Author’s note: When the All In podcast launched in October 2018, I was immediately drawn to it. I had worked with Morgan Jones previously and was excited about the work she was doing at LDS Living. I later had the opportunity to work with the LDS Living team myself where I learned more about what goes into producing the weekly episodes that I had listened to for months. I hope this piece gives readers new insight into the story of the All In podcast.
It’s a podcast that’s been downloaded over 8.4 million times. And that podcast has asked one question nearly 150 times: “What does it mean to you to be ‘all in’ the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
Now, a book explores the heart-changing question.
Since its launch in October 2018, the All In podcast has inspired countless listeners to ponder what it means to them to be “all in” the gospel of Jesus Christ, and now listeners and non-listeners alike have the opportunity to think about that question in an entirely new way.
Debuting in late July, the All In book helps readers explore what it means to be “all in” the gospel of Jesus Christ by sharing quotes from guests of the podcast with additional thoughts and insights from host Morgan Jones.
In celebration of the book’s release, LDS Living wanted to share the journey of the podcast by exploring how it came to be, speaking with the people who make it possible, and reflecting on the inspiring message of a book that considers what it means to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Birth of All In
Perhaps one of the most unique parts of the podcast is its iconic name, All In. What’s even more unique is no one remembers exactly who came up with the name.
In August 2018 after spending nearly five years at Deseret News, Morgan Jones transitioned to the LDS Living team. At the time, the LDS Living team, including Erin Hallstrom (director of audience development), KaRyn Lay (then the media producer and manager), and Colin Rivera (then the digital marketing manager), had started to brainstorm potential podcasts for LDS Living.
One of the ideas was an interview-style podcast. Someone threw out a possible name, All In. Though Morgan hadn’t listened to many podcasts at this point, the interview-style podcasts she had listened to all shared a theme: a consistent end question.
The original idea for the question was “Why are you ‘all in’ the gospel of Jesus Christ?,” but the group started to feel that question would lend itself to too many self-righteous answers. Then the question changed.
“What if instead of, ‘Why are you all in . . . ?,’ ‘What does it mean to you to be all in . . .?’ and when that question shifted, when it became more ambiguous and genuinely curious of what does it mean to you, it opened up the possibility of it meaning a lot of different things. It started to feel more genuine,” Morgan says.
Colin, who helped with the promotion and marketing of the podcast, says All In was always meant to be as inclusive as possible because the gospel is for all of God’s children.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gospel that is built one way for one type of person,” Colin says. “It is a universal, inclusive, ultimate, accepting gospel for all of God’s children. People have different cultural backgrounds and different belief systems coming into the gospel. [They have] different ways of learning and different family values. But everyone who finds the Savior and accepts Him into their lives through the gospel is able to make that relationship with the Savior personal to them—no matter what their background is.”
When the All In podcast began, originally the idea was to have a variety of hosts. For the first few episodes, several LDS Living employees rotated in that role.
At Christmastime in 2018, Morgan happened to meet Christine Baird Wood, a former podcast producer. Christine had years of experience producing one of the top-ranked interview podcasts on Apple podcasts, School of Greatness, with Lewis Howes. When she learned that LDS Living had started some new podcasts, she was eager to share her experience with the team. So, she came in for a consult. One of Christine’s first recommendations for All In? Have a single host.
Christine mentioned that on an interview-style podcast where the guests and topics rotate each week, people like to establish a strong connection with the host. The host stays consistent week to week when everything else changes. So the decision was made: All In would have a singular host and Morgan was just the right fit for the role.
“We made the decision for Morgan to be the singular host of All In knowing she had the experience, the passion, and a deep belief in the message of the podcast,” Erin says.
From the beginning, LDS Living knew not every person would love the All In podcast. In some ways, that was never the goal. LDS Living offers a suite of podcasts in addition to All In like the storytelling podcast This Is the Gospel, and a Come Follow Me study group podcast called Sunday on Monday.
“One of the other things Christine talked to us about was abundance,” Morgan recalls. “If you really want the gospel to flood the earth, you should be encouraging others to have the conversation. There are people who love storytelling podcasts and people who love interview-style podcasts, and typically they like one or the other. There are people who are going to gravitate toward This Is the Gospel and toward KaRyn, her voice, and her experience. And there are people that are going to gravitate toward All In. You just fill the space you can fill.”
The Sound Engineer
Another key member of the All In team is a voice you may never hear on the episode, though listeners likely recognize his name and his tongue-twister company name—Derek Campbell of Mix At 6 Studios. The way he became part of the team really was providential.
One day, Derek did a freelance video shoot with KaRyn. He gave KaRyn his business card, and Derek thought that may be his last interaction with her.
Four years later, Derek’s situation had changed; his wife had just lost her job, making the price of their mortgage unaffordable. The couple had met with a realtor and listed their house on the market. Then one day, Derek’s wife had an impression that they should take the listing down.
Derek recalls saying, “‘Are you crazy? We can’t afford it!’ And she said, ‘I don’t know why, but we can figure this out. We will be fine.’ So I said, ‘Okay, I guess if you’re feeling it, let’s do this.’”
Two hours later, Derek’s phone rang out of the blue. On the other end was KaRyn. She had kept his card for four years—one of the only business cards she had kept in her life. She explained that LDS Living would be interested in having him meet with them and help with their podcasts.
After a great first run and working out a few kinks, Derek transitioned from his full-time job at the Church to focusing more on his own company, Mix At 6 Studios, where he not only works on LDS Living podcasts but also scores music for films, video games, and several Church videos. Thanks to the growing business, Derek still lives in his house with his wife and two boys.
“It was this whole entire whirlwind of Heavenly Father’s tinkering of help,” Derek says. “We’re very grateful and we’re not taking it lightly. If there’s advice we’d give to anybody [about] receiving blessings, it’s to make sure you thank who it came from. . . . When you accept a gift from Heavenly Father, make sure you thank Him.”
Morgan says the spirit that Derek brings with him to the interview room is palpable.
“You look at him and you can just tell he’s eating it up,” Morgan says. “After the interview, Derek and I will have a little conversation where he says, ‘I really liked this’ and ‘I thought it was really great when he said this.’ It’s just really helpful to have another person who is in the room and is just as passionate about it.”
All In consistently ranks in the top 30 religion and spirituality podcasts on the Apple Podcasts charts, even reaching the top 10 list. In some ways, its growth and popularity surprised the team. In other ways it didn’t. The LDS Living team knew their audience and who the podcast would appeal to.
“You have a very short window of time for people who discover your content to decide whether they’re actually going to invest their time in it, and I think All In ticked a bunch of boxes that people could easily identify immediately,” Colin says. He said those boxes included the theme of the podcast, the variety of what “all in” looks like, the relatable topics, and the guests.
“We were blessed to have a lot of really amazing contributors who were very generous with their time . . . without having much evidence of the podcast being a real thing yet, but they donated their time because they wanted to share their feelings and their experience about the Savior,” Colin says.
The growth came faster than what was anticipated. One of the reasons Colin believes this happened was because of the show knowing its voice from the start.
“If you go back and watch a pilot of your favorite TV shows, they’re often a little different than how you actually think of the show being, because the shows often take a little while to find their voice, to respond to audience feedback and get into a rhythm. . . . We were finding our voice, but we were working with great people and great material, and that helped us fine-tune the voice quicker than I had anticipated,” Colin says.
With nearly 150 episodes, one thing that has shocked the All In team is the diversity of the answers to the famous question, “What does it mean to you to be ‘all in’ the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
“I didn’t think it would be dependent on what the person is going through in their life or the topic that we’re talking about,” Morgan says. “It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and the cool thing about that is it opens up for people to think there’s a space for them in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s not a cookie cutter answer for what that looks like. If you’re trying and if you’re making an effort to draw closer to Christ, sometimes that is the very best thing you have to offer.”
Another key element of the question is from the beginning, the team wanted the podcast to focus on Jesus Christ. Having the question be, “What does it mean to you to be ‘all in’ the gospel of Jesus Christ?” means guests and listeners don’t necessarily have to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Guests of other faiths that have been on the podcast include Dallas Jenkins, Nish Weiseth, Kristen Chenoweth, and Lauren Daigle.
The team loves hearing from people who aren’t Latter-day Saints saying that the podcast or a certain episode resonates with them.
“It’s just been super cool to hear from people who are not members of our faith who say that they listen on a regular basis,” Morgan says. “I’m glad that they feel comfortable doing that even if they never step foot in a Latter-day Saint chapel.”
Through the course of the podcast, several listeners started to reach out suggesting the idea of creating a compilation of the All In answers. Some have even done it themselves using the transcripts that are available online. Seeing the desire of listeners led LDS Living to pitch the idea of a book to Deseret Book, but the idea for the book evolved with time.
At first, Morgan pulled the responses to every guest’s All In answer. But when those responses were isolated outside of the context of the podcast, they didn’t always have the same impact. Often the power of the answer was related to some other part of the episode. So the idea started to evolve and change. Now, the All In book is a way Morgan takes readers through her journey of how the podcast has affected her perception of what it means to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I tried to write the book like I was writing to a friend, and hopefully that can deepen that experience and further solidify that friendship,” Morgan says. “For people who have never listened before, I hope that it helps them think about what it means to be ‘all in’ and further creates that space for everyone to feel like they’re welcomed in.”
The book is designed by Kensie Smith, the social reach and attribution manager for LDS Living and Deseret Book. Social media followers of All In, LDS Living, and Deseret Book have likely seen Kensie’s bright and colorful graphic design work before.
“Designing the book was such a neat experience—I've never done anything like it before. It was such a full-circle moment since I got to design the podcast logo 3 years ago,” Kensie says. “It was important to Morgan and to me to have a design that would be familiar to longtime fans of the podcast, but also draw in new people who happen to see it on the shelves of Deseret Book.”
During the design process, Kensie read the pages of the book countless times.
“I just can't believe how many wonderful conversations have been had since 2018,” Kensie says. “There's so much unseen work that goes into each episode and that went into this book. I can't wait for you to read it.”
When Derek thinks about what the All In book can do for readers, he says it gives them an opportunity to explore a little each day what it means to be “all in.” And it can help them realize that being “all in” looks a little different each day too.
“I think we haven’t been able to dissect a lot of these ‘all in’ questions before, and I believe this will be a really good opportunity to dissect some of them and actually read the words. . . . You see these people from all walks of life that are able to express themselves in such a deep way with only one question in mind. Having that in some sort of volume . . . it’s something you can rely on every day,” Derek says.
Colin says the book is an extension of the partnership that exists with the All In community: the guests who help create the content, the listeners who provide feedback and story ideas, and the creators who tailor the podcast based on listener feedback.
“When I heard about the book, it felt like a natural extension of that partnership,” Colin says. “It felt like, ‘Oh, here is something really special that listeners of the podcast will be able to review again and again in a different medium and actually hold in their hands,’ which is a really special thing to have. But also, they’re the ones who help make this podcast possible by listening to it in the numbers that they have and by giving such great feedback. So I feel like it’s a beautiful product of that symbiotic relationship that people can treasure.”
What does it mean to be "all in" the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days? The answers might surprise you. All In, the well-loved podcast from LDS Living, has explored this question with the help of Saints who are striving to live their faith every day—just like you. Now, in this collection of excerpts from All In guests, organized by topic, you can explore the question yourself. Perfect for gifting to friends, using as a nightly devotional, or picking it up when you need it, All In will help you define just what being "all in" means to you.