“The Object of His Desire”

Brant Gardner

Kishkumen, in meeting the spy, identifies him as a member of the band by some sort of signal, whether a password, a particular item of clothing, or a gesture. Whatever form it took, it was an agreed-upon, non-random performance that confirmed identity. The second important detail is that Kishkumen either knew that this spy was Helaman’s servant or the servant told him that he had access to Helaman.

Culture: The judgment-seat is certainly a symbol of the chief judge’s authority. It was also a “seat” in the sense that it was a physical and public location. However, it also appears that it was, by extension, the chief judge’s residence, since the servant suggests a visit in the middle of the night. The chief judge would not, of course, be holding court but be asleep. Almost certainly this was the setting in which he had the fewest people around who could have impeded an assassination.

The later Maya designated a separate building for the place of governance—the popol nah, or “mat house.” The “mat” symbolized the location where the Maya ruler seated himself, and the location of this particular “mat” was the building in which the ruler rendered judgment and conducted other state affairs. The North Building in the quadrangle at Uxmal (located about fifty miles south of modern Mérida in Yucatán) is a large and impressive popol nah, indicated by the mat-weave-style stone decorations on the building. In addition to the North Building’s function as a popol nah, it was also a kan nah or “sky house” where visions were received. Lastly, it was a ch’ok-t-nah, or “sprout-tree-house,” which means the dwelling for members of the same clan.

All of these features fit the general understanding we have of the Nephite judgment seat. It was a physical location where the ruler conducted administrative affairs and meted out justice; it was also a location for receiving communication or revelation from God when the prophet and ruler were the same person. Finally, it was affiliated with a lineage, presumably that of the ruling dynasty. The one difference is the detail that it was also the chief judge’s residence.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5