My daughter is going to girls camp soon, and the stake recently invited Al Fox Carraway to speak. I have seen people post info about her on Facebook, but wasn’t really familiar with her. It was interesting to hear her speak. She is not your prototypical soft-spoken Mormon woman who speaks with a primary voice. She was LOUD and INTERESTING for a wonderful change. There are a few Mormons that are able to break the mold of speaking. Since she is a convert, I guess she can get away with that. It reminds me that when I was in the Missionary Training Center, our Residence Hall Manager was a dynamic speaker who was enrolled in a Catholic Seminary to become a priest when he converted to Mormonism. He wasn’t your typical speaker either, and after I came home, Elder Carpenter came and told his conversion story in our stake (which I had obviously heard before.)
I think Sister Carraway would prefer to be called Al. I like that she is not a typical Mormon, and that she can get away saying things that are very faith promoting, but would probably get shouted down in a regular Utah ward if she weren’t a convert. I do think she benefits greatly (and gets away with some things) because she is a convert. She truly has a tremendous faith in the Book of Mormon and in God that is to be quite admired. It was also evident that she is well-rehearsed in giving her conversion story. Below are some notes from her story. The notes fail to capture her humor, her loudness, and her strong faith, although there are glimpses of it. If you’re not familiar with her, this is a good intro to her conversion story, and her quite admirable faith. Obviously the notes below aren’t full thoughts, but I think you can get a pretty good idea of what was said.
When 20 lived in NY, parking enforcement at hospital. Studio apt, smaller than church bathroom. Age 20, thought peaked in life. New Yorkers stubborn. Accurate. Didn’t need religion. I was helping a friend move and was leaning against moving truck. Saw these boys on bikes. Cute. Who wears helmets? My friend was very mean to missionaries. I told them “if you bring me a steak to eat, I’ll listen.” Who would do that? They came back that day. Felt obligated. Don’t want that.
They brought some pamphlets. Left number on everything. I don’t want to read, but wanted to talk about anything but religion. I’m standing here. They wanted to watch a movie. I was all over that. It was a church movie. Have you Seen restoration DVD? No way did this happen. It’s probably half way around the world. Mock challenge. I want to go there. They said we can go. It’s just a half hour away.
I had No idea it existed. When we got to sacred Grove, they said we should pray. I laughed. Never felt more awkward than say prayer. That’s weird. Can’t stop laughing. They said “We’ll say prayer, you repeat.” That was first time i ever spoke to father in heaven. Went home to apartment. Felt terrible. I am not a crier. I Cried for hours. Called elders. They had an answer to everything. They told me to pray. Don’t want to do it again. They hung up on me.
I read pamphlets to say prayer, and said one eyed prayer looking at pamphlets to make sure I was doing it right. I gave the worst prayer heavenly father ever heard. When i stopped praying, i stopped crying. When i Woke up, felt that church was right. Found that troubling. Need to know. Did not want church to be true, because I would have to change. Everything. Didn’t want to change. I loved who I was, what I was doing. Wouldn’t be me. Changed unconsciously. Book of Mormon made no sense. People noticed change before I noticed.
Good friend said AL, you look good. I was Wearing new shirt, so i said thanks. Do not stop what your doing. I kept hearing it. Finally started to try. Overcoming. Conquering things I struggled with. Changed. Not because someone told me. That’s what happens when you feel spirit.
Couldn’t sleep, called elders. At four in morning. They answered. Started screaming. I want to get baptized. I didn’t think that’s what I was going to say. I loved it . I know it was true. I hung up phone. My elders called me back confused. What? Why? What happened?
Got baptized. Even though true, i was embarrassed, ashamed. Didn’t want to be part of church. Didn’t invite anyone to baptism except Scott. Never met him before, he dated my sister. He came, room packed. So many people, packed. I love this part. People yelling, screaming, crying. I physically felt gift of holy ghost. Contrast is huge. Difference is real. Not ashamed anymore. Wanted to scream to NY.
When you have something you love, you share. Turned to friends, had a lot of friends, loved, trusted. Not one friend stayed. Wanted nothing to do with me. Hurt to see how easy, quick it was. Love family, dad. Every single day made lunch with dad. I had great relationship with him and would Tell him about boys. I loved he hated it.
On my 21st bday, he said Al I don’t want you as daughter anymore. You have to pick. This church or me. How small my knowledge was. Only thing I know was book of Mormon. This church or me. Dad. Wasnt an easy situation. Choose who to follow. If went 21 years of life, I decided right then, dad, I’m sorry. I love you. He locked door, didn’t return phone calls.
At work i had an ugly Uniform but I could hide book of mormon in front of pants, and people couldn’t tell book was there. Some friends would Lock me in office and tell me You are not good person. Made watch terrible videos of church. Few chapters made everything true. So many people scream or leave. Felt punished for right thing. Every time it got hard, i would pull out bom, read every second. I was given strength and knowledge to handle. That is where strength comes from. So what do you do at 21? Ny has active nightlife. I feel Lame.. Every Saturday I would make church talks for fun. It’s wild. To self to laugh. I would help teach investigators.
I would go on mission. My answer was move to Utah. Not what I asked for, thanks though. I forgot Utah was state until I met missionaries. Maybe if I reworded prayer. Not what happened. Recurring thought. Thought it would go away. It didn’t. Just found out god is real. Hey God, you’re wrong. That would kill me. I’ll move to Utah, but I’m not happy about it. Hard for so many reasons. No matter how many times i wanted to know why, he didn’t answer. Dad find out, called and asked why are you leaving me? This church is tearing family apart. He is not religious. Hard to see confused, offended. Didn’t have answer. Craved Sundays. People drive two hours to church. Old and small part office, bring chair for sacrament meeting. All said same thing, even branch president. All, dont go to Utah, no one will like you. Won’t fit in.
God didn’t tell me where. Not as easy as laptop. Internet expensive, had to pay to use Internet to look for job, place to live. Got old after three days, two days to get set up. Have nothing. Imagine how nervous, if didn’t work out, already gave, two week notice at work, i would be very broke and homeless. So exhausted. Nothing to show for efforts. Mad at God. Collapsed, screaming at God. Dont know what to do. Nothing to show for it. Why so hard? Do you care about me? Are you There at all?
Mad, yelled so much, lost voice. Finally able to listen, not what we want to hear. Thought of Christ. Great miracles. Christ prayed gratitude. Heavenly father there. Christ gave thanks before hand knowing help would come. Had to force faith i didn’t know I had. Phone rang. Leaving that night. Had nothing. Lady too happy. I have place to stay. 11th hour blessing. Very first thought, duh. Questions, doubts, fears show lack of faith. Sorry god.
Left behind everything. NY different than Utah. Left family, maybe never see Dad again. Fit self in 2 door alero. Dog was 70 lb . Cried all way to Pennsylvania border. Stopped took break. Found self alone in Chicago. Look out window. Didn’t recognize anything. Consumed with fear, loneliness. Started screaming at God. I’m Not this strong. Why so hard? Why?
Close your mouth, collapsed on floor. No cheating. Close eyes. Picture Christ standing in front of you. Picture what he looks like to you and be smiled at you. That was it. That was it. All I needed, to know was that. No matter has hard. Knew what doing, he was happy with me. I made promise that day. Try to keep every day. Can’t stop, meaning if you take break, anxiety, temptation come. At time, back to NY. Not stopping
Drove Chicago to Utah Valley in 23 hours. Didn’t stop for food. Driving in summer. AC not working, drivers window wont roll down. Dog breathing on my face. Here I am, walking in grass past my hips. Broken toys in grass. Dont know where i was. Kids running with no clothes. Something smelled bad. Drive by target. God not answering. Driving down state Street. Can’t believe how clean, big mountains. Saw cafe Rio. I thought taco’s! Waiting in big group of people. Tense. Can tell when someone staring. Thought i was going to burst. Guy taps me, says it’s ironic holding that book (of Mormon). My Heart broke. Very first thing someone says to me.
Thought dont go to Utah, will not fit in. Wanted to scream, do you know how hard this is? Just wanted people to know I was trying. People walk other direction. I felt like Modern korihor. No one told to me except man in cafe Rio. Alone. Indescribable. Made decision, choose to be offended or not. Choose faith or not. Guess it comes down to, choose God or not. Summertime’s several times a day. Took change of mindset. Me perspective on my end. Found self in rs presidency within two years. Started blog, got bigger. One post got a million views in half a day. Should have changed name. Made YouTube videos, like nephi to build a ship. Traveled last five years, sharing. Not sought after.
Straight A’s in class, but flunked public speaking. Sat next to John Bytheway. Dont do scripture chase with him. Elder Anderson is short, wife even shorter. Write book, TV, radio. Not about me. About you. Not You as group, but you need to overcome. Did i tell you that. Why? Because what you need to know is that there is so much more I could be doing, and I’m not doing it. Could do better. You just try real try, you will find yourself better, doing stuff you never dreamed of. What a feeling. Not once did things go my way. So you even care still about me? Are you there at all? Grateful that they didn’t go way I had in mind. Profoundly better. Greater than what I knew existed. Daily in mortality. All blessings in past tense. If you just keep going no matter what.
Day I decided to get baptized, was the day the elders were going to drop me as investigator. They thought what they were doing didn’t make a difference. Maybe someone else would do better, Someone’s stronger testimony, anything more than what they weren’t. Little did they know. I am here doing everything I’m doing and I am happy. I am real physical laughing happiness. What would I be doing. Don’t know. Dont want to know.
Just be you. Best thing ever is self. Love that. Think hf week so us, we’re wrong We conquer everything. With him can conquer world. Can stop us from being happy, were Wrong. Hard time vindicating. Been member 7 years. Hard times vindicating be there. With him, conquer world. Commandments unchanging. No matter what dieng, unchanging, never wandering, never. Comfort there.
Four years ago, loving temple, became endowed. Became temple worker that week. Haven’t heard from dad in the years. Dad Called me. Since that day, heard from dad every day since. Scott is member of church. Surprise. Didn’t know that. He didn’t need religion, left church at 14. Never thought he would step back in church again. Now 30s. Became worthy, baptized sister. Now had third child born it covenant. Those three years ago got married. Married above self. Gonna have third baby in five weeks. Not happened if took a break. Not a single thing without god. Heartbreaking to imagine life different. Embrace unexpected. Behold our god. Not suffer is to fall. Fear not. You can have it, love that. This is real. Love that. Forget not. Turn to him always. You have a God. Best ever created. God is real. As real as heart beating. God is real.
What are your thoughts about her story? In some ways, this is a bit of Paul on the road to Damascus story. Do you think converts can get away with some manners of speaking that a lifelong Mormon can’t? I loved that she got so mad at God that she lost her voice, but the lifelong Mormon in me thinks some would view that as lacking proper reverence for God. I guess I think it’s ok to be a bit irreverent in talking to God and that he doesn’t really mind. Your thoughts?