A friend of mine once told me about a conversation her son had with a church leader that centered on the question "was Joseph Smith more like Superman or Spiderman?"
It sounds like a pretty interesting conversation to have. I mean, we know that Joseph Smith was a prophet--but we don't know exactly what being a prophet means, or why God chooses the people he does to wear the prophetic mantle.
Superman or Spiderman debate brings up an interesting issue. Was Joseph
Smith a person with unusual potential in various areas, and chosen as a
prophet because of that? Or was he more like a dorky teen who is
suddenly infused with abilities beyond his natural capacity after a
There are plenty of other
possibilities, of course. Some secular thinkers who have been fascinated
by Joseph Smith seem to see him as most like Batman: an individual
whose defining experiences gave him a strong sense of mission and whose
genius enabled him to create new equipment to fulfill that mission with.
Some critics of Joseph Smith talk about him a bit like Iron Man: as a
charismatic, capable individual who had far more power and influence
than personal responsibility.
If I had to compare Joseph Smith to a superhero, though, I think I'd choose Wolverine.
There's a strength that's been placed inside of him, but because he's only human, it can cut when it rises to the surface. And his superpower is the ability to keep moving when the pain comes, and to be healed.