Only Jon Huntsman Jr. himself knows what he meant when he told Time magazine that his religion was "hard to define."
He may have meant that it would take a while to explain his faith, or that it was none of the reporter's business, or even that he just didn't want to talk about it right then. And he may have been referring to his own personal inner faith and not to the institutional Mormon faith. We don't know, and we certainly are not making any judgments about former Ambassador Huntsman or about the context in which he said what he said.
But the "buzz" and the interest his comment aroused opens an opportunity to speak in our own context here in this column and to make the claim that "Mormonism" is not hard to define at all.
In fact it may be, among all religions, the easiest one to explain because of its uniqueness. It may be the easiest religion to differentiate simply because it is in a category by itself.
The LDS Church is relatively small but extraordinarily distinctive.
In our world of more than 6 billion people, about 1.5 billion of them are Christian.
Of that number, roughly half are Catholic and half are Protestant.
We said "roughly half" because the two halves do not exactly add up to 100 percent or equal the whole of Christianity — not quite.
Because there is a third category, a small one, making up only about 1 percent of Christians, and it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While, like Catholics, we believe in the necessity of priesthood and of a "line of authority," we are not Catholic, and while, like Protestants, we believe in a universal apostasy, we are not Protestant.
We believe that once priesthood and many of the doctrines of salvation were lost, a reformation could not bring them back. Only a restoration could. While we respect the initiative of the great reformers in trying to return the church to biblical ways, it was only the initiative of God himself that could reinstate his church. That divine initiative restored all that was lost, and all that God desired man to have, including completely unique-among-Christians truths like the premortal life, and the eternal marriage covenant, and the ongoing probation of the spirit world, and the full and restored authority and keys of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.
And it took more than a reformation to bring these things back. It took a restoration.
That is how unique our church is, and it is easy to define if not to defend. And we should each define ourselves by whether or not we believe it.
What does all this have to do with Mormon parenting? It has everything to do with it because if there is one thing our testimonies and our belief in parental stewardship should dictate us to do, it is to define, simply and clearly to our children, what the Restoration is, why God and Christ brought it about, and just what it was that was restored.
It is a mistake for parents to assume that their kids know of this distinctiveness, and it is an error to believe that they will be taught it fully and clearly in Primary or Sunday School or seminary or that they will just absorb it by being around us.
In each child's quest to define himself or herself, nothing will be more helpful than to have had parents who clearly defined the church, the Restoration and the gospel.
The Eyres are the founders of Joy Schools and of valuesparenting.com and the authors of numerous bestselling books on marriage, parenting and family. Their mission statement, developed while presiding over the England London South Mission, is "FORTIFY FAMILIES by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, bolstering balance and validating values."
Their newest book, now available in stores and online, is "5 Spiritual Solutions for Everyday Parenting Challenges," and their blog can be found at http://www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com.