Jim Jones, Marceline Jones and Carolyn Moore Layton

In 1968, Jim Jones and Carolyn Moore Layton began a relationship which lasted ten years, until the deaths in Guyana. Carolyn bore Jones’ son Kimo, even though the child carried the last name of Temple spokesman Mike Prokes. She also became one of Jones’ most trusted aides, even in Jonestown, where she served on the triumvirate, the three leaders who were second in command only to Jones himself.

The affair was common knowledge, even though the two initially maintained a pretense that the relationship was something else. Carolyn’s absence from the church during her pregnancy, for example, was explained to the Temple as a “secret mission” to Mexico, a mission during which she’d been raped. By the time they moved to Jonestown, however, Carolyn lived openly with Jones, her personal effects in Jones’ cabin, where they were found after the murder/suicides. Jones had other lovers during the last ten years, and he often pledged fidelity to his wife Marceline, but what loyalty he had was more to Carolyn than to anyone else.

Marceline’s story – especially her relationships with her husband – has yet to be fully documented beyond anecdote. Her place in the Temple is better known, but only slightly. She’s been described as the mother of the movement, acting from her heart where others adhered to an organizational chart, serving as a counterbalance to her husband’s – and sometimes Carolyn’s – harsher edicts and judgments.

But the persona she offered to the Temple was at times perplexing. She often served as a stand-in for her husband, appearing in one Temple location while Jim Jones spoke at another. In these public appearances, she spoke lovingly about her husband, and in chastising those who questioned him or disobeyed Temple rules, she reminded them of what Jim had done for them. That continued in Jonestown as well, where she often stood by his side in the pavilion, even as Carolyn worked – and waited for Jim – in his cabin.

Marceline did threaten to leave her husband on at least one occasion, though, but was dissuaded when he told her, he had the power to ensure she would never see her children again.

The following documents reveal more about Marceline’s relationship with Carolyn than between any two other people. Marceline’s letter of June 8, 1970 is addressed to Jim, but it struggles with an acknowledgment of Carolyn’s role in her husband’s life. “In one more year, I will have spent half my life with you,” she writes in the opening paragraph of her three-page letter. “In that time I’ve known great joy and great sorrow. It has been my love for you that has tempered all things and made the good and the bad melt to compose a beautiful harmony.

“If I have no future with you,” she says later in the letter, “I’m grateful for today.”

The May 24, 1974 open letter – written in the style of a Temple affidavit – is a more direct bow to reality. In it, she asks that Carolyn Layton assume Marceline’s responsibilities of motherhood in the event of Marceline’s death.

Marceline Jones letter to Jim Jones, June 8, 1970, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-18-L, pp. 1-3
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Marceline Jones on Carolyn Layton, May 24, 1974, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-18-J-1
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Last modified on October 22nd, 2013.
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