“People are miracles.”
It’s a conviction borne inside Hannah K. Larson (BA ’20) when, as a BYU freshman, she challenged herself to talk to three new people every day. She moved beyond casual introductions to learning authentic stories. In May 2019, inspired by the Humans of New York project on social media, Larson launched @HumansOfBYU on Instagram to feature the diversity of people and experiences in the BYU community.
The posts feature portraits of students, faculty, staff members, or alumni, with captions telling the subjects’ stories in their own words. Now with nearly ten thousand followers, Larson does much of the interviewing, photography, and writing herself in what amounts to a part-time job.
In September 2019—forever ago in Instagram years—the account featured Halle R. Hofman (’23), and the post still accumulates “likes” every week. Diagnosed at birth with Pfeiffer syndrome, a rare bone disorder, Hofman has undergone 23 surgeries. “I had to learn how to cope with people staring,” Hofman shared. “But my mom always taught me to smile and wave in response.”
Larson found Hofman’s blog and felt inspired to reach out. “Hannah and I became friends instantly,” Hofman says. “I think Humans of BYU is amazing because as I’ve read through people’s life experiences, I just am left feeling inspired.”
In deciding whom to feature, Larson follows the Spirit and talks to everyone she meets. She has included stories from converts, members of the LGBTQ community, early returned missionaries, and those affected by suicide.
“The more we learn from people, the more we can love them,” Larson says.
The account has taken on a life of its own, and Larson plans to broaden it to @HumansForChrist this year, with two volunteer writers helping her capture stories from Church members across the globe.
Larson’s account is a project of faith—to her, people are “one of the biggest evidences that God exists,” and she hopes the stories and miracles captured witness that to others.
“[God’s] aware of you; He’s aware of me; He’s aware of the people who are following the page,” Larson says. “And He wants to help all of us have those experiences where we feel the Spirit because that’s when we feel the most joy.”
Brayden E. McFadden (’21)
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would come home early from my mission. . . . I came home three years ago. It was only a year ago I felt like myself again. I’m a firm believer in taking small steps. It doesn’t matter how much improvement, as long as it’s improvement.”
Halle R. Hofman (’23)
“I am 19 and have had 23 surgeries. . . . Pfeiffer syndrome has really taught me to look for the good and not to focus on the bad. It’s helped me find my purpose and blessed me a lot. I believe our challenges can strengthen us and help us become the people we need to become.”
Sai K. Maddali (’22)
“I hadn’t told my mom I wanted to be baptized. I was freaking out. . . . Hinduism isn’t really a religion you convert to or away from. . . . The way Nephi talks about his parents is how I think of my parents. They’re great parents to give me the opportunity to join the Church.”