I have always enjoyed superheroes. I mean, they are “super” and they are “heroes.” When I was in the fifth grade, my friends, Mickey, Kevin, Bill and I would go out at recess and play “Fantastic Four.” I, of course played the part of the “Invisible Woman” and in one or two recesses each day, we saved the world, got captured and rescued each other several times. That was, until I was replaced . . . by Tammy (something I am still bitter about to this day).
Back then, I thought of superheroes wearing their capes and flying, running head first into dangerous situations and always standing on the side of good. They always triumph and they never really get hurt. I mean, even if they die, they find a cosmic loophole and
come back to life. They have special powers that allow them to conquer anything the bad guys throw at them. They also have great “outfits” (I guess men wouldn’t call them outfits), and cool hideouts filled with all the latest toys. All of this plus an unlimited supply of energy and strength.
I have been blessed to know so many incredible women: women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. From those associations comes my belief that women are superheroes. No, we can’t jump buildings in a single bound or fly through the air, but when we list what we know about our popular media superheroes, there are a lot of similarities.
1. An Origin Story Every superhero epic always starts with an origin story. Our superhero inevitably goes through a growth process during which they discover their superpowers. Often, they start out in adversity: a spider bite, a fall off a building, or a village being destroyed. The discovery of who they really are and their mission to “save the world” is a process. Powers are revealed over time. Superman didn’t know he could deflect bullets until he was shot at. The Flash didn’t know he was fast until he started running. Through the voyage of discovery, driven by experience, the full power of who they are becomes clearer. Inevitably, there comes a time when they put aside their worldly desires to serve a higher or better purpose.
One of the advantages we, as women, have over traditional superheroes is that we already know we have a higher purpose and a mission to accomplish. We know we are daughters of God. James E. Faust said, “Being a daughter of God means that if you seek it, you can find your true identity. You will know who you are.” However, that knowledge doesn’t keep us from going through the same sort of discovery process to understand and utilize our own superpowers. Like all super heroes, we can continually learn new things and add to our arsenal as we use our superpowers to fulfill our “destiny” and make the world around us a safer, holier place. Just like our superhero counterparts, this process will also include discovery and improvement through adversity and experiences.
2. Courage and Belief When the world is teetering on disaster, superheroes answer the call. Batman drops whatever he is doing when the bat signal is sent. His belief that what he does matters and makes a difference fuels his courage. Belief and courage work together hand in hand: a partnership dependent on each other.
It is one thing to have the courage to save the world from a super villain, I mean Wonder Woman does have her really cool lasso and can fly and jump like no one else. But it takes real life belief and courage to save the world every day. It is in our daily life that, regardless of our circumstances that would suggest otherwise, we have to keep the belief of what we know about our origins and purpose in our thoughts and actions.
One day, I woke up with the flu. The kids were home from school and children who had been sick previously woke up that day feeling fine and were now stir crazy. I tried to just sit on the couch and make sure that they didn’t set the house on fire. I gave instructions to the older children regarding meals, I turned on the TV and hoped that would keep them quiet. That didn’t work. The toilet overflowed and had to be cleaned up, children got bored and wanted me to solve their problems. I went to the doctor to get medicine and came back to a house in chaos, so I sat on the couch and pretended I was alone in a hotel, sleeping in a bed made from clouds. I will admit that at no time during that day did I think to myself, “I am a super hero.”
Sometimes in our lives, as circumstances and challenges mount against us, our belief can begin to falter. It is easy for us to stop trusting what we have always known. As our belief wanes, so does our courage. When we forget about our divine origins and calling, we allow other things to come in to distract us from our purpose, to keep us from doing the things that only we can do and making the difference only we can make.
The key to sustaining a belief in our divine origin is to remember that our Heavenly Father gives us all of our superpowers. This is not in a one-time-only allotment; He will continue to give them freely throughout our lives to help us meet our challenges, in accordance with our faith and trust in Him. Our belief is fueled by our ability to keep our eyes fixed on the real things of God. “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36).
There are times when our imagination isn’t large enough to see the possibility of solutions that are visible to the Lord. Belief in ourselves comes from a sure knowledge of our divine origins. Courage comes from knowing that we aren’t left alone. If we put our trust in the Lord, He can help us do things that just aren’t possible on our own.
Nephi [Book of Mormon} is a great example. He and his brothers were asked to go back to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates. When they reached the city walls, they discussed what was to be done and the best way to do it. When their first two attempts failed, Laman and Lemuel felt justified going back to their father empty-handed. However, Nephi knew who he was; he had a strong belief in himself and his divine mission. God allowed him to go, without a plan of his own, and see what the Lord would have him do. The mission was only successful when the world and its solutions and failures were laid aside for the Lord’s solutions.
Throughout the story of Lehi and his family, Nephi’s belief was consistent. Regardless of the difficulties the group faced, he knew that they did not change his mission or the final outcome. They would get to the Promised Land and all of the Lord’s promises and blessings would be fulfilled. In the end, it is said that Nephi and his people lived “after the manner of happiness.”
3. Superheroes Can Be Team Players All superheroes have their own superpowers, but can also work together. The Justice League, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are a few examples. Even the Flash and the Arrow team up from time to time. As much as Batman likes to be dark and brooding, he would be nowhere without Alfred and his sidekicks, Robin and Batgirl. They understand that in the fight for justice, everyone’s unique abilities are needed and that they are a part of a team. Just like the superheroes, when women work together using their specific skills and talents, they can be unstoppable and are a force to behold.
Once I was in the church kitchen, making dinner for a church program with three other women. We were busy cooking, cutting and making all the elements that would go into this dinner. Michael had come up to the church with me to help and on our way home he said, “Wow, women are pretty amazing!” I asked him what he meant and he said that when he came into the kitchen, he could feel love. He talked about how we were all laughing and smiling and getting things done. I went on to explain to them that yes, women are amazing and together there isn’t anything we can’t do. The superpower that all women have is the ability to make the seemingly impossible become possible. When women combine instead of compare their talents and gifts, there is no stronger team.
There are times when the teamwork suffers if one of the team members is influenced by an element like Kryptonite. Superman is the only one we know of who is lethally vulnerable when he comes into contact with that particular stone, but all superheroes have a chink in their armor, so to speak. Comparison is the greatest road block to teamwork among women; it is our Kryptonite. You don’t see Batman feeling bad and like a failure because he can’t fly like Superman, or spin webs like Spider-Man. The Invisible Woman doesn’t wish she had Wonder Woman’s Lasso, nor does Wonder Woman stop doing what she does because she can’t make herself invisible. Super Heroes get it. If Batman needs to run up a building or get from one place to another, he doesn’t sit down and start complaining that he can’t grip the wall with his super sticky spider fingers, or swing from building to building from spider webs. He quickly grabs his grappling hook and gets moving.
3. Superheroes Recharge their battery
Superheroes need to recharge their batteries. Superman has his fortress of solitude. Batman has his Bat cave. Wonder Woman has occasional spa days and Netflix binges. Wait, did I say that? Sometimes the amount of superpower we can muster at any time may be tied to the amount of sleep we got the night before. We too, need to keep our batteries recharged.
As our batteries run down, so do our superpowers and before we realize it, other, easier things begin to fill in the blank spaces. The easy choices of the world’s distractions and pleasures are allowed into courage’s place. As we accept the world’s temporary happiness and ease, the ring of courage’s note gets softer and softer. In our weakened state, our superpowers get lost and all that seemed to make sense before can become lost.
Using the escape hatches the world offers does not strengthen us or help remind us who we are. Rather, it plants the seed of a new message: that what we do isn’t important. When choosing our forts of solitude, let’s choose wisely those things that will bring us strength to continue in our mission, not those things that distract us from our very purpose.
We have long since left the playground and the land of pretend. We don’t have imaginary masks and capes that once gave us the courage we need. We can’t use two simple recess periods to save the world or face down our challenges, some of which we face our whole lifetime. There are no cosmic loopholes for us and we may often find ourselves overwhelmed and unimpressed by the mundane tasks and events that take up our days. That doesn’t take away the truth that all women are superheroes. Just like superheroes, we have our own lists of superpowers, unique to us. Just like superheroes, we need to trust ourselves to be able to do what is needed (including those mundane tasks) to “save the world,” because women who believe in their divine origin and their God-given powers and have courage to face the challenges of life can save the world every day.
Illustrations by Gianlucca Martini