Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE

Many of you have spent countless hours doing family history, adding branches and twigs to your family tree. Some have even made the sojourn to the lands of your ancestors, and have enjoyed the delight of meeting up with distant cousins. Often this comes with the delight of seeing that same red hair, that similar build, and other shared features.

As an adoptee, I’m keenly aware that I don’t physically resemble anyone in my family. Tall and blonde with obvious Scandinavian features, I was raised by two short, brown-haired parents whose lineages trace back to France and England. I may not be able to compare talents, freckles, or eyesight with my family, but this is still the history I research, whether that blood actually runs through my veins or not.

Thus, at 19 when I traveled to Norway and Finland, I was caught off-guard by the sudden realization that I looked as if I fit in there. First, a Finnair flight attendant refused to speak English to me, sure I was pulling her leg when I said I couldn’t speak Finnish. Then in Norway the father of an American family of tourists walked over to compliment me on my English. I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I simply said, “Thank you.”

Last summer I went back to Scandinavia with our daughter, Nicole, who served a mission in Norway and is completely fluent. Until I opened my mouth, everyone assumed we were locals. The same thing happened in Sweden and Denmark. And yes, I gasped on one occasion when I saw a man who looked like a male version of myself.  Could we be related?  Could this guy be a distant something, and could we share genes and personality traits?

I began looking for others. Was that woman with my same jawline possibly a cousin of a great grandmother?  Was that teenager with my same nose the nephew of a distant aunt?  I think we all crave family connections, and this is certainly true for an adoptee who has grown up without that physical sameness.

And then it hit me. Why do we look for our brothers and sisters in the lands of our heritage, when they’re actually all around us, wherever we are? Every one of us is a child of God and a member of the same wonderful (yes, sometimes dysfunctional) family. We should yearn for connection to everyone. We should see in others that marvelous kinship everyone craves, and treat one another with love, like actual family.

It doesn’t matter if there’s a resemblance. Goodness knows there are plenty of full brothers and sisters who don’t look one bit alike. Similarity of features is actually completely unimportant. It’s our hearts that matter, and every human being on this earth chose to come here, chose Heavenly Father’s plan. Each one possesses the light of Christ, each one has been ransomed by the Savior.

Church leaders have told us that we have in our lives many people we knew in the premortal world. I wonder if, after we pass through the veil, we’ll see our old friends and shout, “That was you?” as we recognize a clerk or a co-worker as a very dear friend from long before. And many of us have friends who have recognized an instant familiarity with someone, convinced it’s because they knew each other before birth.

It makes me pause and realize that anyone whose path crosses ours could be a treasured friend, someone we knew very well. Perhaps we should redouble our efforts to be kind to all, generous in our judgments, eager to get acquainted and possibly re-establish that beloved link with people who are quite literally our brothers and sisters.

Have you ever visited ancestral lands looking for distant relatives?As many make summertime travel plans, it’s heart-warming to consider the countries of our heritage. It reaffirms tradition and the bonds of family. But let’s also remember that every face, every soul, wherever we go or whether we stay at home, could be someone we love.  We just don’t know it, yet.

Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle.  All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website.  She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.