Latter-day Saint Life

How Superman Inspired One Bishop to Embrace His Calling


On this week's episode of  This Is the Gospel, when Kurt becomes a bishop at only 28 years old, he feels overwhelmed with the new responsibility of his calling. Kurt continues to struggle with the weight of his calling until the memory of a red superhero cape reminds him of his true desire to help others.  

Read an adapted excerpt from the story below. You can also listen to the full episode here or read a full transcript here.   

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity. 

It's Sunday, February 6th, 2011, and I've been bishop for one hour.

I'm sitting in the bishop's office, I guess it's my office, but it sure doesn't feel like that even though the plaque says that outside the door. 

My ward clerk comes into the office with a stack of papers, "Bishop Francom, I just need you to sign here, there, and one more here. Thank you." I noticed as he leaves the room, that he is going through a group of people outside the office. All these people suddenly look into the office hoping that it's their turn to now see the bishop. Because some, for some reason, they think I have the solution to all of their problems.

Do they really understand who they're dealing with? I'm a 28-year-old that was called to be bishop in an inner-city ward, not because I'm anything special but because the list of options was incredibly short. But nonetheless, the responsibility is on me to answer their questions.

It just doesn't sit well yet. I don't feel like a bishop though I am standing there in a suit. It feels like dress up. And believe me, I know a thing or two about dress up. As a five-year-old, I'm sitting there in front of the TV day after day watching a man I later find out is really named Christopher Reeves flying around on the TV screen, saving people from falling buildings, landing a helicopter that's on fire, and it was remarkable.

This being, this Superman, was something to aspire to. I mean, the suit, the cape, I mean the strength that he exemplified. I thought, "I've got to be that. I've got to be a superhero." My mother gave me a remarkable home-sewn Superman cape, and every day I represented being that superhero and represented becoming that dream by wearing that Superman cape.

But now as Bishop Francom, that memory, that feeling of being a superhero, seems so distant.

I've survived one full year as a bishop somehow because now I'm standing in the clerk's office with the ward clerk. He's busy at the computer printing off checks, one after the other, after the other. This has been such a heavy welfare month. I mean, so many requests from so many people. Some I know, some I don't, and everybody turns to me as the bishop to make the decision [of] "Will I pay the rent? Will I pay the water bill? Will I pay the utilities?" as these envelopes are being put in the stack in my hand all stuffed with these checks going to landlords, going to banks, going to utility companies.

They remind me of another envelope I receive quite often, from Alice. Every Sunday she shows up to church, big smile with her bright red lipstick. She's 92 years old and couldn't be a happier person. She hands me the envelope every week, trusting me that I will use these fast offering funds for the family most in need.

But I don't know, as I stand there holding the stack of envelopes, it just gets heavier and heavier. I mean, these are sacred funds. These are Alice's funds that she has sacrificed. And now it's up to me to figure out how to use these funds? Maybe there's more I could do. Maybe I should think this through before I really place these in the mailbox.

Because what if I'm making a mistake? Maybe I've spent too much money. Should I sign the next check? I mean, I don't know. What if I have disgraced these funds that have been given to me to use through the authority I've been given. Again, the pile of these checks gets higher and higher and higher. And I don't know if I'm being a good bishop.

The weight of this responsibility presses down on my shoulders, and I don't know if I want to do it anymore. I'm so frustrated with it all of the pressure of making the right decision that I'm tired.

And in the moment where I'm frustrated, I begin to utter the words under my breath, "I hate this." I couldn't complete that sentence before the Spirit rebuked me in my mind with one simple phrase.

"I thought you wanted to be a superhero."

It was in that moment that I realize that capes don't exist or make men fly, but authority exists. Opportunities of service exist. There were so many families in dire need of help. In a sense, I was wearing the cape that could answer their prayers with one quick, "Yes, cut the check." Suddenly, that stack of envelopes didn't seem so heavy.

Four more years followed of me being bishop, and throughout those years, there were so many decisions that weighed on my mind, so many circumstances, so many situations that were impossible before me, that took me to my knees to make the right decision and to give the right guidance and advice.

And I didn't always give the best advice, and I made a lot of mistakes, but I always went back to those words, "I thought you wanted to be a superhero." Because then I was reminded that I was doing a good work and that I was helping people, even with all my weaknesses.

The authority in which I was acting under as a bishop, the authority of Jesus Christ, the priesthood of God, the keys that have been restored to earth that make it all possible to reach out and use His authority as the greatest superhero of all time, where redemption is found, where infinite grace is in abundance. He is the superhero. We can turn to Him in the moments when we have to stand in His place and act like the superhero, and He will strengthen us because He is our Savior.

Lead image from Shutterstock 
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