Al Carraway, award-winning speaker and author of “More Than the Tattooed Mormon,” “Wildly Optimistic” and “Cheers to Eternity,” spoke about faith in a BYU fireside held Sunday, Jan. 26, in the Wilkinson Student Center Ballroom.
The original location of the event was the Joseph Smith Building on BYU campus but was moved to the Wilkinson Center to provide sufficient space for an estimated 1,600 attendants.
The fireside began with a musical number called “God So Loved the World.” Carraway then gave her address, beginning with her story of conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She said prior to her baptism, she was happy with her life in New York and was not interested in religion — something she thought was only for when things go wrong. She said she changed when she gave prayer “a real try for the right reasons” and felt the Spirit for herself.
She described her baptism day as “wild” and talked about feeling embarrassed despite knowing that the things she had learned from the missionaries were true. But she said after being given the gift of the Holy Ghost and feeling a huge contrast and a real difference, she was not embarrassed or ashamed to any degree.
The tone of her talk changed when she related that none of her loved ones stayed in her life after she chose to be baptized. She said although she was criticized for making a life-altering decision based on limited knowledge, she held tight to what she felt was true.
“The only thing I knew at that time was that the Book of Mormon was true,” she said. “And that’s not naïve of me, that’s just what the Spirit does.”
Carraway talked about similarities between her conversion story and the journey of Joseph in the Old Testament. She said Joseph held on to his integrity even when his life changed drastically from comfort and authority to struggle and slavery and that she wanted to react with faith the way he did. She said she sought guidance from God and her answer came as a recurring thought — to move to Utah.
Moving to Utah brought on its own challenges, Carraway said. She recalled feeling a loss of control over her life and a lack of safety. She described moments of extreme doubt and indescribable loneliness. She compared this experience to that of the woman with a blood condition whose encounter with Christ is recorded in the New Testament. She said she believes feelings of isolation are especially difficult for women.
“To feel overlooked, to feel unwanted, to feel pushed to the side,” she said. “I can only imagine her feeling loss of hope, loss of faith, loss of strength, loss of optimism.”
She then asked audience members to close their eyes and picture Jesus Christ smiling. She said in her moments of doubt, imagining Christ smiling gave her faith to continue moving forward.
She said people have the choice to continue with God or to quit and go back to where things were comfortable and made sense to them. She said she chose to continue with God even though her move to Utah brought challenges and that she was blessed with “ultimate magnification” including knowledge and opportunities, family and other meaningful relationships.
“Everlasting struggle just isn’t in God’s cards for us,” she said. “We can continue without panic knowing we are in His hands.”