What would it have been like to be a Mormon Pioneer leaving Nauvoo without knowing where you were going or even if you would survive? All you had was your family and your faith. That is the inspiration behind this arrangement.
Apparently, there are only six hymns in our hymnbook today that were in the original hymnbook that Emma Smith put together. And out of those, Redeemer of Israel is the only one that still uses its original melody. So it is quite possible that Redeemer of Israel as we know it today was sung by the Saints as they were crossing the plains.
Now couple that with the fact that Redeemer of Israel is one of the most powerful hymns in the hymnbook. It’s one of those hymns where every passing verse builds your faith, commitment and excitement. It’s like a roller coaster of emotion. If I were a pioneer, I would have been singing this every step of the way in order to keep pushing me forward.
So with that, here’s the breakdown of the arrangement:
The hymn opens as the saints are leaving Nauvoo, watching it fade away behind them. Now they are just slowly moving along, pleading with the Lord to bless them (On whom for a blessing we call). Then with every verse, their faith is strengthened and their pace quickens. So does the music. The music continues to build in volume and speed with each passing verse until it finally explodes into the last verse, almost shouting with conviction:
As children of Zion,
Good tidings for us.
The tokens already appear.
Fear not, and be just,
For the kingdom is ours.
The hour of redemption is near.
Did they have steel-string guitars back then? No. But if they did, I hope it would have sounded a lot like this.
Special thanks to a couple of people for this arrangement. First, Britany Hurst for being the first Mormon Guitar fan to choose the hymn. Her hymn was randomly picked from nearly 100 listener suggestions. Thanks Britany! You picked a great one. (And as a side note, I drew another hymn out of the hat after hers just to see what else could have been. I drew Redeemer of Israel. Again.)
Also, a special thank you to Dan Rasband. Dan is the one who told me about the history behind the hymn. His Stake is doing a Pioneer Trek this summer and had picked this hymn as their main theme hymn for the trek. This arrangement probably would not have gone in this direction if it hadn’t been for his comments. (You see, I actually do listen to people’s comments and try to use them if possible. So keep them coming!)
Thanks again to everyone for your continued support of this site. It’s humbling. I feel truly blessed to be able to share the experience of arranging a new hymn with you each month. You guys are neat.