Scripture Study Tips: Cross References and Scripture Chains

The amazing thing about the scriptures is how each book of scripture relates to the other. They are all the words of the Lord given to us through His prophets. As Latter-day Saints, we have been blessed to live in a time when our scriptures have been footnoted and cross-referenced. However, we do not need to stop there!

One of my favorite things to do while studying the scriptures is to add little cross-references and/or scripture chains.

Cross Reference
There are many footnotes and cross-references in our scriptures, but sometimes we may find that there is an especially appropriate cross-reference for our purposes – that is not listed in the footnotes.

On these occasions, don’t be afraid! Get out your marking pen, and quickly write in the cross reference in the margin.

Watch this video to see how to mark a cross-reference in your scriptures.

Scripture Chain
A scripture chain is like a list of related scriptures. Instead of listing these scriptures on a paper or elsewhere, they are linked directly in my scriptures.

I would suggest using a pencil to write in the scripture chain reference. I like to use Mechanical Pencils with really fine-tip leads. I find that Mechanical pencils are easier because you never have to worry about sharpening them. The fine-tips are great because there isn’t much space in the margins.

Scripture Chains

A Scripture Chain.

As you can see in the picture, when I make a scripture chain, I put a little arrow in the margin (this arrow is color coded. You can see more about color coding here. I then write down the scripture reference and a summary-phrase in pencil. The summary phrase is the theme for the entire chain – it should not change. When you look up the scripture that is noted in the margin, you will find similar markings – an arrow, a new scripture reference, and the same summary phrase.

I also have a list of scripture chains in the front of my scriptures (put all those blank pages to use!). Then you will have a handy list to where all of your chains begin.

Scripture Chain Master List

A List of Scripture Chains in my Scriptures.

On this chain list, first write the summary phrase/theme. Then list one of the scriptures next to it. From there, you go to the scripture, and you’ll search through the scriptures to find each listed reference that belongs to the theme.

An example
I’m hoping that I’m making this all clear. To be sure that the concept is understood, here is an example of a scripture chain.

The Chains of Hell vs. The Embrace of God
First go to Alma 12:6

“And behold I say unto you all that this was a snare of the adversary, which he has laid to catch this people, that he might bring you into subjection unto him, that he might encircle you about with his chains, that he might chain you down to everlasting destruction, according to the power of his captivity.” – Alma 12:6.

We are taught that the Devil wishes to snare us – and encircle us with his chains – so that we are trapped, and will be destroyed. Next, go to Alma 26:15

“Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.” – Alma 26:15.

The Lord will take us from being encircled by everlasting darkness into light. He encircles us, instead, with love. (I imagine it to be like a hug or embrace). Now on to the next scripture – D&C 6:20.

“Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.” – D&C 6:20.

The lord will encircle us in the arms of his love when we keep the commandments. Now on to the next scripture: 2 Nephi 1:15.

“But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.” – 2 Nephi 1:15.

Nephi had felt the loving embrace of the Lord. Even now, during our mortal lives, we can feel the arms of His love. …And the next reference: 2 Nephi 9:45.

“O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation.” – 2 Nephi 9:45.

While we’ve read many scriptures of the loving embrace of the Lord, we are reminded in Nephi that the devil will chain us up, so that we are bound fast. And now, the scripture chain prompts us to go to Alma 12:6 – which is the beginning. The chain is complete!

I hope you’ve had fun with this little scripture chain. They are such effective ways to study. It is really fun to see how gospel principles are taught throughout the scriptures. It is also very satisfying to be able to find the references that relate easily.

So, start making scripture chains!

ps…many of the Gospel Doctrine Class Member study guides have scripture chains printed in the lesson. Look here for an example.

If you would like additional scripture study tips, check out my free eBook: Getting More from the Scriptures: Techniques and Projects for Effective Scripture Study.