“The King Answered Him Not for the Space of an Hour”

Brant Gardner

Ammon must have sensed the room’s charged atmosphere. He certainly noticed the change in Lamoni’s features (v. 12) and must have known from the use of “Rabbanah” that something significant had happened. Given Ammon’s humility, he might have predictably turned aside the title; instead he accepts it without recorded comment and simply asks Lamoni what he can do for him.

The king now faces a problem so agonizing that he wrestled with it for an hour. The tension must have affected everyone present. All monarchies have rules governing the relationship between king and subjects. Rather universally, one cannot leave the king’s presence without being dismissed. Thus, Ammon asks a simple question and the entire room of people is forced to stand waiting in silence (surely in silence!) for an entire hour as Lamoni struggles to identify the right answer. No doubt Lamoni, believing Ammon to be “more than a man,” worries about the propriety of questioning such a being. Is he being tested? If he answers the question, will he be considered presumptuous? If he doesn’t, will he be considered arrogant?

Translation: It seems doubtful that the Lamanites had any measurement of time that correlated to our sixty-minute “hour” or that there would have been any mechanism in the room (except possibly the angle of sunlight) of measuring it. What we should probably understand is that an unusually long period of time passed.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4