The thing I like best about this hymn (besides it being written so beautifully by LDS composer Evan Stephens) is the parallels it draws between the pioneers and the children of Israel.
The group of Latter-day Saints who migrated from all over the world to the Utah Territory to escape religious persecution and establish Zion have some notable differences from Moses’ exodus out of Egypt. The Mormon pioneers’ main push lasted about 20 years, while we know the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40ish years. The children of Israel were struck by fiery serpents for complaining about the food, the handcart pioneers struggled and died through harsh weather conditions and illness, but overall the similarities far outweigh the differences. The Lord led His Chosen People to a new land back in the days of Moses and in the early days of His restored church, He did it again with the Saints.
This hymn is an anthem to the people who made the trek to Zion in the latter days, those who had “borne and suffered long,” yet still praised God for being the “guardian of the loved ones [He had] brought from many lands.” This trek still continues to Zion and its outposts and stakes all over the world, the call to gather and establish communities, know Christ and act in love towards all our fellowmen.
As we read in Psalms 95, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation…let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (verses 1, 6-7).