Labeled “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, the Avengers are surely some of the most popular superheroes ever created. Charged with the responsibility of ‘saving humanity’, their powers and expertise are employed to fight powerful villains and ultimately win against the powers of darkness.

Does that sound like their are any connections to missionary work? I’d never thought about it until I met one missionary in a class I thought at the MTC and I’d entirely forgotten about it until I saw the recent Avengers movie.

There in the cinema, cogs started turning and, what at first seemed like a ridiculous idea, became more plausible as I worked through how missionaries are in fact are very much superheroes. This is my story of where it started and how I figured it out:

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“Brother Swain, that sounds like a super power. I mean, we’re not X-Men, we’re just missionaries”.

I guess that response was fair enough. This missionary had only arrived at the MTC a few days ago and everything was still fairly overwhelming. I’d just explained our class goal, which I made with every new group I taught at the MTC.

Now I can’t take credit for this idea. I was just as skeptical when my Mission President announced

that it was our ‘Mission Goal’, all those years ago. It was to be able to teach “Anyone, anything, anywhere”.

At the time, I’d only been speaking French for a couple of months. I could barely teach someone, something in an optimal teaching environment with basic coherency.

As a new missionary, the ability to teach anything to anyone did feel like an unobtainable super power. When I started my mission, I had no vision of how things could change… or what I could achieve.

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So, what are super powers?

‘Super powers’, defined by most dictionaries, include the phrase “superhuman ability”. I think the word originates from the early superman comics, which referred to them as “super human powers”.

Whilst researching in dictionaries I kept finding another phrase, “A near Godlike ability”. So, does that mean the concept of super powers originate from God’s power?

I guess that God doesn’t have super powers; in fact, superhero powers are based on God’s power. Here are a few, non-chronological examples of God’s power to answer that;

Creation, Flood, Plague of locusts, The red sea divided, protection from hungry lions, huge amounts of fish, water to wine, sea storm stilled on command and the resurrection, to name just a few.

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But just because God has superhuman powers, sparking the inspiration behind super powered fictional heroes, how does that relate to missionaries?

D&C 42:6 – “And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name”.

He continues to elaborate:

D&C 42:14 “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach”.

So, missionaries have the power of His spirit when they have faith. Not just His spirit, but the power of it, and with this power they can teach.

Therefore missionaries need the spirit to teach. But teaching doesn’t feel like a superpower. So, what exactly is ‘the power of His spirit’, and what can it do?

The prophet Moroni in the Book of Mormon explains this to us:

Moroni 10:7 “And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost [The Spirit]; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever”.

Moroni then continues to explain how the power of the spirit is manifested, he calls these manifestations ‘the gifts of the spirit’. Found in Moroni 10:9-16 (condensed)

“The gift to teach the word of wisdom – word of knowledge – exceedingly great faith – healing – working mighty miracles – prophesy – beholding angels and ministering spirits – tongues – the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues”

17 “And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.

Some of those feel much more like superhuman powers, even superhero powers. But I haven’t fully explained how missionaries can qualify for them. Moroni does that when he then says;

20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity”.

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So, in conclusion is does appear that in fact missionaries can be super heroes. Possessing the ability to ‘work mighty miracles’, ‘teach with wisdom and knowledge’ and ‘speak with the gift of tongues’ qualifies them for, a super-something or other.

If they have faith, hope and charity, they are armed with God’s power.

D&C 138:30 “and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel”

And God’s power, it seems, is the quintessence of the superhuman, the origin of superheroes and a faith accessible blessing available to any missionary.

Imagine the Marvel-ous impact missionaries could make if they figured this out.   

Cover image drawn by Ambroise Catherine – www.facebook.com/ambroiseldsimages

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