Review of Fowles, John L. “The Gates of [Hebrew word] Hell.”

Fowles, John L. “The Gates of [Hebrew word] Hell.” In The Farm Boy Does It Again: Evidence of the Prophetic Calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith, n.p., Frithurex Press, 2014, 116-133.
[Israel/Mormon/Salvation of the Dead/Theology]

This interesting chapter argues for a more correct meaning of the phrase “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” in Mt. 16: 18. Fowles begins with several statements from Joseph Smith, Alma, and Brigham Young which lay a conceptual foundation. Joseph explains that hell means the “world of departed spirits.” Brigham Young explains that the Spirit World is here and the righteous and wicked mingle together. Thus, hell is not only a place, but a spiritual condition which is not necessarily permanent as shown by D&C 19:6-12, because the gospel can be preached to those in the Spirit World and they can have the necessary ordinance of baptism done for them by proxy. As mortals participate in that great proxy work they become saviors on Mt. Zion. Next brother Fowles turns to 1 Corinthians 15:29, the famous baptism for the dead passage. With the help of Richard Anderson and Hugh Nibley, he shows that the notion of proxy baptism is legitimate and even so expressed in the Phillips Modern English Translation Bible.

Once in the many times Joseph Smith spoke of the doctrine of baptism for the dead, he also said that the doctrine was “the burden of the scriptures.” Brother Fowles asks what this means, and drawing largely on examples given by Joseph Smith from this sermon, shows that Jesus frequently addressed subjects which when properly understood were emphasizing the doctrine of salvation of the dead. He begins by showing that the promise to the thief on the cross that he would be with Christ in paradise was a teaching about salvation of the dead. As is the passage where Jesus laments to the Jewish people that he had often tried to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks but they would not. A third example, comes not from the sermon mentioned earlier, but from the pericope of Peter’s testimony of Christ at Caesarea Philippi, in Mt. 18. There Jesus promises Peter power to bind and loose, and because of that power the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. Considerable space is devoted to showing that the pronoun “it” in this sentence is really feminine and means “her” or a reference to the people in the spirit world. Nibley is invoked to show that gates keep people in or out, so for them to “prevail” against the inhabitants of the spirit world would mean they would not be let out of prison and able to enjoy a condition of paradise. The article concludes with a listing of eleven passages from the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants where the phrase “gates of hell” is accompanied by a personal pronoun, most of them collective personal pronouns–which are consistent with the way the word “it” in Mt. 18:16 should be translated.

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