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 “6/4/72”
Date cues on tape: January 1973 (Jones specifies)
People in attendance at Peoples Temple service
- Archie Ijames (speaks)
- Jim Jones, Jr. (by reference)
- Marceline Jones (by reference)
- Stephan Jones (by reference)
- Deanna Mertle
- Elmer Mertle
- Mike Prokes
- J.R. Purifoy
- Sister Cobb (several women with last name of Cobb)
- Jack (likely Beam, could be Barrington)
- Sister Watson
Public figures/National and international names:
- Angela Davis, member of Communist Party, black activist
- Rodger McAfee, a dairy farmer who posted bail for Angela Davis
- Sallye Davis, mother of Angela Davis
- Lester Kinsolving, columnist, Peoples Temple antagonist
- Kenneth Clark, educator and sociologist
- Howard Bruce Franklin, American cultural historian, antiwar activist
- Kathryn Kuhlman, Evangelist (by reference)
- Elijah Muhammad, leader of Nation of Islam (by reference)
- Martin Luther King, civil rights activist
- John Bacharach, American communist
- Henry David Thoreau, American philosopher and essayist
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American author, poet and philosopher
- Marge Boynton, head of the Mendocino County Republican Party (by reference)
- Dr. Richardson, unknown member of John Birch Society
- “Mrs. Johnson in Indianapolis”
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.)
- “Nothing in the world reach some people except a little fear. What is it that’s said, the old gospel said? Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We’ve got our interpretation of that.” (Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” See also Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 1:7.)
“People talk about dying on the cross. That’s a great, great heroic sacrifice. I say living is much more of a sacrifice than dying on a cross because if I could die on a cross and save all of you people from some real or imaginary sin, I would say get me the cross and put it down in the ground quick and nail my hands as fast as you can, because I’d be glad to save you by one act. So living for you takes a lot more guts and a lot more grace than dying for you.” (The passion of Jesus in all four gospels)
“We believe in the nonviolent teachings of Jesus Christ. We’ve turned our other cheek so many times, that we’ve had to turn the cheeks of the posterior too. We’ve turned all the cheeks you could possibly turn, and certainly fulfilled that scriptural promise and that scriptural admonition.” (Matthew 5:39, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” See also Luke 6:29.)
“We’re going to have to tend to look for the good, but also look as wise as serpents.” (Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”)
“You know my word never fails. Heaven and earth may pass away, but my word won’t fail. All things may change, but Father every day the same. He never has changed, and he never will change. He always will be the same.” (Matthew 24:35-36, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”)
“If it means own house had to be divided, then I wouldn’t spare it.” (Mark 3:25, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” See also Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17)
“It is written of old that there’s anything lovely or anything of good report to think on that, and I can’t think of anything more lovely than you, so I can think on that.” (Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”)
“[Father] will never forget you nor forsake you. You won’t help him, he won’t leave you homeless. He won’t leave you down there without any food to eat, he’ll never do that to you.” (Hebrews 13:5, “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”)
(Editor’s note: This tape was transcribed by Vicki Perry. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
Recorded in January 1973, this address by Jim Jones to his Peoples Temple congregation in San Francisco contains few overt references to God – either as the traditional Judeo-Christian God whom Jones often disparages, or to himself as being the new Christ or the new God – few interpretations of the news that characterize many of his sermons from this period, and only a limited number of reminders of what Peoples Temple has done for its followers. Instead, it is a more focused talk, dwelling principally on a couple of subjects: Angela Davis, the Communist Party and radical political groups in the US; recent publicity about the Temple and what that means for the group; and the role of nonviolence in political struggle.
The recording includes several familiar characteristics, including tape edits at the times that Jones asks the congregation for money. The sermon also cuts off in mid-sentence at the end. What is relatively rare is that the tape begins with the beginning of the address, rather than picking it up after it has begun.
Jones’ main message centers on Angela Davis and her failure to acknowledge a white dairy farmer in Fresno who had put up a sizeable amount of money for her bail. The loss of a hundred thousand dollars has left the man struggling, not only himself in his business, but also his family, which has been harassed and threatened since he put up the cash. There had been no offers of repayment from Davis’ supporters, no word of thanks, nothing. The inconsideration and lack of common human decency infuriates Jones, so that even though the Temple has also helped her out in the past – which he points out – he will cut his ties with her, and with the Communist Party of which she is a member. “I want nothing to do with … that white bigoted outfit, nor do I want anything to do with Angela Davis that could forget her best friend in the time of need. I want nothing to do with her.”
The action has repercussions for the church, he says. Critics of the Temple had claimed the Temple was communist, which they were not, but with this decision, they’ve demonstrated that separation: “the communist monkey’s off of our backs now.” He repeats it numerous times throughout the address, stating near the end, “So I am as of this date forward an anti-communist.… That’s my posture. Don’t want any communist here.… I want nothing to do with you for my people’s sake. I am disassociating with any and all communist.”
Jones also cuts the relationships with other radicals who refuse to acknowledge the assistance they’ve received or who decline to help the less fortunate. While he says the Temple will stand up anytime for anyone whose rights have been violated – including Angela Davis, these same radical groups, and as he adds later in the tape, even the John Birch Society – the fact is, “If revolutionaries forget their friends, the best friends they have, if they forget the people that help them when they’re in the worst condition, I want no part of it.”
His cynicism about liberationist groups and other revolutionaries leads him to declare that they are part of the over-arching scheme to bring dictatorship to America. The groups are “being paid by rich, hidden rulers … the wealth interest that want to tighten the grip” of what he refers to as “de facto fascism.”
Part of this declaration is that the Temple has again demonstrated “that there’s none purer in this land as far as the equalitarian spirit. There’s no pure utopianists left but us.”
Peoples Temple is also nonviolent, he says, having turned the other cheek – including the “posterior” ones – so often that they’ve run out of cheeks. At another point, he talks about the restraint they have shown, that they refuse to be sucked into violence that characterizes those around them, especially those who would destroy Peoples Temple. But the balance of the address shows that that nonviolence has limits, both philosophically and realistically.
Everyone has violence within them, he says, and anyone who says differently is a liar. Even Martin Luther King felt violence “deep in his soul,” but he didn’t act upon it. The key to nonviolence is knowing how to control the impulse to violence.
The question is, how far does Jones’ self-control extend? In talking about those who hate them as well as those who have turned from the Temple in its hour of need, he says that the Temple will not forget the wrongs that have been done to it.
Part of the discussion about nonviolence – indeed, the sentiments which seem to underlie the whole sermon – stems specifically from difficult relationships and confrontations they’ve had with the Black Muslims down the block from the church. Echoing what he has said about Angela Davis and other groups, he says, “We’ll protect their right to be on this street, and they better protect our right to be on this street. But if they don’t, we’re still going to be on this street.” The warning is even more pointed when he says, “It may be that somebody will start a ruckus, but whoever starts it better be prepared to finish it.” A moment later, he adds a familiar pledge: “if you deal with one of us, you better damn well know you’re going to have to deal with all of us.”
There are also a few comments on the subject of race running through the entire address – specifically, a description of white people as being the backbone of the Temple, a message he reiterates more than once – which likely extend from the difficulties he has had with the Black Muslims. In the midst of a monologue on hate, and how the use of it by revolutionaries suggest the presence of reactionary forces behind them, he says, “These people saying around here, hate all white people. Nothing more, nothing more than the fascist and the communist totalitarians, nothing more would they want than the blacks to start hating all white people.” This is likely the point of departure for his defense of white people in the church. “Some of the best support I’ve had here when I went to jail for a black woman, the frontlines were whites. Certainly blacks too, but the first ones to hit the jail were whites. First one to get the call under arrest, and the first issue we’ve ever had, and the people that’ve risked their lives down through for this mission have been white.” He praises whites again later in the service as the ones “who have stood the test, who have been threatened, who have been harmed and they’ve not backed off.” They are the backbone of the church, he says twice. It is a position he’ll have to grapple with less than a year later, when the Eight Revolutionaries accuse him of excluding blacks in the Temple power structure in deference to whites.
The issue of violence vs. nonviolence appears once again late in the service, when he concludes a discourse of the wrongs that have been done to them so often over the years. “I’ve never yet used any violence to anyone nor will I, only to protect my children. If you come to hurt any of my children, then you’ll have to kill me. That is a covenant I made. Don’t try to hurt my children.”
The subject of press coverage which the church has received in recent months arises on a couple of occasions. It has been several months since The San Francisco Examiner ran a series of exposés by Lester Kinsolving – a series which was aborted halfway through its run, coincidentally or not, after Temple members marched on the street in protest – and Jones still feels the sting of the negative publicity. Even though they have been restored in the eyes of the city power structure following a “beautiful article” in the Chronicle that lauded their programs and described the church as “highly respected” and “highly regarded,” Jones has harsh words for his followers who stayed away from the church in the interim. “I want you to know that I’m going to see you. You don’t impress me,” he says. “Nowhere were you to be found until things look good again, … [until] it’s safe for you to come back now. Well, you came back in my mind too late unless you get up here and repent.”
“We never forget our friends,” he proclaims elsewhere in the tape. “And something else, we never forget our enemies.”
These comments of Jones’ aside, there are numerous occasions which mark this as a typical Temple service. In decrying the dictatorship that’s coming to the land, he says they’ll resist it, but in the end, they have a plan which he calls Operation Hope, “a way of escape if trial comes.”
He speaks briefly about death, and the Temple’s lack of fear about dying – statements that were reiterated and stretched out for almost six more years until the final day – but he also says living is a much greater sacrifice than dying. Comparing his actions to the relatively short-lived decision of Jesus to die on the cross, he says, “I will stay alive and fight to stay alive because of you.… living for you takes a lot more guts and a lot more grace than dying for you.”
Finally, he speaks briefly about his parapsychological powers, but it is in the context of standing up to their enemies. Reminding the congregation that he used to say no one in the church had died, there was an incident a few weeks earlier in which a racist refused to back down from his aggression against a black person in the church. “You saw what happened to him. You saw his smart aleckness and you saw what happened to him. Starting to belch blood.” He died in plain sight of everyone there, Jones continues, but apparently the preacher brought him back. “You saw how quick he repented,” he concludes.
Amidst the discussions of the strength of the church and the power of its minister, one woman does stand before a microphone to ask, if Jones has these paranormal abilities, why didn’t he sense that Angela Davis was going to betray them. Jones responds at first by saying that he said from the beginning that he had had concerns about Angela, and he does “claim to be the person that has more revelation than anybody else, … [with] more direction than anyone else.” But, he adds, “I do not claim to be infallible.”
Date of transcription: 6/21/79
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 6/14/79, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B107-39. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES speaking before a group in January, 1973 re miscellaneous topics to include ANGELA DAVIS and threats against the People’s Temple in Redwood Valley.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted January 2011