Alma, first chief judge of the people of Nephi, resigned from his government role to focus on a subject that obviously had greater priority to him: repentance.
He began right in Zarahemla and addressed his people with a series of questions designed to encourage introspection. Some of these questions are easy to understand.
- Have ye spiritually been born of God?
- Have ye experienced this mighty change of heart?
- Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?
The concept of faith and conversion is central to the understanding of members of the church. The gate at the head of the covenant path is baptism, signifying the end of our old lives and the beginning of our new lives as disciples of Christ – being spiritually born of God.
The Holy Ghost provides guidance to help not only forgive us of our sins but change our dispositions. Faith in Christ, and the correct observation of his ordinances, can literally turn bad men into good men, and good men into better men.
Among the numerous questions posed by Alma is one that stands out:
“I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” (Alma 5:19, emphasis added)
What does it mean to have the image of God engraven upon your countenance?
First, a few terms… Image implies appearance. Countenance typically refers to the face. Engraven means carved or cut.
This sounds like we are being asked to have some sort of divine face transplant… some sort of attempt to look like someone else…
There is actually an instance of literal likeness in appearance in the scriptures, and it is worth reading:
“From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth; Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.” (D&C 107:42-43)
Seth’s physical similarity to Adam showed something connected them. Not just that they had a lot in common, or had a family relationship, but that Seth had the mantel of his father… he was the successor.
The same physical similarity can be observed when Elijah the Tishbite left his mantel for Elisha the son of Shaphat… and Elisha succeeded the prophet in Israel.
Another physical example was witnessed when Brigham Young addressed the saints after the death of the prophet, and in the eyes of many of the saints, took on a physical similarity to Joseph Smith – indicating the keys of the Kingdom had been given to the apostles, just as Jesus had intended.
Back to the concept of which Alma spoke – there ought to be a physical connection between your person and Jesus Christ. This does not mean growing hair on the head and face to emulate paintings of Jesus, or wearing robes and sandals everywhere. This does mean carefully studying the way he spoke, the way he interacted with others, and the way he interacted with his father – and emulating it.
Are there things in your life that are not in harmony with what he and his prophets have taught? Remove them.
Are there things absent from your life that were a part of what made Jesus great? Seek them.
The power of repentance is frequently thought of as being limited to our spiritual health – and while it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of caring for our spirits by following the Messiah – the efforts we take to emulate our Master can bring observable physical benefits.
Those who give diligent heed to the oath and covenant of the priesthood can find a literal renewing of their bodies. Those who are careful in their observance of the word of wisdom can run and not be weary or walk and not faint. Those who observe the laws of tithing will find the destroyer rebuked.
The more carefully we keep the laws Jesus gave, the more we change our hearts, our bodies, and even our countenances, until the day “that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:48)
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020, June 1-7.
- “Preserving the Heart’s Mighty Change” -Elder Dale G. Renlund, October 2009
- “Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?” -Elder Timothy J. Dyches, October 2013
- “The Light in Their Eyes” -President James E. Faust, October 2005