Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue Jones Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One BASF C-60/JJ Reflections Jan 75
Date cues on tape: Tape contents consistent with identification label
A. J. Johnson
Mike Prokes (speaks)
Forbes Burnham, Prime Minister of Guyana
Gavin Kennard, Guyana Minister of Agriculture
Ptolemy Reid, Deputy Prime Minister of Guyana
Bible verses cited: None
(This tape was transcribed by Nicole Bissett. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
Recorded in January 1975, this recording of a telephone conversation between Jim Jones and Mike Prokes, his public relations advisor, is a discussion on damage control following a disastrous service which Jones led at the Sacred Heart Catholic in Georgetown the previous month.
A small contingent of Temple leaders had made arrangements with Father Andrew Morrison, the priest for the cathedral and the editor of The Catholic Standard, a small weekly newspaper, for Jones to conduct the service to introduce himself to Guyana’s Christian community. Whatever representations the Temple made to the priest about the program, they did not include the faith healings which Jones had used to bring new members into his church in the States. The performance proved to be a major embarrassment for the priest and – by extension – a potential liability for Peoples Temple’s campaign to solidify bonds with the Guyana government.
In this phone call, then, Jones and Prokes discuss several avenues to repair the damage, including a paid ad in The Guyana Chronicle, the country’s daily newspaper, in which the Temple had previously heralded the service; and a press release over which the two Temple leaders would have less control. They also consider how they should address the subject of the faith healings themselves, and whether the Temple should promise not to have any more, or whether its pledge should be less ironclad. “[W]e anticipate having no further healing services,” Jones dictates, “we’re not thinking about healing services. We are interested in building an agricultural mission.” Then he adds, “Something that leaves a loophole.”
How much will the press actually want to know about faith healings, they wonder, and how little can the Temple get away with in its explanation. The Temple has already offered something of an apology, so whatever they say now can’t contradict it, but at the same time, they can’t acknowledge that they’ve made an error, “[b]ecause once you start eating crow, and admitting you’re wrong, there’ll be no end to this.”
The campaign has to do more than mollify Father Morrison, though. The ministers of all faiths in Guyana’s capital city have to know that the only thing the Temple wants to do is to build its agricultural project in the country’s Northwest District. “Those ministers had to be assured that we won’t start a church.” Beyond that, the Temple needs to reiterate its support of Guyana itself, but even that language requires negotiation. “We wanted to work with the people and give the fullest support to the country,” Jones says. “I’m avoiding the word ‘government,’ as you can see.” After all, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham doesn’t need their help, although he might appreciate how the Temple will “bring Guyanese into our program … and also give them the benefit of the love.” Besides, he acknowledges at one point, there may be another government in charge sometimes in the future, so they don’t want to be associated with one political party or administration.
(Jones intersperses those sentiments with a warning about the “dumb Christian writers in the government,” so they have to be careful. “They may be a bunch of narcissistic fools that don’t realize how shaky their popular support is,” he adds a moment later. “I don’t know. Obviously, they are not as wise as we are.”)
They also need to declare that their fealty to Burnham is unyielding. “Our loyalty never changes. We don’t expect you to bow to every one of our little needs, our loyalty’s not based on you bowing to every one of our needs.” Whether this statement made it into the final version of the press release or advertisement is unknown, but it would be eventually countered, when Jones threatened the embarrassment of mass suicide several times in 1977 and 1978 over disagreements and delays in government acquiescence to their demands.
The incident with Sacred Heart has taught Jones a few other important lessons, though. Regarding phone calls, Jones demands that someone monitor and record them, that that someone should be a person other than the caller to make sure everything is covered in the notes of the conversations, and that the calls be kept short. (Even as he makes these demands, he recognizes their danger: “These tapes are gonna haunt us one day.”) In addition, everything that goes out of the Temple in Guyana should be cleared by either Tim Stoen or Eugene Chaikin, the Temple’s two in-house lawyers.
Later in the conversation, Jones laments that not everyone can see his character. Anyone will follow charisma, he says, but not character. That’s “the greatest pain in my life or my death. The greatest glory of my release will be that.” Similar references infuse the entire second half of the tape.
Date of transcription: 3/6/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 1, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1 B 47 – #24. This tape was found to contain the following:
A telephone conversation between JIM JONES and an unknown male People’s Temple member. Topics discussed included JONES’ alledged [alleged] healing of invalids, integrity verses [versus] charisma, loyalty to the family, and general philosophical concerns.
This tape was reviewed, and nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted February 2021.