“A Sign”

Brant Gardner

In this verse, Kishkumen meets him and assumes him to be a member of the band. The servant renders some sort of sign. This could have been visual or oral. It might have been some performance with the hands, or it could have been as simple as a password. Whatever the form, it was an agreed upon non-random performance that would verify that the two people who met were of the same band. The sign was given.

The second presumption that we may make is that the servant of Helaman was recognizeable to Kishkumen while “out by night.” Further, there was some understanding that this man was indeed a servant of Helaman. Kishkumen either knew because of previous association or because of he was told in this instant that this person had access to Helaman.

Social: The judgment-seat is certainly a symbol of the authority of the sitting chief judge. It is was also certainly a “seat” in that it was a physical location on which the chief judge would sit while administering. However, it also appears that it is, by extension, the palace of the chief judge. The servant suggests that they go to the judgment seat in the middle of the night. The chief judge would not be sitting on the seat at this point, but would likely be in bed. It would be at this time that the murderer would have access to the chief judge with the fewest people around to stop him. Thus the judgment seat is not just type of chair, but it the building in which the judgments were rendered, and in this case, a reference to the residence of the chief judge.

Among the later Maya there was a separate building designated for the place of governance, the popol nah, or the “mat house.” The “mat” was the symbolic seating location for the Maya ruler, and the location of this particular “mat” was the building in which judgments (and other affairs of state) were rendered. The North Building in the quadrangle at Uxmal is a large and impressive popol nah (so indicated by the mat decorations on the building). In addition to the function as a popol nah, the North Building was also a kan nah or a “sky house” where visions were received. Lastly, it was a ch’ok-t-nah a “sprout-tree-house,” which is the term for the members of a lineage. (Schele, Linda and Peter Mathews. The Code of Kings. Scribner, New York, 1998, pp. 269-272.)

All of these features fit the general understanding we have of the Nephite judgment seat. It was a physical location where the ruler administered the land, it was a location where communication or revelation from God was received (when the prophet and ruler were the same person) and it was affiliated with a lineage, or the ruling dynasty. The one difference is our current assumption that it was also a residence.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon