Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book of Mormon Word Usage: Glance

At first it seems that a word that occurs only three times in the Book of Mormon is not worth a second glance, but sometimes a word rarely used shows very specific usage. The term glance is one of these.

In Joseph Smith’s day, a glance was “a sudden shoot of light or splendor” or “a shoot or darting of sight; a rapid or momentary view of cast; a snatch of sight; as, a sudden glance; a glance of the eye.” (Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1844), s.v. glance.) That provides a basic meaning in the translation but does not address the particular Book of Mormon usage.

Jacob uses the term twice in quick succession of each other:
I must . . . tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations . . . under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God (Jacob 2:10).
O that he [God] would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
Alma too uses the term in similar fashion:
then shall they confess, who live without God in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them; and they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye (Mosiah 27:31). 
One of the things that is interesting about this passage is that just days before Alma had been one living without God in the world, and had found out from personal experience that the mere presence of an angel “could shake the earth and cause it to tremble” (Mosiah 27:18) and caused him to become “weak, even that he could not move his hands; therefore he was taken by those that were with him, and carried helpless” (Mosiah 27:19).

So in the Book of Mormon, it is never merely a glance, but a glance of the eye of God. That glance pierces and smites, causes things to quake and tremble and shrink.