Utah churches have an important role in preserving the moral foundation needed to support the state's economic and social climate, an official of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said.

And that role includes influencing lawmakers, according to Elder Richard P. Lindsay, a member of the church's Second Quorum of the Seventy and managing director of public communications and special affairs.Elder Lindsay, speaking Thursday at the annual conference of the Utah Taxpayers Association, made only a passing reference to a controversy earlier this year over his contacting members of the Utah Senate to suggest they oppose a bill.

The proposed legislation, which was never voted on in the Senate, would have allowed alcoholic beverages to be consumed in limousines and so-called "fun buses" that transport Utahns to Wendover, Nev., and other destinations.

Elder Lindsay joked at the beginning of his speech that he got a rock in his shoe while walking to the Little America Hotel from the Church Office Building and could have used a ride from a "limousine or a fun bus."

After detailing many of the contributions of the LDS Church to Utah, including the fact that the church is a substantial taxpayer in the state, he defended its right to speak out on moral issues.

"Perhaps we can still find room for further improvement in how our own church expresses its concerns regarding the legislative process," Elder Lindsay said.

"We would expect, however, in contemporary times that our church as well as others will continue to participate in the public dialogue on the moral issues that affect society," he said.

Speaking on the topic, "Building a Better Utah - Together," Elder Lindsay said "it is troubling to see the uncalled-for divisiveness between some people and groups" in Utah often stemming from "prejudice, misinformation and a spirit of negativism.

"While a healthy pluralism and lively debate of so many vital issues should be encouraged, we should discourage those who would foster division to promote narrow private agendas at the expense of the general well-being of our people," he said.

Elder Lindsay went on to cite a 1970 opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court that stated, "Adherents of particular faiths and individual churches frequently take strong positions on public issues, including . . . vigorous advocacy of legal and constitutional positions. Of course, churches as much as secular bodies and private citizens have that right."

He also pointed out that different opinions on governmental and economic policy issues will exist among members of the LDS Church as well as other Utahns.

"That is our democratic heritage, and we would hope the participants will permit the issues to be thoughtfully debated and decided on their merits and not by inaccurately implying church endorsement or opposition on such issues," Elder Lindsay said.

All Utahns, however, should seek what he described as wise public policies, based on sound moral principles.

"Those who deny the relevance of private morality and honesty to our economic and social climate need to remember that personal integrity is the foundation for any successful society to function properly."

The LDS Church, he said, "will continue to encourage its members to be good neighbors, responsible employees, participating citizens, and community leaders. We would also hope that the institutional church can improve its efforts to interact with the larger community."