The fear of change is the fear of death. They are not similar fears; they are the same fear, only manifested in different circumstances.

What is principally fearsome about death is the possibility of annihilation, ceasing to exist. We don’t fear death because of physical pain. Dying can be painful, but a painful death is only marginally more terrifying than dying quietly in one’s sleep. And we don’t fear death principally because of the possibility of permanent separation from loved ones. The millions who boarded sailing ships from Europe to America, knowing they would never see their families again, obviously did not fear that voyage as they would death. What we fear in dying is simply that we will no longer be.

If you do not fear death, it is only because you know that existence is eternal, and you will live again. Annihilation remains a horrifying prospect to contemplate.

Some time ago, while wrestling with some sin or another, I tried to account for why I resisted change when I knew that it was for my own good. I had it within my power to change, and at some level I dearly wanted to, but I was held back by a primal aversion, almost a horror of change.

And then it occurred to me that, in order to fully repent, I had to become my own accuser. I had to step outside myself and point, saying, “That man, or part of him at least, is evil.” And then, if I was to change, I had to step back inside myself and stop being that evil man.

But here’s the problem: However evil and degraded that man was, he was me. If he ceases to be, I cease to be. And I don’t want to cease to exist. It’s only natural. You could gather together a statistical sample of the most self-loathing people on the earth, and you will find that only a tiny percentage of them end up killing themselves. To continue being the person they hate is preferable to not being at all.

25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 27:25-26

Of course, not every instance of repentance requires the old man to die completely. As Christ explained in the Sermon on the Mount, sometimes we only need to amputate the offending part of ourselves. No biggie.

I used to ask why, according to Lehi, Adam and Eve could not have had children if they had not fallen. The usual answer is that they lost their childlike innocence with the Fall, and therefore they were able to, you know…. I even put the question to a member of the Seventy. Same answer. That could be right, but I have my doubts. Doesn’t it sound kind of Catholic? “Well it’s fine to marry and have kids, but if you were REALLY free from sin…”

I think it’s more likely that it wasn’t their loss of innocence that made it possible to have children, but their loss of immortality. Once their bodies became capable of death, they could only perpetuate life in the same way that all other living, mortal creatures do. (If someone else deserves original credit for this idea, please let me know.) Thus, the Fall was in some ways symbolic of the Atonement. They took upon themselves death that we might live.

So what do we owe to Christ, and to the father and mother of all flesh? To carry their sacrifice to completion. To die, that we might live.

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