Of the many social media venues that are available to users worldwide for sharing their content with family, friends, or other users in general, YouTube, which is currently available in 76 different languages, is perhaps the most popular. Headquartered in San Bruno, California, YouTube is a video-sharing website that was created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, purchased by Google for 1.65 billion dollars in November 2006, and now operates as one of Google’s subsidiaries. The site allows users to upload, view, and share both user-generated, as well as corporate media videos, including videos from such corporations as CBS, the BBC, Vevo, Hulu, and other organizations which offer some of their material via YouTube as part of the YouTube partnership program. Available content on the site includes video clips, TV clips, music videos, and other content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos.
The Butler Family – YouTube Millionaires
Corporations are not the only ones who can earn monetary compensation for their contributions. There are many general users, such as the Butler family, who also earn revenue from the videos they upload to their YouTube channel.
Shay and Colette Butler, or the “Shaytards” as they are known online, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and live in Pocatello, Idaho, have five children, and earn millions of dollars per year through sharing their videos on YouTube. Because of their success in daily video vlogging, they have been dubbed one of YouTube’s first families, and were recently featured on ABC’s “Nightline.”
For the past four years the Butler family has been known to the world as the “Shaytards” on YouTube. That family name is a combination of the father’s first name, Shay, and also makes reference to the unitard that he wore in his first video in 2007. The family created their YouTube channel on 1 October 2008, and now, 7 years later, they have amassed a viewing audience of over 1.9 billion with 3,841,080 subscribers to date.
During the recent interview with “Nightline,” Shay (also known as Shay Carl) explained why he believes the family has been so successful, “The ultimate answer to the question, ‘Why do people watch your videos?’ is because inside I think people want a happy family. I think that is a longing for a lot of people. And I think that is why a lot of people watch, to get hope that they can have that.”
The Butler’s Talk about Their Mormon Faith
On 4 September 2013, the viral family posted a video that was dedicated entirely to talking about their faith and what they believe. During that video blog, which is nearly 18 minutes in length, the Butlers talked about attending the Brigham City Temple in preparation for Shay’s brother, Logan, leaving on a two-year full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ in Argentina. Shay himself served a two-year mission in the West Indies (Trinidad, Barbados, and Ghana). Shay began the video by explaining what temple worship means. He said, “It’s a place where we go to make promises to our Heavenly Father.” He then continued by explaining some of the basic beliefs of the Mormon faith:
What we believe is that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is the central figure of our church. The real full name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re called the Mormons because we believe in another book of scripture called The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. We believe that Christ came and lived on the earth, just like you’ve heard of in the Bible.
Shay also addressed the problem of discussing religion online, stating that such conversations can easily end in confrontation. He commented, “It would be great to just be able to sit down, one-on-one, and have a religious conversation in an open environment where there is no, ‘Well, I’m right and you’re wrong’ mentality and attitude. So I’m hoping we can do that in the podcast.”
The Butlers were also featured in a Mormon Message video titled “Our Fun Family Vacation” which was released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in September 2013. The video features clips of the Butler family spending time together and with extended family. In the video Shay comments
In our lives these days there are so many things that are trying to matter to us: emails and phone calls and advertisements, and all these things that kind of barrage us. But I feel like some of the strongest, happiest, moments that I’ve ever felt in my life are when I’m with my children, when I’m with my family.
Butler’s Viral YouTube Videos Play Vital Role in Conversion of British Woman
It is true that we may never know how many lives we touch through our humble efforts and example. For Shay and Colette Butler, the fruition of the missionary groundwork that they are laying through the production of their videos was realized through the conversion of two families – Lois and Lewis Herbert of England, and Mandy and Rick Vellinga of Holland.
In an email to Deseret News in January 2015, Lois Marie Herbert wrote:
I just stumbled across one of their videos. I clicked out of the video, and then something made me go back and watch. From then, I was hooked. I went back that day and watched every video they had made. I found them both hilarious. They were so happy. There was just something so different about their family.
I guess I was just lost. I saw how they were as people, and I wanted to be like that. I was unhappy in my relationship with my boyfriend at the time, and I wanted the love that they had for each other.
Back then, I didn’t really pick up on their religion, or I didn’t take much notice. They just made me happy and laugh. Before I found out more about the church, I would always watch a Shaytards vlog (video blog) in the morning and think to myself, ‘Today, I am going to be happy like they are. Nothing is going to get me down, as other people’s opinions don’t matter.
The Herberts eventually made contact with missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ, and they began teaching Lois in her home. At first, Lewis showed no interest in the lessons the missionaries were teaching, but seeing the happiness that learning about the gospel brought his wife, he agreed to allow the missionaries to continue coming. His views about religion began to change and before long the family began attending church, reading the scriptures and praying. They continued to meet with the missionaries, Elder Goodson and Elder Wolfgramm, twice a week and were introduced to members of their ward. Lois and Lewis were baptized on 13 December 2014. Lois continues to watch the Butler’s videos as she embraces life as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ.
Shay Carl’s Video Play a Vital Role in Conversion of Dutch Couple
Recalling the first time that he came across one of the Shaytards’ videos on 20 June 2010, Rick Vellinga wrote the following in an email to Deseret News, “I noticed they were so happy and friendly. It made me really happy. I wanted to show the video to my wife, Mandy. It put a smile on her face, and this was the beginning of our Shaytards life.” From then on, the Vellinga’s watched each new video the Shaytards posted and became drawn to Shay’s mantra: “Happiness is a choice.” The couple even named their daughter, born on 2 July 2013, after one of the Butler’s children, Avia.
It was during Mandy’s pregnancy with Avia that she and Rick heard Shay Butler explain his religious belief that families can be together forever. Still healing from Mandy’s earlier miscarriage, this idea intrigued the couple. The 10 March 2015 Deseret News article further explains:
That was something that made us curious, Rick said. So I was searching on the Internet for the Book of Mormon that I wanted to order. After leaving my name and address, there was a page that said, ‘The missionaries will be contacting you soon.’ I thought, ‘No! That’s not what I want,’ and my wife laughed really hard.
Two days later, in September 2013, Elder Spencer Rudolph and Elder Jonathan Knudsen, missionaries for the LDS Church, knocked on the Vellinga’s door. Mandy let the missionaries know they were interested and told them come back when her husband was home. Later that night, the missionaries returned.
We sat down and their first question was if we could pray. We said, ‘Of course,’ “Rick said.”The second question was if we believed in God and Jesus Christ. We said, ‘No, but we believe there must be something more.’ So they began to teach us more about God and Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. After a few weeks, we learned a lot, and we got a really good feeling about this.
The Vellingas began attending Church in the Spijkenisse Ward and continued learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were baptized on 4 January 2014. One month later, Mandy was pregnant with their second child, and their son, James, was born 11 October 2014. Rick has further commented, “Shay and Colette are the perfect examples of how to be a good mother and father, husband and wife, and church members. Without the Shaytards, we probably wouldn’t be LDS members.” Rick and Mandy continue to watch the Butler’s videos, and they hope to teach their children what Shay and Colette taught them.
Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group and Ward Missionary for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He also serves as a Stake Public Affairs Specialist for the Annapolis, Maryland Stake. He is a 30-year honorably retired Navy veteran.