This is the third of occasional posts looking at various Mormon-related grassroots political organizations.
Although the Sutherland Institute is not strictly a Mormon organization, itâ€™s focus on Utah and its culture invariably lends it to cover issues that are of concern to latter-day saints. The Institute has published an essay series for civic-minded LDS called Transcend for Latter-day Saints.
Katie Christensen, Manager of Public Relations of The Sutherland Institute was kind enough to respond to some questions.
1. Why and when was the Sutherland Institute formed?
The Sutherland Institute was founded in 1995 by Gaylord Swim as a way to transcend impulsive, convenient, or self-serving policies and politics by looking for truly lasting solutions â€“ solutions that both serve the common good and that also sustain time-tested principles of freedom and prosperity.
2. What are the priorities of the Sutherland Institute?
Simply put, Sutherland is most concerned with strengthening families, promoting a culture of faith and morality, and securing our God-given liberties for ourselves and future Utahns. As such, Sutherland Institute is committed to shaping Utah law and policy based on a core set of governing principles:
â€¢ Personal Responsibility as the basis of self-government
â€¢ Family as the fundamental unit of society
â€¢ Religion as the moral compass of human progress
â€¢ Private Property as the cornerstone of economic freedom
â€¢ Free markets as the engine of economic prosperity
â€¢ Charity as the wellspring of a caring community
â€¢ Limited Government as the essence of good government
We believe that these principles will ultimately make Utah an example of good government for the rest of the nation and a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
3. I understand that the Sutherland Institute is not necessarily a “Mormon” organization, but it does have some connections (the â€œTranscend for Latter-day Saintsâ€ essays, last year’s research on the history of LDS education[PDF], Paul Mero’s book, The Natural Family: A Manifesto ). What are the connections between the Institute and the LDS Church or Mormon teachings?
The fundamental connection is that we are a think tank located in Utah and our founder was LDS. There is no â€œofficialâ€ (or unofficial, for that matter) tie to the LDS church nor to any other organization/party/special interest group, which is what allows us to be truly independent. That being said, we are not ignorant of the fact that many of our policy priorities and governing principles overlap with policy stands taken by the LDS Church, most notably issues surrounding our governing principle of family as the fundamental unit of society (abortion, gay marriage, divorce reform, etc.).
4. Why should Mormons be interested in the Sutherland Institute?
The LDS audience, probably more than any other community, should understand the supreme importance of agency and that our freedoms come not from man but from God (as noted in the Declaration of Independence) and that organizations either protecting or infringing on these two principles should have the eye of every Latter-day Saint. For more on why Sutherland should matter to Mormons, we recommend they read the â€œTranscend for Latter-day Saintsâ€ series posted on our website: www.sutherlandinstitute.org (under Essays and Speeches in the Journal section).
5. Are people who aren’t LDS invited to participate? What message do you hope to convey to others outside the Church?
We welcome all people of goodwill to get to know Sutherland Institute. Truth resonates with people of all faiths and denominations. It is our sincere desire to create a community of people from all walks of life who believe as we do in the fundamental principles outlined above.
6. Is the Sutherland Institute’s main organization on the internet or does it have a physical presence?
Sutherlandâ€™s headquarters are in downtown Salt Lake City. We also maintain a virtual presence on www.sutherlandinstitute.org. The website provides the easiest access to information on Sutherland events, publications, legislative efforts, etc.
7. Is there an online site for the Sutherland Institute and its members to interact or discuss issues? Can you recommend any sites or blogs for like-minded people to visit (official sites or otherwise)?
The best way to interact with Sutherland staff or trustees is by phone or through email. We have not yet created our own blog, but are looking to that possibility. We will often leave blog comments on various sites including KVNUâ€™s For The People and The Utah Amicus. Two of our staffers have their own blogs, a) politicalcivility.com Blog, and b) Just and Holy Principles. Other sites frequently visited by the Sutherland Institute include UtahPolicy.com, the State Policy Network, and The Heritage Foundation.
8. How can your members participate in the Sutherland Institute?
Support and participation are critical for Sutherlandâ€™s success now and in the future. Three key areas of support/participation are:
1. Donations: Sutherland is a non-profit group and so we rely heavily on the generosity of Utahns and others to support our efforts with their contributions. Like all non-profits, contributions to Sutherland are tax-deductible. Contributions can be made via regular mail or online.
2. Newsletter: Those interested can also sign up for our newsletter by visiting www.sutherlandinstitute.org . The newsletter will keep them up to date on our efforts, events open to the public, etc.
3. Referrals: While we work on placing paid-media advertising, weâ€™ve found our best outreach efforts come when someone who has attended a Sutherland function tells a friend about us.
9. How active is the Sutherland Institute? How often do you have activities or meetings?
Sutherland is very active in many areas. Sutherland staff participates on various community committees. We publish policy reports multiple times a year. We also host several community educational events each year. A most recent example is Sutherlandâ€™s â€œEarthWeek 2008.â€
10. What future plans or goals do you have? Do you have specific plans for the upcoming U.S. elections?
Our future plans center around expanding our staff and research efforts as well as reaching out to an increasingly broader group of Utahns on a variety of issues. We have recently launched several new research centers that will set the course for our policy research efforts going forward.
At the end of the day, our hope is to make the conservative ideals of the Founders, and more recently Ronald Reagan, broadly popular and broadly implemented at all levels of government in Utah.
In terms of elections both local and national â€“ we do not get involved in partisan elections. We are a 501(c)3 organization, not a PAC or 527 group. Our advocacy efforts are strictly directed toward the development of sound public policy, especially the legislative process on Utahâ€™s Capitol Hill.
11. Has all the attention on the Romney campaign and the Church had an impact on the Sutherland Institute?
Perhaps some, but nothing substantial.
12. If someone wanted more information about the Sutherland Institute what do you recommend they do?
Go to www.sutherlandinstitute.org, or give us a call at 801.355.1272.
Many thanks to Katie Christensen for her help and time in answering these questions.