December 03, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

The gospel, for actress Alexandra Powers, isn’t the Bible. It’s a 164-page volume by Beneth P. Jones, wife of evangelist Bob Jones III, called Beauty and the Best: A Handbook of Christian Loveliness. ”It’s about how a Christian woman should present herself in the workplace,” says Powers, 23, who plays born-again chastity-belter Jane Halliday on L.A. Law. ”It talks about the way you sit, the way you walk, your skirt length, fingernails, makeup-it’s amazing.” Going by the book, Powers herself could be in trouble with the Lord. On her day off, the TV virgin is smoking a Chesterfield, ignoring the four open buttons on her shirt, and sporting a pixie haircut (her Law ‘do is a wig). ”According to the book,” she says, ”hair so short that it looks mannish is against God. I know, I’m a sinner.” For the New York City-born Powers, who grew up in an ”artsy, liberal environment” on both coasts with her divorced parents (Dad teaches acting; Mom used to write for Charlie’s Angels and Fantasy Island), learning fundamentalist fundamentals is a job requirement. If Law lecher Arnie Becker is scrutinizing Jane’s every move, so are the preachers and religious pundits. Powers says she asked Law’s producers, ”’Is she a virgin now, and then in eight episodes a nymphomaniac?’ They assured me they weren’t going to do that. A lot of care is being taken to make sure that if she says she stands for something, she stands for that.” Powers, who got her big break as a coed in 1989’s Dead Poets Society and played a white-trash seductress in the recent NBC miniseries A Matter of Justice, doesn’t adhere to any religion: ”I’ve sort of looked and searched. I was a Buddhist for about six months.” But she does share with Jane an old- ) fashioned faith in love. Married three months to actor Barry Sherman, 23, Powers laments, ”I have to take my ring off when I go to work. And that makes me sad, because I put the ring on and I don’t want to ever have to take it off.” -Jeff Gordinier

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