Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Revisited)

Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Revisited)

Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Revisited)

Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Revisited)


LeRoy Anderson in 1981 first published, under the title For Christ Will Come Tomorrow, his definitive study of a charismatic, millenarian prophet and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Most High. He told there of a Mormon posse's 1862 attack on the Morrisite compound, killing Joseph Morris, and of the continuing Morrisite movement, which survived into the mid-twentieth century. In this newly revised edition, Anderson revisits his subject by referring to more recently discovered documents, considering other scholars' continuing work on Morris's sect and related subjects, and examining a 1980s messianic sect that claimed a direct connection to the Morrisites.

New documentary sources include a holograph "History of George Morris," written by Joseph Morris's brother, which Anderson quotes at length. What was once a little-studied subject has since received attention from a number of scholars. Anderson references such current work on Mormon schismatic movements and broader subjects, much of which drew on his work. Perhaps the book's most interesting and unintended influence was on that obscure 1980s messianic sect, in Montana, which learned of Morris through Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites.


Nineteenth-century America witnessed a great revival of interest, at times fervent, in Christ’s Second Advent. Although the Christian movement had been built on millennial eschatology, many Christian sects developed a wide variety of specific expectations about the nature, time, and place of the Second Advent. Dozens, if not hundreds, of sects announced their own particular version of that great event. The premillennialists believed that Christ would appear prior to the time that a perfect society existed, while the postmillennialists preached that a perfect society must be established before the Second Coming. Thousands tried to set their lives in order so that they might personally share in the rapture. Some abandoned their professions, some gave all their possessions to the poor, and still others gave up friends and family to travel great distances and join the millennial throng.

Among the most colorful and enduring of the nineteenth-century millennial sects was the Mormon church. Mormons expected to build a great temple in the City of Zion as a fitting abode for the resurrected Jesus, but their abrupt expulsion from Missouri and Illinois removed them from the designated land of Zion and placed the seeming imminence of the Second Advent into the indefinite future. Their expulsion and migration to the Rocky Mountains disillusioned many adherents, who refused to take the long and problemattic journey under the leadership of Brigham Young. They either joined with other dissidents who stayed behind and developed their own version of Mormonism or simply dropped out of the Mormon movement entirely.

In 1857, ten years after the first Mormons came into the Great Salt Lake Valley, Joseph Morris began writing a series of letters to Brigham Young announcing his own prophetic calling and proposing that Young retain the presidency of the church, but relinquish the role of prophet, seer, and revelator to God’s true prophet, Morris himself. Extensive quotations from Morris’s letters to Brigham Young are included in this volume. They are essential to gaining greater insight into the mind of Morris as well as to helping us understand the rather one-sided exchange.

This work chronicles the life and death of Joseph Morris and traces the movement he initiated from its inception in 1857 to its ultimate demise . . .

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