His YouTube videos have been viewed over 1 billion times, but Devin Graham is more concerned about sharing things he is passionate about—one of those things being his faith. As evidenced by his post on Instagram this week all about his appearance on the All In podcast, Graham has never shied away from sharing his religious beliefs online.
In 2014, Graham filmed what was then the world’s largest nativity, featuring The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, David Archuleta, and the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square along with thousands of extras.
“Everybody was sharing [the video] on social media,” Graham recalled. “But they’re also sharing their faith. We did a big behind-the-scenes video for our channel where we were interviewing . . . a lot of other people in it, and then I shared my own testimony on that. And it was really awesome because generally, I can’t get away with sharing my testimony to our audience, because it would be a little bit over the top. . . . But for that event…I got away with it and it was just awesome seeing people of other faiths [respond].”
Graham and his team have produced a number of videos that share little bits of their faith, whether it be a drone shot of a temple or an Apostle’s words playing under beautiful imagery. Graham shared more about why this has been important in his career and how it has allowed him to share the gospel on this week’s episode of All In.
Morgan Jones: So, going back to this “Holy Land in 4k” video, which if people have not seen this, I am going to admit something to you, my boyfriend told me that I needed to watch it, and I had never seen it before. And he's like, “It's basically like a Mormon message. It's amazing.” And I was like, “Okay.” You know, I'm expecting just, like, video of the Holy Land, and then all the sudden you start hearing Elder Holland and Elder Uchtdorf, and I'm like, “Oh, I see what he means.” And so, can you tell me a little bit about how that video came to be, and how you chose to use General Authorities’ words in it, and also how you chose which General Authorities’ words to use in it?
Devin Graham: Yeah, so for that project—and the guy at the time on my team, his name was Parker Walbeck—he was the one that actually made that video happen, but I know the whole background story. He was on my team and everything. It was a wallet company that does a lot of service projects, they reached out and said, “Hey, would you like to go with us to Jerusalem to shoot a video?” And I was off on another project, so I sent my right-hand guy at the time, Parker Walbeck, who has had an awesome amazing career as well. So Parker went out to Jerusalem, and he just started shooting beautiful stock footage of all these locations. And he got back, and one of our things I'd say from the beginning is, “How can we be cool members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not, like, so much in your face where it gets annoying?” because I do see that. But we want to be looked at as cool members of the Church . . . we want people to relate with this, I think is what it really comes down to, while still being able to share the gospel in a natural way.
So that was the whole idea with that video is what Parker was thinking, “Let's shoot locations that people love, regardless of what background you come from religiously, and in a nonchalant way, not in-your-face way, let's use General Authorities’ or prophets’ and apostles’ voices to be in this video.” And that's really what it came down to, is then Parker started jumping on YouTube and just looking it up. And…it was just really cool, just seeing that response and seeing so many people share it. And people wrote back to me, and they're like, “Devin, I've been struggling with this in the Church, and then this just cleared my head and just reminded me of the bigger picture.” So just really fun, cool, exciting seeing that play out. And if you go through our channel, you'll see several videos. For example, I have one of break dancers breakdancing, but it's to a Church hymn. And it was one of the first videos I ever uploaded on YouTube. And one of the channels, or one of the big internet websites that always kind of fights against the Church, or a lot of religious stuff at least, they posted that on the front page of their website. So it was a cool way of sharing the gospel to a group that kind of pushes away, but it was like it brought both communities together. It was just, like, it was a breakdancing video, and I put Church gospel music to it, and for some reason, something special happened and that video blew up. So it's just really fun. Like, how can I put my own beliefs into videos? Not in-your-face preaching to everyone, saying, “This is the way it should be,” but just nonchalant ways that people will feel peace, that they'll feel happiness, and then they want to look more into it. And I mean, for us, that's been one of the really cool, exciting ways to see it.
Now, there have been times though, like, certain countries we've traveled to—I think of New Zealand and Guatemala—where we actually put on firesides, where we reached out and said, “Hey, we'd love to put a fireside at the church, just for our [YouTube] followers, to get them in the church [building], and then we're going to talk about what we love to do, but how that also relates to our own beliefs.”
So we did one in Guatemala and we got, I want to say, like, 200 to 300 people there, and they were our fans. So one of the guys he traveled, like, nine hours in a bus to be there. To be in a church—and I have translators because I don't speak Spanish, and they translated it all for them—but it was just a really awesome experience. And then New Zealand, and then a couple months later a guy wrote me and he is like, “I was at that event you put on at your church.” And he said, “Just so you know, I'm now a member of the Church.” And then he sent me a picture of him pre–baptism, right after baptism, [and] getting baptized in a lake in New Zealand. So it was just cool—ways that I can be natural, be myself, but also share some of my faith where it's not in your face, but still sticking to the principles that I know are true.