(Image from Barnes & Noble)
What does a Mormon look like?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a worldwide membership of over 15 million people, meaning there's no one answer to this question. In general, though, LDS people strive to be clean, both on the inside and the outside. We're taught that our bodies are sacred, God-given temples and should be treated accordingly. We adhere to a health code called The Word of Wisdom, which cautions against the use of substances that can be harmful to the body (alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, too much meat, etc.). From infancy, we're advised to keep our minds and souls pure, avoiding pornography, graphic movies, profanity, etc. Likewise, we're told to maintain a clean-cut, well-groomed outside appearance. Multiple piercings, extreme hairstyles, revealing clothing, and tattoos are discouraged. This creates a tidy homogeny that has been widely criticized, but is nonetheless recognizable throughout the world. What happens, then, when someone who looks different from the norm not only joins the church but also becomes one of its most recognizable spokespeople? It can create a bit of a stir. Just ask Al Fox Carraway.
Despite growing up less than an hour's drive from Palmyra, New York, where the LDS Church was formally organized in April 1830, Carraway knew nothing about Mormonism. It wasn't until she met two very persistent missionaries that her interest in the religion was piqued. Once ignited, her desire to know more couldn't be extinguished. Carraway was soon baptized despite strong opposition from family and friends. Feeling alone, the new convert received powerful spiritual promptings to move closer to the Church's hub in Salt Lake City, Utah. Terrified of moving so far away and starting over in a foreign place where she knew no one, Carraway made the trip anyway. Not realizing how much her colorful tattoos would make her stand out in Utah, let alone at church, she was shocked by the reactions she received, especially from other Mormons. As Carraway struggled, she clung to her faith, which allowed her to see beyond the pettiness of people's judgments to the one thing that truly mattered—her relationships with God and Jesus Christ.
In More Than the Tattooed Mormon, Carraway recounts her conversion to the LDS faith as well as all she's learned because of it. Told with her trademark humor and bubbly optimism, her story rings with warmth, authenticity, and truth. Her enthusiasm for the Gospel is infectious, her faith inspiring. Carraway's struggles taught me some great lessons about following the Spirit, trusting the Lord, withholding judgment, and never taking the Gospel for granted. I loved this approachable little book, which touched my heart while simultaneously breaking it and warming it. It's a stay-with-you story, beautiful in its simplicity, but profound in its power.
(Readalikes: Hm, I can't think of anything. Can you?)
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To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of More Than the Tattooed Mormon from the generous folks at Cedar Fort. Thank you!