HORSHAM, England — In the past five years, Lois Marie Herbert's life has changed drastically. She has confronted her self-doubt, gotten married, had two children and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While Lois has accomplished much on her own, she attributes many of the changes in her life to a Mormon family from Idaho and the videos they post daily to YouTube.
On a snowy day in Horsham, England, in 2009, Lois clicked on a YouTube video posted by Shay and Colette Butler, who along with their five children are known as the "Shaytards." The unusual moniker is a combination of the father's first name, Shay, and a reference to the unitards he wore in a few of his early videos. The Butlers created their YouTube channel in 2008 and now have nearly 3 million subscribers and more than 1.3 billion video views.
"I just stumbled across one of their videos," Lois told the Deseret News in an email. "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."
Lois, who was 20 at the time, felt unsure about her identity and who she wanted to become.
"I guess I was just lost," she said, explaining that the videos the Butlers posted began to shape her life. "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."
Though Lois didn't know its source, the joy that the Butlers exuded was contagious.
"Back then, I didn’t really pick up on their religion, or I didn’t take much notice," Lois said. "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.'"
Lois had long struggled with self-confidence and feeling like she belonged, but as she watched the Butler family's videos, she learned to love herself.
"Over the years, I feel I have learned more from Shay than I have anyone else," Lois said. "He just has a way of explaining stuff that makes complete sense to me."
A few years passed, and Lois found herself falling in love and eventually marrying her best friend, Lewis. Within the first three years of their marriage, the couple had two daughters. During this time, Lois continued watching the Butlers' videos.
"I strongly believe/know if it wasn’t for watching Shay and Colette, I wouldn’t now be married to Lewis with two beautiful girls," she said. "I learned a lot about love through Shay and Colette. I loved how they were with each other. ... Because of the Shaytards, I have become the mother I am today."
Lois often suggested to her husband that they should visit a local LDS congregation to see if it really was like what they saw in the Butlers' YouTube videos. Lois was raised in a religious home and had studied religious education.
"I wanted to see what it was like," she said. "I Googled a few times to see if there was one close but never followed through."
Shortly after the Herberts' youngest daughter, Tilly, was born in the summer of 2014, Lois and her husband went into town for an appointment and found themselves with 10 minutes to spare. Lois' mother was watching Tilly, so Lewis suggested that they take a walk with their oldest daughter, Emilia.
"I didn’t really want to, but something made me agree," Lois said. "The missionaries were walking the other way. ... They said to each other, 'They are a family. We should go talk to them.'
As the elders approached Lois and her family, she prepared to turn away.
"I was just about to say, 'Sorry, we are busy,' but then I noticed their badges (said) ‘Latter-day Saints,’ " she said. "I shouted out, 'You’re Mormons!' They were caught a little off guard."
Lois remembered hearing about missionaries in several of the Butlers' videos, specifically a video in which Shay Butler's younger brother was preparing to leave on an LDS mission.
"I never had seen them in England, especially in my hometown," Lois said. "I told them everything I knew, and I was shocked how much I actually knew. I must have picked it all up over the years from the vlogs without actually knowing it."
The two LDS missionaries were also surprised by Lois' knowledge of the church. Lois explained that she knew about temples, firesides, family home evenings, prayer, stake conferences and general conferences. She also knew a little about the apostles, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the Word of Wisdom and even the "trunk-or-treat" activities some wards host on Halloween.
She was interested in learning more and arranged to have the missionaries come to her home. Although her husband, Lewis, wasn't excited about having the missionaries around, he saw the happiness that their visits brought to Lois and agreed to let the missionaries continue to teach her in their home.
"The first couple of weeks, he was angry with himself, as all his life he had believed in science and evolution," Lois said. "He could feel his views changing."
The Herberts 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. One particular member had great influence on Lewis.
"The first family we visited was the Coughlans," Lois said. "Ben (Coughlan) had only become a member of the church at 18 or 19. This helped Lewis to hear from someone who had experience both outside and within the church. He could see what it had done for their family."
As Lois prepared for baptism, she was surprised and excited to find that Lewis also felt ready to be baptized. They agreed that it was the right decision for their family.
"I feel like I wasn’t ready before now to have accepted the gospel into our lives," Lois said. "We haven’t had much to change. All the beliefs they have are what we have always believed and done. Now it all makes sense why. ... I cannot wait to see my daughters grow within the gospel."
Lois and Lewis were baptized Dec. 13, 2014. Although she was excited, Lois had never been more nervous. But after she was baptized, that feeling disappeared.
"I just felt at ease and amazing," she said.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lois has discovered a newfound sense of happiness.
"Since accepting Jesus and the gospel into our lives, we have felt really happy and at peace," she said. "We know even more now that everything happens for a reason. Just by reading the scriptures, I get a warm feeling in my heart.
Lois also appreciates how the church affects her family and is grateful for those who helped her find it.
"(Jesus Christ) helps us teach our children real morals, which are hard in the world we live in these days," Lois said. "... He also had to go through hard times and trials. He died for us so we could be happy. I’ve always believed in being with our loved ones forever after death. I now know what we need to do in Jesus’ eyes to be worthy for eternal life. Without baptism, we wouldn’t of been following the commandments of God. ... I am so thankful for Shay and his whole family and the missionaries, Elder Goodson and Elder Wolfgramm."
Lois continues to watch the Butlers' videos as she embraces life as a member of the LDS Church.
"I hope to teach my girls and future children everything Shay has taught me from him living the gospel: to never be afraid of being yourself; to help others; to be selfless; have respect for your parents, teachers, friends, loved ones, etc.; to love unconditionally everyone for whatever those people’s views, opinions, circumstances are," she said. "I hope from Jesus’ example I can pass down that example to them, and they will continue to live by that example in all aspects of their lives."
Update: Shay Butler's response to Lois Herbert's story.
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