July 18, 2011

Alexander Neibaur's Quest for the Truth

By Melanie Jensen Johnson
This is one of my favorite conversion stories.  Not only was his conversion one of the earliest in this dispensation, but he became integrally part of the building up of the kingdom.  And he fulfilled ancient prophecies in his conversion.  It's a great story; a good one to cut my teeth on.  (Get it?)

Alexander Neibaur was raised in the Jewish faith in a devout family in France, during the Napoleonic era.  Alexander's physician-father sent him to school to become a Rabbi.  Here he was schooled in the Jewish faith and the Talmud.  But Alexander wasn't satisfied with what he was learning, so he dropped out.  He studied to be a Dentist at the University of Berlin.  After graduating, he traveled around Europe, looking for a place to set up a practice.  Instead he found Christianity!  Converting to Christianity meant departing the Jewish faith.     

He chose Preston England to set up a Dental practice, a move that would prove to be important to his future.  He met his future wife, Ellen Breakel, in Preston.  They married in 1834.  He had been having dreams and visions, where he saw a strange book, a beautiful building he wanted to enter but couldn't and an angel.  

In July 1837 the first Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to Preston, preaching near a large gathering hall called the 'Cock Pit.'  The fame of these Mormons spread quickly, prompting discussions among neighbors as they performed their daily chores.  A neighbor of Ellen's asked if she had heard about the 'new ministers from America who claimed to have seen angels' while they were cleaning their front steps.  Alexander, hearing from the house, asked more of this neighbor woman.  She gave him the address of the Elders, and Alexander ran to find them. Finding Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde and Joseph Fielding, he asked if they had a book.  He was referring to the strange book he had seen in vision.  If this was the right church, it would match what he had seen in his dreams.  They indeed had a Book of Mormon.

Alexander couldn't eat or sleep for the three days it took him to read the Book of Mormon.  Finishing, he asked the Elders if he could be baptized; they counseled him to wait until he learned more to prepare for this important ordinance.  He used this time to help Ellen.  She wasn't so sure.  Alexander wanted Ellen to read the Book of Mormon so she could know of the truthfulness of the restored gospel, as he did.  She wasn't unsupportive of Alexander, just personally disinterested.  She said it was a 'pretty story' but wouldn't go any further.  Alexander persisted, reading aloud from the pages of the Book of Mormon to her in the evenings well into the night.  Finally, she awoke in the middle of the night after dreaming of seeing Willard Richards' face among clouds.  She took that to mean that she should pay heed to what he had taught her.  She listened to Alexander read the Book of Mormon with an open heart.  On April 9, 1838, both Alexander and Ellen Neibaur were baptized by Isaac Russell in the River Ribble nearby.  The family finally had the whole truth!

The water would have been extremely cold in April's England, but their friendships and associations would turn out to be colder.  Alexander and Ellen's friends and associated did not approve of their decision to join the Mormons.  Alexander's dental practice suffered, and their friendships became strained.  The Neibaurs immigrated to America to join the body of the saints, where they became close friends with Joseph Smith and his family, as well as Brigham Young and his family.  There, they entered the Holy Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, recognizing it as the beautiful building he saw in his dreams and wanted to enter.  

Alexander Neibaur was the first Jewish male convert to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  His conversion was the first of many to fulfill the prophecy of Nephi, found in 2 Nephi 29: 13 and 2 Nephi 30:7.

And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites (the Book of Mormon) and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews (The Bible); And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall become a delightsome people.

His joy at finding the true church was evident in the hymn he wrote, "Come, Thou Glorious Day of Promise."  The first line must express well his feelings of joy-- 'Come, thou glorious day of promise; come and spread thy cheerful ray, when the scattered sheep of Israel shall no longer go astray, when hosannas with united voice they'll cry.'

Alexander Neibaur was guided by God to find the truth he sought.  He was open to the inspiration he received and acted upon it.  Embracing the truth separated him from his previous family, friends and business associates, but opened up new friendships and family relationships that now extend into eternity.  More importantly, it changed his families' lives forever.  As a descendant of Alexander and Ellen Neibaur, we are the grateful recipients of this gospel through their sacrifices.  

Disclaimer:  This was written in good faith using the resources available at the time of writing.  Author is solely responsible for content.


Backman, Milton V. Jr. Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration. Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1983.

Bassett, Theda. Grandpa Neibaur was a Pioneer. Salt Lake City: Artistic Printing, 1988.

Bohi, Mrs. Mazie. "Pioneer Dentists and Druggists." 

Carpenter, Ellen Wilde. The Story of Ellen Breakel Neibaur. 17 July 2011 .

Carter, Kate B. Treasures of Pioneer History, Volume 4. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1956. 76-78.

Carter, Kate. "The Jews in Early Utah, Alexander Neibaur, The Mormon." Carter, Kate. Treasures of Pioneer History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1952. 333-340.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Hymns. Deseret Book Company.  1948.  240.

Hayward, C. Lynn. Notes from the Life of Alexander Neibaur. 30 Jan 2009 .

Neibaur, Alexander. Diary of Alexander Neibaur. 17 July 2011 .

Odgen, D. Kelly. "Two from Judah Minister to Joseph." Porter, Larry C. Regional Studies in LDS History: Illinois. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1995. 232-237.

Woods, Fred E. "A Mormon and Still a Jew: The Life of Alexander Neibaur." Mormon Historical Studies Volume 7 No. 1-2 Spring/Fall 2006: 24.

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