At first glance, Al Fox Carraway, also known as “the Tattooed Mormon”, doesn’t fit the stereotypical look of a Latter-day Saint. At a second glance however, Al’s strong testimony, solid faith, and loving attitude reflect the deep love she has for the gospel and for her Heavenly Father who has blessed her in ways she never could have imagined.
Al Carraway was living in Rochester, New York when she first came across the missionaries. Al had grown up Catholic and, at the time, had no interest in religion. When the missionaries asked her if she wanted to learn more about Christ, she gently refused. However, these “precious looking” missionaries touched Al. Thinking she was being clever, she told them that the only way she would listen to their message was if they brought her a steak dinner, thinking they would not follow through. To her surprise, that same day, the missionaries knocked on her door with a steak dinner in hand and began teaching her.
At first, Al avoided talking about anything related to the gospel. “I didn’t want to listen because I didn’t want to change,” Al recalls about her discussions. “But I felt that in order for me to tell them that they were wrong was to do things the way they taught me to for a certain amount of time and prove to them that nothing would happen.”
As Al began learning all that she could about the gospel, she found that instead of discovering a message of falsity, she discovered a burning testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. She made the decision to be baptized and did so a few weeks before her twenty-first birthday.
Taking a Different Path
After Al was baptized, she had the desire to go on a mission and began praying to know if a mission was something that she should do, positive that the answer would be yes. However, through several promptings from the Holy Ghost, Al discovered that Heavenly Father intended for her to move to Utah, a place where she knew no one and had no apparent purpose for going.
“I wanted to go on a mission and I knew the answer was going to be a yes because it was a righteous desire, but the answer turned out to be go to Utah and I was mad,” remembers Al. “I didn’t know why I was supposed to go to Utah, and I didn’t want to do something that I didn’t want to do and not have a reason behind it. It was extremely difficult but I did it because God told me to and who would I be if I didn’t listen to Him?”
She left the life she knew in New York behind and headed for Utah. However, her first encounter in Utah was not what she expected. While standing in line at a Café Rio in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with a biography of one of the prophets in her hands, a man who was standing in line next to her responded, somewhat rudely, to Al’s appearance. “You know it’s pretty ironic that you look the way you do and you’re holding that book.”
Al remembers becoming angry and discouraged at the man’s comment. She recalls: “I was warned from everyone back in New York that if I moved to Utah a lot of people wouldn’t like me and that I wouldn’t fit in and so when he said that, I thought about those warnings. What he said was the first thing that anybody said to me in Utah and it was hard. I was completely uprooted and to have that happen, I just wanted to yell.”
Al knew that her appearance was something that would create an intrigue among some members, but she was surprised to face the judgment that she did. “I so badly wanted to walk around with my scriptures just so the stares would stop,” Al stated, “but more than anything, it just broke my heart that people couldn’t tell that I was trying. I just wanted, more than anything, for people to know that I was a member and that I was trying.”
That day in Café Rio, Al embraced a more loving, patient attitude as she turned to the man with a huge smile on her face, shook his hand, explained that she was a recent convert, and that it was her first day in Utah. Embarrassed, the man continued to talk to Al as they waited in line and even bought her lunch. She grateful for the way she had chosen to respond because she was able to take something negative and turn into a teaching moment for a complete stranger.
Al would have to face other negative comments. Once she began to actively blog and YouTube, negative comments occasionally surfaced, some of which were hard for Al to face. There were many times that Al became discouraged to these comments, but she chose to embrace an attitude of caring more about what Heavenly Father thought rather than focusing on the judgment she received from others.
Rather than becoming disheartened by the negativity that she faced, she chose to embrace a different mindset and look for the positive things that could come from the opposition that she faced. “At first glance, who knows what people think,” Al says “but I think there comes a point in life where your testimony is strong, you not only care what people might be thinking of you, but you don’t even notice the dirty looks or nasty comments, you just don’t notice.”
“I never felt uncomfortable with my body until I moved to Utah,” Al said, “but I had never really been challenged physically like that before and so it was hard at first, but once you get your testimony strengthened to a point where nothing is going to move you from what you’re doing, then it becomes about you, and God, and what you’re doing. After that point, I just didn’t notice [criticisms] or I just didn’t care.”
The attitude of focusing attention only on the relationship between ourselves and Heavenly Father and strengthening our testimony is an attitude Al hopes that everyone will embrace, though the decision to do so might not always be easy. Al stated: “My testimony was the only thing that got me over those mean comments and it was decision that I had to make and one that everyone has to make. Choose to keep going, choose to trust, choose to have faith, or not. What it comes down to, no matter who you are and what you’re going through, it will always come down to choose God or not.”
Choosing to focus on God and having the faith that things would get better and that she would have the strength to deal with the opposition that faced her got Al through the difficult times.
Facing Life’s Changes
Al’s decision to focus only on the gospel and her relationship with the Lord has caused her life to turn out completely different than what she thought it would be. Many of the changes that she has had to make have been difficult for her, but she has embraced them with an attitude of faith and spent many hours on her knees praying to her Heavenly Father to help get through her trails.
“Change is hard,” Al said. “As a recent convert, I had to change my entire lifestyle, even the way that I thought had to be changed and that’s the most personal thing that you can ask someone to do.”
There were many nights that Al spent on her knees pleading with Heavenly Father to help her through her trials. The time she spent talking to Heavenly Father then extended into every part of her life. She found herself telling him everything, which included things that were seemingly insignificant or things that she didn’t understand. Through doing this, she has discovered that the challenges in her life were much easier to face because she has such an intimate relationship with Heavenly Father.
“Really what it comes down to is raw, honest prayer,” Al believes. “That has been true my whole life, no matter what I was going through. If you don’t understand something, tell Him about it. Be open with Him. That is the only way that He will completely answer our prayers and help us through what we are going through.”
There were many times that she found herself facing trials for reasons that she couldn’t understand or were seemingly without reason. “I can’t count how many times I’ve screamed at God for something that I didn’t understand,” Al remembers, “and it was in those times that I was yelling at Him that I got the most sincere, honest responses.”
The responses that Al has gotten from Heavenly Father in those moments of honest prayer were something that strengthened her faith and developed the happy, faithful attitude that she has today. It’s an attitude that she wishes everyone could feel because has truly felt the blessings that have come from honestly and openly talking to Heavenly Father.
Spreading Faith through Blogging
The biggest part of Al’s life is the gospel. The fulfillment that the gospel has brought to her life is something that she wishes to share. The question of how she could spread the gospel to other people was one that Al frequently took to Heavenly Father wanting more than anything to help the Lord’s children feel of His love.
“Everything I am doing is because of prayer,” Al stated. “How my life has unfolded, was a simple prayer of ‘how can I help other people feel this?’ It was a simple prayer of ‘how’. How can I help these people feel even a sliver of what I feel and that’s when the answer of ‘maybe you should start a blog’ came.”
Al then began blogging with the focus of it being on spreading Heavenly Father’s love to His children and trying to create a desire in her readers to strengthen their testimony’s and grow closer to Heavenly Father. Her blog, “In the Head of Al”, quickly became viral with hundreds of thousands of people reading the messages of faith and inspiration that she had learned through her trials. Her blog and YouTube channel focus specifically on teaching gospel principles and helping others come closer to Christ through the lessons that she has learned.
Al’s blog is based mostly on the experiences and trials that she has faced in her life. Because she wishes to spread the lessons that she has learned to as many people as possible, she writes in a way that is open and honest in hopes that people can relate to her experiences. “I talk about my experiences because that what I draw from, but I do it so people can relate,” Al stated. “To feel like we’re alone in our feelings of doubt, or loneliness, or anger is wrong. I try to write openly and candidly so that people can relate and people can realize that they are not alone.”
**Al on her wedding day goes here**
She writes her blog to help people turn more fully to the Lord and realize how good He really is. “The only thing that I want people to know is yes, it is hard, but God is there, and He loves you,” She says, “I could care less if people know who I am, and I try so hard to make it not about me in every speech or blog post and turn it around on the reader and make it about them and how Christ can help them. Everything that I do is driven by that pure simple message.”
More than “the Tattooed Mormon”
Now, a well known blogger and YouTuber, Al’s been able to put a positive spin on everything that has come her way, including the nickname “the Tattooed Mormon.”
When asked about how she felt about the nickname, she stated: “It’s turned into this awful nickname that I can’t get rid of. I think that it’s labeling me with something that doesn’t need to be recognized. I don’t notice my tattoos and I know that God doesn’t recognize my tattoos. They aren’t there to Him. When we repent and use the Atonement, not only is there forgiveness there, but they’re completely forgotten. They’re not visible to him.
However, Al has managed to turn the nickname that she dislikes into something more positive. She wants people to realize that she is so much more than just her tattoos, though she also knows that without her tattoos, she wouldn’t have gotten to where she is today.
Al stated: “The title of my book is ‘More than the Tattooed Mormon’. That phrase ‘tattooed Mormon’ intrigues people enough to listen to me and that is something that I will forever be grateful for.”
Once Al has shared her message, whether it be through a blog post, speech, or social media post, her tattoos are the last thing that people think about.
“The least asked question that I’ve ever received is about my tattoos,” Al stated. “You’d think that’d be the most asked question, but I think once people hear me speak, my tattoos are the last thing people think about, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I feel like my efforts are working, that by the time I’m done speaking, people aren’t so caught up on what I look like, but are more focused on God and how they can keep going in hard times and that is what I most love.”
God is Real and He is for Us
Despite everything that Al has faced, from being uprooted from the life she knew and facing a whole new life with several difficulties along the way, she has still felt the loving presence of Heavenly Father who has also helped her get into a more positive mindset. Furthermore, the relationship she has built with her Heavenly Father has helped her to become more trusting in Him and in His timing for her life.
“Once you realize that you are in God’s hands and that He’s on your side–that just brings such a healthy and positive mindset,” Al stated. “We can’t worry about things we have no control over. Timing is something we have no control over and so focusing on the things that you can control is better.”
Al stated: “I had this attitude where I was just sick of being down and sick of being depressed: you just snap. You just get sick of feeling that way and it’s not healthy and it brings you down on so many other levels. Most poisonous is when you get into this mindset, or habit, or lifestyle of putting off your happiness and that is so poisonous and so damaging. If I’ve learned anything from God, it’s that happiness exists today even in your trials. Happiness is there and there’s always something to rejoice and be happy about.”
For Al, her life has been far different and better than the life she had in mind for herself. She has been blessed with a wonderful husband and a beautiful baby girl named Grace. Her life is filled with so much good and she knows that it is all because of the gospel.
“Nothing has gone the way that I thought it would. Not once, and that is hard,” Al stated. “It’s hard when you’re praying and it doesn’t turn out the way that you want it to, but I am so beyond grateful that things never went the way that I had in mind because they have been profoundly better than what I ever could have imagined, that is what I love most about God. If we just try, really try, we will receive the best things created. Not just in the eternities, but here, now, today.”
Al’s messages of hope, happiness, and the love of Christ is a message that has helped hundreds of her viewers navigate through life knowing that they have a Heavenly Father who is on their side and loves them more than they can comprehend.
Charlie LuerssenFebruary 3, 2017
Al, I love your faith and attitude. Like you I'm a convert with a exciting sinful past. However, I'm a bit older now (67) and enjoy the peace of enduring over 46 yrs of church activities. Like you I have always tried to make my conversation about the love of the Savior & his eternal atonement. When I was 19 I went to Woodstock with my girlfriend. We partook of all the illegal things of the day. I was looking for love, happiness & freedom in all the wrong places. I took something that day that nearly killed me. In the middle of that concert among the masses of people I lost my mind & nearly died. However, the Lord had mercy upon me as I called out to Jesus to save me from the hell I was in. He delivered me and I was born-again. I promised that day to change my life and go where he wanted me to go. Long story short he led me to the LDS Church within 9 months. The rest is history. Do I have stories of how many members mistreated me during my 1st few years in the church and while I was on my mission. Like you I focused on my relationship with the Savior and his atonement as I prayed for those who were mean and misjudged me. I always turned it over to the Lord knowing he knew my heart & the truth. If you like I could share with you the in depth story of my conversation, my encounters with the Lord & the funny & hurtful things some members have said to me over the years. As with you some love my honesty & conversion while others wish me dead... lol. I'll post the link to my "I'm a Mormon" profile in a future email. Again that version is still only the tip of the iceberg of my conversation story. God Bless you for standing strong and happy in the Lord. Yours truly, Charlie https://www.mormon.org/me/2MVS/Charlie
Ed LewisSeptember 25, 2015
I was not aware of Al Fox Carraway until I read the story in Meridian. Brightened up my whole day. I joined at 20 years old and 4 times that now. I still remember a number of kind outgoing people who made me feel welcome. I also remember feeling isolated and unsure in a number of wards where I was not made as welcome. I have only one small tattoo, inked in before I joined the church, my name, on my arm. Got it at the urging of my best friend, an inactive Mormon as he got one. I wish I had it written upside down so I could lift my shirt sleeve, as my memory fails, and read who I am. I admire the young lady and her family. I am not interested in a future kingdom that would not receive her and her family.