August Instructions to Jonestown Community

Beginning in the late summer of 1978, a number of high-profile visitors began arriving in Jonestown. There had already been some relatives who had visited family members, such as John and Barbara Moore, who stayed with their daughters Carolyn Layton and Annie Moore for several days in May; and other relatives, including Marceline Jones’ parents, Walter and Charlotte Baldwin, would arrive that coming fall. Among those who were neither related to a Jonestown resident or part of the U.S. Embassy staff:

  • Carlton Goodlett, the publisher of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter and Jim Jones’ physician, visited on August 22;
  • Private investigator Joe Mazor, who had been hired by the Concerned Relatives, but who allegedly switched allegiances after he spied on the community, arrived on a date that has not yet been determined;
  • Attorney Mark Lane and screenwriter Don Freed were in Jonestown in early September;
  • The Soviet consular visited on October 1;
  • At Mark Lane’s urging, a French filmmaker whose name is unknown came to do advance work on a film that was never made; and
  • Leo Ryan informed the community in late October that he planned to visit Jonestown in mid-November.

In part because of the importance of these visitors, in part because of the mounting criticism of the project which Jim Jones felt he needed to counter, and in part because of Jones’ penchant for micromanagement of people’s dealings with outsiders, the Jonestown community held rallies in which residents engaged in role-playing performances before the Temple leader. Jones would interrogate them as if he were a reporter, or he fielded questions from the audience, or he would go over a list of points he wanted to be sure everyone knew, or – in the case of the Soviet consular – he drilled the people on rudimentary Russian phrases.

One list of items that Jones expected the people to learn, if not memorize, was found among the documents which the FBI recovered following the deaths in Jonestown. Labeled  “Follow-up Notes from Peoples Rally” (To access this PDF file, you must have the free Adobe Reader installed) and dated August 8, 1978, the list includes 81 separate points ranging from the words the residents should use – and not use – in front of visitors, to specific instructions to named individuals, to general policies.

Despite the notation of August 8 at the head of the document itself, there is some conflict as to the date when the notes were written. The tape of a meeting in which Jim Jones raises some of the very same points – in some cases using almost the same language, as though he is reading from this script – is labeled August 19. The latter date is likelier more accurate, since it briefly discusses the imminent arrival of Carlton Goodlett, who came three days later.

Follow-up Notes from Peoples Rally, RYMUR 89-4286-C-8-a-22, pp. a-f
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Last modified on November 15th, 2016.
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