Feature Stories

How a simple melody became a surprise fan-favorite—the story behind the Light the World music

Screen Shot 2023-01-17 at 12.51.45 PM.png
ComeUntoChrist.org YouTube screenshot

The background music in the Church’s Light the World videos is simple, but something about it has been capturing hearts since the first video launched in 2016.

In 2016, a few simple musical notes struck a chord in the hearts of millions of listeners when they heard the melody in the Church’s first Light the World video.

There’s a kind of magic to those notes, reminding viewers that their small acts of service shine a bright light in a sometimes dark world. Over the years, arrangements of the music have varied, but the way it uplifts others remains constant. Whether the tune features piano with a touch of strings, harp, or vocals, there’s a certain quality about the music that invites the Spirit and brings viewers closer to Christ.

But where did the melody come from, and how was it eventually paired with the Light the World videos every year? Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the creation of the music that resonates with so many.

From Studio to Video

While the writers of the Light the World melody prefer to remain anonymous, Christian Pulfer, who produced the Light the World music as well as the score for the Church’s video “The Christ Child,” can explain the process.

“The whole composition of the [piece] we created from scratch,” he says, explaining that his business partner as well as a composer in Nashville would technically have writer’s credit. But it wasn’t a commissioned piece that the Church had specifically asked for. Instead, Pulfer presented it to the Church thinking it might be a good fit for a future project.

Later down the road, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to launch a new campaign—a campaign founded on the idea of how people could celebrate the Christmas season by doing little acts of kindness like the Savior. A new video for the campaign was already underway. Only there was just one problem—the music wasn’t right.

“We’d had a vision in our mind of what the video should be, and most especially what the video should feel like. And … things weren’t working,” says Jeff Taylor, executive creative director for the Church’s Light the World initiative.

None of the pieces of music that had been tested seemed to fit the video during the edits. So the team continued searching their music library and finally stumbled upon the track that Pulfer had previously presented—a two-minute recording called “Diligence.” They set the music to the video, and just like that, something clicked.

“All of a sudden, the video started to feel like we intended it to feel, and it matched the feeling of Christmas,” Taylor recalls. “We all felt something inside, … like, ‘Oh, this could be it. This could be it.”

A Custom Fit

Once the track had been paired with the video, the next steps became all about making it a custom fit for the project.

“We said, ‘OK, well, what about this instrumentation here? And what about a little less of these strings there? And how about a bigger music swell at this moment? And how about it resolves a little bit more quietly here?’ You just try to really massage both elements until they work in harmony,” Taylor explains.

After making all the necessary adjustments, everything was finally ready to go, and the Light the World melody was heard by listeners around the world for the first time in 2016. The following year, the Church created a second Light the World video—only this time it was set to different music. But in the end, the Church decided to go back to the original composition because something just seemed to be missing when they tried out a different piece. The same music has been used ever since.

But while the melody may stay the same, each year it goes through modifications and adjustments to make it just the right fit for the video that’s being released. Pulfer, who’s based in Los Angeles, is still hands-on with the project and explains what the process looks like. They’ve brought musicians into the recording studio that are impossible to beat live, he says, like the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s harpist. And when they aren’t recording in LA, they often record remotely in Nashville and sometimes Paris.

It’s a time-intensive process, too: the music recorded for the 2022 video began in July and finished in October, going through multiple revisions as the video was being edited so that the two would perfectly coincide. But the work is well worth the effort. Over the years, the Light the World melody has been used in a variety of ways. Taylor estimates that the music has been incorporated into 50 to 100 videos for the Church (different versions of the videos are created for different areas of the world). And if listeners pay close attention, they’ll even hear the melody in President Russell M. Nelson’s 2022 Christmas message.

Taylor goes on to explain that a good piece of music is vital in a video as it helps move the narrative along. But what’s especially powerful about this piece is seeing how it has moved so many people’s hearts.

Truly Inspired Music

Listeners have often commented about how the Light the World music has touched them. “Who knew one simple perfect fifth interval could bring me to tears almost instantly?” one viewer wrote on YouTube. Another person shared, “I wish I knew what this song was so I could play it on repeat.” And yet another individual chimed in, “Those two notes make me feel special.”

Tom Pratt, who has worked on the Church’s Light the World campaign, says music as special as this can be hard to come by.

“Throughout my career, I have come to know how difficult it is to find just the right music to underscore a particular message. That is why I am in awe of the brilliant composer of the Light the World musical score. This sweet melody offers up simple notes of life-affirming reverence that swell into a joyous celebration of the light of Christ in the world, and of the power of His light within each of us. No small accomplishment! But that’s the power of truly inspired music,” he says.

Pulfer adds that it’s hard to articulate exactly why the notes are so meaningful and uplifting. But one reason he feels the music is unique from a recording standpoint is because there’s a certain intimacy to it; sounds such as fingers moving over the frets of a guitar are intentionally left in the recordings, giving the music a more personal touch.

“That type of vulnerability in the music medium of artful expression is, from my perspective, one of the unique things that helps us relate to music, because vulnerability is, at the end of the day, how … we all relate to one another. Life is an emotional experience. And music speaks a universal comprehensible language that’s very emotional. And allowing the music to reveal its insecurities, perhaps, and the imperfections behind all of the notation and arrangements and instrumentation that make up that recording—I feel like is one of the things that makes this piece magical.”

Taylor observes that there’s also a spiritual element to the music that mirrors the story of the Savior’s birth in the scriptures.

“You think about how [as] the story in Luke 2 unfolds, there are tiny, tender moments and there are grandiose moments. And this music track in particular … hit on both elements,” he says. “If you think back to that first Christmas night, it was carefully orchestrated—there was a heavenly host, and they were praising God, and they were singing. And I believe that singing helped cement in the shepherds’ hearts the magnanimity of the moment.”

Similarly, the simple notes of the music in the Light the World videos help solidify in listeners’ hearts their testimony of the Savior. Through that simple melody, they feel His light and share it with others, which is a gift in and of itself. And that is what Light the World is really all about.

“I think music is a gift from God,” Taylor concludes, “and one in which He is pleased when we use it to glorify His name.”

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content