The earliest incarnation of Peoples Temple was as a Pentecostal church with a theology that mirrored much of what other churches in 1950s Indianapolis offered. Heavily reliant upon Scripture, traditional and conservative, the Temple offered ways for its members to bring disbelievers and skeptics to Christ. And while these lessons in Bible interpretations do not specifically claim biblical inerrancy, the first lesson does point out – for example – that there is “no other logical explanation” and “no room for contradiction” to the Genesis story of creation. “Evolution [is] the one major enemy of the Genesis account,” the lesson adds, but “Evolution [is] unproven.”
There is no proof that these undated lessons in Bible interpretations were written by Jim Jones, and the few lines of handwriting are different from that of the Temple’s young pastor. Nevertheless, there are glimpses of the Temple’s theological future:
- In the second lesson, the writer points out that, “as [Christ] said, even greater things can we do.” This passage would eventually turn into Jones’ argument that future Christs would arrive and – by extension – he was one of them.
- “God is no respecter of persons but gives to every man according to his faith,” the same lesson point out, quoting from the Book of Acts. Here, the lesson implores Temple members to “let us get into complete harmony with God and become saviours to the balance of mankind that have not this knowledge.” By the time the Temple arrives in Redwood Valley, the message has shifted from a call to bring people to God into a call to bring people to Jim Jones.
But the majority of lessons could not be mistaken for anything than those of a Christ-centered ministry, with explanations on how man fell from God into sin, and how the only way to return to God was through “Christ [who] was foreordained to be the Lamb without spot or blemish that should be offered once and for all for the sins of the entire human race, in the counsel table of God before the earth was created.”
The managers of this website are grateful to June and Gene Cordell of Indianapolis for providing this material.