Members of Peoples Temple who wanted to emigrate to Guyana had to apply for permission to go, and to submit a number of documents for consideration. They had to have a passport – which, for many (especially the elderly black members of the Temple who were born in the rural South during the early decades of the century) meant they first had to obtain a copy of their birth certificate – but there were a number of forms which the Temple itself required, ranging from an initial application to various releases from liability. Most of these applications became part of the Temple’s personal files on each member.
The applications for travel ask for similar types of information requested for any other group of would-be émigrés – name, address, phone number; sex and weight; date and place of birth; nature and place of employment; marital status; and Social Security number – but the initial form also includes questions about issues that might affect the church’s decision to allow the applicant to go to Jonestown. They include a few questions about health conditions – high blood pressure, heart, diabetes, vision, and arthritis – and, if the applicant was married to a non-member, how the spouse felt about the emigration.
The application also asks the Temple member to sign a statement which reads: “I understand that if I am seriously overweight or have serious medical problems I will not be able to go on the short-term trips because of the hazard to my health and the additional strain my condition will create. I also understand that air travel is extremely expensive and that I will have to donate my fair share of the cost for transportation, food and lodging.”
It is estimated that about 2000 people applied to go to the Promised Land.
These documents are courtesy of Lela Howard, the niece of Mary Pearl Willis, who died in Jonestown.