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Spiral

By Sandra Clark

spirals

Several years ago I encountered a transition in my faith. I’ve always identified as Mormon, but I realized in those months of moments of heaving breathing and endless fervent prayers to God, that my understanding and ownership of my faith could not return to its former shape. My mind unfurled an image coiled up in my brain since my former professor, and a current member of the Sunday School General Presidency, John S. Tanner, put it there more than a decade ago. Studying the Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, Dr. Tanner explained the division of the poems and illustrations into two stages of life, the innocence of child-like love and the often growing pain-like cold reality of experience. Then drawing in the air with his finger, he pointed round in a circle, coming back to where he started and around again and again; life is not linear, but round; a spiral.

After innocence is gone, and experience has harrowed out naivete the ground is ripe for something new; the mind can embrace what it once could before, but in a new way. For Blake, this was a turn to Christ, a second innocence that sees as the first one could not, but chooses to embrace hope and love anyway.

I realized I was at a crossroads–what was I to do with my troubled soul, my questions and my answers? Should I wrap myself full-fledged around my new knowledge of church history, gospel understanding and want of more; or bury it in a furtive effort to return to my younger, simpler faith? I heard a question in my brain, What do you really want? I chose both, faith and facts, and began to spiral.

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