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Thoughts from a tattooed Mormon

April 02, 2013
source: In the Head of Al Fox

Photo from In the Head of Al Fox.

MR says: This is a phenomenal and inspiring piece. Al Fox is featured on LDS Living's current March/April cover and has received a lot of response for her thoughts--as well as her appearance.

A lot of new subscribers & emails have come from my feature in LDS Living Magazine, as well as Deseret News, in response to having a hard time feeling like they do not fit in. Feeling that they are judged for their mistakes. Want to return but are worried what others may think. Or others who have become offended & do not want to return.

Let me share with you a story that I tell during my firesides that everyone gasps out of shock to. An experience that happened to me--due to my appearance--that when I say it everyone reacts the way I did when it happened. Although, truth be told, if it wasn't me telling the story to them, it could of very well been any of them that did the same thing as this man did.

This happened my very first day in Utah. After the long, uncomfortable and terrifying trek across the country by myself to a new place where I didn't know a single person. I moved, against my will, because I knew that's what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I moved regardless of how hard it was & regardless of the fact I had no idea why I needed to be here. And I was scared.

Read the rest of this story at alfoxshead.blogspot.com

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Comments 31 comments

traveler said...

06:32 AM
on Apr 03, 2013

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All of mankind cary the marks of 'tattoos', some external, but most internal and unseen....Let him who is without guilt (or 'tattos') cast the first stone... A remarkable and valiant young woman.

motherof3 said...

10:53 AM
on Apr 03, 2013

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AL is amazing. does it really matter she has tatoos ? seriously. she is amazing and she made choices which she has changed. to many members are biased and ignorant. some fall and need a loving gentle hand to help them up. Al is stronger then many members whom have had the gospel their whole lives. I liked her idea of carrying our Saviors picture with her all day long. I am going to try this. Personally I would be proud of have Al as my daughter ! Actually she could be my daughter in law if she met my amazing son !!!! Al would be welcomed into our family with love, acceptance. I could learn from her !

zorgeous said...

07:07 AM
on Apr 04, 2013

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We live in Australia. I have a daughter in law who has tatoos. My husband and I have no problem with it. She joined the church and is now married to my youngest son who is a policeman. My inactive older son got a eyebrow ring a few years ago, no problem from us, he got it removed because he was worried about infection. My daughter is married to a RM from the USA and they both live in Australia. Life is good and full of love and respect and understanding.

paylish said...

10:45 AM
on Apr 04, 2013

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Yes, it is okay to have a million tattoos and be LDS as long as your not proud of them, flaunt them and show them off ever chance you get. Let me try and put this into perspective. No editor in their right mind is going to put someone in the LDS Living magazine with numerous photographs of he or she holding a nonalcoholic beverage and featuring a story about how much of an alcoholic that they used to be before converting to the LDS faith and then let more ramblings take place that show how much he or she now loves the taste of O'Doul's or some other alcoholic beverage. I am sorry, but tattoos should be covered up on truly converted LDS member. We teach by example and if a non-member sees and smells a member of the church with a nonalcoholic beer bottle, a cup of herbal tea, a cup of coffee substitute, etc. without ever knowing the context and the actual ingredients of the beverage, then what happens? The nonmember assumes another jack Mormon. I know, boooooooo, off with my head, and other blah, blah.

anothertattooedmormon said...

11:34 AM
on Apr 04, 2013

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traveler speaks truth and Al Fox's story is very inspirational. don't hate me because i sin differently than you do :)

bs71 said...

01:12 PM
on Apr 04, 2013

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I myself along with my family were converted 2 yrs ago and I do have tattoos as well. this doesn't make me any less "TRULY" converted as someone without tattoos. I mean what does that really mean. As I read comment by paylish, this is the very comment and thought process i would come to expect. being judged by whats on the outside not inside. I moved here without knowning anything about the lds faith. my family and I had a lot of the same values. I'm thankful each and everyday for the ppl we live around that didn't have the same thought process. alothough its not something they would do. But, having a tattoo doesn't make me any less a true convert .I do cover them up when at church. I was taught at very early age that i shouldn't judge anyone and i believe that today as well. i know its taught in my ward church. I understand where someone might not agree with this and it's okay but i don't have problem with it. I'm proud of the person am. maybe just lil more creative and colorful. i do like this story and it really inspired me.

nate said...

04:39 PM
on Apr 04, 2013

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I've always been drawn to the spirituality of people who get tattoos. In many cases, a tattoo is an expression of a spiritual commitment to a certain value which they wish to daily remind themselves of, and wear as a symbol of their beliefs. It is not unlike our garments, and the marks we wear on them, which have special significance to us. It is a powerful commitment to that principle or idea, because the tattoo is permanent. It represents a truth or value which the wearer commits to throughout their life. "I will write my law on their hearts and their inward parts." "I will set my sign upon them," "I will mark them." "Always remember Him." "Bind my law on their forehead and arms." But I also understand why the church councils against it. To us, it has counter-culture associations which God doesn't want us to embrace. And often people are stupid and get an ugly tattoo, or one that expresses a value which they soon grow out of. So there is wisdom in avoiding them. But that doesn't mean that the principle of tattoos may not have value in other cultures devoid of their current associations. In fact, the church does not council against tattoos among certain island cultures, where everyone gets them, and they have no counter-culture association. In fact, not getting those tattoos would be seen as counter-culture.

bacon1975 said...

11:20 AM
on Apr 05, 2013

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I had to walk away from my computer for a few minutes after reading the comment from paylish. I cannot even begin to put into words (at least not nice words) to express how that made me feel. Thankfully there were other comments that were not hateful, and a little of my faith in humanity was restored. I am not a convert. I was born and raised in a partially active family, and was very active for the first 21 years of my life. I even received my Patriachal blessing, and prepared for a mission. I am no longer an active member of the church, but I am 100% supportive of people that are members. I have multiple tattoos and facial piercings. When I do choose to go to church, I choose my clothes to be respectful in God's house. Modest, clean clothes that sometimes *gasp* sometimes show the ink on my body. Yes, I have had conversations with a Primary child or two about the ink on my skin. Those dear sweet little innocent children don't judge. They just know that my body, my temple, is just a little more colorful than theirs, and that's okay. Please explain to me dear paylish, when church became a place only for the perfect, the unflawed, the "sin-free". Explain to me how I have less of a right to be there because I drink coffee, and I have ink on my skin. Show me where Jesus said that I am less than because of my past. Tell me that I should have "known better". I am not ashamed! My savior knows my heart. My savior knows my worth. I know with my whole soul that He does not love me less because of the colors on my skin. I loved the article, and I would love to be that Christ-like in my responses to the judgements of others.

adraval said...

07:48 PM
on Apr 05, 2013

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First, I think that gospel is for all people, even those with tattoos and I think it is great that she has embraced the gospel. It is clear her testimony is strong and she is out to change the world with her story. I think that is amazing...she has great courage. I would love to learn her back story and conversion. I have tried to find it on her website but there is a lot of fluff to get through. I personally think tattoos are disgusting and have not seen one that I like or would considering having. I find hers very unattractive and I am afraid she is going to glamorize it so that Youth in the church will say "oh she has a strong testimony and tats so I can too" so I am curious what kind of life she led that would compel her to make such poor choices. Also, why doesn't she get them removed, or wear long sleeves. Are they like her 'battle scars' or 'badge of courage' I would consider myself a very opened minded 37 year old LDS Female, I just have never understood the tattoo thing. Thanks for listening.

adraval said...

08:00 PM
on Apr 05, 2013

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and I have no problem with "paylish's" comments a tad harsh, but the truth sometimes can be harsh!

hubbs said...

09:59 AM
on Apr 06, 2013

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I remember when I flew out to visit my sister in Utah. this was about 6+ years ago, I had a nice looking mohawk then. I went to church (member since birth) and I remember all the looks I got just because of my hair. Mind you I slicked back. It angers me out unconnected the majority of church members are in Utah, I remember a kid sitting in front of my, his dad turned saw me, turned his kid around and tried to shield his eyes from me.

hubbs said...

10:01 AM
on Apr 06, 2013

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last post should've read.. "It angers me how unconnected with the outside world the majority blah blah blah..."

hellokitty said...

12:01 PM
on Apr 06, 2013

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Paylish, are you currently active? Don't you teach your children to love one another as Jesus did? Do you think that the savior would be proud of what you said? You are being sinful by your words against someone who has recently joined the church we should be welcoming and loving to her. I know for a fact that being judgmental and gossiping was talked about in conference. They aren't saying that tattoos are okay if you are a good mor it is just showing the kids what they need to hear in their lives that choices will stay with you forever! God isn't going to stand by you for what you said you are worse than she is with her tattoos ohhhh my those awful things. This is why Utah has such a high suicide rate and drug problem cause judgmental people and teaching our kids to be naive.

haveyoursay said...

03:28 PM
on Apr 06, 2013

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When we do missionary work we bring people into the church from all backgrounds,and it shows what a disapproving look or comment could of done. Why bother to send missionaries out in the first place if we cannot except everybody that they bring in, we all have problems some can change now some will have to wait awhile, if tattoo's was my only worry I would probably be translated long ago the point is she became baptized therefore wants to change, we forget there past as the savior dose and love and respect them for the choice they have now made. and also rejoice as another person is on the right track and heading home!

goo said...

01:55 AM
on Apr 08, 2013

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It's ironic how we read a story & judge the "wrong" point as "wrong"... In this story tattoos are not the "wrong" at all... The "no ink" rule didn't apply to her... (I got one on Venice beach immediately after my mission- before the "nope" announcement.) The real "wrong" is the Utah Pharisees finding fault in the innocent. Judging is "wrong". This is an amazing conversion story of strength, a modern pioneer that left her family & home & all we can see is her skin?? Really? She got baptized-- her skin... I mean SIN is no more. We need to check our snap judgements about people before unleashing all our glares, & inexperienced, narrow minded, tiny, opinions out in public. My tiny opinion is to follow our beloved prophet & Elder Holland on all controversial issues... & accept & love one another. We applaud you sweetie for your strength & encourage you to move to Washington... we should adore all gifts -- no matter how they are wrapped... You wear a Liahona that easily separates the just from the unjust... What a gift you have- and what a gift you are... fancy wrapping & all! Xoxo

mjd said...

12:40 AM
on Apr 10, 2013

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I work at an LDS bookstore and one thing I have learned is that I do not get to judge who is LDS and who isn't. That guy with tattoos up his arm? That woman with the wild peircings? I've assumed that they and those like them weren't members and boy, was I wrong. I don't get to decide. Something about motes and beams probably applies in this case, but I wouldn't want to judge ;)

tatman9631 said...

06:14 AM
on Apr 12, 2013

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In somuch as ye have done it unto the least of these thy brethren,that which comith out of the mouth defileth the man, Judge not that ye be not judged, etc. etc. etc. Are these just words for filler in the cannon or were they given as sound counsel? My scriptures say that the Lord reads the hearts of man and nothing about the graphics on the skin. It would seem to me that anyone who does not hold the calling of Bishop, who by the way is the common judge in Isreal, should not only keep theyre opinion to themselves but are also in desperate need of repentance. For who is to say what an individual may aspire to in this life certanly not the hypocrites. These are the same kind of people who consider themselves good obediant saints when they deny themselves a cup of coffee or tea to wake up or keep alert and then take no-doze,vivarin,energy drinks,or caffinated soda,and find no wrong in what they have done. I guess what i am trying to say is simply this, brothers and sisters "let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone" and let the judgement of others be done by those who have been called to do so.

stevehess100 said...

01:14 PM
on Apr 24, 2013

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Oh my gosh!!! I Can NOT BELIEVE you have the nerve to walk into an LDS church or even so much as TOUCH a Book of Mormon!!! You tattooed SINNER!!!

stevehess100 said...

01:16 PM
on Apr 24, 2013

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OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH THE TRUE YOU'RE A SINNER!!!! NOOOOOO!!

stevehess100 said...

01:17 PM
on Apr 24, 2013

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I MEANT TRUE CHURCH!!! AAAAAGH!!!

rinman said...

01:31 AM
on May 13, 2013

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We should be slow to judge. But we also should be careful about flaunting our past behavior. I wouldn't want a converted porn actor to come to a youth fireside to describe his sexual immorality, how many times and where, his doing it with both guys and gals, how good it felt... What matters is that he has repented and left that life behind. In the case of tattoos, this lady was not a member of the Church when she got them, and it was before the no tattoo statement came out, so she should be under no judgment. Similarly, people outside the Church do not sin when they smoke a cigarette. When my parents joined the Church, they tried to get rid of every picture of them with a cigarette. That was their decision, and this good sister is making her decision on how to deal with her prior life. I'll trust that she isn't flaunting or glamorizing her tattoos since she's speaking twice a week at firesides; I am not her judge, and I have my own scars to hide!

chriccha said...

12:48 PM
on May 19, 2013

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How can you be LDS and have tattoos? Is that not illegal??! Like having beard or multiple earrings?

chriccha said...

12:54 PM
on May 19, 2013

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... or being black before 1978? Church source below: http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood

gigglesinthewind said...

10:11 AM
on May 21, 2013

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You can be LDS and have tattoes. A person who converts and has tattoes does not make them any less a child of God or less LDS. I am a convert but no tattoes. Being a convert and seeing some of these comments is like a slap to the face. I know several sisters who are converts and hold positions in the church. Are they to go and spend thousands and go through pain to have them removed to make them a better member? These brothers and sisters who are converts who were alcoholics, drug users, have tattoes are an inspiration to me. Shows what they have over come.

imemine said...

12:54 AM
on Aug 06, 2013

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It has been said, "if you can not smell a faint odor of tobacco smoke in an LDS sacrament meeting we are not doing our job". I suppose the same can be said of tattoos. If we do not see an occasional tattoo in an LDS service we are not doing our job. That being said I agree that a convert that got a tattoo before baptism or a member that got one whilst wandering for a time beyond the influence of the spirit should not be judged or made to feel uncomfortable for past mistakes. But I do not believe that anyone living worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost is going to get a peaceful confirmation from the spirit that tattooing their body is a right choice.

calirose0911 said...

09:21 AM
on Aug 20, 2013

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I'm appalled at some of the comments on here. Where in the gospel does God or the prophets condone judging others by their outward appearance? Aren't we taught to exemplify Christian values? To love our neighbors? To look on the heart of an individual? To stop judging? Last time I checked, only one perfect man ever walked upon the earth. So why do we assume we are better than our brothers and sisters? Is it because we may have lost sight of what the gospel really means? We cannot in good faith judge someone by their actions, when we ourselves are not sinless. I am a returned missionary who served alongside missionaries with tattoos. My own mother got a tattoo when I was on my mission. My stepdad has tattoos and my stepbrother has gauges in his ears. Should I judge these people because of their choices? NO!!! Christ taught us to love everyone, regardless of their past or present choices. We need to embrace everyone who joins the Church with open arms. The journey of conversion is difficult, but is made much sweeter if the convert is embraced by loving members. Perhaps all of our "judging" is why church retention numbers are so low. Maybe we are driving our spiritual family into inactivity because we are shocked by how they look or their past actions. Once they have repented, then who are we to judge what God Almighty has forgiven? My greatest teaching moment was on my mission, teaching a less active brother with numerous tats. We taught that our bodies are temples and we should keep them pure. He joked that his body was a temple, but it just had stained glass windows. What a wonderful attitude to have. It's time to stop judging brothers and sisters and embrace the "stained glass" and spiritual strength of our converts.

gwennymom said...

08:52 PM
on Nov 13, 2013

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Wowzers, why is this even an issue? I enjoyed Al's story, and felt it applied to many people I know who felt like they didn't fit the cookie cutter image of what a Mormon should look like. Her message is a great one, and was echoed President Uchtdorf's talk this last conference. Growing up, I knew some very faithful members with tattoos from their past lives. They didn't always cover their tattoos, and that was just fine with everyone. My parents just explained that they got the tattoos before they joined the church, and that was the end of it. Glad I live in the "mission field", and grateful to have inspired leaders who have warned us against getting tattoos.

nova said...

10:35 PM
on Jan 05, 2014

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Read what the prophets have to say about tattoos. Of course it doesn't apply to those who did not know or who are converts and had their tattoos before they joined the church. We know that the gospel is for the imperfect but when you 'know better you do better' and there are guidelines on tattoos. If you think of your body as the temple of God and your spirit housed within it, then who would defile the temple of God?

rootbeer87 said...

03:11 AM
on Mar 21, 2014

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@ traveler-- well said my friend. I love Al & the person she's become. I love her quote that says something like-- don't let who you use to be stop you from becoming who you want to be".... It's true for all of us. Whether we are members or not.

the_blem said...

07:47 AM
on Mar 27, 2014

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So sad that people would tell her she has to have them removed or cover them in order to have truly converted. Last time I checked, the terms and conditions of repentance are between and individual and God. How can we honestly expect to share the gospel and the joy it brings to others if we are unwilling to overlook their past? If we are only willing to accept those with a perfect past, we wouldn't have any members.

trshy said...

03:09 PM
on Apr 03, 2014

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The gospel is lived and learned at an individual pace/path. I'm frustrated with hearing with being counseled and spoken to on an individual bases and also at a worldwide bases about my tattoo. When more the 40% of members are eating themselves to death. Sitting on their coaches watching TV and playing on the WWW. Let me ask you what temple are you abusing or not tending as Heavenly Father proposed?! So I guess I will be judge for my marking in heaven and the obese can be judge for their markings.
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