Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

The Political, Religious, and Legal Justifications of the Morrisite War

Presenter Information

Tyler ThomasFollow

Class

Article

Department

History

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

In 1862, a religious and political challenge shook the foundations of the Utah Territory. A man named Joseph Morris claimed to be the new prophet and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church. This challenged the position held by church President Brigham Young. Morris gathered his followers into a small town called South Weber, north of the territorial capital of Salt Lake City. After breaking territorial law by holding captive several men who had attempted to leave the new Morrisite Church, a posse was sent to arrest Morris and free the prisoners. The Morrisites were captured and taken to Salt Lake City, but only after a three day siege that resulted in the deaths of Joseph Morris, two posse members and several of his followers. This paper will examine the events and the political and religious environment that led to the war. It will identify the worries of the United States government, embroiled in a civil war, and concerned over the possible succession of territories in the west. The paper will examine the rise of the Morrisites and the legal case for the mostly Mormon posse's attack. It will present the reasons for Morrisite and U.S. government suspicion of the Mormons, probing the possibility of political collusion and religious persecution in Utah and their extra-legal benefits to Mormon power. The paper will also present the Mormon side of the story, from Mormon preoccupation with law and order, stemming from their own suffering of persecution, to the importance of getting statehood for Utah. The object of the paper is to set the record straight concerning the conflict's depiction as a religious war. Instead, it is presented as a political and legal struggle within the Utah territory, one with national significance in the chaotic politics of Civil War America.

Start Date

4-9-2015 9:00 AM

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Apr 9th, 9:00 AM

The Political, Religious, and Legal Justifications of the Morrisite War

In 1862, a religious and political challenge shook the foundations of the Utah Territory. A man named Joseph Morris claimed to be the new prophet and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon Church. This challenged the position held by church President Brigham Young. Morris gathered his followers into a small town called South Weber, north of the territorial capital of Salt Lake City. After breaking territorial law by holding captive several men who had attempted to leave the new Morrisite Church, a posse was sent to arrest Morris and free the prisoners. The Morrisites were captured and taken to Salt Lake City, but only after a three day siege that resulted in the deaths of Joseph Morris, two posse members and several of his followers. This paper will examine the events and the political and religious environment that led to the war. It will identify the worries of the United States government, embroiled in a civil war, and concerned over the possible succession of territories in the west. The paper will examine the rise of the Morrisites and the legal case for the mostly Mormon posse's attack. It will present the reasons for Morrisite and U.S. government suspicion of the Mormons, probing the possibility of political collusion and religious persecution in Utah and their extra-legal benefits to Mormon power. The paper will also present the Mormon side of the story, from Mormon preoccupation with law and order, stemming from their own suffering of persecution, to the importance of getting statehood for Utah. The object of the paper is to set the record straight concerning the conflict's depiction as a religious war. Instead, it is presented as a political and legal struggle within the Utah territory, one with national significance in the chaotic politics of Civil War America.