A couple of months ago my youngest son Conner came to me and asked, “Dad, what is your favorite superpower?” Of course, he was referring to the superpowers exhibited in many of the movies and TV shows of today, so I turned the question around and asked him what his favorite superpower was? He mulled it over in his head several times and talked about the advantages the disadvantages of each one trying to find the perfect one. It was difficult for him to make a decision. There are so many exhibited today that they can all seem incredibly profound and in many ways they are like the stories of the Greek gods of old.
For example, there is the power to exhibit control over metal such as Magneto does in the X-Men movies (which movies are full of people who are considered “mutants” because of their special gifts). There is the power over water that Perseus holds in “The Lightning Thief” movies (which are just re-telling of the ancient mythologies). Of course, there’s Superman who has incredible strength and x-ray vision and whose only weakness is kryptonite. There is Spiderman with his ability to climb walls, sling webs and inflict justice. There are a whole host of these powers shown and almost all the movies today, or at least the big blockbuster ones, have to do with someone who has some amazing ability.
I then told my son that in reality, almost all of the good superpowers shown in the movies are actually exhibited in the Scriptures by the servants of God who exercise their faith. He was surprised to hear that and so we went down a mental list looking at each one and helping him realize things far more amazing than those in the movies, are already in the scriptures and they have more meaning to us, because they were real and not myths.
As mentioned, Superman exhibited superhuman powers to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and go faster than a speeding bullet. The great Samson in the Old Testament also exhibited great strength as long as he kept his covenants with God. Once he broke those covenants, he had no power anymore. When he finally got his power back, he really knew how to bring the house down. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
There are many instances in the movies where those with great power commanded great armies to fight against opposing forces. There are those who cause can earthquakes, like The Hulk striking his fists onto the ground. Enoch (barely mentioned in the Bible-Moses 7:13) used the power of God to cause the earth to shake, the rivers to change their course and to fight the opposing armies with the power of the earth (how do you fight that?). The brother of Jared (Ether 12:30) used his faith to move the entire mountain named Zerin (I haven’t seen anyone do that in the movies, have you?)
Who could forget the superpower of the evil Emperor Palpatine as he stretches forth his hands and shocks young Luke Skywalker? It is an iconic scene and one that has been imitated many times over the years. The same power was exhibited in real life when God commanded Nephi to stretches forth his hand to shock his brothers in 590 BC (1 Nephi 17:53). After this experience they bowed down to him, but he refuses to accept their adoration and told them to worship the true God.
We mentioned Magneto above and his power to command anything that is metal to do what he wishes. In 6 BC, Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon preached the gospel from high atop the walls of the city, which made the people angry. They cast their stones, arrows and slings at him but could not hit him because of the power of God that deflected them all away (Helaman 16:2-3).
Several movies show people being transported from different locations through amazing technological devices or superpowers. Yet Nephi (son of Nephi who lived around 20 BC, well over 500 years after the one mentioned above) in the Book of Mormon, “was taken by the Spirit and conveyed away out of the midst of them” from place to place in order that he might teach them the gospel just before the appearance of Christ in the Americas soon after his resurrection (Helaman 10:16). In this manner he was able to visit multiple locations in a very short time frame to spread the gospel and attempting to get them to repent before the great destruction that came upon them. Phillip in the New Testament also had a similar experience (Acts 8:39–40).
The power to be able to heal themselves or others is a common superpower exhibited in the movies. Yet great healings took place in many places in the Scriptures. Everything from leprosy, injuries and even death were overcome through the power of the Spirit (Hebrews 11:35). Many try to show the ability to read minds, yet the scriptures tell us that, “thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart” (D&C 6:16) and sometimes He will reveal to authorized servants those same thoughts if the need arise.
Just is Perseus, the son of Poseidon, exhibits power over water and others show control over Fire (and many of the Avatar cartoons show similar things) yet how does that compare with Moses turning the Nile into blood, making water come from a stone or dividing the Red Sea and having them march through on dry ground (Ex 14:15-16)? Or how about Elijah on Mount Carmel and his confrontation with the priests of Baal? (Elijah 18). God exhibited his power as fire that came down and burned up the sacrifices, the water and even the stones much to the amazement of those who were idol worshipers, whose idol did nothing. We also learned of others who did some amazing things through the power of God (Hebrews 11:34;) like Melchizedek who, “was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire” (JST, Genesis 14:25–40). (Maybe he can come and stop my neighbor’s dog from barking every day? But I digress.)
In several movies there are examples of people who are hundreds of years old and seem to live forever through some magic formula or superpower. Remember when the 800 year old Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who said, “He chose…poorly”? Yet there are at least four individuals that we know of who are still alive today and have been alive since the time of Christ almost 2000 years ago. They were blessed to never taste of pain or death; that Satan would not be able to tempt them and no matter what the people did to them (including being buried alive) they could not hurt them. The first one is John the Beloved (or Revelator) who requested this gift from his Savior (John 21:21–23). The others are the Three Nephites who were given this gift during Christ’s visit to the Americas (3 Ne. 28:7). They are all currently working behind-the-scenes to bring a pass the winding up events before Christ’s second coming and we do not recognize them among us.
We could go on and on with more examples and show that in reality, all of the good superpowers shown in the movies today, already exist in some form or another by the true servants of God who exercise their faith in him.
The imagination that the writers of these movies and stories come up with, show some pretty crazy things, yet they rarely equal the actual powers of God shown in the scriptures. Here are just some examples:
- The superpower ability to create the earth in all of its intricacy and with such a fantastic patterns of design is astonishing.
- The amount of energy required to bring the earth into existence is something only God could do (it did NOT happen by accident, but by design).
- The ability to bring to pass the resurrection making it possible for us to live again in our physical bodies and never to die again because of the blessed atonement, is something that only one being in all creation, even Jesus Christ, could accomplish.
- The perseverance of Noah who spent 400 years to create an ark and save the Lord’s creatures from the flood that wiped out wicked man. (And no rock-monsters helped him! See the old John Huston movie “The Bible” for a much better rendition of Noah’s experience).
- The changing of all the languages at the Tower of Babel in order to make people spread out upon the earth or the ability to speak to different groups of people who can hear you in their language at the same time (Acts 2:6).
- The prophetic abilities of Isaiah and all the prophets who saw the future and who bore powerful testimony of the birth of the Savior, his teachings, miracles and atonement, and the events of His second coming which we are living through right now.
- The ability of the Prophet Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon from an unknown language in just 63 days (remember he only had a third-grade education).
- The endurance of the early Mormon pioneers who crossed the plains seeking refuge from the persecution that they received whereby finally arriving in the great Salt Lake Valley.
- There are many more…
So what is the value of studying these superpowers? Do they have any relevance for us? Are there times that we can use or need superpowers ourselves?
Yes, I believe there is and suggest that there are at least a couple of superpowers that we need today as normal everyday people. We are promised that everyone living today has the opportunity to receive spiritual help from God whenever they need it. These spiritual gifts are unlimited in possibility, but limited in execution because of our lack of faith. Here are a few that I can think of.
The superpower of being a father or mother in today’s society is one that is greatly needed. To be able to raise a family in difficult circumstances and in an environment that makes parenthood look demeaning or insignificant is nothing short of heroic. To have the pull of the world trying to take us away from our responsibilities and at the same time keep our children free from the terrible consequences of making wrong decisions takes superhuman strength.
The superpower of standing up for what is right and having the courage to do the right thing. “Moral Relativism” has taken over our society whereby people claim to be the ones who decide what is right and wrong, stating they are the ultimate authority. “Secular Humanists” and “Atheists” are doing all they can to eliminate God from our lives, but it will prove detrimental in the end. They will be greatly surprised in the future when, “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (including their own) that Jesus is the Christ.” Also, many in our day do not want to get involved and instead have the audacity to film some terrible event they see happening and post it on Facebook for others to gawk at having fun at the expense of others. In reality, bullies should be put in their place and we should help those who need us if at all possible. We are all children of the same God and we are told we will be judged by how we treat the least that is among us.
The superpower of avoiding the temptations that are all around us. We live in a day far worse than the time of Sodom and Gomorrah and we are bombarded with temptations, sins and peer pressure like never before. The power of advertising with seemingly unlimited budgets and amazing graphics, promising that you, “will look so cool” to others if you just inhale this cancer causing substance that will rot your lungs. “You will be extremely handsome with girls climbing all over you” if you just drink this beer (even though you will lose control over your senses and cause you problems for the rest of your life). Many people watch the Superbowl for the clever commercials, and don’t even care about the game. There are times when it would be nice to be in the world before such an onslaught.
Those amazing little devices that we communicate with on a minute-by-minute basis (some studies show that many people look at their phones over 150 times per day!) and with which we can see the entire history of the world (if we want to), can also become one of the greatest sources of temptation and distractions in the world. The daily habit of saying our prayers and reading our scriptures is the greatest shield of protection we can put on ourselves (and our children) every single day.
The superpower of sharing the gospel and not being afraid of the rejection or ridicule that may come. It takes faith, a testimony, courage and a great desire to help our fellow man to reach out and share something with others they know or with complete strangers. Going on a mission as a young 18-19 year old man or woman is not something the world understands, yet it can be the best thing that ever happened to them and change their life for the good forever. For many, sharing the gospel and talking about religion is usually avoided because we worry about keeping them as friends. We just need to remember that if we keep our covenants we will have the power of God to assist us in his work. If we exercise our faith we are promised in the Scriptures that we could move mountains if we needed to. Miracles attend missionaries all over the world, just like the ones in the scriptures, every single day.
But there is one superpower that I think is above them all. There is one that can make the biggest difference in our lives. There is one that can bring us the greatest happiness possible. What is it?
I believe that the ability for God to forgive us of our sins and wipe away the guilt that we feel as if they never happened is the greatest superpower in heaven or on earth that can help us today. Harold B. Lee once said, “the greatest miracles I see today are not necessarily the healing of sick bodies, but … the healing of sick souls…” and thereby transforming a natural man into one that becomes a child of Christ. This comes about because of the atonement of Christ and I feel it is often overlooked as to its value and strength. Just as those in Moses’ time who were bitten by the serpents and all they had to do was look upon a Brass Serpent created by Moses (at the command of God) to be healed (Numbers 21:9), we also fail to be freed from the pain and guilt we are under because we don’t believe in Him and that he can help us, or we don’t want to change.
In reality all superpowers pale in comparison to the work performed by our Savior Jesus Christ. He is the God of the Old Testament, even Jehovah who gave us the laws. He came to earth and even fulfilled the punishments that He gave out, making it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins by meeting the demands of justice. Through his infinite and eternal atonement, mercy can take place in our lives to make it possible for us to be free from death and hell and live with him again.