Reaching the Nations International Church Growth Almanac

Country reports on the LDS Church around the world from a landmark almanac. Includes detailed analysis of history, context, culture, needs, challenges and opportunities for church growth.


By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Area: 70,273 square km.  Nicknamed the "Emerald Isle" for its abundance of green vegetation, Ireland is an island to the west of Great Britain surrounded by the Irish Sea and North Atlantic Ocean.  The United Kingdom controls the northeastern portion of the island as Northern Ireland.  A wet temperate maritime climate characterized by mild winters and cool summers occurs throughout the country as a result of high latitude and the North Atlantic Current.  The weather is often cloudy and humid.  Terrain consists of rolling hills and small mountains with some coastal plains and interior plateaus.  The western coastline is marked by numerous inlets and small peninsulas.  Major rivers include the Shannon, Barrow, and Siur.  Water pollution in lakes is an environmental issue.  Ireland is administratively divided into 29 counties and five cities. 

Population: 4,250,163 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 1.102% (2010)    

Fertility Rate: 1.85 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 75.76 male, 81.24 female (2010)


Irish: 87.4%

Other white: 7.5%

Asian: 1.3%

Black: 1.1%

Mixed: 1.1%

Unspecified: 1.6%

Irish constitute a strong majority.  Other whites include peoples from the British Isles and other Europeans.  Asian and African immigrants have arrived in greater numbers in recent years. 

Languages: English (91%), Gaelic (6%), other (3%).  English and Gaelic are the official languages.  English is most commonly used as a result of centuries of English rule.  According to the 2006 census, 1.66 million Irish claim some knowledge of Gaelic, although one million of these report speaking Gaelic less than once a week, and only 72,000 report speaking Gaelic on a daily basis outside of education.[1]  The few fluent Gaelic speakers are concentrated along the west coast.  Only English has over one million speakers (3.87 million). 

Literacy: 99% (2003)


Celtic tribes settled the island several centuries before the birth of Christ.  Christianity arrived prior to the Middle Ages and flourished.  Irish missionaries facilitated the spread of Christianity throughout Europe in the subsequent centuries.  Norse and Viking invasions began in the eighth century and persisted for several hundred years.  Dublin and most other coastal cities were founded as Viking settlements and trading posts. The English invaded in the twelfth century and conflict continued until the end of the twentieth century as a result of colonial rule.  In the 1840s, the Great Famine resulted in mass emigration to the United States and as many as one million deaths.  In 1916, the Easter Monday Rebellion was an Irish insurrection which attempted to overthrow British rule but failed.  Rebellion and guerrilla warfare persisted until 1921 when independence was obtained for 26 of the 32 Irish counties; the remaining six became Northern Ireland.  Ireland left the British Commonwealth in 1949 and joined the European Community (today known as the European Union) in 1973.  Irish nationalist groups seeking reunification with Northern Ireland challenged efforts by Irish and British governments to maintain law and order.  In recent years, violence has declined and greater dialogue between Irish and British governments has occurred.  


Ireland is renowned for its poetry, literature, music, folklore, and scenery.  Due to remoteness and separation from the mainland resulting with little contact with Ireland proper, the Aran Islands have been instrumental in preserving many aspects of Irish culture, such as the Gaelic language, through the many centuries of English colonization.[2]  Irish culture has influenced many nearby European nations.  Halloween has its roots in Irish folklore and Medieval Christianity which was popularized in the United States following the mass immigration of Irish in the nineteenth century.  Rugby and soccer are popular sports.  Irish cuisine heavily uses potatoes, cabbage, wheat, and pork.  Cigarette consumption rates are higher than the United Kingdom, but are representative for Western Europe.  Ireland has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates worldwide.  Divorce rates are low. 


GDP per capita: $42,200 (2009) [90.9% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.965

Corruption Index: 8.0

Ireland has a small, developed economy which relies on trade with other nations for revenue.  The global financial crisis severely affected Ireland, resulting in acute recession.  Average home prices fell 50% from 2007 levels and the GDP declined by 7.5% in 2009.  Unemployment nearly doubled, reaching 11.8% in 2009.  Despite the recent downturn in the economy, standards of living are high.  Services employ two-thirds of the workforce and generate half of the GDP.  Industry employs 27% of the workforce and generates 46% of the GDP.  Primary industries include industrial and valuable metals, food products, clothing, pharmaceuticals, machinery, glass, software, and tourism.  Agriculture constitutes less than 10% of the GDP and employs a similar percentage of the workforce.  Major crops include turnips, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, and wheat.  Natural resources include natural gas, peat, and a variety of minerals and metals.  The United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, and Germany are primary trade partners.  Perceived corruption in Ireland is among the lowest worldwide and compares to Scandinavia and Western Europe. 


Christian: 92.2%

Other: 2.1%

Unspecified: 1.5%

None: 4.2%


Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  3,714,642

Church of Ireland  123,255

Presbyterian  23,546

Orthodox  20,798

Methodist  12,160

Apostolic/Pentecostal  8,116

Jehovah's Witnesses  5,868  114

Lutheran  5,279

Evangelical  5,276

Baptist  3,338

Latter-Day Saints  2,799  13

Seventh Day Adventists  492  8 (includes Northern Ireland)


Ireland exhibits one of the most religiously active populations in Europe.  Most Irish are Catholic (86.8%).  60% of Irish Catholics reportedly attend mass weekly.  The second largest religious group is the Church of Ireland (2.9%) followed by Muslims (0.76%).  Presbyterians, Orthodox Christians, and Methodists each constitute less than one percent of the population.  A 2005 survey estimated the number of active Evangelical Christians at around 30,000 (0.7%).  Six percent of Irish are unaffiliated.[3]  

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by governmental policy and law.  Abuse of religious freedom is not tolerated.  There is no state religion and it is illegal for one religious group to be promoted over another.  Missionaries may proselyte freely.  Religious groups are not required to register with the government.  Religious instruction in public schools is allowed but not mandatory.  There are few reported instances of societal abuses of religious freedom.[4]   

Largest Cities

Urban: 61%

Dublin, Cork, Galway, Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Limerick, Waterford, Clondalkin, Lucan, Swords.

All 10 of the largest cities have an LDS congregation.  24% of the national population resides in the 10 largest cities.

LDS History

Ireland was among the first destinations for LDS missionaries in Europe following the commencement of missionary work outside the United States in the late 1830s.  In 1840, future Church President John Taylor arrived to Ireland shortly after the first missionaries arrived and preached to over 600.  By the fall, the Church created its first branch in Hillsborough with 35 members.  In the 1840s, nearly all the approximately 100 Irish Latter-day Saints immigrated to Utah.  Missionary work was reestablished following the Great Famine in the 1850s, and by 1856 there were 300 members.[5] 

Missionary work progressed slowly for the following century.  Catholics were admonished to never attend the religious meeting of another faith.[6]  Starting from the beginning of the twentieth century, missionaries found success working among German immigrants, leading to a preponderance of ethnic Germans among church members in many areas.  In 1946, only one Latter-day Saint in the Dublin Branch was a former Catholic; most were German immigrants or former Protestants.  Many of the German immigrants later emigrated to the United States.[7]

The Irish Mission was organized in 1962.  Seminary and institute began in the mid-1970s.  In 1983, the Ireland Dublin Mission pioneered a stop smoking program which was later utilized in other LDS missions.  In 2010, the Church consolidated the Ireland Dublin Mission with the Scotland Edinburgh Mission into the Scotland/Ireland Mission headquartered in Edinburgh.[8] 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 2,799 (2009)

There were 300 LDS members by 1900.  In 1978, there were 750 members, most of which were baptized in the past two decades.[9]  In 1995, membership totaled 2,300 in the Republic of Ireland, 1,700 of which resided within the boundaries of the Dublin Ireland Stake.[10] 

By year-end 2000, there were 2,332 LDS members.  In the 2000s, membership grew slowly and totaled 2,610 in 2002, 2,710 in 2006, and 2,772 in 2008.  Over the past decade, the Church experienced the most rapid growth in 2002 as membership increased by 10% from year-end 2001 levels, although it is unclear how many new members were retained or whether other factors were involved.  Most years experienced either annual membership decline of less than one percent or membership increase of up to two percent.  Most recent LDS growth has been among non-Irish immigrants, including Chinese, other Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, and Eastern Europeans.

The census counted 833 self-identifying Latter-day Saints in 2002 and 1,237 in 2006; a 48% increase.[11]  Officially reported LDS membership for Ireland increased by only 3.8% during this period.  In 2009, one in 1,518 people was LDS. 

Congregational Growth

Wards: 4 Branches: 9

The Dublin Branch divided in 1975 to create a second congregation in the city.[12]  The Dublin Ireland Stake was created in 1995.  In the late 1990s, there were four wards and 15 branches nationwide.   The Limerick Ireland District has operated since 1985.  In 2000, there were four wards and nine branches.  In 2002, one new branch was created but one branch was discontinued the following year.  In 2010, there were four wards and nine branches. 

Activity and Retention

1,100 members from Ireland and Northern Ireland attended a special conference with President Hinckley in 1995.[13]  During the 2008-2009 school year, 134 were enrolled in seminary or institute.  Between 2000 and 2009, the average number of members per congregation increased from 179 to 215. 

70 members from the Terenure Ward gathered to clean and perform maintenance work on their chapel in 2003.[14]  In 2009, the Galway Branch had 60 attending Sunday meetings, doubling sacrament attendance in a short period of time.  Most congregations appear to have between 50 and 100 active members.  Nationwide active membership is estimated at 1,000, or 35% of total membership. 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: English

All LDS materials and scriptures are available in English.   Church materials are available in many of the native or second languages spoken by immigrant groups from Europe and Africa. 


In 2010, congregations met in at least 12 meetinghouses, which included several Church-built meetinghouses.  Some smaller branches met in rented spaces. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

The Church has conducted little humanitarian service in Ireland due to high standards of living and few natural disasters. 


Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

The Church faces no governmental restrictions regarding worship or proselytism.  Foreign missionaries may serve in Ireland and report no challenges in obtaining visas. 

Cultural Issues

The strength and size of the Catholic Church has been a major challenge for LDS mission outreach in Ireland since proselytism began in the 1840s.  Efforts from Catholic authorities in the past to dissuade Catholics from investigating or participating in non-Catholic denominations have made outreach difficult.   The influence of the Catholic Church has slightly waned in recent years, yet this has not been of much benefit to the LDS Church as secularism has filled this void. 

High alcohol consumption rates pose an obstacle for missionary work   In the early 1840s, Father Theobald Mathew, a Catholic missionary, enrolled over three million Irish - more than half of the nation's adult population at the time - in a pledge of total abstinence from alcohol, but it this pledge does not appear to have generated lasting results.  The mission developed a stop smoking program to address smoking challenges manifested by investigators and the general population, although work with alcohol has been less successful.

National Outreach

Ireland experiences modest levels of national outreach.  Current LDS mission outreach centers are established in 12 of the 34 administrative counties and cities of Ireland, home to 61% of the national population.  However, only 37% of the national population resides in a city with an LDS congregation.  Approximately 40 cities with between 10,000 and 30,000 inhabitants have no mission outreach centers.  Only one city with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants has an LDS congregation (Mullingar).  The Church's sole mission in Ireland previously provided consistent full-time missionary outreach with typically over 100 full-time missionaries for several decades administering a smaller population than most European missions. 

Dublin suburbs distant to LDS meetinghouses and larger cities with at least a handful of active members provide the greatest potential for establishing additional congregations.  However, the lack of any increase in congregations over the past decade, the consolidation of the Ireland Dublin Mission with the Scotland Edinburgh Mission, and slow membership growth indicate that little expansion in national outreach will likely occur in the immediate future.  The preponderance of baptisms among non-Irish immigrants who live primarily in Dublin and other large cities, in contrast to low receptivity among the native Irish, as well as limited missionary manpower, offer little rationale at present for expansion of mission outreach beyond currently established centers.

Any future strides gained in national outreach will be reflected in rates of member activity and convert retention and member involvement in missionary activity.  With the downsizing of the full-time missionary force in the late 2000s, the Church has sought to at least maintain current levels of convert baptisms or even increase these numbers with a smaller full-time missionary force. 

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Statistics released by the census regarding the 48% increase in self-identified Latter-day Saints between 2002 and 2006 is among the highest percentage increases seen of Latter-day Saints on a census in such a short period of time, and may indicate increased member activity rates, the surge in membership in 2002, and possibly other factors.  However, the lack of any increase in congregations and no failure of any branches to mature into wards in the Dublin Ireland Stake over the past decade point to slow growth with modest convert retention and member activity.  Non-Irish converts may experience some integration challenges, although LDS membership, especially among young people, is much more diverse than the Irish population as a whole.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

African immigrants have been more receptive to LDS mission outreach efforts than the white population and have been highly represented among convert baptisms in recent years.  In 2006, Africans numbered less than 40,000 and most originated from Nigeria or South Africa.  Non-Irish Europeans most commonly immigrated from the United Kingdom, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Germany;[15] among Asians, many come from China.  Non-Irish Europeans present a challenging population for proselytism with as the most represented nations have been among the least receptive in their native lands.  Overall, most congregations appear to accommodate non-Irish members without significant challenges. 

Language Issues

The common usage of English among the general population has eliminated potential conflicts at church regarding communication challenges between members.  Some obstacles may exist for immigrant peoples who do not fluently speak English as a second language.  The few Gaelic speakers generally speak English fluently, reducing the need for church materials in Gaelic.  

Missionary Service

Few Irish serve full-time missions, and Ireland remains dependent on other nations to staff its missionary force.  In 1995, 160 missionaries served in the Ireland Dublin Mission, which administered the entire island of Ireland.[16]  In 2010, the Scotland/Ireland Mission had a missionary complement of 146, enough for one pair for each congregation throughout the mission.[17]  If each congregation were to have two missionaries assigned, fewer than 30 full-time missionaries would serve in Ireland.  Stressing youth outreach programs and activities sponsored on a congregational level may facilitate increases in youth converts.  Emphasis on missionary preparation courses and seminary and institute attendance may help to increase the local full-time missionary force over time.


Local leadership and active Priesthood holders has been sufficiently developed to support a small stake for 15 years despite the small number of Latter-day Saints in Ireland.  The Dublin Ireland Stake Presidency had no Church employees when reorganized in 2000[18] and 2009.[19]  The absence of Church employees in the stake presidency indicates that local leadership has been developed without reliance on Church Education System staff or personnel. The continued operation of the Limerick Ireland District further demonstrates that some local leadership has been developed in smaller cities in the countryside. 


The Dublin Ireland Stake attends the Preston England Temple whereas the Limerick Ireland District attends the London England Temple.  Temple trips occur regularly and but are accessible for most members as Dublin and London are connected with a short 70-minute flight.  The Republic of Ireland and Northern Island may one day support a small temple as many European nations with small, long established LDS communities have had temples constructed in the past decade.  However, few such small temples have been announced since 2000, making the possibility of a temple in Ireland less likely for several more decades. 

Comparative Growth

The extent of national outreach and duration of LDS missionary activity are comparable to much of Western Europe.  Ireland appears to have experienced the slowest membership growth rates in the British Isles and ranks among the slowest for Western Europe over the past 30 years.  Only Scandinavia and German-speaking Europe have experienced slower membership growth over this period.  For some years, the Ireland Dublin mission was the lowest baptizing mission in the world; more recently, the Greece Athens Mission has held this dubious distinction.  Membership growth in Northern Ireland greatly outpaced growth in the Republic of Ireland. By 1978 over 80% of Church membership on the island resided in Northern Ireland, home to just 30% of the island's population.   The percentage of LDS members in Ireland is comparable to many Western European nations, but much lower than the United Kingdom (one member per 1,518 people in Ireland versus one member per 329 people in the United Kingdom).  Ireland is one of only three nations which have a stake with fewer than 3,000 Latter-day Saints (the others being Singapore and Trinidad and Tobago) and the only nation with as few members to also have a district. 

Although the 48% increase of Latter-day Saints reported by the 2006 Irish census appears impressive, many other Christian denominations experienced similar or more impressive gains in self-reported followers, suggesting that additional factors may have been involved.  Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Pentecostals, Buddhists, Hindus, and Lutherans all have more adherents than the LDS Church and experienced at least a 50% increase in self reported members during this period whereas Evangelicals, Baptists, and agnostics reported comparable growth rates to the LDS Church.[20]  Increases in the followers of some of these faiths can be attributed at least in part to immigration, such as Orthodox Christians immigrating from Eastern Europe and Buddhists and Hindus from Asia.  Seventh Day Adventists gain few new converts year to year.  Adventists generally had fewer than 20 convert baptisms annually during the 2000s.  Jehovah's Witnesses have seen slow, steady growth with over 100 convert baptisms in 2009.  These missionary-oriented denominations utilized member-missionary approaches, reducing costs and increasing retention and productivity. 

Future Prospects

There appears to be no change in the trend of slow membership growth and lack of new congregations in Ireland for the near future.  The 2010 mission consolidation reduced full-time missionary resources allocated, but is unlikely to substantially reduce the number of convert baptisms, which appears to depend more upon member-missionary participation and local receptivity than on the number of full-time missionaries.   The First Presidency stated that some of the purposes for consolidating the two missions were confidence expressed in local members increasing their involvement in missionary activity and limited missionary resources worldwide.[21]  Increasing missionary activity and success among the non-Irish population will likely result in a greater diversity in membership over the coming years.  Greater member and recent convert involvement in finding, teaching, and fellowshipping investigators will be necessary to achieve for greater long term growth. 

[1] 2006 Irish Census,

[2]  "Friends in Ireland," Friend, Mar 1971, 46

[3]  "Ireland," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[4]  "Ireland," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.

[5] "Ireland," Country Profiles, retrieved 19 August 2010.

[6]  Card, Orson Scott.  "The Saints in Ireland," Ensign, Feb 1978, 45

[7]  Connolly, John.  "First stake in Republic of Ireland organized," LDS Church News, 25 March 1995.

[8]  "New missions 10 announced in seven areas," LDS Church News, 13 February 2010.

[9]  Card, Orson Scott.  "The Saints in Ireland," Ensign, Feb 1978, 45

[10]  Connolly, John.  "First stake in Republic of Ireland organized," LDS Church News, 25 March 1995.

[11]  "Census 2006 Principle Demographic Results," Central Statistics Office Ireland, March 2007.

[12]  Card, Orson Scott.  "The Saints in Ireland," Ensign, Feb 1978, 45

[13]  Cannon, Mike.  "Visit to Ireland caps ‘whirlwind trip'," LDS Church News, 9 September 1995.

[14]  "Ireland cleaning project," LDS Church News, 27 September 2003.

[15]  "Census 2006 Principle Demographic Results," Central Statistics Office Ireland, March 2007.

[16]  Cannon, Mike.  "Visit to Ireland caps ‘whirlwind trip'," LDS Church News, 9 September 1995.

[17]  "Mormons to Consolidate Missionary Work Worldwide as Church Continues to Grow," American Chronicle, 10 February 2010.

[18]  "New stake presidencies," LDS Church News, 27 May 2000.

[19]  "New stake presidents," LDS Church News, 24 October 2009.

[20]  "Census 2006 Principle Demographic Results," Central Statistics Office Ireland, March 2007.

[21]  "Mormons to Consolidate Missionary Work Worldwide as Church Continues to Grow," American Chronicle, 10 February 2010.