Reuben Hedlock was the first missionary to visit Belfast, Ireland, arriving in May 1840; however, he stayed only three days. Two months later, 28 July 1840, Elder John Taylor arrived in the Emerald Isle and introduced the gospel. He was accompanied by two native Irishmen, William Black and James McGuffie, who had joined the Church in England. The three went to Newry in Northern Ireland, likely the hometown of James McGuffie. Elder Taylor arranged for the use of the town hall the evening of 28 July, and more than 600 gathered to hear him preach the first message of the restored gospel in Ireland.
Three days later, 31 July 1840, Elder Taylor baptized Thomas Tait in nearby Loughbrickland, making the Irish farmer and friend of James McGuffie the first convert to the Church in Ireland. James McGuffie baptized a few more converts in Newry before the three missionaries sailed for Scotland in August 1840.
Other missionaries followed, but progress was slow. Between 1840 and 1850, fewer than 200 converts joined the Church in Ireland. Many who did join emigrated to gather with other Latter-day Saints. Little proselyting was accomplished during the height of the Irish famine of 1845-47. Between 1840 and 1850, the population in Ireland decreased by halfÃ¢â‚¬â€from eight million to four million. Upwards of one million died of starvation, and another three million emigrated. An unknown but apparently large number of Irish famine emigrants did, however, join the Church in Scotland, England, Wales, Canada, the United States, and other countries to which they fled. This trend of Irish conversions outside of Ireland fulfilled, in part, the latter-day revelation that many would be warned and called “by the voice of famines” (D&C 43:25).
Missionary work in Ireland had all but ceased by 1850 when missionaries returned once again. Elder Edward Sutherland, a native of Dublin, went to that region during the summer of 1850 to open it for the gospel. By 1 September 1850, he and his companion, Elder H. E. Bowering, had baptized six converts, most of whom were Sutherland’s relatives.
Several missionary campaigns in both north and south Ireland were hampered by religious opposition, famine, and internal political strife. Church growth in Ireland was also affected by the emigration of many of those who joined. By the turn of the century, less than 800 converts had been gained in Ireland during the 60-year period.
Shortly after 1900, several German Latter-day Saint families immigrated to Dublin, where they formed the nucleus of the Church for many years. Many of these members were pork butchers by trade. By 1920 branches of the Church were established in the Belfast Conference with approximately 225 members, and another 60 members were in and around Dublin. Missionaries were again withdrawn from Ireland during World War II, with limited growth occurring during that time.
LDS missionaries returned to Ireland in 1946 after World War II ended. Growth continued, and the Irish Mission was organized on 8 July 1962. Twelve years later the Belfast Stake was organized on 9 June 1974. A stake was created in Dublin on 12 March 1995, and in the year 2000 there were 2,341 members in the Republic of Ireland and approximately 5,516 members in Northern Ireland. In that same year the mission headquarters of the Church was in Dublin.
[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 4,015,000; Members, 2,661; Stakes, 1; Wards, 4; Branches, 9; Missions, 1; Districts, 1; Percent LDS, .06, or one in 1,507; Europe West Area; Source 2007 Church Almanac.]
Barlow, Brent A. “History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ireland Since 1840.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1968.
Bloxham, V. Ben, James R. Moss, and Larry C. Porter, eds. Truth Will Prevail: The Rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, 1837-1997. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. 299-331.
1999-2000 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1998. 336-37, 401.
BRENT A. BARLOW
From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 551-52. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.