Lesson 43: Tools for Searching the Scriptures

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, (2002), 154–59


Each Aaronic Priesthood holder will be motivated to learn to use the helps available in the Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures.


  1. 1.

    Encourage each young man to bring his scriptures to class.

  2. 2.

    (Optional) Assemble a display of various tools used to build a house.

  3. 3.

    Prepare the following wordstrips (or be prepared to write on the chalkboard):

    1. a.


    2. b.

      Running headings

    3. c.

      Chapter and section headings

    4. d.


    5. e.


    6. f.

      GR, HEB, IE, JST, TG, BD, OR

    7. g.


Note to the adviser

You may need two or three class periods to teach this lesson.

Suggested Lesson Development


Object lesson

Display or have the young men describe a variety of tools used in building a house, such as a hammer, saw, and paintbrush. Ask the young men to tell what each of these tools is used for (the saw to cut wood or metal, the hammer to drive nails into material, the brush to apply paint). Point out that each tool has a specific use and is necessary in building the house, but that they cannot be interchanged. A paintbrush cannot be used to cut wood, nor can a saw be used to paint the house. Explain that they are going to practice using some important tools that can increase their ability to use the scriptures and increase their knowledge of scriptures.

The Latter-day Saint Editions of the Scriptures Help Us Understand the Gospel

Quotation and discussion

Explain the information in the following quotation:

“Many centuries ago an ancient prophet prophesied of the coming forth of two records for the house of Israel. (See Ezekiel 37:16–19.) One record would be of ‘Judah,’ and the other record would be of ‘Ephraim.’ He described them as ‘sticks’ of wood, probably ‘wooden writing tablets’ which were common in Ezekiel’s day. … He said he was commanded by God to join these records together so they would become as ‘one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.’ (Ezekiel 37:17.)

“From the beginning of this dispensation, this scripture has been interpreted to apply to the Bible and Book of Mormon. … ([See] 2 Nephi 3:12; see also JST, Genesis 50:31.)

“That these scriptural records, one from Judah’s posterity and one from Joseph’s posterity, would ‘grow together’ in use to confound false doctrines, lay down contentions, establish peace, and extend the knowledge of God’s covenants demonstrates the great strength the scriptures were intended to have in this area of the Restoration. … To aid readers in their study of the scriptures, the First Presidency directed that new editions of the Bible and the Triple Combination be prepared that would improve doctrinal scholarship in the Church. …

“These … editions were the product of years of research and inspired direction. With the coordinated study aids and cross-references in each, these works are now truly ‘one’ in the hands of the user” (Edward J. Brandt, “Using the New LDS Editions of Scripture—As One Book,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, pp. 42–43).

  • Who directed the preparation of these scriptures?

  • Why is it important for us to learn how to use them?

Explain that this lesson is an opportunity to practice using the various study helps in the Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures.

The Latter-day Saint Editions of the Scriptures Contain Many Tools to Help Us

Adviser presentation and scripture search

Ask the young men to open their Latter-day Saint edition of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Explain that this book is called the triple combination because it contains three books. Have the young men turn to the divisions between the three books. Point out that each of them begins with a page 1. Have them turn to the Index at the end of the triple combination, and explain that there is one index for all three books.

Next ask the young men to turn to the page at the beginning of the Bible entitled “The Names and Order of All the Books of the Old and New Testament.” Point out that there are three sections in the Bible: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Appendix. Note that the Old Testament and the New Testament are numbered consecutively. The first page of the New Testament is page 1187, which begins the book of Matthew. Then note that the five sections in the Appendix begin again with page number 1 and continue through to the first page of the map section.

Wordstrip or chalkboard and discussion

Headings. Post the wordstrip “Headings” or write it on the chalkboard. Tell the young men that there are two kinds of headings in these scriptures—running headings and chapter headings. Ask them to open their Bibles to pages 2–3. Then post the wordstrips “Running Headings” and “Chapter and Section Headings,” or write them on the chalkboard.

  1. 1.

    Running headings. Explain that the running headings at the top of each page identify the first and last verses cited on each page. You can see at a glance the contents of a particular page and will not be confused as to the chapter you are reading. Have the young men look on page 2 and identify its running heading (Genesis 1:15–30), and then have them look on page 3 and identify its running heading (Genesis 1:31–2:11). Have them identify the first and last verses on each page by chapter and verse. Show how these headings help you locate a particular verse of scripture.

  2. 2.

    Chapter and section headings. Chapter headings summarize the contents of each chapter (or section of the Doctrine and Covenants). They also draw attention to items of special meaning to Latter-day Saints. Have the young men locate and read the chapter heading for Genesis 2.

  • How can running headings help you find a scripture? How can chapter headings help increase your understanding about the chapters?

Footnotes. Post the wordstrip “Footnotes.” In the scriptures, as in other books, footnotes are small superscript letters or numbers that refer to a note numbered in the same way at the bottom of the page. These footnotes give additional information about the material in the body of the chapter.

Explain that as in other editions of the scriptures, the Latter-day Saint editions identify footnotes by italic superscript letters. For example, have the young men turn to Matthew, chapter 1, and look at verse 1. A small superscript a is found before the word David. At the bottom of the page you will find a bold-faced (heavy-faced type) 1, which identifies the beginning of the footnotes for chapter 1. The first footnote is 1a, which means footnote a in verse 1.

The notes for each page are printed at the bottom of that page. They are arranged by chapter numbers printed in a larger bold type; then the verse number and the superscript letter used in the verse are listed. The information following the number and letter tells you more about that particular part of the verse.

Post the wordstrips of, or write on the chalkboard, the following words and abbreviations: “Cross-reference,” “GR, HEB, IE, JST, TG, BD, OR.” Tell the young men that as you continue your discussion, they will learn what each of these means. You may wish to have them turn to page vi [the page facing Genesis 1:1] to see the key to abbreviations printed there.

Explain that the Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures use nine different kinds of footnotes. As you discuss each of the following examples, have the young men turn to the scriptural passages with you and discuss each as time permits.

  1. 1.

    Cross-references: These identify other verses in all the scriptures that contain related information. They can lead us to discover many important ideas. For an example, ask the young men to turn to Matthew 2:2, footnote 2b.

    Note that this particular scripture is cross-referenced to each of the standard works. Have each young man locate and silently read one of the cross-references given from the Old Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price to discover the value of cross-referencing.

  2. 2.

    GR designates an alternate translation of the passages from Greek. For an example, have the young men turn to Matthew 2:16, footnotes 16a and 16d. Ask a young man to read the alternate Greek translation. Note that the different translation makes each passage clearer.

  3. 3.

    HEB indicates an alternate translation of the passage from Hebrew. Have the young men read Matthew 5:5, footnote 5a. This footnote uses both Greek and Hebrew to help us better understand the meaning of the scripture. Have a young man read both translations.

  4. 4.

    IE is an abbreviation for an explanation of idioms (language that is peculiar to a people or community, such as the English used during the time of King James) and difficult constructions. For an example, have the young men turn to Matthew 5:3, footnote 3b, and read the explanation.

  5. 5.

    JST is the abbreviation for the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Have the young men look up “Joseph Smith Translation” in the Bible Dictionary, and review it with them. Excerpts from the JST that are up to six lines in length are quoted in the footnotes. Longer excerpts are noted in the footnotes with a reference to the section of the appendix where they are cited. The changes from the King James Version are cited in italics. Have the young men turn to Matthew 4 and look at the footnotes there. Note how the italicized words of the Joseph Smith Translation make the account of the Savior’s temptations clearer. For an example of material too long to be printed in a footnote, have the young men turn to John 1:1, footnote 1a. Then turn to the Joseph Smith Translation additions found in the appendix.

  6. 6.

    TG is the abbreviation for the Topical Guide—“Topical Guide with Selected Concordance and Index”—found in the appendix. This section contains 3,154 entries. More than 600 of these are to gospel topics where the most significant passages in all the scriptures are listed. The other full entries are a concordance of selected references from all the scriptures. Have the young men look up the Topical Guide reference for Matthew 1:19, footnote 19a, which contains the information on “Example.” Point out that the Topical Guide contains references not only to the Bible but also to the other scriptures.

    Ask the young men to turn to 1 Nephi 7:8 in the Book of Mormon. Have them find footnote 8c, and note that again the reference is to the Topical Guide subject of “Example.” Keeping that in mind, have them next turn to the word Example in the index found at the end of the triple combination. Point out that the index has only references to the scriptures in the triple combination, but that the reference in the Topical Guide is more complete.

  7. 7.

    BD is the abbreviation for Bible Dictionary, which is located in the appendix of the Bible. The dictionary is based on the Cambridge University Press Bible Dictionary, but it contains many additions and changes to reflect the additional light and knowledge the Lord has revealed in our day. The dictionary’s preface informs us, however, that many of the items in the dictionary have been drawn from the best available scholarship of the world and are subject to reevaluation based on new research or on new revelation (see Bible Dictionary Preface). The dictionary can provide helpful insights to aid in scripture study. Have the young men read Matthew 13:25. Ask them to find the word tares in the Bible Dictionary, and read the definition that increases understanding of the verse.

    References to the Bible Dictionary are not only found in the Bible, but also in the other standard works. For an example, have the young men find 1 Nephi 19:10, footnote 10g. Note that the footnote entry refers them to the Bible Dictionary entry “Lost Books.” Have them find that entry in the Bible Dictionary.

  8. 8.

    OR introduces alternate words that clarify obsolete or archaic (out-of-date, unused) English words and expressions used in the scriptures. For an example have the young men turn to Mark 5:39–40, footnotes 39a and 40a.

  9. 9.

    Some footnotes do not open with abbreviations such as GR or HEB, but they do provide an editorial explanation to aid in scripture study. For an example, have the young men turn to Matthew 1:16, footnote 16e.

Appendix. Post the wordstrip “Appendix” or write it on the chalkboard. The remaining helps of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible are found in the appendix. The appendix contains the following:

  1. 1.

    Topical Guide: The examples used in the “Footnotes” section of this lesson illustrate this section.

    Illustrate the concordance type of entry by having the young men turn to the Topical Guide entry for “Inn.” This entry will lead them to such passages as “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Have the young men look up one of the suggested scriptures listed in the entry “Inn.”

  2. 2.

    Bible Dictionary: See examples under BD in the “Footnotes” section of this lesson.

  3. 3.

    Joseph Smith Translation: See the JST examples in the “Footnotes” section of this lesson.

  4. 4.

    Gazetteer and Maps: The gazetteer lists references to place-names shown on the maps by letter and number. This section is helpful in locating places mentioned in the Maps section that follows it. Have the young men turn to the “Gazetteer.” Read the explanation of how to use the maps. Have them find the place mentioned in Matthew 11:23 (Capernaum).

    Turn to the gazetteer and locate Capernaum. Following this word is “D3:14, 15.” In other words, Capernaum is found in location D3 on maps 14 and 15. Note that the maps are each numbered at the center top of the page.

The Study Helps Can Help Us Gain Scriptural Insight

Have a young man read Moroni 7:48. Have him look at footnote 48c. This leads to 1 John 3:1–3. Have another young man read this passage. (If your scriptures do not have the footnotes, tell the young man to look up 1 John 3:1–3.)

  • Why do you think the Lord uses similar words in both of these scriptures?

Explain that the Lord does not change his instructions from generation to generation. His message to us is consistent. Often, he uses the very same words.

Scripture search

As time permits, have the young men look up the following groups of scriptures. They will find several examples where the Lord gives similar words several times in many different scriptures. Explain that there are hundreds of such sets of similar instructions. The young men can find these instructions only by searching the scriptures.

Isaiah 52:11

3 Nephi 20:41

Doctrine and Covenants 38:42

Doctrine and Covenants 133:5

(“Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”)

  • How do these passages apply to us as priesthood bearers?

Impress upon the young men that the instructions for priesthood bearers to be clean has been the same in all generations.

John 4:35

Alma 26:5

Doctrine and Covenants 4:4

Doctrine and Covenants 6:3

Doctrine and Covenants 33:3, 7

(“The field is white already to harvest.”)

  • How do the scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants add to our understanding?

  • How can we help gather the harvest?

Isaiah 52:7

Romans 10:15

1 Nephi 13:37

Mosiah 15:15–18

Doctrine and Covenants 128:19

(“How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings.”)

  • How important is it for you to go on a full-time mission?

  • How does the Lord feel about those who serve missions?

The Scriptures Are God’s Words


Write on the chalkboard: The scriptures are God’s words.

Read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“He that can mark the power of Omnipotence, inscribed upon the heavens, can also see God’s handwriting in the sacred volume: and he who reads it oftenest will like it best, and he who is acquainted with it, will know the hand wherever he can see it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], p. 56).

Explain that we cannot know the instructions the Lord has for us if we do not study the scriptures. However, as Joseph Smith said, if we study the scriptures often we will recognize the Lord’s instructions for us and will learn the course we are to take in life.

The Prophets Speak the Words of God

Scriptures and discussion

Have the young men read the following passages: Isaiah 51:16 and Jeremiah 1:9.

  • What do you think the Lord meant when he said that he had put his words into the prophets’ mouths?

To Moses he said: “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exodus 4:12).

  • Who taught Moses what he was to say to the people?

Nephi’s final testimony says: “These words … are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me” (2 Nephi 33:10).

  • Who gave Nephi the words he spoke?

Finally, have a young man read Doctrine and Covenants 18:34–36.

  • Whose words are contained in the Doctrine and Covenants? (The Lord’s.)

  • How do we hear the voice of the Lord today? (By studying the scriptures and the words of the living prophet.)



Testify to the young men of your feelings for the scriptures and the importance of studying them. Explain that the LDS editions of the scriptures will help the young men more fully understand the teachings of the Lord as they use them properly.


Explain to the young men that the LDS editions of the scriptures will be used for their lessons. Challenge them to bring their scriptures with them each week.

Urge the young men to use the tools provided in the Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures not only in Church classes but also in their personal scripture study. Challenge the young men to read daily from the scriptures.