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: Labeled in part “Aug. 72”
Date cues on tape: Contents of tape consistent with identification note
Bernie (last name unknown; could be Bernell Hines)
Carol (several in PT)
Christine (last name unknown)
Rev. Coatney (phonetic) (first name unknown)
Don (several in Temple; might be Fitch)
Harold (last name unknown)
Herman (nephew of Hyacinth Thrash, last name unknown) (speaks)
Jen (last name unknown)
Joy (last name unknown)
Karen (last name unknown)
Laura (last name unknown)
Peter (last name unknown)
Rick (last name unknown) (speaks)
(first name unintelligible; could be “Agnes”) Robertson
Simon (last name unknown)
Valerie (last name unknown)
Jack (probably Beam)
John Biddulph (who later defected with Gang of 8)
Jim Bogue (speaks)
Phyllis (most likely Chaikin, could be Houston)
Joicy Clark (speaks)
Zipporah Edwards (speaks)
Sylvia (probably Grubbs)
Archie Ijames (speaks)
Lee Ingram (speaks)
Clare (probably Janaro)
Marceline Jones (speaks)
Jim (probably James Jones Jr. – he and next two names called in same sentence)
Stephan (probably Jones)
Tim (probably Jones)
Joy (probably Love M. Joy)
Maria Katsaris (speaks)
Penny (probably Kerns, aka Ellen DuPont)
Bea Morton, aka Bea Orsot
Charlie Mudd (former member)
Kay (probably Nelson)
Patty (probably Parks, could be Cartmell)
Lois (probably Ponts, could be Breidenbach)
Louise Schaeffer (spelling of last name assumed)
“Bunny” Talley (most likely Maureen Fitch, aka Maureen Talley)(speaks)
Mickey (probably Touchette)
Frank Bean (patient in hospital who complained about PT member)
Dr. Perkins (L.A. doctor who praised PT)
Dr. van Dusen (L.A. psychologist who praised PT)
Ann Katsaris, Maria’s mother (speaks)
Steven Katsaris, Maria’s father (speaks)
Martin Luther King
Henry David Thoreau
Bob Dylan (mention of a Dylan song
John Lennon (mention of a Lennon song)
Bible verses cited:
(Editor’s note: The verses below appear in order of biblical reference, not as they appear in Jim Jones’ address. For a complete scriptural index to the sermons of Jim Jones, click here.)
- “Now, he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”)
“But it’s the old thing of, from whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”)
“Paul said, what deceivers yet true. We’re true to each other, but we don’t let the folk outside know where we are. Until they’re honest, and want to come in with us.” (2 Corinthians 6:4,6, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God… as deceivers, and yet true.”)
“Our people feel more at ease, they confess their faults to one another, one to another. That’s the Scripture. You use that Scripture. Confess your faults, one to another, that you might be healed.” (James 5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”)
[Editor’s note: This address is almost certainly followed by Q 1021-A.]
This three-hour tape of a Peoples Temple meeting in August 1972 has almost every element of such a gathering during the Redwood Valley years: Jim Jones’ views on the church, on himself, on his followers, and on their enemies, both internal and external; accusation, confession and catharsis; political analysis; a political rally, a religious service, a business meeting, a “town hall” meeting – with announcements and opportunities for public service – of the Peoples Temple community. In general, though, this session is more of a conversation – largely in conversational tones – about what Jim Jones expects out of his followers, out of the church leaders and out of himself.
There are a few edits, suggesting the meeting might have lasted somewhat longer than three hours. The tape does seem to start at the beginning of the session – an unidentified male is urging people to settle down – but the end of the tape does not suggest the evening is wrapping up.
The tape has a number of fades throughout. Some fades seem to be just that – bad spots in the original tape – since the cadence of speech and context seem to flow.
This tape is also one that had a major portion of it recorded on another machine. Q 955 begins about one hour into this three-hour session, and lasts for 90 minutes. We have indicated in the transcript where the text for Q 955 begins and ends.
The meeting begins with a number of complaints about people who don’t show up for work or who are slacking off on the job. While two or three leaders issue general instructions and admonitions about the work ethic, it is Jim Jones who spends a great deal of time chastising a man named Herman (who seems to have stood for much of the meeting, since the conversation returns to him at several points).
Jones points out that Herman participates in the praise and the shouts and the tears of gratitude during church services, but “all that means nothing to me whatsoever, when we’re still in that mess… And you start this thing, just hours … after having some difficulty. It makes me wonder.”
Jones’ retribution opens the floor for others to come up and heap on complaints about Herman. When he lies about one accusation – inappropriately flirting with girls – and gets caught in that lie, the recriminations really take off, and Herman becomes the example for a number of object lessons Jones wants to make. For example, Herman admits going to a ball game, and even paying money for admission, money which he could have given to the church. Jones takes the opportunity to preach on the exploitation of black men in sports, of the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and of homosexuality in the sports world.
One of Herman’s named accusers– Jan Wilsey – is native American, a fact that Jones makes a point of mentioning. The first few people who spoke against Herman were whites, Jones says, but now minorities are joining in the criticism. “It’s your blood relative there standing, she’s black. So there[‘s] been an equal number here of all races represented with a very, very bad story here.”
Laced throughout the session with Herman, Jones speaks about what he does for his church, and how they all need to stand together against the outside world, “like the Jews,” because no one else will. The most serious charge against Herman is that he left the scene of an accident, which he never should have done. But if someone from outside the church were to accuse Herman of the transgression, if someone else “goes out and said he left the scene, I’d say ‘you’re a liar,’ because I’ll support the family. [I’d] Say he’d never done it before.”
Returning to the theme a few moments later, Jones uses Herman to illustrate the difference between a bad law and a good law. Martin Luther King taught them how to resist bad laws – and justifiably so – but good laws, such as the rules of the road and workplace safety, must be obeyed. Jones says he’s never done anything illegal, but if he did, it would be to fight injustice. “I don’t want to get drug in by these silly violations of good laws… I will go down fighting against an unjust law. But it is just that you give an honest day’s work for your pay.”
When Herman vows that he will not make any more mistakes, Jones responds sternly: “I can assure you, it won’t happen again. None of this mess is going to happen again. You better be laying some plans as to where you would move, if you are released from this church. Because if you deviate the slightest, Herman, you’re going.” He adds that he has now officially delegated the matter to the council to mete out the dismissal on his behalf, if it deems dismissal as necessary. “I won’t even act on it.” In the meantime, Jones orders Herman to serve a penance, to make sure the animals are fed ands watered, and to check around the property for leaking or running faucets.
Jones turns Herman’s example into a lesson on the conscience of Socialism. People lie to Jones, or about Jones, or set things up to put themselves in a good light and Jones in a bad light, and they do it with great sincerity and very convincingly. “It’s a form of treason,” Jones says, then adds emphatically: “No one can be any more honest than this with you: I have never done anything with any of you, whatever it was at any time, that it was not to bring you to some growth. I never take advantage of any human being.”
There are no testimonials in the session, but there are confessions. One man confesses his homosexuality, and apologizes to the women he used to try to pretend to be otherwise. He wants everyone to know, he says, so that he won’t backslide. The congregation applauds his confession, and Jones says that his newly-demonstrated maturity earned him a position on security, and he can have a gun. Jones also comments that “anybody can digress… be diverted by … one little area of unreconciled behavior problem [that] can get you off course. [Homosexuality] doesn’t blot out your character points and strength in other areas, but it certainly can divert your energy.”
Following another confession, Jones tells a long story about the man’s character, but it’s a story about loyalty, the strength found in standing together – as well as the use of political influence and the power of letter-writing. Another lesson, he concludes, is to follow instructions.
Later in the service, when an unknown woman – near tears – says she’s sorry for setting a poor example, Jones says he is tired of confessions, and wants deeds and actions instead. He criticizes the entire leadership for setting bad precedents. For example, Jones notes, people on the council who want to leave at midnight or 1 AM feel as though they can just do it. “You are not so privileged,” he says. “If you’re on that council, you are to stay all night long. You leave when everybody else leaves.”
His criticism is both general and specific, although he does acknowledge he picks on individuals people to serve as an illustration. “The chain isn’t any stronger than its weakest link, not a bit stronger,” he says, “and we got more than one weak link.”
In fact, Herman is not alone is being chewed out. People are called out by name for doing things like reading the paper during the service, and chewing gum. In exasperation and weariness, Jones says, “I look out here, and I see, from every meeting, the issues I talk about from the meeting before, facing me, the same issues facing me the next meeting.”
He returns to the issue a few moments later, saying that he’s tired of working with people who won’t see themselves. He threatens to retreat into the property they have, to suspend all outreach programs, and to put up a fence to keep out everyone except “those that want to work with me in principle.” This doesn’t mean blind obedience or agreement, though, he adds.
Other churches don’t demand this kind of loyalty or obey this call to principle, Jones admits. But other churches are dishonest, and don’t deal with these issues, and futilely resist the consequences of their dishonesty until it’s too late and the whole church collapses. And Peoples Temple is not immune from those pitfalls. “We’re in danger. This movement’s in danger. And it’s not in danger from without, but from within.” A moment later, he concludes: “This is a terrible task we’re called to do, to be honest amidst a dishonest day, a totally dishonest generation. And you’re gonna have to get convicted of my honesty, or you’re gonna have to get out of here.”
Later, in a demonstration of his own efforts to bring everyone to complete honesty, he asks that all security be withdrawn, that “every gun [be] laid down” that night, to demonstrate his trust in his followers and the reciprocity of his requests of loyalty. His wife Marceline protests, asking why he risks his life, when they won’t even offer him respect. “I’m for you pulling out,” she says, “if these people cannot be loyal.”
The tape returns to a discussion of security later on, when Jones and others discuss ways to protect themselves. They muse on the ways of the Nation of Islam, that allows full body searches, but wonder if that approach – or a showing of firearms when visitors come to the church – wouldn’t discourage potential friends, as well as their enemies, from coming.
In his quest for honesty, Jones promises that “I’m gonna tell you everything I think. And boy, that’s gonna be rough. That’s gonna be rough. I’m gonna tell you just exactly like I see it.” Speaking to the same point later in the session, Jones asks people not to hold bad feelings against those who open up and show their honesty. A half hour later, he returns to the theme, and asks people to temper their honesty with love. “So let’s try honesty, but let’s most clearly make this known. And that doesn’t mean just cut cut cut. You say what you feel, but also show the cordiality with it, or let the person know you care.” Still, he later admits, his own forthrightness has caused the church to lose members who couldn’t stand to hear such honesty.
Returning later to the issues of respect and honesty, Jones says – to one person or the congregation at large, it’s unclear – “your basic reason for lying to me, is that you don’t trust me.” Marceline follows his remark with an observation: “Sometimes I think, believing that someone is as honest as he is requires too much out of us. And so we have to project and see in him what’s in us.” His life would be easier is he did allow himself to be put on a pedestal instead of a stool cleaning cupboards, she continues, because then maybe they would respect him. “But he’s too honest to do that.”
Jones plays on that point, saying that those projections of their weaknesses onto him gives them an out. “You want to make a God in your image. You don’t want to be made in the image of your God. You’re trying to make a God in your own image.” And that’s the mindset, he says, that allowed King James to write the Bible as he did, to project himself onto God. That’s why the Bible is about a God of jealously and slavery and hatred, rather than a God of Principle. He concludes the point by challenging his followers to make the commitment he has.
When speaking of sacrifice, Jones cites himself as an example. He gives his followers the full measure of his devotion, he says, taking on their infirmities and aging processes. If he didn’t, he says, he himself would never age. “I think I could really whip it. I’ve got the keys … to immortality. But instead of keeping it, I’m opening it up as much as I can for you. But the risk is, in opening it for you, I lose it for myself.” And if he dies, he has already selected the body to which his mind will transmigrate, and that person will sit in this seat. At the same time, he adds that he won’t go easily. “I’m not laying down my life to save humanity, if humanity doesn’t lift itself up.”
Jones criticizes people for cussing, and reminds them not to use his cussing as an excuse. He knows when he should cuss and when he shouldn’t. “I am not foul-mouthed. I’m trying to break down hypocrisy. I only cuss to break down hypocrisy… There may be somebody else that’s a good soul in the making that I cuss for. But what are you cussing for, is the question.” If they feel like cussing, he suggests, “do it through me vicariously.”
Rather than being a sermon in the truest sense, or even an address on responsibility, much of what Jones says in the first hour of the tape sounds like a father passing on his views to his family. And like a father, he says, “Whatever I have done with you has never been for selfish reason, it’s only to bring you to some point. I love you all. And I love some of you in such a way that as to give you a responsibility. You had to mature. You had to evolve.”
Jones speaks a great deal about his perceptions of sex. He also speaks of the need for total, brutal honesty, but then – in the course of talking about sex – contradicts himself in his statements of fidelity to his wife. But he also explains what he needs from his followers. “I said, the one that loves me most [and] loves the principle that I am will be the one that swallows their carnal pride and goes furthest for peace.” A moment later, he summarizes his role: “I’ve been trying to bring you to love, to understanding, to feeling, to knowing yourself.”
In speaking of love, he tells the congregation that the love he gives to his wife – or to anyone else – in based solely upon what they need, and how they would repay it in support of socialism. He himself doesn’t need anyone or any relationship, he says. “I feel that is capitalistic.”
Jones acknowledges the love and affection people have for him, but says that others are jealous when he shows physical affection himself. But they misunderstand him when he does that, and he tells them not to get him on a “sex plane” with all the selfishness that brings. “[I]t’s a much higher level that I feel for you, than sex. Much higher.”
He notes that a young woman recently offered herself to him – and adds that he averages such a proposal once a weekend – and while he could do it, while he could have any young woman in the congregation, “I want to wake up with somebody that’s wiser, more experienced, more mature… I want some communion with mind, I want some fellowship with somebody’s got some love and understanding… that are concerned about the problems around them.”
Jones offers yet another view later in the service, when he says he wishes he could go to bed with everyone in the church, not for sex, but to talk with each one, to show them things about themselves that they don’t know.
Nevertheless, his basic message is one of abstinence. “I want to say, stop sex.” It is selfish, it is diverting, it is confusing. He applies the standard to himself, he says. He has a tremendous sex drive, then continues: “But I’ve never used that drive for myself, is what I’m trying to say to you. Never have… Proof of it is you marry and go into marriage without any sexual relationship, never having had one, you go into marriage, keep yourself true to one woman… That’s a record for itself. Ten years, twelve years? Thirteen years. Thirteen years, no break in the vow. Thirteen years. No interruption. Only then when babies were starving to death did we have to interrupt it. By mutual consent.”
He returned to the theme several times, the first as an illustration that even Mother – Marceline – is not above criticism. He talks about having her up before the congregation to chastise her for her dependency upon him as a sexual being.
The example of Father Divine – a black minister in Philadelphia whose leadership of a large movement once had Jones’ admiration – arises several times as illustrating what Peoples Temple should not do. People should not try to cover up the weaknesses of those organizations as Father Divine’s group does (and as contrasted to the Temple’s openness and lack of anything to hide). When one woman talks about Father Divine taking her to bed with him, Jones admonishes her gently: “Valerie, Valerie, Valerie? Listen. I think you’re wonderful. I like you, but that point … [w]hen he put you in the bed… you should have at that moment said well, that’s not the kind of God I want.” A moment later, in a broader context, Jones says, “I don’t understand how God would be privileged to do things that his people are not privileged to do.”
Jones complains about the lack of respect people show him. They think his willingness to do the dirty work – to help a woman wash her cupboards – should be an excuse to diminish him. “[S]ome of you don’t give me the respect that you gave former pastors” who weren’t willing to do that work. But when you disrespect Jones, you disrespect not a person, but an office. The result: The office is “gonna be cut down at the wrong time, and somebody’s blood is gonna be on your hands. ‘Cause if I’m doing the best I can, if you’re not respectful for me, and someone else looks at you, and uses you as an excuse, you are going to have to pay for them.” Late in the session, an unidentified woman contrasts the respect shown to Father Divine and that shown to Jones: “I’m saying, the respect that I saw there for nothing, we’re not getting for everything. And I think we had a lot to learn about the respect that went on back there, that we haven’t got here.”
In the midst of this session, Jones makes an isolated and non-contextual reference to death, the only one of the evening. It is a theme he spoke of in many other circumstances, but it rings oddly here. “I face things like having to have the cyanide in the right place… I don’t know how to use my own energy to destruct myself. I’m a healer. I wouldn’t know how to kill myself. Wouldn’t know how to use my energy to do that. But … if you drain me dry before I’d let my body be incapacitated here, I would destruct myself.”
He speaks fondly of the seniors in the church, and says if he quit his job – which he never would – he would surround himself with children and seniors and animals, and get away as far as he could. He returns to the subject almost wistfully: “if you won’t give me any peace here, I’ll take the little ones here that will, older and younger and in between, and we’ll go someplace, and we’ll put us a high electric fence around us as possible and whatever else we need to deter anybody from coming in on us.”
Jones describes the Temple’s movement as being small still, but says it will last, if it sticks to principle. “We may look like a mess, but we can be a mass, if we’ll build on right,” he says, by which he means if people get to know him and what he’s doing and follow that leadership. In speaking of the growing movement later in the session, he says that people who get to be more like him could be sent elsewhere to do his work. “I beg you, I beg you to come into this school that I’m teaching. I’m the Godship degree, or the socialist-ship degree.”
The result of the evening’s session, as Jones sees it, is a more united church. “[W]e may look like we’re divided at the beginning of a night, and we may seem to be tottering, but the old ship of state right now… is in damn good shape.”
He also reminds people of their need to attend services. “I’m going to make this requirement. That wherever we are, no matter what your work is, no matter what your capacity… we’re going to make it our ultimate to be in every meeting, but at one meeting a week absolutely necessary.” He also demands that each of them write a statement every week “of where you are or what you think about this work,” so that he can keep “close tabs on this family.” If they have anything to confess in the statement, he says, mark the envelope “Personal, Pastor Only.” The reason for this, he says, is so they won’t have a repeat of what happened earlier in the evening, when the news about Herman blindsided him.
At this point, he returns to Herman – who may have been on the floor the entire time – and in an understanding tone reminds him of what he needs to do to get back in the church’s good graces.
At several points in the tape, Jones warns about people coming in to a church meeting who would do them harm, people who would judge Temple members because of their “ardor” and “overwhelming zeal.” If a stranger wants to come to the church, greeters are to find out who they are and what their reasons for coming are, and then send them away with a promise that they can come at another time. If it is a Ukiahan – a resident of the town – tell them that this is a confessional meeting tonight, or a catharsis session, and people feel uneasy with strangers around.
What is the purpose of this policy? If strangers come in and hear them talking about socialism, they could be in trouble. Moreover, they won’t see God in Jim Jones right away, because that would be asking them to give up too much of their own lives (especially preachers, who would be out of a job). So, he warns them, when visitors do come, don’t talk about healings, don’t talk about Jim being God. Instead, “we’ll talk about humanism, service work, highest worship to God is … service to our fellow man.” He also sets up roles for people to play. “Some of you’ll be agnostics and humanists, and when I say you’re an atheist, you’ll be one tonight. Or if I say you’re a fundamentalist, you’ll be one. Right?”
All of this comes through at the end of the tape – but not the end of the meeting – when Jim greets three visitors to the church: Maria Katsaris (who would later become part of Jones’ inner circle) and her two parents. It is apparently their first time in the church. Jones welcomes them cordially, acknowledges – and eventually apologizes for – their unwelcome the previous Sunday. He explains that they were in a catharsis session, with people confessing their fault, and they needed to be familiar with those surrounding them. As the tape ends, he speaks of the agnostics and fundamentalists that are in the body of Peoples Temple.
Date of transcription: 7/3/79
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 14, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B107-32. This tape was found to contain the following:
PT, Redwood Valley, Tuesday night meeting with announcements and directives. JONES helps some members to recognize their faults and dwells on the problems surrounding sex and everybody taking up his time.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted April 2002