People have always loved superheroes. Even before the Greek gods came along, cultures were inventing stories of daring-do, warriors who stunned and amazed onlookers with their bravery and powers.
In the early 1900s we saw comic book heroes leap, quite literally, into our collective imagination- from solving The Great Depression to winning World War II, wouldn’t it be great if a superhero could actually save the day?
Marvel Comics, DC Comics, videogame creators, and moviemakers continue to bring these champions to us today. Our appetite for people who can do the impossible seems insatiable.
So it was no surprise that one of my boys, surrounded by such cartoons and action figures when he was about seven years old, asked me if there were any real superheroes. And I paused for just an instant before saying, “Of course not…” and realized my initial reaction was wrong.
Priesthood holders in this church possess greater power than all the superheroes combined. That authority is literally the power of God, and if held by a worthy LDS man, can raise the dead, restore sight, heal the sick, and bring to pass countless other miracles. They can tap into the power that created the very universe, this earth, and all that is in it.
Obviously its righteous use would not include waving it around to entertain and amaze the way a magician might wield a wand, or using it to show signs and gain converts who join without exercising faith. But the power-when authorized by God-is beyond mortal comprehension. I remember smiling at my son and saying, “Well, actually, yes.” And what a thrill it was to tell him of real miracles, far more exciting than fictional crime fighting.
Our current Gospel Doctrine study of the Old Testament gives us a front row seat to ancient examples, as well. That standard work is loaded with the gripping stories of Goliath, Moses, Noah, Daniel, Joseph, Samson-story after jaw-dropping story of God’s power and those who used it under his direction.
If only the world at large could grasp the immensity and awe-inspiring power of the Priesthood of God. Without even realizing it, they reach for it every time they watch a movie or read a story about a bigger-than-life hero.
Here’s what superheroes and Priesthood holders all have in common: First and most obvious, is supernatural power. Anyone who has experienced a healing priesthood blessing has witnessed the power of God doing what medical science cannot explain.
Superheroes adhere to high standards. Their morals and ethics define righteousness, and set the bar higher than society’s. Just as we try to be “in the world, but not of the world,” we do not hesitate to cling to God’s unwavering laws. A friend of mine says he felt like a Knight of the Round Table when he received the priesthood at age 12. He felt committed to keeping that standard, set apart as a hero of sorts.
Superheroes use their powers to serve and help others. They don’t pursue selfish desires, create luxurious castles for themselves, or subjugate the weak. They use their abilities to fight evil and help the less fortunate, always thinking of the underdog. Likewise, the Priesthood is to be used to bless the lives of others, never for selfish indulgences (and, in fact, vanishes when an unrighteous man tries to use it for such).
Frequently heroic comic book characters are visitors from other worlds, peculiar in many ways from the world they are serving. We, too, proudly claim to be a peculiar people. We don’t try to blend into society so much as to improve it.
A superhero often has a headquarters, a place where he can retreat from the world in which he doesn’t truly belong. He has a place to renew and find strength. Our temples, our scriptures, and the words of our leaders are this haven for us from the messages of the world.
What about capes and costumes? Champions of righteousness are often depicted wearing clothes or armor that identifies them in some way. And we often speak of putting on “the whole armor of God” to tackle the forces of evil.
Sometimes the superhero seems to be a regular guy, keeping his powers a secret from the public. Our priesthood holders do not set up a Blessings Booth or shout from the mountains that they can work miracles. They live and work as regular people with regular jobs. Though they possess the incredible power of God, they look like everyday citizens.
A superhero always has an enemy, an opponent as relentless as he is. The forces of evil are always trying to trip up the superhero and keep him from helping the world. So the adversary works to thwart good LDS men and rob them of their powers. There is never a shortage of enemies.
But superheroes never give up. Can we say they endure to the end? They inspire us to stand alone when we must, for righteous causes. They make us want to live with integrity, and summon courage to act nobly at all times.
For centuries, people have instinctively reached for ultimate goodness. They’ve told stories about conquerors to set the bar and show us the way. Heroes define the best that we know and honor. They make us better people. And we have them in the restored gospel of Christ. And, yes, they are real. And they make us better people.
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