The text is from Luke 23:43,

And He/Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.

The following are the words of Joseph Smith:

There has been much said by modern divines about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” King James’ translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise. You may as easily find a needle in a haymow. Here is a chance for battle, ye learned men. There is nothing in the original word in Greek from which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was—This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits. (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, page 309)

Under Gospel Topics on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' website the following summary is given:

When Jesus was on the cross, a thief who also was being crucified said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” The Lord replied, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that this is a mistranslation; the Lord actually said that the thief would be with Him in the world of spirits (source).

Notice the words, "The Prophet Joseph Smith "explained" that this is a mistranslation? How does he know it's a mistranslation?

It's not a mistranslation according to Greek Scholar A.T. Robertson. Here is what he has to say on the matter.

"Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise (Σημερον μετ' εμου εση εν τω παραδεισω).

However crude may have been the robber's Messianic ideas Jesus clears the path for him. He promises him immediate and conscious fellowship after death with Christ in Paradise which is a Persian word and is used here not for any supposed intermediate state; but the very bliss of heaven itself. This Persian word was used for an enclosed park or pleasure ground (so Xenophon). The word occurs in two other passages in the N.T. (2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7), in both of which the reference is plainly to heaven. Some Jews did use the word for the abode of the pious dead till the resurrection, interpreting "Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22) in this sense also. But the evidence for such an intermediate state is too weak to warrant belief in it."

I am not aware that Joseph Smith knows any Greek so maybe the LDS can explain how Smith came up with how Jesus should have said, "the thief would be with Him in the world of spirits?"


2 Answers 2


There are 3 matters at hand here:

  1. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, seer, and revelator, through whom God revealed truth. Although Joseph Smith studied the scriptures and studied history, he was capable of receiving authoritative revealed truth (e.g. this is how much of the Doctrine & Covenants originated) directly from God just as Moses was. Latter-day Saints do not believe that he was constrained (just as previous prophets were not constrained) to teach only matters which were recorded by prophets from prior eras. The basis for the statement in question would be revelation from God.

But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known. (Mosiah 8:17)

  1. Latter-day Saints believe in an intermediate state (such as is described in Luke 16:22-26, Alma 40:11-14) between death and the resurrection. The word paradise is sometimes used in modern English to describe the abode of the righteous dead awaiting the resurrection. This intermediate state is often referred to by Latter-day Saints as "the Spirit World" or "the world of spirits", and both the righteous & wicked go there. However, their state & experience in the Spirit World is not the same (see scriptures cited above).

  2. The Greek word παράδεισος (parádeisos) is of Persian origin, referring to a walled enclosure or garden (etymology discussed here). The term became associated with the Garden of Eden via the Septuagint, and it has taken on a much broader meaning in subsequent centuries. However, the Greek word did not originally convey the state of heavenly bliss that is often associated with the English word "paradise" or the French word "paradis" today.

Re the edit to the question, asking about a contradiction. Latter-day Saints see no contradiction here. Jesus would have spoken to the thief (probably) in Hebrew or Aramaic, and Luke recorded the dialogue in Greek, using the word παράδεισος. Joseph Smith did not dispute Jesus' statement; rather, he contested the meaning of the statement as understood by modern theologians.

Disclaimer: these thoughts are products of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Note that this answer assumes the surviving manuscript copies to be correct and untampered, which is known not to be the case in general.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Feb 5 at 23:32

To expand on quote from OP about

But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise.

you could look at the biblical hermeneutics question on this word, where the top answer states

meaning is somewhat more cloudy

The quote in OP can also be found in Gospel Topics: Paradise where it gives some more explanation:

A second use of the word paradise is found in Luke’s account of the Savior’s Crucifixion. When Jesus was on the cross, a thief who also was being crucified said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” The Lord replied, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that this is a mistranslation; the Lord actually said that the thief would be with Him in the world of spirits.

The word paradise also sometimes refers to the celestial kingdom. In the tenth article of faith, the word paradisiacal describes the earth’s glory in the Millennium.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the plan of Salvation, this isn't much of a mis-translation. The earlier paragraph from the above article states:

In the scriptures, the word paradise is used in different ways. First, as mentioned above, it designates a place of peace and happiness in the postmortal spirit world, reserved for those who have been baptized and who have remained faithful. Those in spirit prison have the opportunity to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation through the work we do in temples. If they accept the gospel and their temple work has been done, they may enter paradise.

As LDS believe Jesus started the missionary work1 in the spirit world, Luke 23:43 with the change mentioned by Joseph Smith

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in [the world of spirits].

Just becomes another verse eluding to Jesus teaching those in the spirit world (spirit prison). Both would be in the spirit world, having died. The two states (paradise/prison) of the spirit world isn't clear if there is an actual physical division, or if it's like here on earth where you can have believers/not all mixed but in different states of mind/salvation.

If scripture/statements are made in error it would be up a prophet to reveal the truth, or someone else speaking with authority (this could be any priesthood holder given the keys(authority) to do so). A quick example is from Alma 11:34-37 where the Alma's companion Amulek is discussing the topic "saving one in sin":

34 And Zeezrom said again: Shall he save his people in their sins? And Amulek answered and said unto him: I say unto you he shall not, for it is impossible for him to deny his word.

35 Now Zeezrom said unto the people: See that ye remember these things; for he said there is but one God; yet he saith that the Son of God shall come, but he shall not save his people—as though he had authority to command God.

36 Now Amulek saith again unto him: Behold thou hast lied, for thou sayest that I spake as though I had authority to command God because I said he shall not save his people in their sins.

37 And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

(Opinion/speculation)Quick note as the New Testament doesn't include a full account of every action of the apostles or other of Jesus' followers, it is possible that the thief was baptized shortly after at some point (Jesus specifically talked to him before dying about being with him in the spirit world in front of his followers (it was recorded), and was later resurrected and visited his apostles, in John 20:30-31 maybe this person was brought up? Again this is speculation, but there are details that aren't included in scripture) As noted in this question it is possible that the thief had already been baptized and just needed to repent and he'd be with Jesus in spirit world and in paradise. Lots of unknowns.

This is also might be a good time to add that my statements do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's been expressed previously that you do not like this statement, but even apostles have made statements, they believed in, taught, and/or published, but did not represent the official Church of Jesus Christ stance (Orson Pratt see this answer, Brigham Young see Journal of Discourses, etc). Agency and revelation are key principles of the gospel. I'll state Articles of Faith 9 & 11:

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

To close, from Elder Dieter F Uchtdorf The Reflection in the Water:

Those who reject revelation and insist on tangible evidence can only speculate or deny that there is life before or after this mortal sphere.

In regards to Joseph Smith not knowing Greek, as a prophet I don't feel like he needed to know Greek to declare something a mis-translation as that can be done with revelation from an all-knowing God. However he did know Greek, see Joseph Smith's Awareness of Greek and Latin

Emphasis mine

1 1 Peter 3:19, Teachings of Brigham Young chapter 38, The Savior's Visit to the Spirit World, Elder Spencer J. Condie

  • You stated Joseph Smith did know Greek. The following LDS site states otherwise. churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/… "While working on his revision of the bible Joseph Smith did not employ Hebrew and Greek sources, lexicons, or a knowledge of biblical languages to render a new English text." Again, can you please reconcile this statement with how did Smith know that Jesus was in error at Luke 23:43?
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Feb 4 at 16:56
  • Related to the side note about the thief potentially having received the gospel and being baptized previously: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/68012/17888 Commented Feb 4 at 20:05
  • @SamuelBradshaw I read your thread and you have a big problem when you said: "What evidence is there that the penitent thief was not baptized? (He already knew who the Savior was, so it would make sense that he had followed him at some point during his ministry.)" In logic this is a classic case of what is know as "an argument from silence" You cannot make a positive assertion of truth based on what is NOT said. The proper way to determine truth is to understand WHAT IS SAID. Jesus stated the truth to the thief and trying to figure out things by "assuming" is not how you understand scripture.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Feb 5 at 2:34
  • 1
    @MrBond The first half of that statement can hold true either way. If Joseph did not employ Hebrew and Greek sources, lexicons, that probably means he was relying on revelation as a prophet and wasn't relying on physical books. I'm not sure about the last part, the same could be true if he was following the spirit of revelation and not relying on his knowledge of ancient languages-especially because to my knowledge he didn't have any of the biblical texts so having the end-translation (english) any knowledge of the original language wouldn't necessarily help much.
    – depperm
    Commented Feb 5 at 11:37

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