Read this verse:
1 Nephi 15:35
And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.
Now compare it with what the Lord says in this verse:
Wherefore, they have foresworn themselves, and, by their oaths, they have brought upon themselves death; and a hell I have prepared for them, if they repent not;
When I first noticed this several years ago, it bothered me. Both statements cannot be correct. Either God prepared hell, or the devil prepared it. I filed it away hoping to one day resolve the issue. When I discovered BYU’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, I learned this verse in Nephi had an interesting history. This project analyzed every version of the Book of Mormon, from the original manuscript to the 1981 version.
The original manuscript has prepriator—a word which doesn’t exist in the English language. In the printer’s manuscript and 1830 edition, this was changed to preparator. In the 1837 edition, it was changed again to foundation. The 1981 edition reverted back to preparator.
But what if the original word was supposed to be proprietor? These words differ only by a few letters and sound quite similar. The change was most likely accidental. But there is a shift in meaning that has doctrinal significance. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines proprietor as the person who has the legal right or exclusive title to any thing whether in possession or not.
And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the proprietor of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.
The devil didn’t prepare hell, God did (as Moses 6:29 tells us). The devil, though, does reign in hell. God isn’t going to dwell there, so the devil has squatter’s rights and it is his kingdom. This meaning is supported by other scriptures.
2 Nephi 2:29
And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
This is also consistent with modern revelation:
And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.
Hell was prepared FOR the devil and his angels, not by them. A simple transcription error introduced a contradiction. This specific example is included as a margin note in the reformatted Book of Mormon. By researching the original transcripts, we can see a simple solution that eliminates that contradiction and reinforces the truths taught elsewhere in scripture. How many other changes are waiting to be found?