Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
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FBI Catalogue: Jones speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: None
Date cues on tape: Likely winter 1978 (after Lynetta Jones death in December 1977; before Lela Murphy death March 1978)
Public figures/National and international names:
Steve Biko, South African black activist
Paul Robeson, American black singer, political activist
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Wade and Mabel Medlock (by reference)
Howard and Beverly Oliver (by reference)
Jonestown residents, full name unknown:
Diane (several in Jonestown)
Earl (likely either McKnight or Johnson)
Joyce (likely either Touchette or Parks)
Stephan/Stephen (likely Stephan Jones, could be Stephen Addison)
Naomi Johnson (speaks)
Martha Ellen Klingman
Bible verses cited: None
(This tape was transcribed by Nightrissa Crosby. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
This undated meeting of the Jonestown community occurs sometime in the winter of 1978, the only markers being the death of Lynetta Jones in December 1977 and the fact that Lela Murphy, who died in March 1978, is alive. The themes of the meeting are those which would carry throughout the year – the evils of life in the US, the perfidy of the relatives in the States, the benefits of Jonestown, and the protections that Father has made through his sacrifices – but, with one or two exceptions, there is neither the angry tone nor the personal wrath that would increasingly become a part of these sessions.
There is talk of death. Several times, it is in telling the crowd before him, for example, if they can’t live justly, then they can at least die justly. More often, it’s about himself: he has died a number of times for them, he’s ready to die, he would consider it a relief to be given an opportunity to die in three months so he wouldn’t have to deal with all the pain he has in leading the project. “I’ve been three times ready to die in the last few weeks. I don’t give a fuck. I don’t give a continental fuck.”
The meeting begins with Jones encouraging people to “look at this matter of gratitude” and to be happy in Jonestown. There is both a carrot-and-stick approach to these remarks: they are away from the famine and the nuclear holocaust that is coming to the world, they are away from their pasts filled with racism and their enemies in the US which currently plague them; and they live in a community which will spare no expense in meeting their every need.
By this time, there are numerous ongoing campaigns by relatives trying to retrieve their relatives, ranging from Tim Stoen, to Grace Stoen – who not only is the mother of John Victor Stoen but also, together with Walter Jones, the guardian of Vincent Lopez – to the parents of Bruce and William Oliver, as well as others. The Concerned Relatives have not released the Accusation against Jim Jones, but their preliminary activities against the community are apparant. Jones attributes these campaigns, not only to greed and elitism, but to the critics’ secret envy of what the people of Jonestown enjoy. “It’s the purest society I’ve ever seen. It’s the only alternative for children, the only hope for seniors to have a little peace in their lasting days.”
But it isn’t perfect. Some people in the community do not follow his example, but rather their own selfish desires. What can be done about them? In a calm voice, he says, “A classical communist would not even deal with the subject. He’d wait till some moment he had a time and shoot you. A classical communist would not discuss it, he would eliminate it.” Then he adds, “But I’m not a classical communist, I’m an idealist as well as a communist.”
Jones asks the people not to play games, to try to fool him, or to try to assume leadership positions that they aren’t ready for. None of them are that smart or that good.
Most of the meeting is devoted to what is supposed to be a gripe session – folks can express any problem they have, no matter how small, and it will be handled – but Jones’ initial request for discussion is met with silence. “Does anybody have anything to say? Everybody’s happy with everybody? That’s strange. That somewhat belies all of these mass of notes I have.” He also questions that wall of silence by remarking that he himself has noticed some things, and again urges people to speak up, to confess for themselves, or to call out members of their own family. “If you are doing something that is counterrevolutionary, if you’re covering for your child or your wife or your husband, and you’re doing it because you think they cannot be dealt with, then it’s your duty then to get yourself out in the open.”
When people do start to speak their minds, he turns several answers into stories about himself. In trying to resolve a grudge of some long standing between mother and daughter, he tells of how his mother asked him to come to peace with someone who had wronged him. When addressing a woman’s observation that some of the roughhouse play among the young men seemed to evidence signs of hostility, he speaks of how he learned about guilt and the ways of dealing with it as a child in caring for an injured dog.
There are problems that he addresses, but there is a double standard in that he gives several elderly black women a pass for their confessed transgressions. When one woman admits to appropriating a sheet that wasn’t hers, he replies, “every time somebody steps up that’s black, there’s that kind of agony behind them.”
The session ends with a suggestion: “Promise not tomorrow to think about your life.” That means, a day without hostility or selfishness, a day to understand one’s own guilt. It is a challenge that he extends to himself as well – “You do it, I do it” – but, in a final acknowledgment of awareness of his own strength, “it’s easier for me to do it.”
Date of transcription: 7/6/79
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 June 24, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B110-7R47. This tape was found to contain the following:
JONES lecturing to the members of PT.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted May 2022.