Prepriator of Hell

attempts at translating

an instance of egyptohebraic wordplay

in the Book of Mormon


W. Vincent Coon


Abstract:  The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon features what appears to be, an inappropriate word - the word “preparator” in the line “… the Devil is the preparator of [Hell] …” Though the Prophet Joseph Smith replaced the word “preparator” with “foundation” (1837 edition), recent LDS editions (since 1981) have reverted to “preparator” (see 1 Nephi 15:35, current edition). Professor of linguistics Royal Skousen argues that the word was supposed to be “proprietor”, allegedly misspelled by one of Joseph’s scribes as “prepriator” in the original manuscript, and then misread by Oliver Cowdery while he was composing a manuscript for the printer. But is there more to consider than this? Why didn’t Joseph Smith simply replace “preparator” with “proprietor” in the 1837 edition? This article explores biblical Hebrew equivalents of the controversial terms “proprietor”, “foundation”, and terms related to “prepare”, and investigates possible wordplay. Could a set of well known Egyptian characters engraved on the Book of Mormon plates, and viewed through a Hebrew lens, have touched on Joseph Smith’s interpretations?

In the current LDS edition of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 15:35 reads:

35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it …

Printer's Manuscript with later edits

Pinter’s Manuscript (1830 ed.) with edits by Joseph Smith (1837 ed.); the edited verse reads “… there is a placed prepared yea even that awful hell … and the Devil is the preparator [father foundation] of it wherefore …”

Royal Skousen argues that one of Joseph Smith’s scribes wrote “prepriator” (intending proprietor). This word, Skousen surmises, was written in such a way that the Prophet’s principal scribe Oliver Cowdery, in reviewing the manuscript for publication, guessed that the word was preparator (Pinter’s Manuscript). Additionally, Skousen suggests that Oliver Cowdery was influenced by the word “prepared” found in the previous line of the Original Manuscript. The line reads “… there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell …” [1]

[1] Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, PART ONE 1 Nephi 1- 2 Nephi 10, 1 Nephi 15:35, pp. 330-331

Why not preparer of hell?

According to LDS Scripture, God is the preparer and founder of hell, and the final “everlasting fire ”, not the devil. (Moses 6:29; 7:38, Matthew 25:41, Mosiah 26:27) Even so, the devil may, with some appropriateness be described as the proprietor, allegorical foundation, even ruler, prince, and god of the nether world; subject to the greater power of the God of heaven and earth. (2 Nephi 2:29, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 121:4)

Proprietor of hell

After noting the occurrence of 1.Lord Proprietor.”, in American literature, the Oxford English Dictionary defines proprietor as “2. One who holds something as property; one who has the exclusive right or title to the use or disposal of a thing; an owner.”

A proprietor is not necessarily the one who prepared, founded, or created the thing that is lorded over, or owned.

In Torah (the Pentateuch), a Hebrew term repeatedly translated “owner” is “baal” (בָּעַל). See for example Shemot (Exodus) 21:29; 22:11. The word proprietor may appropriately be translated baal. The word baal can mean master, lord, possessor. [2] This, of course calls to mind the Canaanite god Baal, and various baalim (Baal deities). Baal-zevuv (Baal-zebub, 2 Kings 1:2, KJV), meaning lord of the fly, is one well known example. The Philistine deity came to be identified with an arch demon. See for instance Matthew 12:24. It is instructive to compare the King James Translation of the Greek Βεελζεβουλ (Beelzebul) with Ba’al Z’vuv in B’sorot Matti 12:24 (Hebrew Matthew, translated by James Scott Trimm). Ba’al Z’vuv in Hebrew Matthew, clearly intends the lord of the flies referenced in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).


Some may think that “baal” does not occur in the Book of Mormon. This supposition is shortsighted. In 2 Nephi 7:8 we come upon the expression “mine adversary” found in an English translation of Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 50:8. The Hebrew expression is literally “baal mishpati” (בַעַל מׅשְׁפָּטׅי), which can be interpreted to mean “master of my judgment”. The expression is similar to “accuser of our brethren” a title of the adversary appearing in Revelation 12:10 (KJV).

Like the Hebrew expression behind 2 Nephi 7:8, there could be other Book of Mormon references originally involving the Hebrew word “baal”. Take for example “the devil, who is the master of sin” (Mosiah 4:14).

 “hell” in biblical Hebrew

The Book of Mormon (Hebrew Edition) published by Onyx Translations, copyright 2015, is a cynical lampoon of sacred scripture. The work does not attempt to properly translate the Book of Mormon into biblical Hebrew. The Hebrew title of the book tells you what you need to know: “Sepher ha-Mormonim” (ספר המורמונים), which literally reads, “Book of the Mormons”. Buyer beware!

In its travesty of 1 Nephi 15:35, the Onyx Translations’ 1 Nimphah 15:35 (“nimphah“ means nymph in Modern Hebrew) translates “hell” as “Gey-Hinom” (גיהינום), which literally means Valley of Hinnom.

The Jerusalem Valley of the son of Hinnom evolved into the idea of “Gehenna” (γέενναν, NT Greek), a metonym for a burning place of spiritual punishment. (Matthew 18:9) The title may also possibly suggest valley of wailing. See “geenna”.

Translating “hell” in the Book of Mormon as “Gey-Hinom” (גיהינום) does not seem justified by any known scripture contemporary with the Book of Mormon patriarch Lehi. References to “gey ben-Hinom” (גֵי בֶן־הׅנֺם), “valley of the son of Hinnom”, that are contemporary with Lehi, and his son Nephi, refer to the literal Jerusalem valley. See for instance YirmeYahu (Jeremiah) 7:31-32; 19:2, 6; 32:35. So translating the Book of Mormon “hell” as the metonym Gey-Hinom (גיהינום) risks being anachronistic. Fortunately we can find an appropriate Hebrew word translated “hell” in the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 24:9 quotes Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 14:9, where the Hebrew word translated “Hell” is “Sheol” (שְׁאוֺל). See also LDS Doctrine and Covenants 121:4.

Sheol [3] can be interpreted to mean underworld, place of inquiry, hollow place. The expression “hell fire’ in 3 Nephi 12:22, parallels Matthew 5:22 (KJV). Yes, the New Testament expression is literally “fire of Gey Hinnom” in B’sorot Matti (Hebrew Matthew) 5:22. It is “Gehenna of fire” (γέενναν τοῦ πυρός); in the Greek text from which the KJV NT derived. Even so, “hell fire” in 3 Nephi 12:22, could appropriately be translated “fire of Sheol”, based on more ancient scripture. (Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:22)


In 2 Nephi 15:14, Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 5:14, Sheol is personified as a female monster, which “hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure ...”

The corrected expression “the proprietor of it [hell] …” would literally read, “ba’lah בַּעְלׇה)) = “ba’l of her …” (e.g. Devarim (Deuteronomy) 24:4) The use of the neuter “it”, in the English translation, follows convention. There is really no “it” in Hebrew. Everything is either masculine or feminine.

 “the devil” in biblical Hebrew

There are words in Hebrew scripture translated “devils”, but the exact expression “the devil” does not appear in the King James translation of Hebrew-Aramaic scripture, the so called “Old Testament”.

The term “satan” (שָׂטָן) simply means “adversary” or an adversary. David, for instance, was seen as a potential satan, or “adversary” by the Philistine princes. (1 Shemu’El (Samuel) 29:4) The “angel of the LORD”, drawn sword in hand, stood as a satan (שָׂטָן, translated “adversary”, KJV) to the prophet Balaam. (Bemidbar (Numbers) 22:22)

The King James translation reads “Satan” in several places where it is not clear that the superhuman adversary of God and man is intended. See for example Tehillim (Psalms) 109:6, and compare with Psalm 109:6, KJV.

An acceptable biblical Hebrew translation of “the devil” might be “ha-satan” (הַשׇׂטׇן) meaning the adversary. What is translated “the devil” (τοῦ διαβόλου) in Matthew 4:1, is “ha-satan” (הַשׇׂטׇן) in Hebrew versions. The Hebrew title “ha-satan” (הַשׇׂטׇן) is translated “Satan” (as if it were a proper noun) in the KJV. What is translated “Satan” (Σατανᾶ) in Matthew 4:10, is the title “ha-satan” (הַשׇׂטׇן) in Hebrew translations. Justification for the use of “ha-satan” in a Hebrew translation of the Book of Mormon, is arguably based on the time period of the book of Iyyov (Job) setting. (Iyyov (Job) 1:6)

With the Hebrew transliterated in key places, 1 Nephi 15:35 might read:

35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful sheol [hell] of which I have spoken, and ha-satan [the adversary] is the ba’lah [בַּעְלׇה = baal of her] …

Here the adversary is suggestively described as the master, owner (proprietor), and false baal god of the monstrous female sheol – swallower of the souls of men.

LDS Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8 comes to mind:

7 …if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for they good.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

“foundation” of hell

As fitting as the biblical Hebrew translation of “proprietor” seems to be in 1 Nephi 15:35, the question remains: Why didn’t the Prophet Joseph Smith simply edit “preparator” to read proprietor? He knew the word proprietor. He was after all, the legal “Author and Proprietor” of the Book of Mormon (1830 edition). Why did Joseph Smith edit “preparator” (1830) to read “foundation” in the 1837 edition? Was not “proprietor” the word pronounced by the young prophet when he used divine means to translate the Book of Mormon? Was not the word “proprietor” simply written down wrong by a scribe, as Skousen has suggested?

Well, Dr. Skousen may be correct in part, but there is reason to believe that more is going on with this curious verse.

It behooves us to investigate possible Hebrew translations of the word foundation. In particular, we should ask if there is precedence in Hebrew Scripture for figuratively comparing a person to a foundation.

We find such a metaphor in Mishle (Proverbs) 10:25. Here we read that a “tsadiq” (צַדִיק, “righteous [one]”) is a “yesod” (יְסוֹד, “foundation”) “olam” (עוׄלָם, “everlasting”). The KJV arranges the verse to read, “…the righteous is an everlasting foundation.”

But there is another Hebrew word meaning foundation, bottom, lower part (slope) [4], the word “eshed” (אֶשֶׁד). The word is found at the beginning of Bemidbar (Numbers) 21:15, but it is dubiously translated “stream” in the KJV. The word “eshed” (אֶשֶׁד) implies not just a foundation but a slope cradling a stream - a serpentine river winding is way to lowest bounds. (1 Nephi 12:16, Styx) This Hebrew word for foundation is appropriate for the Prophet’s 1837 revision of the verse, and happens to sound like a masculine Hebrew word for demon or devil - “shed” (שֵׁד). See Lexicon. [5]



The plural of “shed” (שֵׁד) appears in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:17, and Tehillim (Psalms) 106:37. Though the singular form of this word does not appear in Hebrew scripture, and certainly not with a definite article (i.e. “the devil”) the definite article “the” may be supplied at the discretion of the translator (as is often the case in biblical translation).

This word for “demon” calls to mind the Hebrew verb “shadad” (שָׁדַד) which means “deal violently with, despoil, devastate, ruin” [6] The irony of one who ruins, the violent despoiler, and devastator, being tied to a construction’s lower part, described as a foundation, a cradling seat, may not have been lost on those fluent in ancient Hebrew. A similar irony is described in 2 Nephi 24:13-20, Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 14:13-20. We are speaking of course of the adversary as “the foundation” of hell in a figurative, or allegorical sense. But this raises the literal minded question:

If the pit of hell is “bottomless” as some suppose, how can it have a foundation?

Well, the word translated “bottomless” (KJV) is literally abyss (ἄβυσσος). This word doesn't necessarily imply an endless or infinite depth. Is it possible for a hollow or chasm in Sheol to be so deep, so extensive, that the definition of “down” changes before a bottom is reached? We may then ask, do “the sides of the pit” count as hell’s foundation at “lowest depths”? (Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 14:15)

According to scripture there is an abyss, and the world also has a foundation. (Revelation 17:8) We are left to consider the irony that “the god of this world” is “the foundation” of hell with her otherwise “bottomless pit”.


Transliterated in key places, the Prophet’s later interpretation (1837 edition) of 1 Nephi 15:35 may read:

35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful sheol [hell] of which I have spoken, and [a, the] shed [devil] is the eshedah [ אשׁדָה= foundation (cradling seat) of her] …

“preparator” of hell

As fitting as the proposed translations appear to be, we should not rest content. We should look into possible Hebrew ties to the seemingly inappropriate word preparator? After all, 1 Nephi 15:35 in the current edition, reverts to the vocabulary of the 1830 edition.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines preparator as “One who makes a preparation; a preparer (of medicine, specimens, etc.).” There is no exact biblical Hebrew equivalent for this rarely used Gentile word.

What then is meant by “preparator of [hell]”? Does the expression refer to one who prepares specimens for hell? Do embalmers of the dead (Bereshit (Genesis) 50:2) qualify as preparators?

It was previously explained why the word preparer of hell is inappropriate for describing “the devil”; but is there a Hebrew term, translated “prepare”, that suits 1 Nephi 15:35?

1 Kings 18:44 (KJV) reads “… Prepare thy chariot …” Here the Hebrew word “esor” (אֱסֹר) is translated “Prepare”. Similarly, the expression “ye’sor” (יֶאְסֹר) is translated “[he] made ready” in Genesis 46:29 (KJV). The verb “asar” (אָסַר) that “prepare” ties to, literally means, tie, bind, imprison. [7] See for example, imprisoned Yoseph in Bereshit (Genesis) 40:3.


If the word translated “prepared” in 1 Nephi 15:35 is tied to “asar” such that it could also be interpreted to mean “secured”, like a prison, is there an appropriate Hebrew term replacing the troubling word “preparator”, that also relates to “asar”?

We may consider the word “asir” (אַסׅיר) which means prisoner. This word may also be seen in Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 10:4; 24:22; 42:7 as a play on words with the name of the Egyptian lord of the underworld - Osiris. [8]



It happens that the Hebrew word for harry, goat like demon, or devil is “sa’ir” (שָׂעׅיר), translated “satyr” in Isaiah 34:14 (KJV). [9] The plural of this word is translated “satyrs” in 2 Nephi 23:21 (Isaiah 13:21, KJV) but likely refers to natural he-goats.


Transliterated in key places, 1 Nephi 15:35 could therefore read:

35 And there is a place secured [אסר = prepared], yea, even that awful sheol of which I have spoken, and [a, the] sa’ir [devil, demon] is the asirah [prisoner/Osiris of her] …

Note the wordplay between “sa’ir” (devil) and “asir” (prisoner/Osiris). The Hebrew “asir” does in fact relate to the word translated “prepared” also meaning secured, but “asir” is not easily translated into English because of its pun like connection with the name of the Egyptian god of the netherworld. One could simply translate “… devil is the prisoner of it [Sheol] …” but this misses the point that sa’ir (devil) as asir of Sheol, is also lord of bound souls.

The Egyptian wrapping or binding of the dead in the mummification process may come to mind. We may see in the Hebrew/Egyptian wordplay the lesson that he that binds is himself bound. The preparator of Hell is become like one of his subjects. (2 Nephi 24:9-10)

But what of the commandment to “make no mention of the name of other gods”! (Shemot (Exodus) 23:13) Do Isaiah and the Book of Mormon violate this commandment?

Apparently it is acceptable in Hebrew scripture to reference the names of other gods, as long as those names are couched in derogatory puns or wordplay. [10] Take for example Hoshea (Hosea) 2:18 (2:16, KJV):

16 And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD [YHWH], that thou shalt call me Ishi [my husband, my Man]; and shalt call me no more Baali [my Master].

Hebrew prophets repeatedly made unfavorable mentions of the gods of surrounding nations. Unfavorable references to Baal and Osiris should therefore not be a problem in a Hebrew translation of Nephite scripture.

The question remains: Which of the foregoing 1 Nephi 15:35 interpretations is are right?

[10] Rendsburg, Gary, “YHWH’s War Against the Egyptian Sun-God Ra

Is “prepriator” a portmanteau?

How do we know that “prepriator” was not shown to the Prophet Joseph by way of Urim and Thummim, and that he called out its spelling to the scribe who wrote it down in the original manuscript? Some will object, stating what seems obvious to them; “prepriator” is not a word! Well, it could be a portmanteau, like “motel”. “Motel” is a blend of the words motor and hotel. Consider also the recently coined “word” (portmanteau) podcast, one of numerous other examples in modern English.

Oliver Cowdery, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s most learned scribe, saw in “prepriator”, the word “preparator”. Professor Royal Skousen sees in “prepriator” the word “proprietor”. The created term “prepriator” seems to be a blend of preparator and proprietor. Keep in mind that all English words were once made up. Science and revealed religion both countenance “made up” words. One might conclude that the revealed word “telestial”, for example, was created from the Latin word Tellus (as in the contrived name of the element tellurium). This at least  makes “telestial” consistent with the already established Latin based words terrestrial and celestial. The point is their is precedence for invented terminology in revealed religion and in science.

What do you do when there is no concise English translation of a set of ancient symbols? Do you drop one or more of the meanings and pick the one you like best? This happens in translation.

On the other hand, God could have prepared the portmanteau “prepriator” to represent in English the multiple meanings associated with a particular set of symbols inscribed on the Book of Mormon plates. The created word “prepriator” may be a translation of the polysemic Egyptohebraic title “baal-asir” (בָּעַל-אַסׅיר). That is, there could have been a condensed set of reformed Egyptian symbols which Nephi son Lehi interpreted as “baal-asir”. Moreover, there may have been something about the reformed Egyptian symbols justifying the interpretation: “eshed” (אֶשֶׁד) meaning foundation.

“Urim v’Tumim” (אוּרׅים וְתוּמׅים), Urim and Thummim, literally means Lights and Perfections. The Book of Mormon was translated with the aid of Lights and Perfections. Considering the meaning of Urim and Thummim, we might expect there to be more than one enlightened interpretation, and more than one degree of perfection in the translation of the Marvelous Work and Wonder - the Book of Mormon. The fact that the Prophet Joseph Smith gave us more than one version of 1 Nephi 15:35 in English is evidence that there could be more than one correct rendering of the verse in Hebrew.

We learn that the ancient American Nephites, who compiled the Book of Mormon account, had a command of a form of Yehudit (Hebrew). As compressed as Hebrew is, compared to English, we learn that the system of writing in which the Book of Mormon plates were mostly inscribed, was even more compressed than Hebrew. (Mormon 9:32-33)

A logogrammatic system like North American Mi’kmaq writing comes to mind. In Mi’kmaq, single characters represent entire words or concepts. Nephite “reformed Egyptian” could have been similarly condensed. In other words, the spoken language of the Nephites could in fact have been Semitic - a form of Yehudit, but to conserve space on the plates, the warrior prophet Mormon resorted to a logogrammatic form of writing - “reformed Egyptian”. The Nephites, after all, read and relish the words of Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah). But, their most compressed writing (written “language”) may have been logogrammatic (adapted from Egyptian characters). It seems clear that the Nephites did not miss out on the prophetic poetry of Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah), and yet they could also write a great deal of narrative using very little space on the plates.

One of the reasons that Nephite “reformed Egyptian” on the plates read “running [the] same as all Hebrew writing in general” (Joseph Smith Papers, History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805 – 30 August 1834], Pg. 34) may be because the plates accommodated portions of text (e.g. the prophetic poetry of Yesha’Yahu) best conveyed in a form of ancient Hebrew. This ancient Yehudit (Hebrew) may have been written using phonetic Egyptian like characters, like those of ancient Proto-Sinaitic script. These character carry both phonetic and pictographic significance. To be sure, the majority of the Book of Mormon record was written in more compressed “reformed Egyptian”, which, had it not been for the accommodations of Hebrew portions, could have been written either left to right or right to left.

In logogrammatic “reformed Egyptian”, a single character, or set of symbols, could have corresponded with the Hebrew concepts of “ha-satan” (the adversary), “shed” (devastating demon), and “sa’ir” (harry devil) all at the same time.

A terse set of “reformed Egyptian” symbols could likewise have simultaneously stood for “asir” (prisoner/Osiris of the netherworld), “baal” (lord) of Sheol, and foundation of hell.

The name of Osiris is tied to the throne symbol. What does hell have to do with thrones?

Consider again this verse of scripture:

9 Hell ... hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. (2 Nephi 24:9, Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 14:9)

Apparently there are thrones in hell.

Consider then the Egyptian throne and eye symbols: copied hieratic throne and eye These hieratic characters were copied from the Amenhotep Book of the Dead papyrus at the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. [11] Similar shorthand characters may have existed on the Book of Mormon plates.

[11] Joseph Smith Egyptian Papers, Notebook of Copied Characters, Circa Early July 1835, pg. 2

The characters spell out the name “Wsir” or “Asir” which is the Egyptian name of Osiris, lord of the underworld. [12] As mentioned, “asir” in Hebrew means one who is bound, prisoner. Hence the possible prisoner/Osiris wordplay in Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 10:4; 24:22; 42:7.

[12] Ritner, Robert K., The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri – A Complete Edition, Papyrus Joseph Smith 4: Book of the Dead of Amenhotep (from “Valuable Discovery”), pg. 259. See also Rhodes, Michael D., Books of the Dead Belonging to Tshemmin and Neferirnub, pg. 58, (2).

To the Nephites, the throne symbol may have connoted lord or master, “baal” (בָּעַל). Moreover, the Nephites could have seen in the throne symbol a seat, foundation, bottom, lower part, something sloping and set under. Thus in “reformed Egyptian” (subject to unique Hebraic interpretation) the Nephites could have seen in the throne and eye, a reference to lord (baal) proprietor of Sheol, the imprisoning prisoner (asir) or preparator of the underworld, personifying the foundation (eshed) of hell. (Revelation 2:13; 16:10, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 86:3)

But what does the eye symbol have to do with a foundation?

The Egyptian eye is what puts the “ir” (יר) in “Asir” (אַסׅיר) or Osiris.

The quasi Hebrew expression “baal-asirah” (בָּעַל-אַסׅירה) can be interpreted “baal-asir of her [Sheol]”, or using the proposed portmanteau, “prepriator of her [hell]”. Here the ordered letters ירה relate to throwing or casting down, or laying a foundation, as in the name “Yerushalaim” (Jerusalem, “foundation of peace”) or “YeruEl” (Jeruel), meaning “founded of God (El)”. So “ir”, or “irah”, or “yarah” in “Asir”, or “asirah” can suggest to the Hebrew mind equivalents of a cast down foundation, e.g. eshed.

The reinterpretation of the throne and eye symbol as “foundation” (eshed) with its accompanying wordplay with “devil” (shed), fits Joseph Smith’s 1837 edition “…great and abominable church … whose foundation is the devil.” Contrast this with the 1830, and some later editions which read, " … whose founder is the devil …” (1 Nephi 14:17) While the adversary is not the founder of hell (though he is the founder of the great and abominable church) he does personify the foundation of hell laid by God’s justice.

Are there other titles that could apply to the throne and eye - Osiris? Yes, the titles father and lord describe Asir. The Hebrew blend of “father” or “av” (אב) and “lord” or “adon” (אדון, dropping a divine aleph (א) from “adon”) spells out the place and personal name “avadon” (אבדון) which means “destruction”, “perdition”. But this may have been seen as a less preferred interpretation of the characters on the plates. For one thing, “Abbadon”, “destruction”, “corruption”, “perdition” is not exclusively a title of the adversary. (Iyyov (Job) 17:14; 28:22, Revelation 9:11; 17:8, 20:1-3, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-27, Moses 5:22-24) It is noteworthy that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not ultimately choose the word “father” as a replacement for “preparator” notwithstanding doctrinal support for it in Moses 7:37-38 (1830).

In summary, some might see in 1 Nephi 15:35 a literary analogue to a cubic equation.

Think of the equation as a kind of sentence. We ask, what does the symbol x numerically mean in the sentence? How should it be interpreted, that is, enumerated? In other words, how should it be translated into number? The truth is, given a, b, c, and d in the sentence, more than one number may satisfy x. The symbol x can stand for several values all at the same time.

Similarly, more than one Hebrew interpretation could have satisfied a character, or set of characters in Nephite “reformed Egyptian”. An advantage of “reformed Egyptian” was its compactness. It was dense with possible meanings. A disadvantage was that “reformed Egyptian” could lose specificity. This weakness was to be compensated for by divine means. (Mormon 9:32-34)

 “... thou wilt not leave my soul in hell ...”

(Tehillim (Psalms) 16:10)

The Prophet Joseph Smith is said to have stated:

“There has been much said about the word hell, and the sectarian world have preached much about it, describing it to be a burning lake of fire and brimstone. But what is hell? It is another modern term, and is taken from hades…

Hades, the Greek, or Sheol, the Hebrew, these two significations mean a world of spirits. Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits.

The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.” (H.C. 5:425; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 310, Sunday 11, June 1843, from the journals of Elders Willard Richards and Wilford Woodruff; Ecclesiastes 6:6)

The “Ah meh strah ans”, Joseph Smith’s esoteric “Egyptians” from Ptolemaic times, used the term “Hahdees”, in reference to the inglorious kingdom of darkness “Dah tu Hah dees”. This arcane name, revealed by Joseph Smith, evinces a familiarity with both the Egyptian “Duat”, and Greek “Hades” concepts. The revealed name “Dah tu Hah dees” appears to be a blend.

Though not entirely congruent with ideas of hell in Gentile Christianity, the definition of “hell” attributed to Joseph Smith accords with scripture. What is more, there really is a connection between the word hell (Proto-Germanic origin) and hades (from the Greek). Both words mean essentially the same thing: the concealed or hidden place, “the unseen world”. Neither of these names explicitly tell of a world of torment, though such realms exist there.

As pointed out, the spirit prison of Paradise (which is not in heaven. Consider Luke 23:43 and ST John 20:16-17 together) is also there - in Sheol. (Luke 16:23, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 138:49-51, Ezekiel 31:16-18) And where is there? There, is in some sense here, or rather, on and within Terra. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 88:104, Moses 6:63)

Part of the prison of Pardes is apparently subterranean; into which the soul of Ben ha-Elohim, the Son of God(s) descended. (Tehillim (Psalms) 139:8, YehezqEl (Ezekiel) 31:16, Romans 10:7, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8) Apparently, there are upper and lower parts of the enclosed garden that is Paradise. (2 Corinthians 12:4) The “tree of life” still resides there. (Revelation 2:7, Moses 3:9)

The Apostle Peter testified that Psalms 16:8-11 is a prophecy about the death and resurrection of the Beloved Messiah. (Acts 2:25-31) According to Peter, because the Savior was resurrected “his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Acts 2:31) The Greek word translated “corruption” can mean decay. The original Hebrew word shahat (שָֽׁחַת) means more than this.

The verb “shahat” (שָׁחַת) can mean to ruin, physically violate, or injure. It is the root of the word “mishhat” (מִשְׁחָת) translated “marred” in 3 Nephi 20:44 (Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 52:14):

 “... his visage was so marred, more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men-”

We may choose to see in this verse about God’s injured servant, a blending of the verbs “mashah” (מָשַׁח) meaning anoint, as in Mashiah (מָשִׁיחַ, Messiah), and the verb “shahat” (שָׁחַת) meaning to injure or cause to perish. We may see in “mishhat” the harshness of Messiah’s anointing. (Matthew 26:7-12) There is then a sense in which the mortal body of the Anointed did see shahat. His flesh was injured and his life’s blood poured out unto death. (Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 53:12)

How then did Messiah, whose soul visited Sheol, not see Shahat? His body in the tomb, though marred, did not undergo shahat in the sense of noticeable decay. What is more, his soul did not visit that part of Sheol called Shahat [13], with its benighted yet fiery pit and dark Abbadon. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 138:29-37, 57, Iyyov (Job) 31:12) The “outer darkness” mentioned in Alma 40:13 is the darkness of Sheol outside Paradise [14]. (Matthew 22:13)

[13] Some references to “hell” in the English Book of Mormon may be more fittingly translated Shahat (שָֽׁחַת) in Hebrew (e.g. 2 Nephi 9:12-13, 34; also consider 2 Nephi 8:14, Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 51:14, and 1 Nephi 15:35). Not all souls of men go to the spirit prison of Shahat at life’s end. The faithful go to the preserve Paradise (also in Sheol) to await the resurrection. (Alma 40:11-14, LDS Doctrine and Covenants 138:49-51)

[14] The Book of Mormon’s use of the word “paradise” in 2 Nephi 9:12-13, and Alma 40:12, 14, may seem anachronistic, until we consider that the ancient word “pardes” (פַרְדֵּס) was preserved in the Hebrew language prior to the Persian period. The belief that trees of Eden were to be found in Sheol is at least as old as the time period of Lehi, and his son Nephi. (YehezqEl (Ezekiel) 31:16; compare with Revelation 2:7)

If his soul did not personally visit Shahat, how then did Messiah go and preach “unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient ... in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing ...”? (1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6, Moses 7:38-39, 56-57)

Scripture explains that it was by the “Spirit” that Messiah ministered to the disobedient spirits. Was this ministry similar to the way in which the resurrected Messiah ministered to the goyim (Gentiles) by the Holy Spirit? (3 Nephi 15:21-23) Truly the Eternal does manifest himself by way of sanctified spirit messengers sent by him. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 76:84-88) In fact, the gates of Hades, we are told, will fail to prevail against his organized ministry. (Matthew 16:18)

But we should also consider that there were those who repented as best they could, and died (or were killed) just prior to the floods. (Moses 8:23-24, 28) Like the penitent thief on the cross, who at first reviled the Savior (Matthew 27:44, Luke 23:43, Yesha’Yahu (Isaiah) 53:9, 12), Sheol bound souls of some antediluvians may have found rest in the spirit prison of Pardes. The visiting Messiah could have descended to directly minister to these. 1 Peter 3:18-20 can be interpreted to take these spirits into account. (1 Peter 3:19)

The Savior’s words to the criminal on the cross were likely in Aramaic, or in Hebrew. The King of the Jews probably did not literally use the Greek word that is translated “Paradise” (Παραδείσῳ) in Luke 23:43. A Hebrew translations of Luke 23:42 refers to the garden of Eden in the unseen world. (Moses 5:4; the garden is referred to as “paradise” (παράδεισον) in the Greek Septuagint: e.g. LXX Genesis 2:8-9)

The scriptures make clear that the spirit world of Sheol (שְׁאוֺל) is essentially equivalent to the Greek Hades (ᾍδης) of the New Testament. Both are translated “hell” in modern scripture. It may be concluded then that the souls of all accountable human beings (the wicked and the righteous), when they die, visit “hell” (Sheol, Hades) and there await the resurrection. So the bad news is, that when you die, you are going to hell. The good news is, Paradise is part of hell.

The problem is, Gehenna (γέεννα) is also translated “hell” in the English New Testament. This has contributed to the perception that “hell” is exclusively an abode of lost souls, a place of punishment for unsaved, ungodly, unrepentant sinners. But a case can be made that Gehenna (γέεννα) of the New Testament, is equivalent to the benighted domain of Shahat (שָֽׁחַת) including Avadon (אבדון). See Mark 9:43-44, verse 43 and compare with Job 17:14 (KJV), and with interlinear Hebrew/English Iyyov (Job) 17:14; 33:18, 22, 24, 28, 30.

The Book of Revelation does not explicitly state that Gehenna is the same as the post-resurrection lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15, verse 13) It has been assumed so, because of the reference to body parts. See for instance Mark 9:43-48, and especially Matthew 10:28. But scripture also describes spirits in Sheol (Hades) experiencing fiery torment. (Luke 16:22-31, verse 23) Consider also JST Matthew 18:8-9 in connection with note a of Matthew 18:8-9 (KJV), “hell fire”.

In the minds of ancient Greeks and Hebrews, “spirit” (רוּחַ, πνεῦμα), though less tangible, was nevertheless considered material. Spirit was perceived to be a more fine, animate substance - thus its confluence with “wind” and “breath”.

Evidently, the spirit world of Sheol on, and within the planet Terra, consists of both spiritmatter” and ordinary atomic matter. There are situations in which it is difficult to tell the difference. (2 Corinthians 12:3, Luke 24:36-39; a soul is a living being, whether spirit or element, or both: LDS Doctrine and Covenants 88:15; 93:29-33) Owing to the relative nature of its quantum momenta, the atomic matter of Terra is intangible to inhabitants of Tellus (the dreary planet on which we live). Where is hell? It is where electrons from our world go while they quantum tunnel. While vanished from our world, they emerge in a world of relative i-momentum - here beside us. Why relative? Because the inhabitants of that physical world have the right to say, from their point of view, that our world is an intangible i-momentum world.


Venn diagram of the Spirit World of Sheol on, and within the planet Terra (companion Earth, recently terraformed by the Elohim). The Hebrew names of the realms of Sheol, are spelled using phonetic Egyptian like characters.

Vincent Coon and his wife Deborah are residents of South Salt Lake. Deborah retired from forty years of employment with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both served fulltime missions before their marriage in 1990, and have held numerous callings in the Church. Vincent (Ward is his father’s name) most recently served as a Gospel Doctrine instructor pre-pandemic in his newly reorganized ward (the South SL Riverfront Ward). Vincent accepted this calling with the understanding that he would be allowed to teach from the scriptures, despite Mormon tradition. In his second year as Gospel Doctrine instructor he was persecuted for answering from the scriptures the question who are the children of the Most High? Some members of his stake did not like the answer. The scriptural doctrine defended by Vincent has since been vindicated by talks in General Conference. Vincent graduated cum laude from the U of U with a BA in Physics, with Hebrew as a foreign language. He found employment in the field of medic

al x-ray devices, and went on to receive a master’s degree in Physics from the U of U. Vincent is the creator of

Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2022



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