Scripture Fractal Patterns

May 09
scripture fractals

Patterns in Scripture

Last week while reading my scriptures I came across this verse in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord says he gives us patterns to follow in order that we may not be deceived.

D&C 52:14. And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—

The particular pattern in these few verses tells us that we are accepted of God and made strong to do mighty works, if we are contrite, meek, edify, and obey the ordinances according to the revelations and truth God has given us. However, if we are overcome and fail to bring forth fruits (use our faith to be anxiously engaged in a good cause), we are not of God. The same pattern applies to all people so we can judge (to an extent) if someone is of God or not.

There are thousands of patterns in the scriptures and they are found by reading verses closely and searching across the scriptures. Even the life of the Savior is a pattern. He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” which means by following the pattern and example he set, he leads us to eternal life.

I just finished reading an interview that Elder David Bednar did for a podcast with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ Church News department on his pattern for studying General Conference talks. In it, he explains:

“The pattern is (1) identifying the doctrine or principle being taught, (2) finding the invitations to act related to the doctrine or principle, and (3) recognizing the promised blessings that will come as one acts in accordance with the invitation.”

Divine Tutoring

Elder Bednar concludes with this statement (emphasis mine):

“If I could express just one hope, it is that this is simple. This is not an educational exercise. This is something where you can be tutored by the Holy Ghost. It’s just making a connection. And what you begin to see is that if I understand this truth, if I act in this way, then God has promised these blessings. That part of the pattern is they don’t come when we want, necessarily, they come when it’s in accordance with his will and his time. But I would just hope people wouldn’t think, “Well, only Apostles think like this, or worry about things like this.” Any member of this Church, regardless of position, status, as long as they’re worthy, as long as they’re seeking for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, with that help, can make these connections and be greatly blessed.”

This is really the purpose of scripture study. Certainly we learn from the written or spoken word, but ultimately, the Holy Ghost is our tutor to imprint these things upon us in a way that indelibly writes them upon our hearts. We just need to search the scriptures under the power and influence of this member of the Godhead. He will lead us in our studies and expand our understanding in new ways.

Getting Practice

I recommend reading or listening to Elder Bednar’s interview and then practice it. Look at a conference talk and the invitations given. This one by President Nelson (Christ is Risen; Faith in Him will Move Mountains) includes doctrine, invitations, and promises on building faith to move the “mountains of misery” in our lives.

If you want to get really good at this process, follow the instructions in this post on finding if/then statements in the scriptures. It is excellent training for noticing cause and effect in verses.

  1. To get started just pick a book like Matthew (or a few like the gospels), and do a search for “If”
  2. When the results come up, save them to a collection note.
  3. Mark them up using one color for “if” statements, one for “then” statements,” and if it’s present, another for “else” statements.
  4. Then delete that verse from the collection note and go through all the verses till there’s none left.
  5. Then move on to the next book(s) to repeat the process.

Once you tune in to this, you will notice invitations and promised blessings everywhere, or their opposite of warnings and cursings. Doing this exercise across all the verses in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants where the word “if” appears, brought a new level of scripture reading to me. I still plan to go through the Bible and do it as well, but now all my scripture reading is attuned to this practice which has been a real blessing to me.

For example, in D&C 52, verses 15-18 contain “if” statements in orange, and “then” statements in pink. The “if not/else” statement in verse 18 is in purple.

if then section 52

This is just the way I mark my scriptures now, but of course you can come up with your own system. It helps me draw my attention to the invitation and promise, or cause and effect in the scriptures. I highly recommend the practice.

What is a fractal?

You’ve probably seen these gorgeous pictures of repeating patterns where on a micro view it looks similar to a macro view of the image. Fractals can be made mathematically such as can be seen in these computer generated images:


However, they also occur in nature such as can be seen in seashells and various plants. Here’s a link to some examples.

What’s a scriptural fractal?

It’s when the same pattern repeats over and over again. The doctrine of Christ teaches us to overcome the effects of the fall and be brought back into God’s presence by obedience to God’s law via the voice of the Spirit. Obedience brings blessings, disobedience brings separation and cursings. All of the gospel is a fractal. The law of Moses looks like the atonement. Every commandment is a promise to deepen our faith and enrich our understanding of the doctrine of Christ.

All things testify

It goes back to what Alma said to Korihor that ALL THINGS testify.

44. But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Alma could have continued with everything not man-made. Everything testifies. Everything is a pattern and witness that there is a God and he blesses the obedient.

Finding the scriptural pattern

Looking for the sacred promises in scripture is just the way the Lord meant for us to constantly be reminded of how to come back to the origin point. We’re out on the fringes somewhere and we see the pattern. We recognize something that feels familiar, and then we take a step closer, down the arm we’re on and we see the same pattern expanded. Then we act in faith and follow that pattern back to the point before it where it’s expanded again. We just keep moving back down the arms as they get bigger and bigger until we reach the origin which the scriptures call, the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18; D&C 50:24).

The gospel is infinitely complex, while being infinitely simple. There is so much, and yet it’s the same everywhere. Obedience to God by hearkening to the voice of the Spirit increases our ability to hear the voice and obey. Repeating the pattern increases our ability to do it again and in greater ways with greater clarity.

Why are there so many commandments in the scriptures? Because somewhere, one of those is going to resonate with us and help us realize we need help. Whichever one we have the greatest challenge with, there is a principle and a blessing. By obedience to it, we can move that mountain by faith in Jesus Christ and move one step closer to God. Soon we will see the same pattern with another principle that we need to live by and exercising faith again, we can receive that promised blessing and again take that step toward perfection. It all reminds me of this verse.

Ecclesiastes 1:9. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

The promise that has been given is that which is given, the blessing that was received is the blessing that shall be received.

The scriptures are just an archetype of the same core principles repeated in different ways we can relate to and see promised blessings come into our lives.


(Featured image by Iurkina Aleksandra @



About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.

  • Lindsay Dowding says:

    Another really great article. This has expanded my thinking (and given me extra homework—thank you). I like Elder Bednar’s input as well.
    Another level of scripture understanding.

    • Oak Norton says:

      Thanks Lindsay. If you discover something interesting in your studies about fractal patterns in the scriptures, please feel free to share it back here.

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