In our seminary lesson yesterday we were talking about phobias. I asked the kids to tell their phobias, and I shared some of mine. Then we read this scripture: "10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit. " 2 Nephi 9:10 I asked them why (I think it's Jacob speaking) the term "awful monster" is used to describe physical and spiritual death.
I explained to them that there is a difference between normal fear, and phobias. A normal fear is something that scares you, but a phobia actually paralyzes you. I have a phobia of deep water, probably brought on by almost being drowned as a child. When I get in deep water, it's very easy to start hyperventillating. I have to really work to keep myself calm so that I don't have a panic attack. I am afraid of other things, but they don't have the same effect on me.
So why do some people choose to do wrong, even though they know the eternal consequences are so awful? We know that if we choose evil, we will receive the punishment at the judgement day. So why do we still choose that thing? I think the difference is that Satan makes the thing appear as if it isn't a bad thing. It's almost like it is in disguise. We might be temporarily happy if we steal something we really want. But the price we pay is peace of mind. We feel guilt, and even the thing itself loses value because we know we didn't earn it. But the other problem is that if we live with the sin too long, we can lose that sense of guilt.
I wish that all sin created the same panic feeling I get when I'm in deep water. If everyone could have that feeling about their eternal salvation when they are faced with sin, they would never choose wrong. Maybe the key comes from what the Bible teaches us; that we should "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."