“First-ever Regional Conference for Ireland,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 103
On Sunday, 7 September 1986, 1,350 people packed Belfast’s Ulster Hall for the largest-ever gathering of Irish Saints in the Church’s first Regional Conference for the whole of Ireland. Presiding at the Sunday session was President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.
In a land bitterly divided by sectarian differences, these were people from both North and South who discarded those differences in favor of their faith. Borders became secondary to beliefs, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve made manifest in his dedication of that land on 23 October 1985:
“We acknowledge, Father, that we are mere mortals and so we see nations and we see borders; however, Thou seest but one flock … all of they children. We know, Father, where we see races, Thou seest one people, and all are thine.”
Also present at the regional conference were Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve and President Russell C. Taylor, First Counselor in the Europe Area Presidency. Local leaders present included John Keogh, regional representative; Charles R. Lowry, Belfast stake president; John Connolly, Dublin District president; William Corbett, president of the newly formed Munster District; and Don Gull, president of the Dublin mission.
The day before, on Saturday afternoon, a priesthood leadership meeting was held at the Holywood Road chapel, with 250 local Church leaders present. Elder Nelson presided at that session, and President Taylor conducted. A priesthood choir from the Dublin mission area sang, and direction was given on how the Church might grow and prosper in Ireland.
In the Sunday session, President Monson elaborated on that theme, urging the Saints, “Live the gospel!” Elder Nelson spoke on the need to maintain a balance in life, and the hundred-voice Belfast stake choir provided the music.
Since the dedication of the land last year, the pace of the work throughout Ireland has increased. President Don Gull, the Dublin mission president, reports that missionary activity has increased dramatically in recent months. “There was a 150 percent increase in discussions taught in September, compared with the previous month, with a further 50 percent increase expected in October.”
The conference itself seems to have had its effect on the work. President Gull said that “some fifty investigators attended the conference, and the feedback from them was very good. The influence of conference on a number of baptisms since then has been evident.”
Belfast stake now has twenty full-time missionaries in the field serving as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Salt Lake City. “I served a mission in Northern Germany,” said President Lowry. “When called to be stake president, I knew that special emphasis should be given to getting our young people on missions. The activity rate for the sixty or so returned missionaries we have so far is incredibly high—a powerful reminder of the beneficial effect this sacred service has on the life of an individual.”
A year ago, an Apostle of the Lord stood upon Ireland’s soil and prayed: “Father, we plead with thee to look with fresh favor upon all of Ireland, to the end that this Emerald Isle will know further greening through the fulness of the restored gospel.”
Today, that prayer is being answered through a people united by a flowering of faith and fellowship.
Correspondent: Bryan J. Grant, director of the Church’s Public Communications office in Great Britain.