Book of Mormon Lesson 22
“Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenances?”
A. Last week we learned that Alma gave up the judgement seat (secular power) in order to focus fully on his role as leader of the church. What does this tell us about Alma? He was not power hungry. Something that always irritates me about presidential elections is that the only candidates we have to choose from are people who really want to be, and think they deserve to be president. What kind of person can think, “I am better suited than anyone else in the country to lead the free world.” I guess that’s one of the disadvantages of Democracy, and is one of the reasons that Plato thought it an inferior form of government to a “philosopher king” who ruled for the good of the people, not for person gain. But where are you going to find one of those?
B. After giving up the judgement seat, Alma first assembled and taught the people of Zarahemla. Apparently, most of the people here were already members of the church. He then goes to the city of Gideon and teaches the people there, who are described as righteous people. Why did Alma spend time preaching to the converted? We could say that Alma was “fine tuning” the people of the church and getting things in order before setting out on his mission to teach the wicked.
II. “Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers.”
A. Read Alma 5:3-6. Why does Alma want the people to remember the bondage of their fathers?
B. What did the angel tell Alma the Younger when he appeared to him? Read Mosiah 27:16.
C. Alma the Younger and the people of Zarahemla were living in a situation similar to our own - of relative peace and prosperity. They were reaping the benefits of the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents. The angel seems to be telling Alma, “Listen, you spoiled brat. Your father and ancestors suffered a lot so that you could have it this good. Stop being such a jerk.”
D. What are some things that our ancestors and predecessors have done for us? What do we have today that we owe to them?
1. Fighting wars to protect us from tyranny.
2. Pioneer ancestors making great sacrifices so that we could worship freely and have the gospel today.
E. How is it beneficial for us to remember “the bondage of our fathers.”
F. One of my pioneer ancestors was William Hyde. Almost every narrative about the Mormon Battalion includes quotes from William Hyde. This was not because he was an important leader in the battalion or because he was a particularly good writer. It’s simply because he kept a journal. One of the stories he tells is the miracle of the turkeys. When he and a group of men were traveling from California back to Winter Quarters to reunite with their families, they were cold, tired and nearly starved to death. He wrote: “ On the morning of the 19th, we all were united in calling on the Lord to regard our situation in mercy and send us food from an unexpected quarter that we might have wherewith to subsist upon. And here the Lord heard our prayer. Soon after......wild turkeys began to pass our camp in droves, and such a sight I never before witnessed. Drove after drove continued to pass through the woods until night set in. We succeeded in getting four, which was one to every four persons, and after this we could not get any more, although our shots might be considered ever so fair, and we concluded to be satisfied. Probably it would have been a damage to us if we had got all we wanted as we were then suffering in extreme with hunger.”
1. I wouldn’t know about the sacrifices William Hyde made and how God blessed him if he hadn’t kept a journal.
III. “Have Ye Received His Image in Your Countenances?”
A. Read Alma 5:14.
1. What does it mean to “receive his image in your countenance?”
2. Brother Andrew Skinner said: “An ‘image’ is not just an outward visual impression but also a vivid representation, a graphic display, or a total likeness of something. It is a person or thing very much like another, a copy or counterpart. Likewise, countenance does not simply mean a facial expression or visual appearance. The word comes from an old French term originally denoting ‘behavior,’ ‘demeanor,’ or ‘conduct.’ In earlier times the word countenance was used with these meanings in mind. Therefore to receive Christ’s image in one’s countenance means to acquire the Savior’s likeness in behavior, to be a copy or reflection of the Master’s life. This is not possible without a mighty change in one’s pattern of living. It requires, too, a change in feelings, attitudes, desires and spiritual commitment. This involves the heart.”
3. In 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
B. Alma then goes on to give a long series of questions we can ask ourselves to better assess our own worthiness.
1. Have your been spiritually born of God?
2. Have you received his image in your countenances?
3. Have ye experienced this mighty change of heart?
4. Do ye exercise faith in Christ?
5. Do you look forward to the resurrection and the judgement?
6. Do you have a pure heart and clean hands?
C. Read Alma 5:26.
1. Neal A. Maxwell said: “It is not enough for us to have once been close to the Savior. (So was Sidney Rigdon.) Alma said, if we have once ‘felt to sing the song or redeeming love,’ can we feel so now?’ Dutiful discipleship creates many happy memories, but it does not make nostalgia a substitute for fresh achievement.”
A. Alma then goes on to talk about a particular sin. In his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis describes this sin in a chapter called “The Great Sin.” I’m going to read how he describes this sin and have you try to guess what it is: “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a mon more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” What is he talking about? Pride.
B. I enjoy listening to conference as much as the next guy, but I have to admit that off the top of my head I can’t remember much about what anyone talked about in conference last April. But I remember exactly what President Benson talked about in April of 1989, just a few months before I left on my mission. That was his famous talk on Pride. He quoted from and paraphrased much of this Chapter in C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. So I will be referring to it today.
C. Read Alma 5:27-30. At first glance it may seem that Alma is talking about 3 different sins here, pride, envy and mocking. I think that as we look closer at the sin of Pride we will see that envy and mocking stem from it.
D. Why is it so hard to recognize when we are committing the sin of Pride or Self-Conceit? It is not hard to know when we are guilty of stealing, lying, adulatory, murder. We may try to justify these sins, but we know when we’ve committed them. But most of us in this room are guilty of pride and may not even know it. How can we know when we are being prideful? Lewis says a good way to know by how easily we recognize it in others. “I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree.”
E. Lewis then explains that pride is competitive. “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If someone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”
1. This is how envy is a symptom of pride.
F. Lewis says, “it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.” Why is that? How does pride make us miserable?
G. Lewis observes, “Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity– it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.” How is Pride showing enmity to God?
1. “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurable superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that– and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison– you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God.”
H. Alma is talking to a group of mostly converted Christians. Why is it important for Christians to constantly be vigilant against Pride? Because we can be religious and still be guilty of Pride.
1. Lewis says, “That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s wort of Pride towards their fellow-men.........Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good–above all, that we are better than someone else– I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.”
H. Read Alma 5:53-55. How is charity related to humility? It is pride that makes us covet our own processions; that makes us think we deserve what we have.
A. Throughout chapter 5-7 of Alma we are reminded how we can “experience this mighty change of heart,” and overcome our sins. Read Alma 5:48. It is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven and become like Him. And it is only by recognizing our own nothingness in comparison to God and Jesus Christ that we can overcome pride. Amen.
F., Jim - Times and Seasons
Lewis, C.S. - Mere Christianity, 1952