She calls herself “the Tattooed Mormon,” but I call her a modern Mormon pioneer.
Why? Because the story of her conversion so similar to that of the early pioneers…
Although my ancestry is rich with pioneer heritage, I’ve really never known what its like to convert to Mormonism. Oh sure, I’ve had my own “conversion” to Mormonism (wherein I had to decide if I really believed in it) but I’ve never really had to pay the price for that conversion; a price previously paid by my pioneer predecessors.
But Al? Al’s a modern Mormon pioneer.
Like Joseph Smith (the very first Mormon pioneer), Al’s conversion began in the Sacred Grove, with her first vocal prayer to know the truth. After discovering the reality of God, and the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel, Al decided to be baptized. But, like Joseph Smith and those early pioneers, Al also discovered that there is “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11), even good things. She lost friends, started having problems with her family, and even struggled with members in the Church that judged her because of her tattoos.
Although she knew she was doing the right thing, Al felt very alone. In her loneliness, Al turned to God and “did a lot of experimenting,” testing His promises in The Book of Mormon and pressing forward with all of the good things she felt prompted to do.
And this is the part where Al proves she’s a modern pioneer: Without really knowing anyone in Utah, Al felt prompted to move to the Beehive State (keep in mind, this is a convert moving from a place near Palmyra—the similarities are stunning!).
So Al packed her bags and headed west. When she reached Chicago (not far from Nauvoo) to eat and rest she said: “I was consumed with fear and doubt and anxiety and temptation—temptation to go back where things made sense, back to New York. And I knew I needed to keep going, because I knew it was the right thing.”
And so, not daring to stop her car for anything other than gas (seriously, she didn’t even stop for food), Al drove across the Mississippi River and didn’t stop until she reached Rocky Mountains (is that not a modern pioneer?!).
But the real thing that causes me to view her as a modern Mormon pioneer is her colossal faith—a faith that would cross the plains, build a temple, and overcome any obstacle. And look at the fruits of her faith! Since coming to Utah, Al has been on magazines, in the newspaper, on television, on the radio and is one of the most sought after LDS speakers. Her schedule is literally book every day until the end of the year (I know, I saw it!).
But more than all of the media coverage, Al’s story has reignited the faith of thousands. I can’t tell you the number of people who have been touched by Al’s testimony (they are innumerable), but I can tell you that I have personally been touched by her story.
Since 2006, I’ve produced a lot of LDS videos (mostly for YouTube) and I’ve done quite a bit of blogging and other things to promote the Church and Joseph Smith. However, for the past two years…I just hadn’t been feeling it, you know? I used to have such enthusiasm for the Restored Gospel (especially Church History and Joseph Smith) and I’ve been struggling to find that zeal again.
But Al’s testimony brought the fire of faith back into my life. Honestly, the woman exudes the Spirit. She is a powerhouse of faith and insight (the video I published isn’t even a tenth of what we talked about). After our interview, I drove from Provo to San Francisco, pondering for hours the things she had shared—and deeply and profoundly changed for the better.
Since our interview, I have remembered numerous spiritual insights, renewed several commitments, and have even updated my website to share my reignited faith (check out all my Joseph Smith stuff as an example). I even decided to publish my article “Recalled to Serve A Mormon Mission” in large part because of the enthusiasm I felt after my interview with Al.
I can’t thank you enough for your faith, Al. Please keep moving forward—your brave pioneering is blessing more lives than you know!