Grampa Bill's G. A. Pages
Nauvoo Legion
Nauvoo Legion
Morrisite War

    The Morrisites, or as they syled themselves "The Church of the Firstborn" were an apostate splinter group which had branched off the Church. This church was founded by Joseph Morris.

   Joseph Morris, self acclaimed prophet and leader of the Morrisites, was born in 1817 and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was twenty-three years old while he was living in England. He married Mary Thorpe and brought her to America, where they resided in St. Louis for two years. Moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joseph became the local L.D.S. congregation's branch president. Morris and his family immigrated to Utah in 1853 and after several moves ended up in the small community of South Weber.

   Morris had claimed to have received numerous spiritual manifestations, but it was in 1857 that he recorded his first official revelation. This purported revelation designated him as the seventh angel of the apocalypse, outlined ten steps to godhood, explained the doctrine of reincarnation, and proclaimed the "immediate" second coming of Christ. Morris also taught that Brigham Young was a fallen prophet, that plural marriage was a false doctrine, and that no more Mormon missionaries should be sent into the world.

   About two hundred former LDS Church members subsequently became disciples of Morris. In February 1861 Morris, Cook, and fifteen others were excommunicated from the Mormon Church by apostles John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff. On April 6(!!!), 1861 Joseph Morris organized his new church, headquartered in South Weber, and issued a proclamation that all of his followers should gather at Kingston Fort. With the belief that "Christ will come tomorrow," they held all things in common and, according to some authorities, even trampled some of their crops into the ground as evidence of their faith.

   Because they expectated Christ's immediate return, the Morrisites failed to produce much of their needs. Hence, by the spring of 1862, food was scarce. Latter-day Saints were counseled by their leaders to have no dealings with the Morrisites, which meant that the residents of Kingston Fort had to travel to Kaysville to have their wheat ground into flour. This involved a taxable transaction, which tax the Morrisites refused to pay. Davis County Sheriff Lot Smith attempted to collect the tax, but was met by armed men and ordered out of the fort.

   When several Morrisites became diaffected and attempted to leave the cult with their property they were detained and ultimately placed under guard in a small log cabin. When word reached Chief Justice of the Third District Court John F. Kenney that Joseph Morris was holding prisoners in violation of the law, he issued a writ of habeas corpus demanding that the prisoners be set free.

   Morris refused to receive the writ, insisting that his cultists were no longer subject to the law. Robert T. Burton, acting in the dual capacity of deputy U.S. Marshal and Colonel of the Nauvoo Legion rode with a posse of about two hundred deputies and Legionaires to capture Joseph Morris and other cult leaders and bring them to Salt Lake City to stand trial.

   Meanwhile, Morris claimed additional revelations indicating that Christ would come and deliver his followers just a few days after a spectacular pageant called "The Foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God Day," which was scheduled for May 30, 1862. Therefore Joseph Morris proclaimed the appearance of the army in the middle of June was a certain sign that the time of the Second Coming was imminent. Upon arriving at the fort, Robert Burton instructed a Morrisite youth to deliver a message to his leader demanding their surrender. After growing weary of the Morrisites' delay in responding to his demands, Burton ordered two warning shots to be fired to speed up the decision. The second ball struck the plowed ground in front of the settlement and ricocheted into the fort itself, injuring some and killing others.

   Joseph Morris again claimed a new revelation of comfort and reassurance while some Morrisites returned the fire, killing Jared Smith of the posse. On the third day of the siege, Joseph Morris, his counselor John Banks, and a few others were killed. The rest, seeing their leaders dead, surrendered. The Morrisite war was officially over.

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