Al Fox Carraway said that happiness is real and can be found by following Jesus Christ in a devotional address at Utah Valley University on Friday, Jan. 13.
Carraway is known to many Mormons as “the Tattooed Mormon,” although today she would rather be known for who she is rather than who she was. Carraway is a blogger, public speaker, and a marketing employee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Carraway recently published her first book, More Than A Tattooed Mormon.
Carraway shared her conversion story at the devotional.
“Close your eyes. Imagine Christ standing in front of you, right in front of you, and he smiles,” Carraway said.
Carraway said she imagined Christ smiling at her as an answer to a distraught prayer she offered soon after her baptism. This image of Christ was all she needed to keep going as she left her friends and family behind to join the LDS Church.
“Comfort is always there because Christ is always there, and with him we can overcome and conquer the world,” Carraway said.
During this lonely period, she read the Book of Mormon during any free moment she had.
“Not once did my situation change because of it, but every single time I was given the strength and the knowledge to handle what I was going through,” Carraway said.
Carraway spoke of her journey through finding, accepting and sticking with the gospel. She said that to find real happiness, each person’s journey needs to begin and end with Christ.
Carraway said sincere prayer, scripture study and a “real try” all helped her on her journey. A “real try” happened for Carraway when she began doing what the missionaries asked with the intent to find out if was true, rather than to spite the missionaries.
Carraway said she was embarrassed to be affiliated with a religion until she received the gift of the Holy Ghost after her baptism.
“When I got that gift I physically felt — physically felt — myself get that gift,” Carraway said. “The contrast is huge. The difference is real. And in that exact second, I was not embarrassed. I was not ashamed. I wanted to shout it to New York: ‘Happiness is real.’”
Carraway experienced terrible loneliness along the way, she said. Her friends ridiculed her after her baptism. Her family stopped speaking to her for years.
After Carraway moved to Utah, the loneliness persisted. People would not speak to her because of the tattoos printed across her body. Audience members gasped when she explained the judgement she received while living in Utah Valley.
Carraway said people’s stares felt like lasers.
“The lasers didn’t stop. I wanted to walk around with my scriptures, but the lasers wouldn’t stop,” Carraway said. “I felt indescribably lonely.”
Carraway said her choice and other members’ choice is not so much “Will we get offended?” or “Will I have faith?” These are part of a greater choice, a choice Latter-day Saints make at baptism.
“What it came down to, and what it always comes down to, is choose God or not,” Carraway said.
Carraway said her life is better than anything she could have picked for herself. She concluded by saying God will make life so much better than anyone can imagine.
“If you just try — your real try — you will find yourself in places you never would have imagined; you’ll find yourself doing things you never thought you could,” Carraway said. “You’ll find yourself becoming better, becoming the person Heavenly Father wants you to become. And oh, what a feeling.”