Since July 24th marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, I thought I would write something about pioneers. I began thinking about the pioneers on Sunday when our congregation sang a hymn entitled “They, the Builders of the Nation” (Hymns #36, written by Ida R. Alldredge with music by Alfred M. Durham). I was so touched by the words to this hymn that I could not get it out of my mind. This presentation of “They, the Builders of the Nation” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with music provided by the Orchestra at Temple Square is beautiful and touching. I appreciate the brief addition depicting the Mormon Pioneers as they crossed the plains.
They, the builders of the nation, Blazing trails along the way;
Stepping-stones for generations Were their deeds of every day.
Building new and firm foundations, Pushing on the wild frontier,
Forging onward, ever onward, Blessed, honored Pioneer!
Service ever was their watch-cry; Love became their guiding star;
Courage, their unfailing beacon, Radiating near and far.
Ev’ry day some burden lifted, Ev’ry day some heart to cheer,
Ev’ry day some hope the brighter, Blessed, honored Pioneer!
As an ensign to the nation, They unfurled the flag of truth,
Pillar, guide, and inspiration To the hosts of waiting youth.
Honor, praise, and veneration To the founders we revere!
List our song of adoration, Blessed, honored Pioneer!
I decided to research the hymn and found the following information about hymn and its writer. Ida Romney Alldredge is the aunt to former Michigan Governor George W. Romney and great-aunt to former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. She was born on January 7, 1892, in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, to Catherine Cottom and Miles Park Romney. She married Leo “Lew” Alldredge on August 26, 1911; the next year Lew and Ida moved to Douglas, Arizona, along with other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The group “decided to leave Mexico due to the disruptions caused by the Mexican Revolution.” Lew began working as a merchant in Arizona, and the couple established their home in Mesa, Arizona.
Allredge wrote more than 30 poems in the 1920s and 1930s and “more than 400 poems in total as well as many musical works and a few dramatic works.” She wrote many poems that were published in the Relief Society Magazine and the Juvenile Instructor. The lyrics of her poems were put to music by “such contemporaries as George Careless, B. Cecil Gates and William Clive.” Although her best-known hymn is “They, the Builders of the Nation,” Allredge “had songs sung in General Conference, in the Salt Lake and Arizona Temples, and at the Arizona Temple dedication of 1927.”
One of Allredge’s “last big moments” took place in 1940 when a chorus gathered on the roof of the Arizona Temple to present an Easter sunrise services. “They sang a cantata written by Allredge and composed by B. Cecil Gates called “Resurrection Morning.”
Allredge passed away on June 14, 1943, in Mesa, Arizona.
President Thomas S. Monson spoke about the pioneers: “That first trek of 1847, organized and led by Brigham Young, is described by historians as one of the great epics of United States history. Mormon pioneers by the hundreds suffered and died from disease, exposure, or starvation. There were some who, lacking wagons and teams, literally walked the 1,300 miles across the plains and through the mountains, pushing and pulling handcarts. In these groups, one in six perished….
“These pioneers remembered the words of the Lord: `My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion’ (Doctrine and Covenants 136:31).
“As the long, painful struggle approached its welcomed end, a jubilant spirit filled each heart. Tired feet and weary bodies somehow found new strength.
“Time-marked pages of a dusty pioneer journal speak movingly: `We bowed ourselves down in humble prayer to Almighty God with hearts full of thanksgiving to Him, and dedicated this land unto Him for the dwelling place of His people.’ …
“Such were the trials, the hardships, struggles, and heartaches of a former day. They were met with resolute courage and an abiding faith in a living God…” (“Come, Follow Me,” Ensign, July 1988).
I stand in awe of the Mormon Pioneers and the other “builders” who made our nation great. They had trials, hardships, struggles, and heartaches, but they met them with “resolute courage and an abiding faith in a living God.” They acted on faith, had positive attitudes, and left our nation better for having been there. We can learn much from the “builders of our nation.” Happy Pioneer Day!