Who was the leader of Peoples Temple?

James Warren Jones (1931-1978) was the founder and charismatic leader of Peoples Temple. He began his career as a student minister in 1952 at a Methodist Church, and soon left when the church refused to allow African Americans in the service. He preached a “social gospel” of human freedom, equality, and love, which required helping the least and the lowliest of society’s members. Later on, however, this gospel became explicitly socialistic, or communistic in Jones’ own view, and the hypocrisy of white Christianity was ridiculed. Jones visited Father Divine and his Peace Mission in Philadelphia several times, and modeled himself after the black preacher who organized a large inter-racial religious group. Jones encouraged Temple members to call him “Dad” and “Father,” just as Father Divine did. He also asked his members to consider him the incarnation of Christ and of God. He warned his followers that a disastrous period of fascism, race war, and nuclear holocaust was coming. Jim Jones preached a message of socialist redemption, and “in the end Jones left this world without making off with any of the Temple’s substantial financial assets. Unless new and decisive evidence becomes available, there can be no basis to judge him a swindler out for personal gain.” (John R. Hall, Gone From the Promised Land, 1987, 35).

Last modified on October 6th, 2013.
Skip to main content