There’s one teaching of Jesus Christ that author Emily Belle Freeman thinks about regularly.
It’s the Savior’s invitation for individuals and families to pray, as taught in Mark 9. The teaching came to life when Freeman was helping her son Garett Bolles through the college football recruiting process.
During a conversation with former Arizona State head football coach Todd Graham, Freeman learned Graham grew up in religious home where his mother often had “spoken victory” over him.
Freeman had never heard the phrase before and asked what it meant? It meant his mother prayed for him several times a day, the coach explained.
“I want to do that for my kids,” Freeman said. “I want to ‘speak victory’ over them all day long, every single day.”
For Freeman, the idea of “speaking victory” became more powerful than simply praying for another person. It helped inspire a group text where family members share their daily needs and invite each other to pray for them.
“It’s become the culture of our family,” Freeman said. “I love that thought of making a house of prayer, and the power that comes when we ‘speak victory’ over each other when we call down the powers of heaven within the walls of our home.”
Establishing a house of prayer is one of the chapters in Freeman’s book Creating a Christ-Centered Home: 12 Teachings of Jesus to Strengthen Our Families, which was recently revised.
Creating a Christ-Centered Home was first published in 2016 for a national Christian audience. Freeman, a popular speaker and bestselling author of many books, discussed the inspiration behind this book and shared thoughts on other topics in a recent interview with the Deseret News.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trent Toone: I read in your author’s bio that you have five children and “a few others who have found refuge in your home.” I think everyone knows about the remarkable story of Garett Bolles, who is now with the Denver Broncos, but how many others have you taken into your home over the years?
Emily Belle Freeman: Our neighbors tease us that we need to put up a sign on our front porch, “The Freeman Home for Wayward Boys,” and put a vacancy sign out when there’s a spot open. We have a very open-door policy at our house. Anyone who knows us knows that is true about us. We regularly have people who just come in for advice.
There’s a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants about the Nauvoo House. It says “Let it be a delightful habitation, a resting place for the weary traveler, that he may contemplate the glory of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:60). When my girls were in high school I said to them, I want that to be our theme for this year. I want that to be the kind of house we have. It has just stuck since that time. It’s a place where people feel welcome. They can come in when they are weary, talk about the word of God. Hopefully their hearts are lifted by the time they leave from here.
TT: Many of your books focus on teachings from the scriptures. When did you first have a spiritual experience while reading the scriptures?
EBF: I think it would have to be at girls camp when I was in Young Women’s. I would have been 15 years old. We had the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon as a whole youth group. We read it all together, then went to camp. The theme of the camp was on Moroni’s promise. That is probably the time I remember receiving my own witness that the Book of Mormon was the word of God.
TT: How has that experience affected the rest of your life?
EBF: It taught me that we can turn to the scriptures and receive communication from God. It’s not so much about reading a book as it is communicating with the Lord.
TT: This year you’ve worked with David Butler to produce a weekly video series, Don’t Miss This, to help individuals and families study the New Testament with “Come, Follow Me.” How is this project making a difference?
EBF: It’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever done. That’s been such a fun experience.
I teach an institute class and the women were wondering what we were going to do in our homes with “Come, Follow Me.” So I called David Butler and said, just for fun, let’s do a YouTube video every week, like 15 minutes long, with some teaching tips for these women in my institute class. Within two weeks it had thousands of followers.
I feel like we all had the desire to follow the call of a prophet, but there was also uncertainty about what that would look like. It made me realize that creating a community of people who could study together and work together on accomplishing that goal was something that made it easier for all of us.
My favorite part of hearing from people that we talk to is the moms who say, “I have a teenage son who hasn’t been to church for years, but he will come down and watch the videos and learn about Jesus Christ.”
I had a woman stop me this week and say her husband doesn’t attend church. He’s never opened the scriptures since (they’ve) been married. But every week he sits down with his scriptures and his pen, and he’ll listen and we’ll learn together.
I just love the thought of these communities of people all over the world — Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Europe, New Zealand — and we’re all studying together, just doing the best we can to follow the counsel of a prophet.
TT: How is “Come, Follow Me” helping your family?
EBF: It’s interesting because none of our children live at home with us currently. Everybody is spread out. Our tradition is that everybody watches those videos together at 3 p.m. and then we do a Facetime call at the end and each person gets a chance to talk and share their favorite thing they learned that week, whether it was from the video or their reading or out of the “Come, Follow Me” manual.
It’s fun for two reasons. First of all, I love discovering that spiritual side of my own children and my daughters-in-law. Secondly, I also love that it’s connecting us. It’s giving us a reason to gather together every single Sunday.
TT: How did you develop the idea for Creating a Christ-Centered Home?
EBF: I was thinking about Jesus and how he taught. It made me wonder, how much time did Jesus spend teaching in the homes of his followers? So I just got into the scriptures and started looking for every reference we could find of Jesus teaching in someone’s home and what was the lesson we learned from each of those experiences?
This year when (church) President (Russell M.) Nelson said we want to go more into a home-centered learning environment, we just felt like this was such a unique opportunity to teach what home-centered learning would look like from the master teacher himself. So our goal was to look through the eyes of Jesus and how he was teaching in those homes. We wanted to be able to talk about temples, priesthood and those things that are so unique to the Latter-day Saint culture, and to show where those connect within those teaching moments.
TT: What was most meaningful to you about this project?
EBF: This becomes a powerful lesson of what we could all be accomplishing in our own homes. As I was writing the book, I thought it was interesting that I pulled out 12 houses. I thought it’d be a remarkable experience to study one of those homes every single month, and to work on making each of our houses a house like that for one month. For example, this month we’re working on becoming a house of prayer. This month we’re working on become a house of faith. As we do that, we’re going to realize our home becomes a home where He abides because that home is governed by his teachings and the principles that he felt were most important.