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Peoples Temple

Peoples Temple

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Peoples Temple was a religious organization founded in 1955 by Jim Jones
Jim Jones
James Warren "Jim" Jones was the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, which is best known for the November 18, 1978 mass suicide of 909 Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana along with the killings of five other people at a nearby airstrip.Jones was born in Indiana and started the Temple in...

 that, by the mid-1970s, included over a dozen locations in California including its headquarters in San Francisco
Peoples Temple in San Francisco
The Peoples Temple, the organization at the center of the Jonestown incident, was headquartered in San Francisco, California, from the early to mid-1970s until the Temple's move to Guyana....

. It is best known for the events of November 18, 1978, in Guyana
Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

, in which 918 people died at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (informally, and now commonly, called "Jonestown") and nearby airstrip at Port Kaituma
Port Kaituma
Port Kaituma is a small town within the Barima-Waini administrative region of Guyana, located at .- History :Although an Amerindian settlement has existed along the Kaituma River for some time, it was only after the discovery of manganese at nearby Matthew's Ridge that Port Kaituma was developed...

, and Georgetown
Georgetown, Guyana
Georgetown, estimated population 239,227 , is the capital and largest city of Guyana, located in the Demerara-Mahaica region. It is situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast at the mouth of the Demerara River and it was nicknamed 'Garden City of the Caribbean.' Georgetown is located at . The city serves...

 in an organized mass suicide/killing.

The mass suicide and killings at Jonestown resulted in the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster, prior to the events of September 11, 2001. Casualties at the airstrip included, among others, Congressman Leo Ryan
Leo Ryan
Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr. was an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served as a U.S. Representative from California's 11th congressional district from 1973 until he was murdered in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple shortly before the Jonestown Massacre in 1978.After the Watts Riots...

.

Indiana formation



Before forming a church, Jim Jones
Jim Jones
James Warren "Jim" Jones was the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, which is best known for the November 18, 1978 mass suicide of 909 Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana along with the killings of five other people at a nearby airstrip.Jones was born in Indiana and started the Temple in...

 had become enamored by communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 and frustrated by the harassment communists received in the U.S. This, among other things, provided a seminal inspiration for Jones; as he himself described in a biographical recording,
Although he feared a backlash for being a communist, Jones was surprised when a Methodist
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 superintendent (whom he had not met through the American Communist Party) helped him into the church, despite his knowledge that Jones was a communist. In 1952, Jones became a student pastor in Sommerset Southside Methodist Church in Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

, but left that church because it barred him from integrating African Americans into his congregation. In 1954, Jones began his own church in a rented space in Indianapolis, at first naming it the Community Unity Church.

Jones had previously witnessed a faith healing
Faith healing
Faith healing is healing through spiritual means. The healing of a person is brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward correcting disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or...

 service at the Seventh Day Baptist
Seventh Day Baptist
Seventh Day Baptists are Christian Baptists who observe Sabbath on the seventh-day of the week in accord with their understanding of the Biblical Sabbath for the Judeo-Christian tradition...

 Church, and concluded that such healings could attract people, and generate income, helping accomplish his social goals. Jones and Temple members knowingly faked healings because they found that the increased faith generated financial resources to help the poor and finance the church. These "healings" involved chicken livers and other animal tissue, claimed by Jones (and confederate Temple members) to be cancerous tissues removed from the body.

In 1956, Jones bought his first church building, in a racially mixed Indianapolis neighborhood. He first named this church "Wings of Deliverance", and later that year renamed it the "Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church", the first time he used the phrase "Peoples Temple." Jones' healings and purported clairvoyant revelations attracted spiritualists.

Indianapolis expansion



In order to increase publicity, the Temple organized large religious "conventions" with other Pentecostal pastors, Jones continuing to disguise the fact that he was using religion to further social goals. Those conventions drew as many as 11,000 attendees, as Jones and the other preachers conducted "healings" and impressed attendees by revealing private information—usually numbers, such as addresses, phone numbers or Social Security number
Social Security number
In the United States, a Social Security number is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents under section 205 of the Social Security Act, codified as . The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration, an independent...

s, which private detectives could easily discover beforehand. Jones and Temple members also drove through various cities in Indiana and Ohio on recruiting and fund raising efforts.

The Temple stressed egalitarian ideals, asking members to attend in casual clothes so poor members would not feel out of place, and providing shelter for the needy. While the Temple had increased its African-American membership from 15% to nearly 50%, in order to attempt further gains the Temple hired African-American preacher Archie Ijames (who had earlier given up organized religion). Pastor Ijames was one of the first to commit to Jones' socialist collective
Collective
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project to achieve a common objective...

 program. In 1959, the church joined the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The Christian Church is a Mainline Protestant denomination in North America. It is often referred to as The Christian Church, The Disciples of Christ, or more simply as The Disciples...

, and was renamed the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel. This affiliation was a successful attempt to both raise the dwindling membership and restore the reputation of the organization.

In February 1960, the Temple opened a soup kitchen
Soup kitchen
A soup kitchen, a bread line, or a meal center is a place where food is offered to the hungry for free or at a reasonably low price. Frequently located in lower-income neighborhoods, they are often staffed by volunteer organizations, such as church groups or community groups...

 for the poor, and expanded their social services to include rent assistance, job placement services and free canned goods, clothing and coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 for winter heating. Ijames and his wife helped to increase the Temple's soup kitchen service to an average of about 2,800 meals per month.

The Temple's public profile was further elevated when Jones was appointed to the Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

 Human Rights Commission
Human rights commission
A Human Rights Commission is a body set up to investigate, promote or protect human rights.The term may refer to international, national or subnational bodies set up for this purpose, such as national human rights institutions or truth and reconciliation commissions.-International Human Rights...

. He engaged in public attempts to integrate
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 businesses, and was the subject of much local media coverage.

Changes and "religious communalism"


Jones had read extensively about Father Divine
Father Divine
Father Divine , also known as Reverend M. J. Divine, was an African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death. His full self-given name was Reverend Major Jealous Divine, and he was also known as "the Messenger" early in his life...

, the founder of the International Peace Mission movement
International Peace Mission movement
The International Peace Mission movement was the religious movement started by Father Divine, an African-American who claimed to be God.-History:...

. Jones and Temple members visited Divine several times, while Jones studied his writings and tape recordings of his sermons. The Temple printed Divine's texts for its members and began to preach that members should abstain from sex and only adopt children.

In 1959, in a sermon in his Delaware Street Temple, Jones tested the new fiery rhetorical style that Divine had used. His speech captivated members with lulls and crescendos, as Jones challenged individual members in front of the group. The speech also marked the beginning of the Temple's underlying "us versus them" message. Jones carefully wove in that the Temple's home for senior citizens was established on the basis "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need is a slogan popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. In German, "Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!"...

", quoting Karl Marx's "Critique of the Gotha Program
Critique of the Gotha Program
The Critique of the Gotha Program is a document based on a letter by Karl Marx written in early May 1875 to the Eisenach faction of the German social democratic movement, with whom Marx and Friedrich Engels were in close association...

". He did so knowing that his Christian audience would recognize the similarities with text from the Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

 (4:34–35) which stated "distribution was made to each as any had need." Jones would repeatedly cite that passage to paint Jesus Christ as a communist, while at the same time attacking much of the text of the Bible.

The Temple began tightening its organization, asking more of its members than did other churches. It required that members spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with its Temple "family" rather than with blood relatives, the beginning of a process to wean members from families and redirect their lives toward a total commitment to the Temple's social and political goals. Jones began to offer a deal towards a socialist collective, which he referred to as "religious communalism", in which members would donate their material possessions to the Temple in exchange for the Temple meeting all those members' needs. Pastor Ijames was one of the first to commit.

However, the Temple had little luck converting most midwesterners to communist ideals, even when disguised as religion. Admiring Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

's 1959 overthrow of Batista
Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was the United States-aligned Cuban President, dictator and military leader who served as the leader of Cuba from 1933 to 1944 and from 1952 to 1959, before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution....

 in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, Jones traveled to Cuba in 1960 to attempt to convert poor Cuban blacks to move to his congregation in Indiana, but the plan failed.

The Temple's religious message transitioned during this period, to one treading between atheism and the subtle notion that Jones was a Christ-like figure. While Temple aides complained privately, Jones said that the new message was needed to foster members' dedication to the Temple's larger goals. Jones maintained such implications until the mid-to-late 1970s.

In 1961, Jones claimed he had had a vision of Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 coming under a nuclear attack. He claimed that Indianapolis would also be destroyed, convincing aides that the Temple needed to look for a new location.

A 1962 Esquire magazine article listed the nine safest places to be in a nuclear war, with Belo Horizonte, Brazil, topping the list, because of its location and atmospheric conditions. Jones traveled through Brazil from 1962 through early 1963. He requested money from the Temple while in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

, but the Temple lacked adequate funds for such a request because of shrinking finances in Jones' absence. Jones sent a preacher that had become a follower in Brazil back to Indiana to help stabilize the Temple.

Move to California


After traveling in Brazil, Jones returned to Indiana in 1963. While Jones had always spoken of the social gospel's virtues, before the late 1960s, Jones did not reveal that his gospel was actually communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. By the late 1960s, Jones began openly revealing in Temple sermons his "apostolic
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

 Socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

" concept. The concept often loosely mixed tenets of atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 and socialism.The Temple openly preached to established members that "religion is an opiate to the people." (Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 1053." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.) Accordingly, "those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment socialism." (Layton 1999, page 53). In that regard, Jones also openly stated that he "took the church and used the church to bring people to atheism." (Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 757." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University). Jones often mixed those concepts, such as preaching that "If you're born in this church, this socialist revolution, you're not born in sin. If you're born in capitalist America, racist America, fascist America, then you're born in sin. But if you're born in socialism, you're not born in sin."(Jones, Jim. "Transcript of Recovered FBI tape Q 1053." Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple. Jonestown Project: San Diego State University.)
During this period, Jones preached to new members that the Holy Spirit was within them, but that Jones' healing power demonstrated that he was a special manifestation of "Christ the Revolution." He also preached that the United States was the Antichrist and capitalism was "the Antichrist system."

Jones preached of an imminent nuclear holocaust, and that the surviving elect would then create a new socialist Eden on earth. In 1965, he predicted this would occur on July 15, 1967. Accordingly, Jones preached that the Temple must move to Redwood Valley, California
Redwood Valley, California
Redwood Valley is a census-designated place in Mendocino County, California. It is located southwest of Potter Valley, at an elevation of 722 feet . It comprises the northern portion of the Ukiah Valley. It is about 8 mi north of Ukiah and 12 mi south of Willits. Potter Valley is to...

. Jones led approximately 140 members, half of whom were black, to Redwood Valley in July 1965 and officially opened church in Ukiah
Ukiah, California
The average high temperature is 73.5 °F . Average low temperature is 46.1 °F . Temperatures reach 90 °F on an average of 65.6 days annually and 100 °F on an average of 14.4 days annually. Due to frequent low humidity, summer temperatures normally drop into the fifties at night. Freezing...

. The addition of deputy district attorney Timothy Stoen
Timothy Stoen
Timothy Oliver Stoen , is best known for his central role as a member of the Peoples Temple and later opposition to the group in a multi-year custody battle over John Stoen that led to an investigation of the Peoples Temple's settlement at Jonestown, Guyana...

 greatly increased the Temple's credibility in the area, quickly increasing membership.

Jones began deriding traditional Christianity as "fly away religion," and rejected the Bible as being white men’s' justification to dominate women and enslave people of color. Jones authored a booklet he would distribute in the Temple titled "The Letter Killeth," pointing out what he felt were the contradictions, absurdities, and atrocities in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, but also stating that the Bible contained great truths. Jones preached that the "Divine Principle" equated with "Love," and Love was equated with "Socialism." He stated that the Bible only contained beliefs about a "Sky God" or "Buzzard God," who was no God at all.

Urban expansion



Because of limited expansion in the Ukiah area, eventually moving the seat of power to an urban area appeared to be a strategic necessity. In 1970, the Temple began holding services in San Francisco
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

 and Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

. It established permanent facilities in those cities in 1971 and 1972, respectively.

By 1972, the Temple was calling Redwood Valley the "mother church" of a "statewide political movement". From the start, the Los Angeles facility's primary purposes were to recruit members and to serve as a way station for the Temple's weekly bus trips across California. The Temple set up a permanent staff in Los Angeles and arranged bus trips to Los Angeles every other week. The substantial attendance and collections in Los Angeles helped to support the Temple's inflated membership claims. The Los Angeles facility was physically larger than that in San Francisco. Its central location at the corner of Alvarado and Hoover Streets permitted easy geographic access for a large African-American membership from Watts and Compton.

Recruiting drives in Los Angeles and San Francisco helped to increase membership in the Peoples Temple from a few hundred to nearly 3,000 by the mid-70s. Later, when the Temple's headquarters shifted from Redwood Valley to San Francisco, the Temple convinced many Los Angeles members to move north to its new headquarters.

Organizational structure


Although some descriptions of the Peoples Temple emphasize Jones's autocratic control over Temple operation, in actuality, the Temple possessed a complex leadership structure with decision-making power unevenly dispersed among its members. However, within that structure, Temple members were subjected unwittingly and gradually to sophisticated mind control
Mind control
Mind control refers to a process in which a group or individual "systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator, often to the detriment of the person being manipulated"...

 and behavior modification
Behavior modification
Behavior modification is the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to increase or decrease the frequency of behaviors, such as altering an individual's behaviors and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior and/or the reduction of...

 techniques borrowed from post-revolutionary People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 and North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

. The Temple brightly defined psychological borders over which "enemies", such as "traitors" to the Temple, crossed at their own peril. While the secrecy and caution he demanded in recruiting led to decreased overall membership, they also helped Jones to better foster a hero worship of himself as the "ultimate socialist".

In the early 1970s, the Temple established a more formal hierarchy for its socialistic model. At the top were the Temple's Staff, a select group of eight to ten unquestionably obedient college-educated women that undertook the most sensitive missions for the Temple. They necessarily acclimated themselves to an "ends justify the means" philosophy. The earliest member was Sandy Bradshaw, a 24-year-old socialist from Syracuse, New York. Others included Carolyn Layton, a 31-year-old Communist since the age of 15 who was the mother of a child with Jones; Sharon Amos, who worked for the social services department; Patty Cartmell, Jones' secretary; and Terry Buford, a Navy brat turned pacifist. The group was often scorned as being elitist within the egalitarian Temple organization and were viewed as Temple secret police.

The Temple's Planning Commission was its governing board. Membership quickly ballooned from 50 to over 100. During the week, members convened for meetings in various Redwood Valley locations, sometimes until dawn. The Planning Commission was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Temple, including key decision making, financial and legal planning, and oversight of the organization. The Planning Commission sat over various other committees, such as the Diversions Committee, which carried out tasks such as writing huge numbers of letters to politicians from fictional people mailed from various locations around the U.S., and the Mertles Committee, which undertook activities against defectors Al and Jeannie Mills
Jeannie Mills
Jeannie Mills was an early defector from the Peoples Temple cult, author of the book Six Years with God , and co-founder of the Concerned Relatives of Peoples Temple Members organization and the Human Freedom Center...

.

A group of rank-and-file members, referred to by outsiders as "the troops", consisted of working-class members that were 70–80% black who set up chairs for meetings, filled offering boxes and did other tasks. Most made the leap from Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 to the Temple's quasi-socialism both because of the Temple's political reeducation and because "the troops" were responding to the form rather than the substance of the Temple's services. Jones also surrounded himself with several dozen mostly white privileged members in their twenties and thirties who had skills in law, accounting, nursing, teaching, music and administration. This latter group carried out public relations, financial duties and more mundane chores while bringing in good salaries from well-paying outside jobs.

Recruiting, faith healings and fund raising


The Temple used ten to fifteen Greyhound-type bus cruisers to transport members up and down California freeways each week for recruitment and fund raising. Jim Jones always rode bus number seven, which contained armed guards and a special section lined with protective metal plates. Jones told members that the Temple would not bother scheduling a trip unless it could net $100,000–$200,000, and the Temple's goal for annual net income from bus trips was $1 million.

Beginning in the 1970s, the bus caravan also traveled across the United States quarterly, including to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

  In June 1973, Representative George Brown, Jr.
George Brown, Jr.
George Edward Brown, Jr. was an American politician. He was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from 1963 to 1971 and from 1973 to 1999, representing Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties in California.-Background:Brown was born in Holtville, California...

 entered a lengthy and laudatory description of the Temple into the Congressional Record
Congressional Record
The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published by the United States Government Printing Office, and is issued daily when the United States Congress is in session. Indexes are issued approximately every two weeks...

. The Washington Post ran an August 18, 1973, editorial-page item stating that the 660 Temple visitors were the "hands down winners of anybody's tourists of the year award" after spending an hour cleaning up the Capitol grounds.

The Temple distributed pamphlets in cities along the route of these fund raising trips bragging of Jones's prowess at "spiritual healing", while not mentioning the Temple's Marxist goals. Stops included large cities, such as Houston, Detroit and Cleveland. Temple members pretended to be locals and acted as shills in the various faked healings and "revelations". Local viewers did not realize that they were in the minority in the audience. The weekly take from offerings and healing services was $15,000 to $25,000 in Los Angeles and $8,000 to $12,000 in San Francisco. There were smaller collections from trips around the "mother church" in Redwood Valley.

The Temple also set up Truth Enterprises, a direct-mailing branch that sent out 30,000 to 50,000 mailers monthly to people who had attended Temple services or had written to the Temple after listening to Temple radio shows. Donations were mailed in from all over the continental United States, Hawaii, South America and Europe. In addition to receiving donations, the Temple also sold trinkets, such as pieces of Jones's robes, healing oil, and Temple rings, key chains and lockets. In peak periods, mailer revenue grossed $300 to $400 daily. This figure even surprised Jones.

Although Jones had earlier asked Temple members to destroy photos of Jones because he did not want members worshiping him as Catholics "worshiped plaster statues", Jeannie and Al Mills
Jeannie Mills
Jeannie Mills was an early defector from the Peoples Temple cult, author of the book Six Years with God , and co-founder of the Concerned Relatives of Peoples Temple Members organization and the Human Freedom Center...

 (who would later defect) convinced Jones to sell anointed and blessed photos to help raise money for the Temple. Jones used to fret "they're gonna get me for mail fraud someday." In 1973, the Temple also formed Brotherhood Records, a subsidiary that produced records from the Temple's "large interracial youth choir and orchestra".

Size and scope


Despite exaggerated claims by the Temple of 20,000 or more members, one source claims its greatest actual registered membership was around 3,000. However, 5,000 individual membership card photos were located in Temple records after its dissolution. Regardless of its official membership, the Temple also regularly drew 3,000 people to its San Francisco services alone, whether or not they were technically registered members. Of particular interest to politicians was the Temple's ability to produce 2,000 people for work or attendance in San Francisco with only six hours' notice.

By the mid-1970s, in addition to its locations in Redwood Valley, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Peoples Temple had also established satellite congregations in almost a dozen other California cities. Jones mentioned locations in San Francisco, Ukiah
Ukiah, California
The average high temperature is 73.5 °F . Average low temperature is 46.1 °F . Temperatures reach 90 °F on an average of 65.6 days annually and 100 °F on an average of 14.4 days annually. Due to frequent low humidity, summer temperatures normally drop into the fifties at night. Freezing...

, Los Angeles, Bakersfield
Bakersfield, California
Bakersfield is a city near the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County, California. It is roughly equidistant between Fresno and Los Angeles, to the north and south respectively....

, Fresno
Fresno, California
Fresno is a city in central California, United States, the county seat of Fresno County. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 510,365, making it the fifth largest city in California, the largest inland city in California, and the 34th largest in the nation...

 and Sacramento
Sacramento, California
Sacramento is the capital city of the U.S. state of California and the county seat of Sacramento County. It is located at the confluence of the Sacramento River and the American River in the northern portion of California's expansive Central Valley. With a population of 466,488 at the 2010 census,...

. The Temple also maintained a branch, college tuition program and dormitory at Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa Junior College is a community college located in the city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, California. Founded in 1918, it is the tenth oldest community college in the state. Santa Rosa Junior College was modeled as a "junior" version of nearby University of California at Berkeley...

.

At the same time, Jones and his church earned a reputation for aiding the cities' poorest citizens, especially racial minorities, drug addicts, and the homeless. The Peoples Temple made strong connections to the California state welfare system. During the 1970s, the Peoples Temple owned and ran at least nine residential care homes for the elderly, six homes for foster children, and a state-licensed 40 acres (161,874.4 m²) ranch for developmentally disabled persons. The Temple elite handled members' insurance claims and legal problems, effectively acting as a client-advocacy group. For these reasons, sociologist John Hall described Peoples Temple as a "charismatic bureaucracy", oriented toward Jones as a charismatic leader, but functioning as a bureaucratic social service organisation.

Kinsolving series


In 1972, the San Francisco Examiner and Indianapolis Star ran the first four parts of a seven-part story on the Temple by Lester Kinsolving
Lester Kinsolving
Charles Lester Kinsolving is a political talk radio host, currently heard on WCBM in Baltimore, Maryland. He is better known, however, as a White House correspondent for WorldNetDaily...

, its first public exposé. Kinsolving reported on several aspects of church dealings, its claims of healings and Jones's ritual of throwing bibles down in church, yelling, "This black book has held down you people for 200 years. It has no power." The Temple picketed the Examiner, yelled at the Examiners editor in a car (seated between burly Temple "Red Brigade" security guards) and threatened both papers with libel suits. Both papers cancelled the series after the fourth of the seven installments. Shortly thereafter, Jones made grants to newspapers in California with the stated goal of supporting the First Amendment.

Defections


Some defections occurred, most notably in 1973, when eight mostly young members, commonly referred to as the "Gang of Eight", defected together. Because members of the Gang of Eight were aware of sinister threats to potentially defecting members, they suspected that Jones would send a search party to look for them. Their fears proved to be correct when Jones employed multiple search parties, including one scanning highways from a rented airplane. The Gang of Eight drove three trucks loaded with firearms toward Canada, avoiding watched U.S. Highway 101. Because they feared bringing firearms over the Canadian border, the Gang of Eight traveled instead to the hills of Montana, where they wrote a long letter documenting their complaints.

Former Temple member Jeannie Mills
Jeannie Mills
Jeannie Mills was an early defector from the Peoples Temple cult, author of the book Six Years with God , and co-founder of the Concerned Relatives of Peoples Temple Members organization and the Human Freedom Center...

 later wrote that Jones called thirty members to his home and forebodingly declared that, in light of the Gang of Eight defection, "in order to keep our apostolic socialism, we should all kill ourselves and leave a note saying that because of harassment, a socialist group cannot exist at this time." Jones became furious, waving a pistol in his Planning Commission meeting while threatening potential defectors and referring to the Gang of Eight as "Trotskyite defectors" and "Coca-Cola revolutionaries". While the Temple did not execute the suicide plan to which Jones referred, it did conduct fake suicide rituals in the years that followed.

San Francisco Temple



The move to San Francisco permitted Jones to return to urban recruitment and made better political sense because it permitted the Temple to show its true political stripes. By spring 1976, Jones openly admitted even to outsiders that he was an atheist. Despite the Temple's fear that the IRS was investigating its religious tax exemption, by 1977, Jones's wife, Marcy, openly admitted to the New York Times that Jones had not been lured to religion because of faith, but because it served his goal of social change through Marxism. She stated that, as early as age 18 when he watched his idol Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 defeat the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

, Jones realized that the way to achieve social change in the United States was to mobilize people through religion. She admitted that "Jim used religion to try to get some people out of the opiate of religion" and had slammed the Bible on the table yelling, "I've got to destroy this paper idol!"

With the move into San Francisco, the Temple more strenuously emphasized that its members live communally. It stressed physical discipline of children first, and then adults. The San Francisco Temple also carefully vetted newcomers through an extensive observation process.

The Temple distinguished itself from most cults with its overtly political message. It combined those genuine political sympathies with the perception that it could help turn out large numbers of votes to gain the support of a number of prominent politicians. Jones made it known after he moved to San Francisco that he was interested in politics, and legal changes strengthened political groups like the Temple.

After the Temple mobilized volunteers and voters instrumental in George Moscone's narrow election victory in 1975, Moscone appointed Jones as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. Jones and the Temple received the support of, among others, Governor Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown
Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown, Jr. is an American politician. Brown served as the 34th Governor of California , and is currently serving as the 39th California Governor...

, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, Assemblyman Willie Brown
Willie Brown (politician)
Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. is an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served over 30 years in the California State Assembly, spending 15 years as its Speaker, and afterward served as the 41st mayor of San Francisco, the first African American to do so...

, San Francisco mayor George Moscone
George Moscone
George Richard Moscone was an American attorney and Democratic politician. He was the 37th mayor of San Francisco, California, US from January 1976 until his assassination in November 1978. Moscone served in the California State Senate from 1967 until becoming Mayor. In the Senate, he served as...

, Art Agnos, and Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk
Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors...

. Willie Brown visited the Temple many times and spoke publicly in support of Jones, even after investigations and suspicions of cult activity.

After his rise in San Francisco political circles, Jones and Moscone met privately with Vice Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale
Walter Mondale
Walter Frederick "Fritz" Mondale is an American Democratic Party politician, who served as the 42nd Vice President of the United States , under President Jimmy Carter, and as a United States Senator for Minnesota...

 in San Francisco days before the 1976 Presidential election. Jones also met First Lady Rosalynn Carter
Rosalynn Carter
Eleanor Rosalynn Carter is the wife of the former President of the United States Jimmy Carter and in that capacity served as the First Lady of the United States from 1977 to 1981. As First Lady and after, she has been a leading advocate for numerous causes, perhaps most prominently for mental...

 on multiple occasions, including a private dinner, and corresponded with Mrs. Carter.

Jones used his position at the Housing Authority to lead the fight for a period against the eviction of tenants from San Francisco's famous I-Hotel
I-Hotel
The I-Hotel, officially known as the International Hotel, was built in 1907 after the devastating 1906 earthquake and was a low-cost residential hotel located at the corner of Kearny and Jackson Streets in the Manilatown section of San Francisco...

. The Temple further forged an alliance with San Francisco Sun Reporter publisher Carlton Goodlett and received frequent favorable mentions in that paper. It also received frequent favorable mentions from famed San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

 columnist Herb Caen
Herb Caen
Herbert Eugene Caen was a Pulitzer Prize-winning San Francisco journalistwhose daily column of local goings-on, social and political happenings,...

 and other local newspaper and television reporters.

The Temple aroused police suspicion after Jones praised the radical Bay Area group the Symbionese Liberation Army
Symbionese Liberation Army
The Symbionese Liberation Army was an American self-styled left-wing urban militant group active between 1973 and 1975 that considered itself a revolutionary vanguard army...

 and its leaders attended San Francisco Temple meetings. Further suspicions were raised after the defection of Joyce Shaw and the death soon after of her husband, Bob Houston. After tension rose between the Temple and the Nation of Islam
Nation of Islam
The Nation of Islam is a mainly African-American new religious movement founded in Detroit, Michigan by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in July 1930 to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and economic condition of African-Americans in the United States of America. The movement teaches black pride and...

 in San Francisco, the group held a large "spiritual" jubilee in the Los Angeles convention center attended by thousands, including prominent political figures, to heal the rift.

While the Temple forged media alliances, the move to San Francisco also opened the group to San Francisco media scrutiny. After Jones and hundreds of Temple members fled to Guyana following media investigations, Mayor Moscone issued a press release stating the Mayor's office would not investigate the Temple. During this time, Harvey Milk spoke at Peoples Temple political rallies and wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 after the investigations began praising Jones and stating that the leader of those attempting to extricate relatives from Jonestown was telling "bold-faced lies".

Mass suicide at the Temple's Jonestown agricultural commune



In 1974, the Peoples Temple signed a lease to rent land in Guyana. The community created on this property was called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or informally, "Jonestown". It had as few as 50 residents in early 1977.

Jones saw Jonestown
Jonestown
Jonestown was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an intentional community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious when, on November 18, 1978, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby...

 as both a "socialist paradise" and a "sanctuary" from media scrutiny that had started with the Kinsolving articles. Former Temple member Tim Carter describes the reason for the move to Jonestown as "in seventy four (1974), what we saw in the United States was creeping fascism
Creeping fascism
Creeping fascism is a political term documented in various forms during the first half of the 20th Century, especially after World War II ....

." Carter explained, "It was apparent that corporations, or the multinationals, were getting much larger, their influence was growing within the government, and the United States is a racist place." Carter said the Temple concluded that Guyana was "a place in a black country where our black members could live in peace", "it was a socialist government" and it was "the only English speaking country in South America."

Increasing media scrutiny based upon allegations by former members placed further pressure on Jones in 1977, in particular, an article by Marshall Kilduff
Marshall Kilduff
Marshall Kilduff is a journalist currently writing for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is noted for being the coauthor of the investigatory report criticizing the leader of Peoples Temple, Jim Jones. In 1978, after the publication of the article in New West Magazine, Jones and the Peoples Temple...

 in New West Magazine. Just before publication of the New West piece, editor Rosalie Wright telephoned Jones to read him the article. Wright explained that she was only doing so before publication because of "all the support letters we received on your behalf, from the Governor of California (Jerry Brown)" and others. While still on the phone listening to the allegations contained in the article, Jones wrote a note to Temple members in the room with him that said, "We leave tonight. Notify Georgetown (Guyana)."

After Jim Jones left for Guyana, he encouraged Temple members to follow him there. The population grew to over 900 people by late 1978. Those who moved there were promised a tropical paradise, free from the supposed wickedness of the outside world.

On November 17, 1978, Leo Ryan
Leo Ryan
Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr. was an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served as a U.S. Representative from California's 11th congressional district from 1973 until he was murdered in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple shortly before the Jonestown Massacre in 1978.After the Watts Riots...

, a Congressman
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 from the San Francisco
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

 area investigating claims of abuse within the Peoples Temple, visited Jonestown. During this visit, a number of Temple members expressed a desire to leave with the Congressman, and, on the afternoon of November 18, these members accompanied Ryan to the local airstrip at Port Kaituma. There, they were intercepted by Temple security guards who opened fire on the group, killing Congressman Ryan, three journalists, and one of the Temple defectors. A few seconds of gunfire from the incident were captured on video by Bob Brown, one of the journalists killed in the attack.

On the evening of November 18, in Jonestown
Jonestown
Jonestown was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, an intentional community in northwestern Guyana formed by the Peoples Temple led by Jim Jones. It became internationally notorious when, on November 18, 1978, 918 people died in the settlement as well as in a nearby...

, Jones ordered his congregation to drink a concoction
Concoction
A concoction is, strictly speaking, a combination of various ingredients, usually herbs, spices, condiments, powdery substances or minerals, mixed up together, minced, dissolved or macerated into a liquid so as they can be ingested or drunk...

 of cyanide
Potassium cyanide
Potassium cyanide is an inorganic compound with the formula KCN. This colorless crystalline compound, similar in appearance to sugar, is highly soluble in water. Most KCN is used in gold mining, organic synthesis, and electroplating. Smaller applications include jewelry for chemical gilding and...

-laced, grape flavored Flavor Aid
Flavor Aid
Flavor Aid is a non-carbonated soft drink beverage made by Jel Sert in West Chicago, Illinois, introduced in 1929. It is sold throughout the United States as an unsweetened powdered concentrate drink mix, similar to Kool-Aid drink mix.-Flavors:...

.

Aftermath


In all, 918 people died, including 276 children. It was the greatest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001. This includes four that died at the Temple headquarters in Georgetown
Georgetown, Guyana
Georgetown, estimated population 239,227 , is the capital and largest city of Guyana, located in the Demerara-Mahaica region. It is situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast at the mouth of the Demerara River and it was nicknamed 'Garden City of the Caribbean.' Georgetown is located at . The city serves...

 that night. Congressman Leo Ryan
Leo Ryan
Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr. was an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served as a U.S. Representative from California's 11th congressional district from 1973 until he was murdered in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple shortly before the Jonestown Massacre in 1978.After the Watts Riots...

 became the only Congressman murdered in the line of duty in United States history.

San Francisco Temple headquarters



The Temple's San Francisco headquarters came under siege by national media and relatives of Jonestown victims. The event became one of the most known events in U.S. history as measured by the Gallup poll and appeared on the cover of several magazines, including Time magazine, and newspapers for months.

In addition, according to various press reports, after the Jonestown suicides, surviving Temple members in the U.S. announced their fears of being targeted by a "hit squad" of Jonestown survivors. Similarly, in 1979, the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 reported the claim of a U.S. Congressional aide that there were "...120 white, brainwashed assassins out from Jonestown awaiting the trigger word to pick up their hit."

Former members


Temple insider Michael Prokes, who had been ordered to deliver a suitcase containing Temple funds to be transferred to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

, committed suicide in March 1979, four months after the Jonestown incident. In the days leading up to his death, Prokes sent notes to several people, together with a thirty-page statement he had written about Peoples Temple. Columnist Herb Caen
Herb Caen
Herbert Eugene Caen was a Pulitzer Prize-winning San Francisco journalistwhose daily column of local goings-on, social and political happenings,...

 reprinted one copy in his San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

 column. Prokes then arranged for a press conference in a Modesto, California
Modesto, California
Modesto is a city in, and is the county seat of, Stanislaus County, California. With a population of approximately 201,165 at the 2010 census, Modesto ranks as the 18th largest city in the state of California....

, motel room, during which he read a statement to the eight reporters who attended. He then excused himself, entered a bathroom and fatally shot himself in the head.

Prior to the tragedy, Temple member Paula Adams had engaged in a romantic relationship with Guyana's Ambassador to the United States, Laurence "Bonny" Mann. Adams later married Mann. On October 24, 1983, Mann fatally shot both Adams and the couple's child, and then fatally shot himself.

Defecting member Harold Cordell lost 20 family members that evening during the poisonings. The Bogues family, which had also defected, lost their daughter Marilee (age 18), while defector Vernon Gosney lost his son Mark (age 5).

Wrapping up


At the end of 1978, the Temple declared bankruptcy, and its assets went into receivership
Receivership
In law, receivership is the situation in which an institution or enterprise is being held by a receiver, a person "placed in the custodial responsibility for the property of others, including tangible and intangible assets and rights." The receivership remedy is an equitable remedy that emerged in...

. A few Temple members remained in Guyana through May 1979 to wrap up the movement's affairs, then returned to anonymity within the U.S.

The Temple's buildings in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

 (1366 S. Alvarado St.), Indianapolis
Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

 and Redwood Valley
Redwood Valley, California
Redwood Valley is a census-designated place in Mendocino County, California. It is located southwest of Potter Valley, at an elevation of 722 feet . It comprises the northern portion of the Ukiah Valley. It is about 8 mi north of Ukiah and 12 mi south of Willits. Potter Valley is to...

 are intact, and some are used by church congregations. The Central Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church is currently located at the Temple's former Los Angeles building at 1366 South Alvarado St.

The majority of Temple documents remain classified, despite Freedom of Information
Freedom of information
Freedom of information refers to the protection of the right to freedom of expression with regards to the Internet and information technology . Freedom of information may also concern censorship in an information technology context, i.e...

 requests from numerous people over the past three decades.

See also


  • Cult suicide
    Cult suicide
    A cult suicide is a term used to describe the mass suicide by the members of groups that have been considered cults. In some cases, all or nearly all members have committed suicide at the same time and place. Groups that have committed such mass suicides and that have been called cults include...

  • Doomsday cult
    Doomsday cult
    Doomsday cult is an expression used to describe groups who believe in Apocalypticism and Millenarianism, and can refer both to groups that prophesy catastrophe and destruction, and to those that attempt to bring it about...

  • Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
    Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
    Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, is a 2006 documentary film made by Firelight Media. The documentary reveals new footage of the incidents surrounding the Peoples Temple and its leader Jim Jones who led over 900 members of his Cult to a settlement in Guyana called Jonestown, where he...



Further reading


  • Klineman, George and Sherman Butler. The Cult That Died. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1980. ISBN 978-0-399-12540-9.
  • Naipaul, Shiva
    Shiva Naipaul
    Shiva Naipaul , born Shivadhar Srivinasa Naipaul in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, was a Trinidadian and British novelist and journalist.Shiva Naipaul was the younger brother of novelist V. S. Naipaul...

    . Black and White. London, 1980. ISBN 978-0-241-10337-1.


External links