Hey girls! Today’s interview is extra exciting because this wonderful gal was also a speaker during our week-long Time to Blossom Young Women’s Conference last June!
Al Carraway is a well-known blogger who converted to the LDS church in 2009. Many know her as the “Tattooed Mormon” and she has inspired thousands through her personal story of conversion and healing. Now let’s get to know Al a little better!
Hi Al! Tell me about your background and how you got to where you are right now.
I am from New York and am the youngest of three girls. My parents are divorced but that never bothered me. I’m pretty stubborn and driven and by the time I was 20 I thought I had my whole life figured out. I grew up completely happy with no real hard trials in my life (which changed drastically after I joined the church), and I thought people only turned to religion when things were going wrong in their life as some sort of comfort they gave to themselves. I met the missionaries when I was outside helping someone move and they asked me if I wanted to know more about Christ. I didn’t. But I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, so I got creative with the way I declined their invitation. I told them if they were to bring me a steak dinner to eat, I’d listen to them (thinking no way would they do something like that). But they actually did. They came back that day with a steak and a stack of church pamphlets and the Book of Mormon. So I felt obligated to listen at that point. And that’s how it all started. Steak dinner and obligation, haha.
How have you seen the hand of the Lord throughout your life?
That is a loaded question. Because the reality is, Heavenly Father is found even in the smallest of details of our life. But what I love is knowing that even before I was a member I was led and guided by Him. That He cares for and watches over absolutely every single one of us, member or not-active or not-struggling or not- Believer or not. And even though at first I rejected the invitation to know more about the gospel, here I am. I’m grateful that God knows me better than I know myself to give me things and lead me to things I don’t even realize I need.
What do you consider your greatest blessing?
Prayer. I can count on one hand how many times Heavenly Father spoke in scriptures, it is always Christ that speaks. And to think that we can speak to Him directly any time we want and He’ll listen and help every single time, how cool and sacred is that? I pray about everything throughout the entire day. To think I went 21 years without praying because I didn’t know how or really know about it at all, I wonder how on earth I made it that long in life. Also, my husband. He’s an incredible blessing. He’s always strong on my weak days.
What has helped you make it through life’s challenges?
Honest prayer, being able to open up and tell Heavenly Father what stinks and what’s hard and what I don’t like and what doesn’t make sense, because honest prayer brings better answers and comfort. The Book of Mormon because that is where strength comes from. I’m not sure where I’d be if it weren’t for that book. Priesthood blessings, seeking them out every time the thought comes to mind, even if we think our problem is “too small” to get one, because it’s not and Heavenly Father loves and wants to speak to us! Every single time I get a blessing, when it’s done, I immediately write down everything that was said in a journal that is dedicated just to priesthood blessings. Often times when things are hard, I’ll just read that journal of all His promises He’s given me and the counsel of what I should be doing. And man oh man, life has been hard since joining the church, and incredibly lonely. I lost all of my friends, every single one of them, and my family for a long while, too. I had never felt alone until I got baptized. There has been too many times where I would be laying on the floor screaming at God because of how hard things would be, but even if you’re yelling at God, it is crucial that you turn to Him at all, always, and at all times. Never let your trials stop you from turning to Him, even if you’re mad. And never letting passing time during trials dim your faith in the promises He has given us. Hold on to them with every bit of energy you have left because they are so real.
On your blog, you regularly talk about feeling inspired to do certain things. How do you go about receiving this personal revelation?
In prayer we should always be asking what else it is that we should be doing that we aren’t already, and answers and ideas sure do come when you do that, haha. But for me, I’ve come to notice that the spirit speaks to me often through reoccurring thoughts. If the idea keeps coming back then it is something we need to start taking seriously.
You have had some incredible opportunities come your way in the past few years! As a public speaker, do you have any specific experiences that stand out to you?
There are so many! I have a new experience that I treasure each time I speak, But one time in particular that I will never forget is was when I was supposed to speak on a night that I had the worst migraine you could imagine. It brought me to tears. I couldn’t even think straight, let alone go and speak for an hour. It was absolutely terrible. I was praying to Heavenly Father, more so of a scream and yell at Him than it was speaking, saying I couldn’t do this, there’s no way, not tonight, not feeling like this-but– if He wanted me to, I knew that He would help me. The answer didn’t come clear, but the next thing I knew I found myself driving to Payson Canyon to a girls camp. I was talking to Heavenly Father all the way there and I received an answer. An answer that came so clear it was like I was reading a billboard. An answer that came so powerfully I physically felt it. I was consumed. I was taken over. I was crying, except this time it wasn’t because of my head but because of my answer. Heavenly Father answered my prayer saying, ‘Al, you go tonight…you go and you make sure that you tell those girls…how much I love them. Al, go to those girls and tell them…that I notice them. That I’m listening. You make sure you tell those girls that I’m right here.” It came so clearly that I responded out loud saying, ‘Ok, I’ll tell them!’ And that is why I speak, because I want every single person to know and feel the reality of that.
In your opinion, how can we reach out best to new church members, investigators, and those of other faiths?
Love them always no matter what. And go out of your way to say hi to them! I was completely alone at church for so long with no support coming from anyone else and church really should be a legit family for everyone. It should not matter whether they are a member, or not, whether they are just baptized or inactive or very active, love them and say hi. I receive too many emails a day from people who want to come back to church but they don’t because of fear of being alone or being judged. Some of these people have allowed too many years to pass to build up the courage to actually show up. How awful it would be after all that fear and anxiety to finally make it there just to see their fear become a reality.
What is the best advice you have received?
Whatever you are looking for, you’ll find. When I was moving to Utah, I was told by too many people that no one would like me and that I would not fit it. And when I first got to that state it seemed as though everyone was right. Because of how I looked no one would speak to me. People would say incredibly rude things to me if they did speak to me, people would see me at the store and turn around and go the other direction and moms would pull their kids in closer to them as I walked by. It hurt so bad that they would judge me like that, that they saw me for someone I wasn’t any more. But then I remembered that advice. If you look for the bad, you’ll find it. If you look for the good, you’ll find it. I had to remember that several times a day, sometimes, but it made all the difference and despite the rough start I had in Utah, it was the most incredible five years of my life living there that I couldn’t imagine living without. Those five years in Utah have really shaped me into who I am and what I’m doing today in every way and not acknowledge the bad, because it’ll always be there no matter who you are or what you’re trying to do, but shrug it off and keep being you and doing what you know you should be doing.
What advice would you give specifically to young women and young adults?
Look in the mirror and smile, because you are so beautiful in the eyes of God. His thoughts toward you are more numerous then you can ever begin to imagine. He did not shortchange or screw up on you. Our perfect creator created you perfectly. The best thing you could ever be is yourself. So take pride and take confidence in you and always love and turn to God. Because what we are a part of is real! This is so real! This is the greatest thing we could ever be a part of! God is real. He’s as real as your heart beating right now. And He is for you. So it doesn’t matter who is against you. What you do matters, you make a difference. And you are so important.
Thanks for sharing a little bit about your story, Al! Make sure to check out Al’s blog here and get excited to hear more from her at Time to Blossom this year!