With just a click of a button, you can access a lot of, well, garbage on the Internet. Take a look at these 9 Mormon YouTubers who have graced the Internet for the better, and find out why their channels are so popular not only among Latter-day Saints but the world at large.
The Piano Guys: Al Van der Beek, Steven Sharp Nelson, John Schmidt, and Paul Anderson. Photo credit Josh Rossi
Though Mormons everywhere strive to “be an example of the believers,” a few Mormon YouTubers are an example to millions of people online every day. And they know that the greatest way to spread the gospel around the globe is by simply living their faith—and letting the world see it.
THE PIANO GUYS
From their music to their website, it’s clear that The Piano Guys acknowledge their talents as gifts from Heavenly Father—and they love to share them. The group consists of pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, producer and videographer Paul Anderson, and music producer Al Van der Beek.
These Mormon YouTubers rely a lot on the Lord to balance their music, business, family, and church responsibilities. Their families, though, remain a main source of ideas and inspiration. “But it’s more than their ideas that drive us,” the artists explain. “They are at our core. They are the ‘why.’ From the beginning, we’ve always wanted to create content on YouTube that we don’t have to shield their eyes or ears from—something that will make them smile, laugh, dance, and even encourage them to practice their instruments! We love them dearly. That’s why you often see us smiling in our videos. There is no greater joy than in family.”
Even when they’re away from their families, however, they find ways to smile and share the gospel; their favorite icebreaker while on the road is, “So, do you know any Mormons?”
One particularly memorable missionary experience, they recall, came from attending church in Berlin, Germany. After the meeting, a once-atheist young man approached them. He told them he had stumbled across one of their videos while browsing YouTube and had felt a peace and love in his heart unlike anything he had experienced before—something he wanted to keep.
Through their website, he found out that they were Latter-day Saints. He contacted the missionaries soon after, was baptized, and is now serving a mission himself. “We feel so blessed to be used by the Lord and to be a part of the hastening of His work,” says Anderson. “We feel a strong responsibility to keep ourselves worthy so the Lord can continue to use us as literal instruments in his hands.”
When the team has miraculous experiences like these, it makes their hard work all worth it—hard work like keeping up with worldwide tour schedules and creating stunning new videos for their ever-growing YouTube fan base. “The most rewarding thing is the fact that The Piano Guys are my brothers in the gospel.” Schmidt adds, “We are united in a desire to be what the Lord wants us to be.”
But The Piano Guys aren’t just united with one another. They have also teamed up with other Mormon YouTubers like Alex Boyé and Lindsey Stirling. And their popular YouTube channel was picked to release a recent Christmas video of the world’s largest live Nativity—a collaborative effort with other Mormon YouTube stars like Devin Supertramp, Shay Carl, and Alex Boyé.
The Piano Guys, who call themselves “brothers in the gospel,” have traveled the world to share their gifts and recently performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, an experience they describe as “intimidating, humbling, inspiring, unbelievable—unforgettable.”
And yet, throughout their success, they remain humble and grateful. “It’s an incredible feeling to dream of doing something so ‘out there,’ then working hard towards it, and relying on Heavenly Father to make up the difference,” Anderson says. “He has answered so many prayers. We owe everything to Him. We consider ourselves lucky and blessed to be along for the ride!”
See their latest video here:
This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of LDS Living Magazine. Read more by picking up your copy at any Deseret Book store or on deseretbook.com
Mormon YouTuber Lindsey Stirling has reinvented the music world with her violin rock music and eclectic style. She combined her two passions—dance and violin—into one bold performance that has garnered fans of all ages. Her popularity on YouTube soon turned into a hit CD, which led to international tours.
“I love that my job gives me the creative control to create the visions that I see in my head,” says Stirling. “Everything from music video concepts to planning my shows, from designing costumes to writing music—I love bringing my visions to life and being able to bring an uplifting art to my fans.”
But staying close to the gospel—and her standards—as an international music star has not been easy. “Modesty is so hard. There’s a lot of pressure to look ‘hip’ and ‘new.’ And most of the people in the style and design industry don’t understand my standards, so I have to be very specific. Whenever I attend special events, I have to find modest dresses or have modest costumes designed for me. It’s definitely a challenge.”
And modesty hasn’t been the only challenge this Mormon YouTuber has faced as her popularity has grown. “I’ve had to say no to several collaboration opportunities with ‘big name’ artists because their songs or their videos were too vulgar,” says Stirling. But she doesn’t regret any of those tough decisions, because she knows that they have kept her closer to the Lord when it would have been easier to stray.
“I try to keep the commandments,” she says. “I strive to go to church even when I am on the road or on tour. I’m not perfect, but I really try. I live worthy of a temple recommend, and I strive to keep the gospel as a foundation for my life.”
Mormon YouTube star Stuart Edge loves a good prank—and he loves filming it even more. But these kinds of pranks aren’t your typical internet fare of people tripping or being spooked. These pranks are all about making someone’s day a little bit better.
Generally, Edge’s “victims” are caught off guard, but they always leave with a laugh, a smile, and in some cases, a kiss.
His first viral video pranked strangers to kiss under a sprig of portable mistletoe just before Christmas 2012. That video spurred his YouTube success and now has over 27 million views. Since then he’s done other kissing pranks, including a kissing prank for breast cancer awareness, a second and third mistletoe prank, and even a Spider-Man kissing prank.
But there’s one thing that sets Edge’s channel apart: service. In addition to humorous kissing videos, Edge films his interactions with others as he seeks to live his faith by serving everyone and anyone. He secretly films himself doing magic tricks to give money to the homeless or giving $100 tips to pizza delivery men; women of all ages glow with joy as they are handed flowers for Mother’s Day, and single girls blush as they are serenaded by Edge and his friends on Valentine’s Day. He even paid a girl who hit his car to thank her for her honesty in admitting it was her fault.
As he said in one video, “The main reason I do it is to hopefully inspire others to go out and do the same thing.”
For Brett, Dave, John, and Randy Roberts, making videos together is a long-standing family tradition. In fact, while growing up, the brothers would fire up the camera on Sunday afternoons as a way to entertain themselves.
“We were trying to figure out what we could do together while keeping the Sabbath holy,” John recalls.
Their love of filming together has carried over to adulthood in the form of their wildly popular Kid History and Kid Snippets videos, which feature the voices of kids telling stories while adults act them out. After four years, their YouTube channel, Bored Shorts TV, has garnered more than 453,000 subscribers and 110 million total views.
“We’re glad there is still an audience for family-friendly content,” Dave says. “We try to make our videos funny for everyone. We have a strong LDS following, and we have many fans who are not LDS, so we have the best of both worlds.”
These Mormon YouTubers, along with their close friend Richard Sharrah, have definitely found a winning formula—to the point that they have been approached by several TV networks about creating a show. But so far, they haven’t felt good about moving in that direction. “We aren’t anxious to do it unless it’s right,” Brett says, citing instances where networks have asked to have the children swear or otherwise compromise the Bored Shorts TV standards.
With a devoted following that is spreading across the globe, these men are dedicated to continuing and expanding their offerings of clean entertainment. “Parents tell us they are grateful that their kids have things to watch without worrying about the content,” Dave says. “The reason we release a Kid Snippet video every Monday morning is so families can watch them together for family home evening,” Brett adds. “It’s meant to be a good time for people of all ages.”
And it’s a good time for these five Mormon YouTubers, too. With their love for each other, their varied talents, and the constant good-natured teasing, sometimes it’s hard to tell when play ends and work begins.
“If you asked me when I was younger what my dream job would be, I would have said going into business with my brothers,” says Randy. “They are my best friends, so being able to work with them and spend time together has been awesome.”
TRICK SHOT TITUS
Basketball trick shots require precision, timing, and a little bit of luck. And the internet is bombarded by thousands of videos of these “unbelievable” baskets.
There’s one trick shot titan, however, whose unbelievable skill stood out, making him an internet sensation by the age of 2.
Titus Ashby, better known as “Trick Shot Titus,” first struck gold on YouTube in February 2013 when his dad, Joseph Ashby, posted a compilation video of all of the impressive baskets his son had made. At the time, the LDS family had no idea of the fame that was about to hit them.
“I remember saying to my wife that it’d be funny if someday our video got to a million views,” says Ashby. “We never expected that day to be the third day the video was online and never would have believed someone if they said two years later we’d have a YouTube channel with over 38 million views.”
Since their first video, Titus and his family have produced several other compilations of more impressive trick shots. The toddler has been featured on BYUtv’s Studio C and has also met celebrities like Channing Tatum and Bradley Cooper. He has even been a guest multiple times on Jimmy Kimmel Live and other late-night talk shows.
Titus’s trick shot videos feature his family as his greatest cheerleaders, and you can hear their cheers of joy and surprise erupt when he makes a particularly difficult shot. “Lots of young people comment on how they want to have a family after seeing our videos,” Ashby says. “I think that might be most meaningful to us.”
CUTE GIRLS HAIRSTYLES
With six kids, Mindy and Shaun McKnight have a lot to handle at home—and that’s before you add in two YouTube channels, a website, and interviews with national television and newspapers. The couple hit YouTube stardom five years ago when Mindy began posting videos of different hairstyles she would do with her girls’ long locks. Pretty soon, both her family and her viewers were hooked on Cute Girls Hairstyles.
Mindy has been interviewed by Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper and has also appeared on 20/20 and the Today show. From collaborating with Disney to coordinating hairstyles for blockbusters like The Hunger Games, Cute Girls Hairstyles has taken the hair world by storm. The McKnights have over 3 million followers on their YouTube channel, and their twin daughters have a very popular teen YouTube channel of their own.
But through it all, they’ve kept their family focused on living the gospel.
“I think the key to keeping life focused on the gospel is doing the little things such as regular church attendance, participating in youth activities, seminary attendance, and even just talking about the gospel daily,” Mindy McKnight says.
The family knows that they are quite often the first encounter their viewers might have with Mormons, so they make sure their viewers see the Light of Christ in their family life. “The gospel manifests itself in every aspect of our business—from the way we talk to the family-friendly content we produce,” she says.
And when it comes to partnering with big brands, how do they keep their LDS standards intact? “We often stand up for our beliefs by not accepting alcohol, coffee, or immodest clothing. We do not accept business opportunities that would place us in a position that would compromise our standards,” she says. “We are just so grateful for the blessings we have been given and the opportunities that we have had. We know that we are here because we have been blessed by God.”
Even if you don’t recognize the name, there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of his videos. Latter-day Saint Devin Graham, known better as Devin Supertramp, is dedicated to making amazing, adventurous videos and sharing them for the world to see. His videos have netted him sponsors such as Ford, Mountain Dew, and many other well-known brands because of his knack for “getting the shots that no one else will.”
While Graham has produced solo videos with content ranging from extreme parkour and skyscrapers to cute puppies and stunning scenery, his vision and work have also helped launch the careers of other YouTube stars like The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling.
One of Graham’s latest collaborations involved many of these now-popular YouTubers as they participated in a Christmas video of a world-record-breaking live Nativity. In the behind-the-scenes footage from the project, Graham said about his fellow YouTubers, “I feel everything that we do with our videos—we always try and ask ourselves, ‘Does this stand for what we believe in?’” He then went on to share, “That’s what I want team Supertramp to be known for.”
Graham’s influence as a filmmaker is not limited to the Mormon world, and he enjoys sharing his faith. His Mormon.org profile best describes how he lives his faith through his work: “My standards were set high as a youth, and I take pride in sharing the gospel and living the standards daily and will not deviate regardless of the pressure by others to put out a video. It is a way of life for me, and the videos I put out are an expression of my beliefs and myself all at the same time.”
Becoming a YouTube sensationwas never Alex Boyé’s intent when he got into music. After converting to the Church as a teen, he served a mission. It was there that his mission president encouraged him to pursue a career in music. He found himself in a very popular boy band with a record deal. But as it turned out, the traveling heartthrob lifestyle wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as it seemed. So he left it all behind and moved to Salt Lake City where he met his wife and got involved in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
“One of the things I loved best was going on tour!” Boyé says of his time with the choir. At one particular concert for general authorities, he sang a solo with the choir. “I will never forget stepping out to sing and at the end of the song getting a standing ovation from President Monson. That moment for me was sweeter than a Grammy.”
After his time with the Tabernacle Choir, he began making music video covers of popular songs and giving them an African twist—a call back to his ancestry. Thanks to those videos he soon became a household name among Mormons. His YouTube channel has more than 40 videos, and he has over 375,000 subscribers.
But his popularity is growing outside the Mormon community as well.
Recently he released a remake of a popular song called “Uptown Funk,” replacing Bruno Mars’s entourage with some very “funky” senior citizens. The parody already has more than 6 million views and more than a few rave reviews. The Huffington Post loved the video, saying, “We’ve never seen a parody quite so perfect before.”
Boyé has also done duets with LDS artists such as Jenny Oaks Baker and The Piano Guys. Boyé says that he truly looks up to Jon Schmidt: “I have never met a musician filled with so much love, kindness, and total humility. If I had a fraction of those qualities as a man, I would be dangerous.”
Featured in Forbes as one of the “most successful video entrepreneurs on YouTube,” Latter-day Saint Shay Carl Butler (known online as Shay Carl) became a Mormon YouTuber in 2008. His first check from YouTube for ad revenue was only $367—but it inspired him to quit his day job and go at it full time. Within a year, his viewers had tripled as Butler uploaded a video of his family every single day.
Today, Butler owns five YouTube channels with a combined 6.8 million international subscribers. And he uses that influence not only to entertain but also to inspire.
Throughout the various videos on his main YouTube channel, Butler records his family’s daily life, and that definitely includes Sundays. They talk openly about various aspects of being LDS such as scriptures, baby blessings, general conference, missionaries, and more. While most of these discussions are only in passing, they have often left many viewers wondering why their family is so happy.
In a video Butler released detailing more about his family’s beliefs, Butler answered a question he is often asked: “Why are you so happy?” He shared how following the gospel of Jesus Christ grants him and his family true happiness. That faith-promoting video has over 500,000 views alone.
Four of the half million people who saw that video were Lois and Lewis Herbert of England and Mandy and Rick Vellinga of Holland. The Butlers were unknowingly laying groundwork for missionaries, as both of those young couples were converted to the gospel after being inspired by the Butlers to search for a happier life.
Rick Vellinga explains how the Butlers changed his life: “In one video, Shay Carl said that we could be together forever! That hit me hard,” he says. “They have had a big influence on us. Not only on us but also on millions of other people. Without the Shaytards, we probably wouldn’t be LDS members.”
It just goes to show that you never know whose life you’ll touch with your example—or with a YouTube video.
All these Mormon YouTubers are doing their part not only to spread their talents and joys but the gospel of Jesus Christ as well.
This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of LDS Living Magazine. Read more by picking up your copy at any Deseret Book store or on deseretbook.com