The short and simple Mormon Messages are still going strong across the globe more than five years after debuting.
Rarely exceeding five minutes, these short messages created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints address a range of topics including developing faith in Jesus Christ, the importance of families, strengthening marriage, understanding the purpose of life and finding hope.
“Mormon Messages are always based on the prophetic word,” said Bill Elliott, media director for the Church’s priesthood department. “That’s the key thing; they are always inspirational, uplifting and edifying messages about our faith, from our leaders.”
The first Mormon Message was put together by Tucker Dansie and his small team in the summer of 2008. It featured a recent conference address from Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve.
“There were three of us making the messages,” said Dansie, who was a producer for the LDS Church small productions group at the time. “We did a lot of quick turnaround projects for the Apostles’ internal presentations so they had direct access to us. They liked what we did and were looking for ways to get the same messages out quicker and more publicly. We actually posted the first messages on LDS.org, and then a member of the Church took them off LDS.org and put them on YouTube, where they got a bunch of hits — it wasn’t even us.”
After seeing the views on YouTube, the Church capitalized on the opportunity and created the Mormon Messages YouTube channel, which debuted on Aug. 7, 2008.
“They kind of started out as videos that took a conference talk and then added some illustrative b-roll footage to show what they were talking about,” Elliott said. “They’ve evolved over the years to where we’re telling stories, whether they be documentaries or stories that help illustrate the message.”
There are now more than 110 Mormon Messages. The videos have in excess of 36 million combined views, and four videos have more than one million views, including the hugely popular Christmas video “O Come, Emmanuel,” showcasing The Piano Guys, and “My New Life,” which features the inspiring story of burn victim Stephanie Nielson. The Mormon Messages channel has now evolved into the Mormon Channel, which features Mormon Messages, along with additional music, interviews and other faith-promoting stories.
“What’s really cool about this is that a lot of YouTube videos that you see have people arguing about stuff. Our videos don’t tend to do that,” Dansie said. “Our job is about uplifting people.”
As the popularity of the messages continues to grow, more and more stories find their way to Elliott and his team. He says that’s good but maintains that the messages always start with what the General Authorities of the LDS Church are teaching.
“Everybody’s always sharing great stories with us, and we love that,” Elliott said. “We have no shortage of wonderful, inspirational stories, but again it starts with the prophetic work and the inspired words we get from our leaders, and then we find a story to go with that.”
The Mormon Messages team begins the movie-making process with concepts and ideas derived from the words shared at general conference. From there they develop the script and seek approval from LDS Church authorities. Once the topic has been approved they go out and shoot the video. Every message is different. Some can be completed with very few people in a short time; others require more manpower and more time.
“A production unit could range from a camera man and a sound man, with the same person doing both, to a much larger crew if the production requires it,” Elliott said. “We try to keep them fairly simple, but we’re always trying to make sure these have production values and are well done.”
Currently, Elliott and his team are working on a new Mormon Message that will debut in March. The vignette, titled “Stop It,” addresses bullying and pulls in teachings from Church leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s April 2012 general conference message about being merciful.
“This message can apply to people of any age. We really wanted to do something that focused on bullying and the issues that come with it,” Elliott said. “It’s an important issue today, and this is a powerful message.”
Having spent 23 years as a producer for NBC, Elliott has enjoyed the unique work he’s been participating in with Mormon Messages.
“Watching the creative collaboration of really talented people here at work who are willing to compromise on what they thought the project might be because they’ve gotten some inspired feedback from a leader or from someone on the team is just not something you see very often in this type of work,” Elliott said. “It’s a privilege to contribute to this because it reaches out to so many people across different faiths and lifestyles. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever had a chance to work on.”