direct us, and a steady stream of truths to enlighten us.

“I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)

Maybe His central message is that He wants us to know that He cherishes us even as we learn from our experience to know the pain of badness, the joy of goodness, and the blessing of agency.

The crowning touch, the greatest gift of all is the infinite and eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ that pays all our debts, engulfs us in love, and carries us Home.

It’s almost like we went away to college where we burned down the dorm, wasted most our time, and caused untold mischief. We might have expected expulsion and crushing indebtedness for our mischief. Nope. He comes to us prodigals and embraces us, trusting that we have learned priceless lessons from our experience.

We are surrounded by evidences of His grace. One of the most impressive and beautiful is this magnificent earth where we learn from our own experience many essential lessons of eternity.

Immersed in abundance, we humans often notice only what we are missing. During this season of thanksgiving, we can choose to be more mindful of God’s gracious gifts to us. Even this very moment, look around you. What do you see that pleases your eye and gladdens your heart?

We can even be grateful for the people and experiences that stretch us. God offers an invitation: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).

We should thank our Creator every day for the beautiful place He has designed for us and the opportunity to enjoy this world as we prepare to join Him in His continuing work of creation.

Invitation: Learn how the gospel of Jesus Christ combines with good research to chart a path of personal happiness and family effectiveness. My latest book, Discoveries: Essential Truths for Relationships, is available at LDS booksellers or Amazon. 

Thanks to Barbara Keil for her wise additions to this article.