Are we morally creative agents?
A distinction that I’ve given some thought to lately is that between “Inspiration” and “Aspiration”. This isn’t to say that there necessarily has to be some deep divide between these two concepts, but it can be useful to think of them separately. I believe that most LDSs see Jesus Christ as more of an “aspiration” rather than an “inspiration”. This means that he is our model or our ambition (in the sense that we try to do as he has done), before he is our motivation to take creative action in our unique circumstances. This is not to say that we do not see him as our “inspiration”; but we tend to look at him (and “history” in general) as providing a “model”, “example”, or a “standard to attain to”; before a point of departure to help us forge our own particular paths in life. Once again, this isn’t to say that we do not already do this to some extent; but we tend to see ourselves trying to get where these examples of the past have already been more than seeing ourselves moving in a unique direction because of the inspiration they’ve been.
This manifests itself in things such as sacrament talks, where the “standard” talk is a mixture of scripture, quotes from past leadership, and examples how these things have played out in our lives. We strive to replicate the great talks of the past (sometimes literally when someone approaches the pulpit and reads a general conference talk rather than giving their own), and to attain to the expectations generated by assignments to speak on certain universal topics such as “faith”.
I’m wondering what would happen if we were to emphasize the “inspirational” aspect of Jesus Christ (and our history in general). Would this help to fix some our problems such as the monotony of sacrament talks, or the homogenaeity of our cultural constitution? Being realistic, this wouldn’t solve the problems entirely; but sacrament meeting could become a place where we hear people speaking about their unique paths of moral creativity (what does it mean for instance to be a Mormon “family” where it is the second marriage for both parties, who have children from the previous relationships, and the ex-es are still on good terms with children?).
Theoretically speaking this would mean accepting a (larger?) tension between our continually changing circumstances and the past models of our history. To put it succinctly, it becomes less a question of “what would Jesus do”, and more a question of “what would I do, given Jesus as my inspiration”?