In a line of questioning promoting self-examination, Alma once asked the question, “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received His image in your countenances?” (Alma 5:14, punctuation modernized).
The question of spiritual birth echoes a midnight exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus. Said Jesus to the Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:5-7).
The imagery of a physical birth is plain for everyone living on earth to understand. Though we don’t remember, we have all experienced birth. Many of us have witnessed it; if not personally, we have heard first-hand accounts of what is involved.
The similarities are striking. Physical birth is not pleasant or easy. There is pain and work involved for both mother and child. It is not clean. Water and blood are elements which are present. And once physical birth is accomplished, is that all? No! A babe must continue to grow, learning first the basic skills of life and eventually the ways of society.
Similarly, to simply confess that one has felt the holy embrace of the Spirit of God – or even once partaken in the Holy Ordinances, there should be no stopping. There will be stretching, growing, changing, and sacrificing upon that spiritual life.
Jesus offered the greatest sacrifice – Himself as ransom for sin and death. “We are to continue to offer sacrifices, but the sacrifices He now commands are that we ‘offer for a sacrifice unto [Him] a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ He also commands each of us to love and serve one another—in effect, to offer a small imitation of His own sacrifice by making sacrifices of our own time and selfish priorities” (Elder Dallan H. Oaks, Sacrifice).
In other words, we give up our sins, flaws, or habits which are not harmonious with who we should be. The closer we approach living in a way that the Holy Spirit can be with us in constant companionship, we begin to bear a resemblance to our Heavenly Father. Pieces of His Image can be seen in our walk and conversation, as we grow more united spiritually with Him.
The other symbol mentioned in the original verse is that of receiving His image. When God created man, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). And lest there be any confusion, Moses explained a few verses later that “Adam … begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:3). If Seth held the image and likeness of his earthly father – something we can readily understand and identify with – and Adam was given the gift to be made in the image and likeness of God – then the interpretation of these verses become unarguably clear in the spiritual declaration to possess His image.
Said Paul, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [put down or bring to submission] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).
Others can see that in your countenance.