Creating a Meaningful Scripture Marking System

I thought that I would share my thoughts on creating a scripture marking system that works and is meaningful to you. I want to share this, because my wife has a new quadruple combination, and she is struggling with exactly how to mark her scriptures.

First things first. You need to layout in a clear fashion exactly what your goal for your new marking system should be. For example, is your goal to gain a further knowledge of the deeper mysteries of God? Is your goal, maybe, to learn the stories on a more comprehensive level? Is your goal to increase your speed in locating scriptures when you can’t exactly remember the reference? My goal, when creating my scripture marking system was to be able to give a 5-10 minute talk with no advance notice. In other words, if a speaker for Sacrament Meeting canceled last minute, I would be prepared with just my scriptures to give a talk. Setting aside exactly what you want to accomplish as a goal for your scripture marking will ultimately determine how you mark them.

Next, you need to decide exactly what to mark. This can take up a great deal of time figuring it out. For example, you may want to mark major gospel topics. You may want to mark all references to Christ. You may want to mark just the deeper things of the Kingdom. Whatever the case may be, you need to decide. Because I was a missionary when I developed this system, I personally wanted to mark many things, and as such, I had to decide in a clear manor how I would keep them separated. I decide to mark the following:

  • The 50 major Gospel topics, organized by story (more on that in a bit).
  • Missionary discussion scriptures (the discussions are no longer used by missionaries).
  • Deeper things of the mysteries of God and the Gospel.
  • Changes to editions in the Book of Mormon.
  • Anti-bashing scriptures (a different paradigm to scripture bashing where you preach the Gospel to people who want to bash).
  • Personal commentary reflecting on my own life.
  • Scripture study scriptures.

As you can see, I have a lot that I want to mark. Each of them has their own way of identifying what is what, which we will get to next. The first in the list is marking the 50 major Gospel topics organized by story. This comes from the amazing Scripture Kit by Bruce Barton. Each Gospel topic is associated with a story. From that main story, there are many more scriptures from other stories that help teach the topic at hand. This helps with cross-references and aids me in that spontaneous 5 minute talk I might need to give. Also mentioned in my list are the missionary discussions. I served my mission from 1996-1998, a time when we relied heavy on the discussions for teaching. Now, missionaries don’t use the discussions any longer to teach, so even tho the discussions aren’t used, they make great scriptures for teaching. Another item on my list to point out for clarification is anti-bashing scriptures. When serving my mission, I was constantly battered by Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, Baptists and anyone with a grudge against the Mormons. At first instinct, I wanted to defend the Church, but found myself bashing right along with them. I then had a paradigm shift in mental thinking, and began using these opportunities as teaching opportunities. Quickly, I went from the spirit of contention to following the Holy Spirit. And the discussions went from bashing to teaching. Anti-bashing scriptures are teaching scriptures for commonly used tactics of anti-Mormon advocates.

Once you decide exactly what to mark, you need to decide how to mark it. Common ways are to either use many colors- one color for each topic, or one color for everything. I personally recommend staying away from both. In fact, you don’t need anymore than 4 colors to mark everything in the scriptures, and you should use at least 2 different colors to avoid redundancy. In fact, you may even want to play with marking styles. For example, underlining the verse, instead of outlining it. Using a combination of pen and pencil to help distinguish further. Block outlining and verse number circling are good ways to mark several consecutive scriptures. Diagonal slashes across the verses is another good way to easily identify the marking. You don’t have to mark a full verse either. Marking major points or things that stand out in a particular verse is a good way to get a handle on why you marked what you did.

Choosing your marking instruments can be difficult and daunting. I mentioned that you could use pen and pencil. You should be using acid-free writing instruments so your pages don’t color over time. Also, avoid highlighter markers. I have not found that these weaken the page, cause wrinkles and bleed through. For pencil, a lead should be chosen that can be easily erased. Color pencils are hard to erase off of white pages as they are a combination of lead and oil. Pens can easily bleed through the page, so choose a blank page in your scriptures out of the way to test the bleeding of the pen and how well the pencil erases. Also, pens should not be ballpoint or roller ball as ink blots can gather on the page, and create a mess. Remember, you are marking very thin pages. The life of the page and ultimately your scriptures will determine on how well you choose your scripture marking pens and pencils.

Lastly, note taking. The LDS standard set of scriptures provides ample room for you to take notes. You have decent sized margins surrounding the pages, and between the major books there are typically blank pages with plenty of note taking room. If this is not enough, and you need more, small acid-free Postit notes make great companions. However, they add thickness to your set, and should be used sparingly so you don’t break your binding. Same goes for gluing in sheets of paper between pages. These are great ways to bet further clarification or understanding on a certain topic or scripture, but they can seriously compromise the integrity of your set if abused. I have extra sheets and Postit notes in my quadruple combination, but they are few and far between.

Okay, now that I have give you the guidelines for creating a meaningful marking system, let me share with you mine. Maybe it will help spark some ideas on how exactly to build yours. First the goal. Remember, my goal was to be able to give a 5 minute talk at the drop of a hat with no prior preparation. Because of this goal, I developed a very complex yet very clear marking system to help me in that task. So, first I bought the Scripture Kit from Bruce Barton. I put the 50 Main Subjects sticker under the front over of my quad. I then assigned each of the 50 topics a color. Actually, I only had 13 colors that were fairly distinguishable, so I reused most of the colors 4 times. The colors, however, aren’t for marking pages. They are for identifying where the main topic story is when the set it close. That’s right, I purchased 3/4″ x 1/2″ blank rectangular labels and cut them in half the long way. Then I colored each label the colors according to one of the 50 main subjects. The first 25 I pinched across the top page of the set with the last 25 across the bottom page of the set. Each of the 50 main subjects has many scriptures, so many of these labels for each subject exist. All in all, I would say I pinched on the pages of my quad over 3,000 labels. When my quad is closed, you can see the colors of each label lined up in columns. See the image links below if you don’t understand what I did.


Once the labels were in place, I need to mark the scripture for the labels location. This was very time consuming and quite daunting, but the overall effect is exactly what I wanted. When I identify a topic, say baptism, then I look for the color label on the page with the quad closed, and turn to one. Then, I look for a scripture marked in blue pencil with the the letters “MS xx” where xx is the topic number for baptism, in this case “MS 7″. Because I have multiple labels for that one topic, I have a scripture chain that I can teach from stretching from the Old Testament through the Pearl of Great Price. See the image below to help visualize.

Each of the 50 main subjects has a root story associated with the topic. This root story is shown on the 50 Main Subjects sticker on in the inside cover of my set. The scripture itself is marked in red pencil with diagonal slashing lines and the “MS xx” identifier next to it. This makes it exceptionally easy to start my “5 minute talk” and it is easily identifiable. See the image below.


The 50 subjects is my root for giving the spur of the moment “5 minute talk” in church. The remainder of the marking system I developed aids in personal study and group discussion. These don’t impact the “5 minute talk” as much as the 50 main subjects, but they are easily identifiable and do aid in preparing lessons or talks. For my marking system, I chose the following colors and patterns. Pen always underlines the verse (with a ruler for nice straight lines) and pencil always highlights or outlines the verse.

  • Red pen (underlined)- Anti-bashing scriptures. These are great teaching scriptures when confronted with anti-Mormon zealots. Rather than bash saying “well this scripture says such-and-such”, teach fromt he scriptures saying “we believe this-and-that according to this scripture. When starting with “we believe”, as the 13 Articles of Faith do, you lay down any argument and prepare for a lesson.
  • Blue pen (underlined)- Deep doctrine. I have always been interested in deep doctrine and the mysteries of God. When studying FARMS, doctrinal discourses or other stimulating material, and I find something deep, I mark it with this.
  • Green pen (underlined)- Missionary discussion scriptures. I marked these as such, so when handing my scriptures to the person I was teaching, they could quickly find what scripture I wanted them to read. Also, this came in handy when memorizing scriptures that pertained to the discussions.
  • Black pen (underlined)- Personal experience pertaining to that verse. Whenever I stumbled upon a scripture that answered a question in my life or meant something to me, I would mark it this way, then write in a margin why. This marking is not very common throughout the Standard Works.
  • Red pencil (highlight)- Used when studying along side a study manual. Most highlighting is accomanied by a quotation, thoughts or discoveries. I try to keep this marking a minimum as I don’t want my scriptures to be bleeding red with pencil.
  • Red pencil (diagonal slash)- Indentifying the root story for one of the main topics as described above.
  • Red pencil (outline)- Used rather than marking many verses or to identify a major event that spans many versus. When Jesus Christ visited the Americas in 3 Nephi, chapters 12-14 are outlined showing the sermon he gave to the people.
  • Blue pencil (highlight)- Intentifies the scripture chain associated with each topic from the main 50. Each verse also has a corresponding page label on either the top or bottom of the page as well as “MS xx” where xx is the number to identify the topic.
  • Yellow pencil (highlight)- Shows changes in editions with the Book of Mormon. These markings are rare, and only serve as a study guide to help clarify why the changes were made.
  • Mechanical .05 lead pencil- Notes, mainly in the margins. When making notes, I use this pencil so I can write small and a lot. If a margin is already occupied next to the verse, I circle the verse number and draw a line (with a ruler to keep it straight) from the number to the margin containing the note. All handwriting is done in this marking.
  • Postit notes- Provide the background to the missionary scriptures marked in green pen. This help aid me in teaching people so I could provide a little bit about the verse before reading it.

That’s it! Farily lengthy and quite complex, but very well seperated and each marking is easily identifyable. The nice aspect about this marking system is it is not adaptable to change. Unfortunately for many people, their marking system becomes over worked and under used. It isn’t long before people forget why they marked the scripture they did. Here, everything is laid out in a clean fashion, and the definition of the system lies on the inside back cover.

If you have any questions concerning my marking system or need help with yours, please comment below or email me. I would be happy to help you out.

This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, New Testament, Old Testament, Pearl of Great Price. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Creating a Meaningful Scripture Marking System

  1. B says:

    Only Jesus saves people, hes GOD!! our only god..
    Look up endtime..Please.

  2. Aaron says:

    Of course Jesus is God. Duh. And what does this comment have to do with marking your scriptures? And what in the world do you mean ‘endtime’? I’d look it up if I knew what it was.

  3. C says:

    What are the 50 “Main Subjects”. I might want to mark my scriptures this way, but only if the subjects make sense to me…

  4. Aaron says:

    They can be found in the Scripture Kit by Bruce Barton, as mentioned in the post.

  5. Bobbie says:

    I love your scripture marking ideas & would love to use them on my own scriptures. When I try looking at the pictures linked above though I’m unable to see them & was hoping you could email them to me.

  6. Jon says:

    Great post. I applaud your dilligence is staying consistent with your system. Sometimes I feel like that is half the battle. Could you update the links to your pics?

  7. K says:

    The pictures don’t open.

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