Joseph Smith Rescues the Runaway Stage Coach

Joseph Smith was very strong and fit. He grew up performing physical labor. He loved wrestling and pulling sticks.   

This strength and fitness aided him in his ministry. He survived being beaten, poisoned, tarred and feathered, and imprisoned.  He survived several life-threatening illnesses, including food poisoning, malaria, and cholera.

Joseph Smith was also courageous. This was repeatedly demonstrated. One little known episode involved his rescue of a runaway stage coach.

After the brutal persecution and attempted governmental extermination of the saints in Missouri, Joseph Smith led a mission to the nation’s capital in 1839 seeking help from the federal government.

While traveling to D.C. Sidney Rigdon became ill. Joseph and Elias Higbee went on in a stage coach in order to keep their appointments in Washington.

In a mountainous region, the driver pulled up at a pub and stopped for a drink. He left the passengers waiting in the coach. After a while, the unattended horses bolted and ran down the steep hill. 

Some of the passengers prepared to jump from the racing coach in an attempt to save their lives. One woman got ready to toss her baby out the window. Joseph Smith forcefully intervened. He steadied the passengers, and insisted they remain in their seats.

Joseph reached through the window on the driver’s side and opened the door from the outside. He then reached up and grabbed onto the luggage rail on top. He swung himself up into the driver’s seat. 

There, he grabbed the tangled reins.  He untangled the reins and forcefully pulled back. He slowly brought the rampaging horses to a stop after their two to three-mile run.

The passengers were shaken but uninjured. They couldn’t thank Joseph enough. Two of the passengers were members of congress. They were so grateful that they proposed giving Joseph a public commendation, until they learned he was the Mormon Prophet.

(There are multiple accounts of Joseph Smith’s physical strength. There are also several stories of his courage.  This episode confirms those stories. This account has enough corroborating documentation to support its truthfulness.  However, some of the details differ among the various accounts.

(Sources: Donna Hill,  Joseph Smith, First Mormon; Robert D. Foster, “A Testimony of the Past: Loda, Illinois, February 14, 1874,” The True Latter Day Saints’ Herald (April 15, 1875) p. 225–26;  Letter from Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee to Hyrum Smith, December 5, 1839, Washington City, “Corner Missouri and 3d Street,” Joseph Smith Collection, Letterbook 2:85–88, Church History Library; Ronald O. Barney; “Joseph Smith Goes to Washington,” in Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer,ed. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Kent P. Jackson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 391–420.)

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