Here is the King James Version of Matthew 27:44 describing the behavior of the two thieves crucified with JESUS...
The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
This verse refers back to the mocking of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the Jews. They derided the Savior with calls for him to come down from the cross and save Himself, and then they would believe. As a younger person I had always hoped that He would have come down and incinerated those fools. But, that would have foiled his other worldly and infinite attempt to save all of mankind.
Joseph Smith was divinely authorized to add the following words to this verse, so that we could see there was one dissenting voice among the self-righteous rubes that mocked the GOD of this world.
One of the thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
But the other rebuked him, saying.
Dost thou not fear God?
seeing thou art under the same condemnation;
and this man is just and hath not sinned;
and he cried unto the Lord, that he would save him.
And the Lord said unto him,
This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.
(I added the underlining to the last phrase and the question mark.)
I have studied the world of spirits as it relates to scripture, and I can tell you that the LDS depictions of two places to reside before the final judgement are incorrect. There are 3 locations for the dead: Paradise, Prison, and Hell. Paradise is for those who have passed the test of mortality to see who is truly loyal to CHRIST. Prison (a horrible misnomer) is for those who have not yet made up their minds. Hell is for those who have failed the test through above average selfishness and refusal to repent. Persons relegated to Hell have to suffer for their own sins before being released. The chief priests, scribes, and elders of the Jews were undoubtedly sent there.
Now I know that JESUS stated on the cross "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." But the JST of Luke 23:35 makes it clear that CHRIST is referring to the Roman soldiers only.
I love this new and improved verse because it points out how you can know that you will end up in Paradise. Support the Savior even if every other idiot in the building or your family or your town does not believe in Him.
This is Not an example of death bed repentance. The wise thief was being horrifically punished for his crimes. I am pretty sure crucifixion for theft is cruel and unusual punishment, even by Biblical standards. The thief could have joined in the "misery loves company" crowd and mocked GOD the Son. Instead he chose to rebuke the other thief and recognize that JESUS had not sinned and did not deserve any punishment, let alone crucifixion.
He did not ask JESUS to save him in the moment, but in return for defending his Master, CHRIST rewarded him after his death with a spot in Paradise. I think it is well deserved. It is never easy to go against a mob.
For me this is the perfect example of how to avoid Spirit Prison and Hell. Take the suffering this life gives out like the wise thief and have the faith necessary in JESUS to wait for your reward after you die. It is the people who try to take short cuts to salvation that end up with a long delay in the world of spirits. You can thank JRR Tolkien for part of that last idea. In The Lord of the Rings book one Pippin tells Frodo, "short cuts make long delays."
It is the religious folk who think their membership in a church is a kind of short cut to Heaven, that may find themselves bitterly disappointed after this life. Sacrifice and suffering and service in following JESUS at all costs is the long, hard road that leads to eternal life.