5 Insightful Footnotes In The Scriptures You Probably Overlooked


I get it.

If your scripture study is anything like mine, there’s a good chance you spend little to no time checking out the seemingly countless number of footnotes found within each chapter of the standard works.

But, believe it or not, they were created for an inspired purpose. In fact, dozens of brilliant Latter-day Saints—including Bruce R. McConkie, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer spent thousands of hours compiling them.

Elder Boyd K. Packer commented that the completion of the footnotes, cross-references, etc., was further fulfillment of the prophecy made in the Old Testament that the stick of Judah (the Bible) and the stick of Ephraim (the Book of Mormon) would become one. They help link scriptures together and provide important clarifications and insights on many scriptures.

Also, Elder Packer emphasized that each of these books tied together represent a significant database of the Savior’s life and teachings.

“These references constitute the most comprehensive compilation of scripture information on the mission and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ that has ever been assembled in the history of the world.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few footnotes that may inspire you to begin reading a few of your own the next time you crack open your scriptures.

Related: Nourishment From The Scriptures

1) 1 Nephi 16:34

desertAnd it came to pass that aIshmael died, and was buried in the place which was called bNahom.

Footnote b: HEB probably “consolation,” from verb naham, “be sorry, console oneself.”

From a historical context, this footnote is pretty interesting because Nahom was a pre-existing place (not named by Lehi) and the name Nahom as a place for burial (sorrow, suffering, etc.) would be very appropriate. Further research has shown that the largest graveyard in Arabia carries an identical or closely similar name.

2) Proverbs 3:5—6

path aTrust in the Lord with all thine bheart; and lean not unto thine cown dunderstanding.

In all thy ways aacknowledge him, and he shall bdirect thy cpaths.

Footnote a (verse 6)— TG Humility, Humble.

When I read the word acknowledge in this verse, I can’t say I immediately related it to being humble. However, acknowledging the Lord is a great act of humility. We see in the world today, many are too proud to recognize that a higher power oversees their lives. Voices insist— “I am responsible for my success. My hard work is the reason I’m rich. I did this myself.”

This simple footnote was a much-needed reminder to me that these voices are wrong. Heavenly Father is the source of anything good or joyful that happens in our lives, and it is important that we humbly acknowledge His hand each day.

Related: How do I study the Book of Mormon and other scriptures?

3) Alma 18:5  

king lamoni and ammonNow this was the atradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a bGreat Spirit…

Footnote a: Alma 60:32

“Behold, can you suppose that the Lord will spare you and come out in judgment against the Lamanites, when it is the tradition of their fathers that has caused their hatred…

I remember reading this towards the end of my mission and the powerful lesson it taught me. At the time, I had become somewhat depressed and weighed down as we tried do teach the Gospel in a village that was predominantly of another faith. I felt that the people had so much hatred and so many misconceptions about the Church.

I realized upon reading this footnote, that as it was with King Lamoni and the Lamanites, much of their belief, culture, even hatred, came from “the tradition of their fathers.” I recognized that if I was in their shoes and had the same upbringing they did, I would probably have similar ideas and prejudices towards our religion.

This helped me see these people more as God might see them, and we were able to build great relationships and see some great success in this village as we sought to foster understanding and common ground within the community.

4) Exodus 4:21

pharaohAnd the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those awonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine bhand: cbut I will dharden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

Footnote c: JST reads “… and I will prosper thee; but Pharaoh will harden his heart, and he will not let the people go.”

The initial reading implies that the Lord would harden the heart of Pharaoh, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would the Lord cause the Pharaoh to perform a wicked action? Instead, Joseph Smith’s translation reveals that it was indeed Pharaoh himself (presumably under the influence of Satan) who hardened his heart towards the people.

5) Mosiah 2:41

happy woman“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and ahappy state of those that keep the commandments of God…”

Footnote a references several scriptures, the first being Matthew 11: 29 (28-30):

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

The Savior reminds us that the way to true happiness comes in yoking ourselves to Him. By following His Gospel and applying His atonement into our lives we will find rest. This is what real joy looks like.

Above is just a small sampling of the many different footnotes we might find while reading the holy scriptures. While it may be somewhat unreasonable to read each and every footnote, taking time to link different scriptures together or clarify a verse will surely benefit our scripture study.

What insightful footnotes have you found while studying the scriptures? Comment below!

Erik grew up in Pocatello, Idaho and is currently studying communications at Brigham Young University with a minor in business. He served as a missionary in the remote island nation of Kiribati, is a marathon runner, and holds a firm belief that eating a bowl of cereal before bed is the best way to end each day.