February 15, 2010, Washington, D.C.
Raised as a Catholic in Rhode Island, Stephanie Soper experienced a powerful communication with God that led her to join the Church twenty years ago. Since then, she has developed her gifts of communicating with God and has used these gifts to provide intuitive readings and emotional healing work for others in the Church.
How did your relationship with God begin?
I’m not really sure that I had a relationship with God growing up as a Catholic. I believed in Him, but he was this faraway, mysterious person who had no connection to me at all. In Catholicism, I was accustomed to the very rote prayers, and I didn’t realize we could actually talk to God until—in my late twenties—I overhead a boyfriend praying to God as if he were having a conversation.
About a year later, I was having a crisis; all of the elements of my life seemed okay, but there was a profound emptiness in me and I had no idea how to fill it. One night, I was getting ready to go to a work party, and I began talking to God as I had seen my former boyfriend do. I poured out my feelings. I didn’t realize it then, but I went about it much the same way that Mormons are taught to do: I thanked Him for my blessings and asked Him for what I needed. As I drove to the party, I continued the prayer in my mind. When I was arriving at the location of the party, I knew I needed to wrap up the prayer, but I only had the habits of Catholic prayer, and didn’t know the appropriate words to end a non-standard prayer. I simply said, “Thy will be done.” When I said those words, I realized that I really meant them. It was so clear to me that my own decisions about my life weren’t making me happy, and I was really willing to do whatever God told me to do. In that moment of realization, I thought, “If I am going to do God’s will, I need to know what it is.” And so I asked, “What should I do?” I heard a very clear voice say in my mind, “Join the Mormon Church.”
At this point, how much did you know about the Mormon Church?
Well, there were several events that proceeded this moment. First of all, I was a nanny in Italy in my early twenties, and I lived near another American girl who had recently joined the Mormon Church. I learned a little bit about the Church through her example. She gave me a Book of Mormon that I never read, and I remember meeting Mormon missionaries for the first time on the rooftop of the Duomo in Milan. Then, about a year later, I lived in Vienna with a woman who had a Mormon boyfriend and eventually converted. She didn’t make an overt effort to teach me the gospel, but she was another person who familiarized me with the LDS Church.
Also, in the month before this communication with God happened, I suddenly couldn’t tolerate coffee or alcohol. After living in Italy and Austria, both of those things were a part of my life. But, for some reason, I became uncomfortable with the jitters of coffee, and I loathed the lack of self-control that came with drinking alcohol. Therefore, a couple of the things that would have been big impediments to my converting to the Mormon Church were already taken care of. At the time, I didn’t know why this was happening, but afterwards, I realized that I was being prepared.
So, what happened next after that moment of feeling like you needed to join the Mormon Church?
It sounds silly, but in that moment, I was converted in my mind. I went into the party, and they were serving wine, beer, Diet Coke, and water. I knew that Mormons didn’t drink wine and beer, so I avoided those. I understood that I wasn’t technically a Mormon, because I needed to be baptized—I knew that much—but I also knew that if I drank, I would be cheating. I didn’t know the Mormon rules about Coke, so I just drank water.
The next morning, a Monday, I called my friend who I had known in Austria. She told me the name of the Church so I could look it up in the phonebook; until then, I had no idea it was called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” I called the bishop, who gave me directions to the church building, and I went to church the following Sunday. I can still remember what I wore that day and where I parked my car in the parking lot. I remember climbing out of my car and saying to myself “Now I’m starting a new life.” I knew that stepping out of the car and going into the chapel was really huge. I went in the front door of the church, and saw the missionaries. I said, “I’m Stephanie Soper and I’d like to take the discussions so I can get baptized, please.”
I had lived through a pretty riotous decade in my twenties; I had rebelled against the good girl I was in my teens. I wasn’t very proud of myself for much of that, and so it was a relief to be joining the Church. In one of the early Sunday school classes for new converts, I was struck by the fact that I was with a bunch of normal adults who liked to talk about God. It was wonderful.
The gospel addressed the questions I had been thinking about for a long time, like, “Why don’t we have prophets?” If there was ever a time that we needed them, it was now! I had also grappled with the question, “How can it be, if God loves us all, that baptism is necessary (which I did believe), and yet, by accident of where and when you were born, you might not get to be baptized?” It seemed so arbitrary; it just didn’t seem right that God could be that way. When I learned about baptisms for the dead, it made complete sense.
How did your communication with God develop after that initial experience?
It was my first experience talking to God and I received an answer. The right answer. This experience made me think for a while that I had it all figured out: you pray, and you immediately get an answer. That isn’t really how it always works out; sometimes, you need to figure out things for yourself.
But that was the beginning of understanding that we really can receive answers to prayers. I hear so often from the pulpit messages like, “The Spirit rarely speaks to you in words; it’s a burning in the bosom.” I worry sometimes when I hear that, because we receive answers in different ways, and I think the fact that say this is heard so often makes some people distrust that they’ve heard what they’ve heard. Many of my clients have learned to doubt the answers they get in prayer, or even stop seeking them. And then, of course, they get mad at God for deserting them. Also, I sometimes hear people say, “You shouldn’t ask God about X, Y and Z.” But I don’t think that’s right either. I think we put so many limits on how we hear answers, which makes people distrust their own instincts. They’re told again and again that “it just doesn’t work that way” and that they “ought not to ask God about certain things.” But God is our Father, and over the years, a powerful sense has developed within me that this Fatherly relationship is profoundly literal: my Heavenly Father really wants to talk with me, and He wants to talk with me and not just have me talk to Him.
You seem to have a gift for communicating with God. How do you recommend that others develop their own abilities to communicate with God?
There are three things that come to mind. First, I think it helps to sit down to pray, instead of kneeling, because there is only so long you can kneel comfortably. When you have a conversation with your spouse or friend, you don’t kneel! I know that kneeling is partly a gesture of humility and reverence, but I’m more likely to have a productive conversation with Heavenly Father if I can sustain it for a while, and so I sit.
Also, I have made an effort in recent years to call into my mind and heart a sense of being with God when I talk to Him. Although I can’t see Him, His presence is powerful. This makes me feel like it’s a conversation and not just me leaving a voicemail; it reminds me that I’m talking to someone real. It dramatically changes the emotional content of my prayers; it makes me much more humble and honest.
Finally, I can’t think of any circumstance in my life where it wouldn’t be helpful to get Heavenly Father’s support and guidance. I just don’t set limits on what it’s okay to ask Him about. For example, I once prayed about making a cake. A friend really wanted me to bake a birthday cake for her fiftieth birthday. She asked me to do it three months in advance, and wanted me to make the kind of pound cake that her father had always made for her. This cake was laden with a lot of meaning for her.
We arranged the day and time for her to pick up the cake in time for her party. On that day, I had a lot going on and only had a limited window of time in which to bake the cake. Before I began, I said a prayer that it would be baked with love and that my friend would feel that love. As I was combining the ingredients, I accidentally added fifty percent more evaporated milk than I was supposed to add. I knew that I had ruined the cake, and I didn’t have time to buy more ingredients and start over before my friend arrived. I prayed again, saying, “You know how much my friend wants this cake, and you know how much I love this friend. I don’t often ask for miracles, but I need a miracle. I need you to tell me how to bake this cake so that it turns out fine.” I was given very specific directions of how to bake that cake: how long and at what temperature in 20-minute increments of varying temperatures. And it was perfect; it was the best cake I ever made.
At what point in your process of developing your own ability to communicate with God did you realize you could use your gift to help other people through intuitive readings and emotional healing work?
For the first ten years of my Church membership, I had a really wonderful prayer life. I prayed often and there were many instances where I received really miraculous answers. Anything you do regularly and with good intent, you’ll get better at. I have always been pretty intuitive, and more so as I’ve gotten older. I have always believed that thoughts have tangible power—that there is a dimension that we don’t quite understand.
I initially learned how to do intuitive work from a book. I was skeptical at first; I didn’t think I would be able to use my intuitive abilities at will. The book taught me how to “get centered”—to be still and listen—which is also what Mormons are taught to do with prayer. To get centered, I ask in prayer that I will receive the energy the way that God wants me to, that the person receiving the reading will be guided in their questions and answers by the Spirit, and that I won’t get any information that they should receive in some other way—through a blessing, their own prayers, or experience—or even not at all. By the time I am done praying, I am in that deeply quiet, centered space, and I don’t need to go through any other process to get centered. I realized that inviting the Spirit to be with you was a way of being centered and in tune.
As I learned how to do the emotional healing work, which is very Atonement-centered, I was initially taught a process: the first step, second step, etc. It worked, but at some point, it occurred to me that I was making it needlessly laborious, and that Heavenly Father would guide me in the process as I needed to be guided. I started trying to ask for guidance at each step of the way, and it worked. That’s how I’ve done it since then.
Can you explain the different types of work you do for the many people who will likely be unfamiliar with it?
There are two services I provide: intuitive readings and emotional healing work. In both types of work, I am careful to help people in such a way that they can become independent of me—that I build capacity for them to do this on their own.
An intuitive reading is when I read the energy about something or I receive information about questions a person has. These questions could be as broad as, “What should I pay attention to in my life?” or as specific as, “What dissertation topic should I choose?” An intuitive reading is essentially someone asking me questions and then I receive information through an intuitive pathway, which I can no longer distinguish from the Holy Spirit. I close my eyes and information just comes: sometimes in images, sometimes in words, sometimes in impressions.
I have been doing this work for about ten years. I get the deepest questions from my LDS clients, because they tend to have a different perspective on life and they understand that God has a plan for them. They ask questions that would never occur to me, and so I get to learn also.
Emotional healing work is the other service I provide. People come to me for emotional healing work when they see something going on in their life—maybe a pattern—that they can’t seem to fix, such as problems with money, anger that is out of proportion with the situation, or recurring relationship issues. The idea behind emotional healing work is that our beliefs and our thoughts are very powerful. To the extent that we are conscious of them and can harness them, they can really make a difference. For example, if you believe that things are always going to work out, then they often do. And vice versa.
There are also beliefs within us of which we’re not aware, because they originated in our pre-verbal years or early childhood. We usually form beliefs about ourselves and the world when we are quite young, and we create adaptive strategies for dealing with these beliefs. Those beliefs become part of who we are, and we can’t simply get rid of them—and worse, they become, over time, maladaptive. Most of my clients are LDS women, and one particular belief that I frequently see is the belief that a person can be successful or have love, but not both. It often seems to originate from fathers who at some point started to belittle or disparage the academic achievements of their daughters. My job is to work with Heavenly Father and the Savior to help people uncover these false beliefs about themselves, and to let Heavenly Father heal them, so that they can move forward, healed of these false ideas about themselves and others.
You initially wondered if it was okay for you to be doing this work. How did you resolve that question?
When I first learned how to do intuitive readings, I prayed about it a lot, because I wanted to make sure it was acceptable to God. I didn’t want to be a “soothsayer” like is mentioned in 2 Nephi. I didn’t want to mess with things that I shouldn’t be messing with. I felt really prompted that I was doing what I should be doing and that I should do it as a gift for people.
I went to my branch president before I started testing intuitive readings on my friends. He was a pretty conservative guy, and I didn’t really expect him to warm up to this idea, even though I felt good about it. But he said that his prayerful impression was that I had the gift of discernment and I ought to be using it as a gift to people.
My emotional healing work involves working directly with Heavenly Father to heal others. The Atonement is at the center of it. This puts me in a state of compassion; I feel no judgment at all; I just feel love. I understand in those moments why people are doing what they’re doing and that everyone at their core wants to do what is right. I used to be nervous about standing before the Judgment Bar at the end of my life, but now I realize that God understands all of my circumstances, intentions and wounds, and that being before the Judgment Bar of God is the safest place I can be. When I do emotional healing work, I am certainly not in a position of having to judge someone, but I am trying to see how certain actions resulted from other beliefs and wounds. And Heavenly Father will be doing that on an infinite basis, compared to my very limited basis.
The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is helping people heal their relationships with their families and with God. Because we equate Heavenly Father with our own fathers and with other men we have known, we often equate imperfect human characteristics with Heavenly Father; we may believe that He is capricious or arbitrary or vindictive. It means that, even if someone is a faithful Latter-day Saint, they might not want to give their all to God, because it doesn’t feel like a safe thing to do. Watching people change their relationship with God over time—because they have seen and felt that He loves them perfectly and only wants their joy and happiness—is wonderful.
You recently started a full-time job. How does this impact your intuitive work?
I continue to do intuitive readings after work, but I confine the emotional healing work to weekends, because it requires so much energy. I can’t imagine going without this work; it sustains me spiritually. I learn so much every time that I do a session with someone. This work has given me a much stronger sense of the Atonement, because I see it healing people. It has helped me understand that when the Savior suffered everything for us—every slight, insult, wound, illness, trauma—it gave Him perfect understanding of what we experience, which means that He passes no judgment. It has made me trust the Atonement a lot more; I am more willing to turn my struggles and trials over to the Savior, because I realize how much He understands.
How do people in the church respond to this work?
In my ward, I am not at all skittish about letting people know this is something I do. To me, the work that I do has profoundly enhanced my relationship with my Savior, and I have become a better Latter-day Saint as a result. However, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some people were to look askance at what I do. In our faith, there is a huge emphasis on personal revelation, and yet we are sometimes wary about it; we really put boundaries around it. I don’t think this happened as much in the early days of the Church. I don’t think my work would be perceived as particularly strange back then, but now I think it is. Because I do this outside of a church format, I think that some people are really skittish about it.
The response I most encounter is, “You don’t have the right to revelation for someone else.” But I only do intuitive readings and emotional healing work in response to particular requests; I don’t try to intuit information unless someone has asked me to. We have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is very powerful; we can constantly have access to Heavenly Father’s guidance. I think that members of the Church sometimes try to confine that gift and only use it in particular ways. Sometimes, the way that I use it makes others nervous. But we all have this gift to receive personal revelation. I really emphasize that in my work: I teach my clients that they can turn to Heavenly Father themselves. I try to help them transfer what they are learning in their sessions with me into their own lives.
At A Glance
Location: Washington D.C.
Marital status: Single
Occupation: I work in Human Resources for a Federal agency and do intuitive readings and healing work.
Convert?: December 2, 1989
Schools Attended: Brown University, 1981
Languages Spoken at Home: English and cat
Favorite Hymn: “How Firm A Foundation”
Current Church Calling: Ward missionary
Interview produced by Barbara Christiansen. Photos by Nancy Ricks Photography.