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Sutherland president ties religion, politics

Published: Thursday, Nov. 19 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

When Sutherland Institute President Paul T. Mero didn't quite "mature" politically on his own, he said finding a belief in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "jump-started it for me."

"I'm a conservative because I'm a Latter-day Saint," he said Wednesday while speaking to a small group of University of Utah College Republicans at the Marriott Library. "Explicit in this claim is that there is a strong relationship between Mormonism and conservative intellectual thought."

Because the church has all the answers to the purpose and meaning of life, Mero said, Latter-day Saints "know what it means to be human beings." That knowledge has the potential to correctly govern moral issues, including some that are also political.

"(The church) lives and breathes divine instructions amidst a fallen world and fallen man," he said.

Any digression from what the church teaches, Mero said, comes from selfish desires and not from pursuing happiness through the joys and sorrows of everyday life, which is God's intended plan.

As the director of the Salt Lake-based public policy think-tank since 2000, Mero, formerly a Libertarian, said he has been a "student of conservative thought," constantly researching possible implications of various political moves that stand to uproot basic LDS values. He opposes the recent action of the Salt Lake City Council, which made changes to its nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity, although the church commended the move.

"Authentic conservatism is, at its core, a cluster of prioritized values or principles that enable men to govern justly in a truly free society," he said. "It effectively negotiates the endless conflict between man's innate freedom to choose and his choice to adhere (or not) to the structures and rules of a successful social order. In other words authentic conservatism justly balances rights and responsibilities in a free country."

The issue of agency, from the time Jesus Christ was on the earth to the time of America's founding, never changed, Mero told the group, adding that it is closely related to "liberty" and "is the power to do what we ought to do."

Although Mero's lecture was predominantly religiously oriented, college Republicans President Drew Conrad said it was "very interesting" and that "the light shed on the LDS Church was very informative."

e-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

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