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: One Olympic MC-60 microcassette /Jones dictating life story? Early communist leanings ~ 22 min./Side B blank
Date cues on tape: Likely late 1977 (Mervyn Dymally’s trip to Jonestown, Guy Wright’s articles in Examiner, and Jonestown somewhat operational [more than just pioneers])
Mervyn Dymally (California Lieutenant Governor)
Bill Farr (L.A. Times reporter)
Guy Wright (S.F. Examiner reporter)
James Thurman Jones (by reference)
Lynetta Jones (by reference)
Marceline Jones (by reference)
Bible verses cited: “But in Pentecostal tradition, I saw that when the early believers came together, they sold their possessions and had all things common. So I tried very hard to live up to that concept throughout my years.” (Acts 2:44-45, “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”)
This relatively short tape begins as Jim Jones’ self-described statement of autobiography, but later turns into a criticism of, and a challenge to, unnamed apostates and an advertisement for life in Jonestown. An edited transcript of the tape appears as part of an extended autobiographical statement here.
Jones says he wants to explain his own patterns, to keep others from making the same errors he did, as well as to “make it possible for some to reach the sensitivity that I have reached.”
Jones says he didn’t feel accepted when he was growing up, so he joined a Pentecostal Church with the rest of society’s rejects. Later in the tape, he returns to the subject, saying he liked the warmth of the Pentecostal setting, that it was the first place in which he felt acceptance. Eventually, he outgrew Pentecostalism, although he remained a rebel, “still not a part of the society, never accepted, born as it were on the wrong side of the tracks.” He speaks several times in the opening minutes of his own pain, although he qualifies it as not being anything like that felt by those in the Third World.
Jones speaks of meeting a communist. The man was smarter than he, but Jones was drawn to him, because they were both outside the American scene, and both identified with other outcasts, specifically blacks. Jones confesses to embezzling money at a company where he worked, and using it for purposes both “sensitively” and of “personal indulgence.” The unnamed communist protected him from exposure and going to jail, even though Jones had to give up the job. Jones then muses that the man might have been homosexual, but that he never acted upon it.
The man’s actions compelled Jones to consider Marxism, although he refers to it several times as “my own brand of Marxism.” He developed a concept of the problems of the world, and couldn’t come to terms with the ways that capitalism contributed to them. His conscience pushed him forward, even though he wanted to retreat. His mother was harassed at work because of his views and activities, and that alienated him even more.
Then he realized that the way to demonstrate Marxism was to infiltrate the church. Despite his personal doubts, he had deep roots in Christianity, and a continuing love for the practical teachings of Christ. “It had always been a sort of dual concept: a doubter, and yet a believer. Certainly I had great questions about anthropomorphic beings and a loving order to the universe, but Jesus Christ, to use a kid’s phrase, greatly turned me on.” He described himself as a Christian with a communalist standpoint, someone who sees the sensitivity in Christian teachings, and who advocates the call to sell all your possessions and hold all things in common with your community.
This still remains a commitment for Jones, but he is surprised that the media never called him out for being a communist. His greatest desire is to protect the church, and it is his greatest fear of being exposed. That’s why he’s talking, he says, to make sure his side of the story will get out, because the mainstream press is so unfair. He doesn’t care about himself, he repeats – “because I really have a strong desire to die” – but he cares about the church.
Communalism is unobtainable in terms of man’s present evolution, he says, but it offers a lot and can work on a small scale. It is what they are doing in the “midst of a jungle.”
Jones says he has renounced the violence and zealotry he may have been prone to, and is not objective about himself. Now that he has done that though – and it’s ironic that it’s happened now – people are moving against him and his church, and are not afraid to embrace violence and terrorism. He adds that those who left the church had been prone before their defection to such violence, but they are stealing weapons and want to blow up a dam.
He says that he didn’t conceive of any notions to do devious things to parishioners, but they took financial advantage and stole money from the church. A number also molested their children.
He speaks of the catharsis sessions in the church, confronting wrong-doers with therapy and corporal punishment. We don’t go outside the church for disciplining our members, he says, but rather deal with it inside. The church had hard discipline of its children, but its decisions were made by group action and parental consent, and older children can and do submit themselves when appropriate.
Jones says the Jonestown community will allow people in, if there is a mix of reporting to guarantee honest coverage. He then extols the virtues of Jonestown.
The tape ends as he defends himself against allegations about healings.
Date of transcription 3/14/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 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 March 6, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47 #5. This tape was found to contain the following: JIM JONES discusses his life story and stated his reasons for being a Marxist. JONES further states that he has a strong desire to die.
Nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary: None
Tape originally posted January 1999