I have heard that there is a heirarchy of reasons for obedience. At first we obey because we fear the punishment. Then we obey because we want to obey. Lastly we obey out of love.
I just don’t believe it.
They all combine together. They are all important at every stage.
We are supposed to work out our salvation with fear and trembling according to the scriptures.
When the best man of this dispensation is reproved at times in the scriptures, the scriptures don’t say that it was because he didn’t have enough love. He was threatened with a punishment. He was encouraged to obey. Frankly, love never even entered the conversation.
When Christ is praying in Gethsemene, he says he is willing to submit his will to the will of his Father. His desire to obey and his love are all wound up in the same thing.
And when Christ speaks of who it is that loves him in John 14 his measure of our love is our obedience.
Our separation of these is as artificial as separating our love from our obedience. They are the wound up in the same thing.
When Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were given the vision of the degrees of glory, they see a vision of the sons of perdition. To become a son of perdition requires that one have the heavens opened unto them. And here are two men who have the heavens opened unto them, and the first thing they are given is a warning of the potential punishment if they turn altogether and shed innocent blood.
Apparently, the Lord didn’t think the prophet and his first counselor were above being moved upon by a warning of punishment. He didn’t think they had “moved beyond that”.
And neither have any of the rest of us. We need all three. They bind together and keep us safer than any one of them ever will. If there is any truth to our hierarchy, it is that as we move forward, all three: fear of punishment, desire to obey, and also love of God, should bind together properly and form a single coherent whole that has the potential to keep us on a path from which far too many before us have wandered and lost the prize.