The entry on “paradise” in the bible dictionary found in the LDS edition of the AV has some points that give me pause. Here is the passage:
A Persian word meaning a garden. It is not found in the O.T. In the N.T. it occurs in Luke 23: 43, 2 Cor. 12: 4, and Rev. 2: 7. See also 2 Ne. 9: 13; Alma 40: 12, 14; 4 Ne. 1: 14; Moro. 10: 34; D&C 77: 2, 5; cf. A of F 10. Paradise is that part of the spirit world in which the righteous spirits who have departed from this life await the resurrection of the body. It is a condition of happiness and peace. However, the scriptures are not always consistent in the use of the word, especially in the Bible. For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, “To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43), the Bible rendering is incorrect. The statement would more accurately read, “Today shalt thou be with me in the world of spirits” since the thief was not ready for paradise (see HC 5: 424-25). Possibly 2 Cor. 12: 4 should also not use paradise in the sense of meaning the spirit world, as much as meaning the celestial kingdom. The “paradisiacal glory” of A of F 10 refers to the glorified millennial state of the earth rather than the spirit world.
First, the word “paradise” does occur in the OT. It is transliterated from Old Persian into the MT as prds in three places, all late: SS 4:13; Neh 2:8; and Eccl 2:5. It means, as it does in OP, a park or nature preserveSecond, it also occurs 46 times in the LXX, usually as the Greek translation for gn, the normal Hebrew word for “garden.” If “paradise” were not associated with the Garden of Eden and therefore somehow in the OT, it is hard to see how we could have arrived at the 10th AoF!
Finally, the three instances in the NT are fairly consistent with each other, given the inchoate state of thought about life after death at the time: paradise is a place where the righteous go. In particular, it is very hard to read the story of the “Penitent Thief” in the Lucan passion narrative and come away with the idea that all Jesus could tell him was that he’d be dead by afternoon.
It is, I think, far more likely that what Luke is presenting is simply another one of his examples of God’s super-abundant grace. The thief’s request for remembrance when Jesus comes into his kingdom (which is a very high christological confession, BTW), is met with far more than he requested, for the only human to stand up for Jesus in his extremity will also somehow accompany Jesus into the inaguration of that kingdom.
And that, thankfully, is God’s economy even if it’s not always ours!