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Joe Duncan

How Joseph Smith Got His Horse, “Joe Duncan”

The issue of Joseph getting the horse he called “Joe Duncan” is not in question, but how he got it and from whom is in question.  From the Sanders family there is strong testimony that it was Moses Martin Sanders who gave him the horse.

What do you think of when I say Mormon horses? If you put the two words into a search engine you will likely find arguments about horses in the Book of Mormon. But when I hear those two words I think of Tennessee. Yes, Tennessee.

Moses Martin Sanders Sr., born 17 August 1803,  (Biography of Moses Sanders)came from a wealthy family in Maury County, Tennessee. The details are lost to history, but he and his wife were converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was baptized on 28 Jan 1835. They gathered with the saints in Far West, Missouri in 1836, and then later in Nauvoo, Illinois.  Moses worked as a policeman in Nauvoo, as well as on the building of the Temple.  He was ordained a Seventy and lived very near the home of Joseph Smith.  Like many in Nauvoo, Moses knew Joseph personally.

Moses owned a beautiful horse. It was spirited and unruly.  Even his wife feared to take care of the horse when Moses was away.  Then one day Joseph said to Moses:

“Brother Sanders, give the horse to me and I’ll promise that you will never lose by it.” Moses Martin replied, “I would, but I am afraid that he may hurt you.” Then the Prophet said, “No, he would never hurt me.” So Moses tossed him the rope and said, “He is yours.

Joseph rode that horse on parade in the Nauvoo Legion.  And the painting we often see today of the Nauvoo Legion is one of Joseph riding “Joe Duncan.” The story goes that he was named, not respectfully, after Joseph Duncan, the governor of Illinois from 1834 to 1838.  So the next time you see this image, think of the Tennessean horse on which he rode.