Al Fox Carraway is not the typical Latter-day Saint. Widely known as the “Tattooed Mormon,” Carraway spoke at the JSB Auditorium at BYU in Fall of 2015. The presentation was the first stop of Carraway’s book tour to promote her newly published work, “More Than the Tattooed Mormon.”
Carraway’s story has turned her into an LDS social media sensation; she has over 127,000 Instagram followers, 20,000 Twitter followers and 82,000 likes on her Facebook page. Her first blog post received over a million hits. The blogger told her conversion story to the packed JSB auditorium.
Carraway converted to the LDS church when she was 20 years old and living in her hometown of Rochester, New York.
“At age 20, I thought I’d peaked in life, with my bathroom-sized apartment and my parking enforcement job,” Carraway said. “I didn’t see how it could get any better than what I had. I was happy.”
The convert of six years told the audience she was helping a friend move when two LDS missionaries approached her.
“I told them that if they brought me a steak dinner, I would listen to them,” Carraway said. “They showed up that same day with a steak, and then I just had to listen.”
Carraway said she was hesitant to discuss religion with the missionaries, and that she had wanted to prove them wrong. During one discussion, she and the missionaries watched the Restoration video depicting Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
“I was watching it and was thinking, ‘No way this happened, no way this place is real,’” Carraway said. “Then the missionaries told me that Palmyra was only half an hour away from me.”
The LDS public speaker said she and the elders traveled to the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, where they asked her to say a prayer for the very first time.
“It was so awkward, but after praying some more that night, I felt like things were going to be OK,” Carraway said. “I had this desire and need to know if the church was true.”
She said she didn’t really want to receive an answer that the church was true because it would’ve meant having to change her lifestyle.
“I loved who I was, and thought if I changed, I wouldn’t be me anymore,” Carraway said. “But I began to change unconsciously because of the gospel. It wasn’t until I really tried that I found myself overcoming and conquering things I had thought I would struggle with for the rest of my life.”
Carraway said the Spirit she felt and her view towards the Savior helped her change her lifestyle.
“I changed because that’s what happens when you feel the Spirit,” Carraway said. “I changed because Christ became a reality to me.”
She said she didn’t invite anyone to her baptism, but the room was packed anyway. She said this support helped strengthen her testimony and was one thing that helped her get baptized. She spoke of the love and power she felt when she was confirmed a member of the church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost following her baptism.
“I physically felt myself get that gift of the Holy Ghost,” Carraway said. “The change was real.”
The New York native said that her baptism didn’t make things easy for her. She received criticism from friends, family and coworkers about her decision to join the church.
“I had friends that I had grown up with, friends that I trusted, and not one of my friends stayed,” Carraway said. “It hurt because they wanted nothing to do with who I had become.”
Even her father turned her away because of her conversion to the gospel.
“My dad said ‘I don’t want you as a daughter anymore,’” Carraway said. “He said I had to choose between him and the church.”
Carraway chose to keep going. She prayed and read from the Book of Mormon to receive strength, despite feelings of loneliness. She prayed to know whether God wanted her to go on a mission, and she received a clear answer to move to Utah — not quite the answer she was looking for.
“I kind of told Heavenly Father that I was going to move to Utah, but I wasn’t going to be happy about it,” Carraway said.
She packed up her car with clothes and her dog to start a journey across the country, much to the dismay of her family and even her fellow church members.
“I stopped to rest in Chicago, and I was overcome by fear and doubt about this huge journey that I had no idea would work out,” Carraway said. “But I prayed, and I made a promise to God that I wouldn’t stop, both on my physical journey and my spiritual one, because that’s when fear seeps in.”
Fitting into the Utah culture was difficult for Carraway, who found it to be much different from her life before. She was standing in line at a Café Rio when she had an experience that changed her perspective on how she would handle her future challenges.
“I was holding a biography of one of the prophets, and I could feel people staring at me from all directions,” Carraway said. “One man tapped my shoulder and told me, ‘It’s pretty ironic — you holding that book and looking the way you do.’”
Carraway said how she reacted to that moment decided how she was going to live her life in the gospel.
“I had to decide who I wanted to follow, sometimes several times a day,” Carraway said. “But I gained a new perspective of seeking out opportunities.”
Carraway said her new perspective gave her new opportunities and blessings. She was called to be a member of her ward Relief Society presidency. Her blog, “In the Head of Al,” gained instant popularity. She ventured into public speaking and has since presented in front of thousands alongside other big Mormon names like Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve, John Bytheway and David Archuleta. She married Ben Carraway in 2013 in the Oquirrh Mountain temple and is now the mother to two children.
“I’m not saying all these things to say ‘look at me,’” Carraway said. “This is about all of us individually, and what we need to overcome and conquer. If you really try, Heavenly Father will take you places you never could’ve imagined.”
Carraway ended her conversion story with advice she had learned through her experiences.
“Just keep going,” she said. “God is mindful of you. Christ is always there. Go forth, fear not, and embrace the unexpected.”
The presentation was sponsored by Women’s Services & Resources and the BYU Store.