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 Tracs 90/ “For Dr. Reid to hear” 3×5 card
Date cues on tape: Early September 1977 (California courts awarded custody of John Victor Stoen to Grace, but order is unenforceable in Guyana)
Joseph McCarthy (by reference)
Fred Wills, Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs
Carmichael, unknown Guyanese official
Lambert, unknown Guyanese official
Mr. Potmore, unknown Guyanese official
Andrew Young, U.S. Ambassador to United Nations
Meldrim Thomson, Jr., governor of New Hampshire (by reference)
California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally
California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown
Charles Garry, Temple attorney
Dennis Banks, leader of American Indian Movement (AIM)
Angela Davis, black activist, university professor
Linda Dunn, aka Linda Swaney
Elmer & Deanna Mertle, aka Al & Jeannie Mills
Grace Stoen (by reference)
Johnny Brown Jones
Marceline Jones (by reference)
John Victor Stoen
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was transcribed by Seriina Covarrubias. The editors gratefully acknowledge her invaluable assistance.)
In this tape, Jim Jones makes a personal appeal to the government of Guyana, in the person of Ptolemy Reid, the Deputy Prime Minister of Guyana, to answer numerous charges which have been leveled in recent months against him and Peoples Temple.
Jones states his case at a particularly critical time in the history of the Jonestown agricultural project. Speaking in early September 1977, Jones made the tape while the massive – and in some ways, accelerated – migration of Temple members from the U.S. to Guyana is ongoing. Much of it is complete – Jones speaks of 700 people at the project – but Jonestown will be home to a thousand people by the end of that month.
The acceleration was triggered by negative press reports, especially an article in New West magazine, in which defectors and apostates from the church list their allegations of crime, fraud and improprieties by Jones and other Temple leaders. Jones notes the reports by the “reactionary press”, even if he doesn’t speak of their effects upon his recent decisions.
The more important concern of the moment is Grace Stoen’s lawsuit seeking custody of John Victor Stoen, her five-year-old son whom Jones claims to have fathered. The California court has ruled in her favor and ordered the boy’s return, and the issue of the order’s enforceability in Guyana is very much on Jones’ mind.
Another piece of historical context is essential here, even if Jones doesn’t fully understand it at the time that he recorded this message. Tim Stoen, Jones’ most trusted legal adviser within the church who also happens to be the husband of Grace Stoen and the “legal father” – as Jones refers him – of John Victor, has left the church. Worse, from the standpoint of Temple leaders, he has allied himself with his estranged wife in the custody battle. Finally, he has joined (or will join; the timing of this is still debated) Jones’ other antagonists in the organization of Concerned Relatives. Jones speaks approvingly of his aide in this tape, but by year’s end, Tim Stoen will be considered the worst traitor in the Temple’s history.
As is the case with many tapes, this recording opens in the middle of a sentence, although this seems to be close to the beginning of Jones’ message. He speaks almost immediately about the “painful chapter” in his life which resulted in him fathering a child “in a rather strange situation.” Repeating a story which is familiar to many Temple members – especially those in the leadership – Jones says that Tim Stoen approached him a number of years back with his fears that his wife, Grace, was about to leave and betray the church. If Jones would act on Grace’s “sexual interest” in him, though, she might be persuaded to stay. Although Jones says that Grace “repulsed” him, he obtained the consent of his wife Marceline and entered into “this unholy union” with Grace. It was a “painful ordeal,” Jones says, and became even more painful when it turned out she was pregnant. Church leaders urged her to abort, but she declined, and in January 1972, John Victor Stoen was born.
According to Jones, there is no doubt who John’s father is. Anyone who has seen the two of them together notes the “convincing . resemblance,” and John’s baby pictures are identical to Jones’. Even Tim Stoen, John’s “legal father,” has signed an affidavit attesting to the circumstances of Grace’s impregnation and Jones’ paternity. Although this is well known, Jones says, he feels it is important to bring it to the attention of the Guyana government. He also offers his assurances that he has “no other secret … [and] nothing at all about my life that would cause you any embarrassment.”
The reason he must reveal this information is that Grace has been used by “the reactionary media in the Bay Area” as part of a larger campaign to bring down the church. She has also prevailed in a custody suit which she brought against Jones in California, but both he and the child are in Guyana, and – as the recipient of the taped messages has pointed out to him – “the courts of California have no jurisdiction over the courts of Guyana.” Jones’ counsel has told him not to leave Guyana for the time being, but the advice was unnecessary: “I love this child deeply, and . I would rather die than see the child” returned to a reactionary mother and her bigoted family.
Jones also rejects all other charges which have been leveled against him in recent weeks, especially that people were smuggled into Guyana against their will. Every person in Jonestown has proper legal authorization to be there, Jones says – “We would not dream of bringing anyone into this country otherwise” – and what’s more, everyone wants to be there. People are happy and content, and there is easy access in and out of the community. When people do decide to leave – and “only two have chosen to do so” – church leaders help them return to the U.S.
He also denies that Jonestown residents are treated harshly. “We have never used physical violence, we absolutely do not spank people. We find the better system is denial of privileges and rewards for good behavior.”
The Guyana government is aware of this, Jones says. But he is also fearful that the negative press reports in the U.S. have had an effect upon local party officials. Shortly after press reports came out that people in Jonestown are punished by working in deep pits – a “ridiculous falsehood” – two Guyanese officials who came to the project asked about the pits. What was more disturbing, when they posed for photos, they maneuvered so that the picture would include a mound of clay “that been dug out mechanically by the backhoe for our garbage pit.”
This causes apprehension among community members who are aware of the lies being told in the States, Jones says, but the roots of his concern go even deeper. “We felt that surely the years of our service here would merit enough trust to be upfront about such an inquiry.”
Still, Jones says he understands how the negative publicity and unexpected court actions might have strained relations between himself and the Guyana government, and he expresses his appreciation by recounting the benefits which the Jonestown community brings to the country’s Northwest District. Those benefits include distribution of Jonestown’s own food to its Guyanese neighbors – “hundreds of pounds of fish, cassava and . a few thousand pounds of rice” – as well as offering medical services and adopting children. And in every case, Jones says, he remembers his benefactors: “We said this is all made possible because your government allowed us to be able to produce the agricultural project.”
Date of transcription: 3/27/79
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 3/30/79, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B68-6. This tape was found to contain the following:
JIM JONES is cutting a tape for the Guyanese Foreign Minister. He is communicating with him because of rumors that comrades “Carmichael” and “Lambert” are attempting to discredit them. He says the only thing he has done is father a child with TIM STOEN’s wife and that the potential for court action in this matter is the reason they are staying in Guyana. He tells him that the people have voted to die rather than return to the U.S.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate – as far as it goes – and meets the FBI’s purposes.
The difference is one of emphasis: Jones’ principal complaint is not that “comrades ‘Carmichael’ and ‘Lambert’ are attempting to discredit them,” but that the “reactionary media” in the United States is trying to discredit them, that the media have used criminals and dupes in this effort, that some of these criminals and dupes have taken their unwarranted battles to U.S. courts. and that all of this seems to be having an effect upon Guyanese officials, as evidenced by the behavior of “comrades ‘Carmichael’ and ‘Lambert.'”
Tape originally posted February 2005