About the only seat available in the Central Chapel at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion was the one vacated by Daniel H. Ludlow when he arose to deliver the keynote address at the Book of Mormon Symposium at the University of Utah Jan. 30.
"I do not remember any time in the history of the Church that there has been this wave of enthusiasm for studying the Book of Mormon," said Ludlow, a prominent LDS scholar and director of Correlation Review for the Church. "God in our day has spoken through His prophet that we are to read, study and ponder the teachings of this book. My belief is that the honest in heart of the Church are responding to this appeal."What a thrilling thing it would be if, in the history of the Church, 1988 would be remembered as the year of the Book of Mormon."
More than 2,100 people attended the symposium, the largest number of people to attend a Church Educational System Book of Mormon Symposium outside of BYU. The congregation nearly filled the institute's two other chapels, where the keynote address was shown on closed-circuit television monitors.
Ludlow's address on "the keystone of our religion" began a day-long series of 12 lectures on the Book of Mormon. Topics ranged from the Book of Mormon as "A Witness For Christ" to "The Natural Man and the Spiritual Rebirth."
With his scriptures on the podium before him, Ludlow recalled when the Prophet Joseph Smith referred to the Book of Mormon as the keystone. He said the presidency of the Church and the apostles had gathered to hear a missionary's report. During the meeting, the Prophet Joseph "told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (History of the Church, IV, page 461.)
"It is quite clear, at least to members of the Church, that the Prophet, when he speaks here of correctness, is speaking of the doctrine and the principles," Ludlow said.
He defined a keystone as the stone binding the arch together, a part or force which holds associated things together.
Holding up a picture of an arch, Ludlow pointed to the stones on one side and said they could represent Joseph Smith as a prophet, the doctrines of pre-earthly existence, America as a choice land, the account of the three witnesses. "These are all related to the fact that the Book of Mormon is true."
On the other side of the arch, he said, are the beliefs that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the Bible is true; the ideas of prophecy and revelation; that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the scattering and the gathering of Israel.
"The Book of Mormon is the keystone of all of these because the Book of Mormon is the witness or testament that all of these things are true," he said.
People can believe Jesus is the Christ without believing Joseph Smith is a prophet or the testimony of the three witnesses, if they have never had opportunity to learn those things, he explained. But a person can't believe in the Book of Mormon without also believing in the Bible, the Church, Joseph Smith's prophetic calling and the divinity of Jesus Christ.
The Lord has said that through the mouth of two or three witnesses all truths will be proved, Ludlow said.
"If the Book of Mormon ended with 3 Nephi 17, it would be a witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ because it proves His resurrection," said Ludlow, who then raised his hand in emphasis and added, "Because they did feel with their hands and did see with their eyes and did know for a surety that He was the resurrected Christ."
In addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, a third witness will someday come forth from the record of the Lost Tribes of Israel. In 3 Nephi 17:4, the Savior said He would show Himself to the Lost Tribes after leaving the Nephites.
Ludlow said the prophet Mormon expected people today to have his peoples' record and the Bible available to them. And Mormon said the Book of Mormon was written for the intent that people also would believe in the Bible.
Raising the Book of Mormon in one hand and the Bible in the other, Ludlow pointed at one and said if it's true here, then it's true there.
"The Book of Mormon is the second witness for the Jews and Christians, but for the rest of the world, it may be the first witness," he said.
Saying he felt impressed to go one step further, Ludlow said some Church members often interpret the promise in Moroni 10:4 to mean that a person only needs to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it to know it is true.
"No, that is not all you have to do," Ludlow said. "A careful reading of the preceding verses (2 and 3) indicates you also must accept the Bible, if you have had opportunity to read that scripture."
Ludlow explained that the Book of Mormon is the antecedent of "these things" in verse 3 where Moroni says "when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them. . . ." Next Moroni admonishes the reader to remember how merciful the Lord has been unto the children of men, ". . . from the creation of Adam even down unto the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts." (Moroni 10:3.)
Where, Ludlow asked, does a person read about the creation of Adam? The Bible, he answered. He explained that Moroni is saying to not only read the Book of Mormon, but also the Bible - and to ponder how God deals with man.
"The word read does not appear in verse 4. Instead, Moroni says, `And when ye shall receive,' not read but receive `these things' - the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and how God deals with man - you should ask `God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true; and if you ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.'"
Ludlow said a person who does not believe in the Bible cannot obtain a testimony of the Book of Mormon unless he also learns to accept the Bible. "You must accept the Bible if you are to believe the Book of Mormon," Ludlow explained.