40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.
41 Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.
Amulek was taught by Alma, who learned the gospel from his father Alma, who was taught by the prophet Abinadi. It’s not surprising to see some of the concepts and phrases which Abinadi taught to the priests of King Noah echoed in the words of Amulek. As I wrote last week, Abinadi taught that, if we refuse to receive the blessings of the Atonement, it is as though the Atonement never happened. Amulek echoes that principle in the passage above.
Additionally, Abinadi used the phrase “the bands of death” five times in teaching about the effects of the Atonement (Mosiah 15:8, 9, 20, 23, Mosiah 16:7). Alma the Younger used this phrase in his sermons to the city of Zarahemla (Alma 5:7, 9, 10) and Gideon (Alma 7:12). And Amulek also uses the phrase in the passage above to emphasize the great blessing of being rescued from the effects of death through the resurrection.
Although this phrase does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible, the same concept appears multiple times. For example, Psalm 18:4 and Psalm 116:3 both use the phrase “the sorrows of death” to translate the Hebrew phrase heble-mawet (חֶבְלֵי־מָ֑וֶת). Other translations render this phrase as “the cords of death” or “the ropes of death.” (See Psalm 18:4 and Psalm 116:3 on biblehub.com.)
How is death like being bound with ropes? According to the prophet Joseph Smith, the spirit cannot obtain a fulness of joy without being united with a body. (See D&C 93:33-34). His nephew, Joseph F. Smith, saw in a vision “an innumerable company of the spirits of the just” waiting anxiously for “their redemption from the bands of death.” They believed that:
Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided, that they might receive a fulness of joy (D&C 138:12, 16-17).
So, after we die, we will feel incomplete, and we will long for the time when our spirits might be reunited with a body, never again to be separated. As Amulek testifies in the passage above, this is the promise of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to every man and woman who lives in mortality.
Today, I will be grateful that God has “loosed the bands of death,” as testified by Abinadi, Alma, and Amulek. I will remember that, although some of the blessings of the Atonement are limited to those who willingly receive them, this gift of resurrection will come to all of God’s children who have ever lived on the earth. The incompleteness that they feel after experiencing death will one day end. Their spirit and their body will be reunited “never again to be divided.”