PROVO — The gasps, oohs, and ahhs of hundreds filled the large room as the gospel scholar shared stories, insights and occasional humor.
Victor L. Ludlow had them hanging on his every word.
The topic had everything to do with it. Ludlow was lecturing on "The Prophetic Perspectives and Prophecies About the Middle East." The Thursday, Aug. 19, class, which took place on an upper floor the Wilkinson Student Center, was part of BYU's Campus Education Week.
Ludlow centered his remarks on four basic prophecies found in the standard works:
1. Missionary work in the region and/or among Muslims and Jews
2. A temple in Jerusalem
3. Two prophets to the Jewish nation
4. Armageddon (two armies of armies against Israel)
Each prophecy was followed by a number of scriptural references.
Missionary work was the topic where Ludlow spent most of his time.
The Middle East, Mainland China, India, parts of south and Southeast Asia and parts of Africa are among the places where missionaries are not currently permitted, Ludlow said. When will the gospel be taken to these places?
"Someday, probably during the millennium," is a common response, he said. The former German missionary and mission president used to think the gospel would never penetrate the durable Berlin Wall, but it did.
"Miracles happen," Ludlow said. "The Lord loves all of his children and he is preparing the way. He has different ways of preparing them."
Ludlow, who spent time serving at BYU's Jerusalem Center, described how there are strict instructions against sharing the gospel in the Holy Land, something that is hard for a former missionary and mission president, but the church is slowly building a strong relationship of trust with the local government in hopes of someday opening doors of opportunity. He also encouraged those present to do missionary work with Muslims and Jews living in the United States and not wait until the door opens over there.
"Seeds are being planted and someday in the Lord's due time, those seeds will yield fruit," he said.
The BYU professor shared a story about the opposition that came when the church was building its Jerusalem Center. Church authorities were advised if they wanted the project to be completed, bribery money needed to be placed in the hands of the right government officials. Ludlow said the church opted to do things by the book and in the end, things worked out.
Regarding temples, Ludlow dispelled a myth that the church would convert the Jerusalem Center into a temple.
"It was not planned or designed to be converted into a temple. It's absolutely and categorically false. It was never on the agenda. But that doesn't mean it couldn't happen," Ludlow said, sparking laughter.
Ludlow said he wouldn't be surprised if a separate building was built. He likes a site, currently a parking lot with weeds, located in the Armenian section of the old city of Jerusalem, on Mount Zion.
"But the brethren haven't come and asked for my opinion yet," Ludlow said.
When will two prophets come to the Holy Land? It's already happening. It's a common reality to people in the Middle East, Ludlow said.
Ludlow tells students at BYU Jerusalem they are in the right place if they want to meet a general authority. The top place to meet one of the brethren is church headquarters; the second is Provo, specifically the Missionary Training Center; the third is in the Holy Land.
"There is something to be felt there," Ludlow said. "They see them all the time."
Before the battle of Armageddon can take place, Ludlow said a change in the social and economic environment needs to take place.